This is what happens when a company defends someone using the 'R-word'

Apr 22, 2016 at 4:34 p.m. ET
Image: Hero Images

A community dedicated to recipe-sharing for a glorified slow cooker is probably the last place you'd expect to find a social justice battle brewing, but a number of Instant Pot owners are appalled by the company's support of the "R-word" in their Facebook community.

Like many others, Catherine Martin bought an Instant Pot to help her prepare healthy meals for her family. She tells SheKnows she was shocked when she saw the company condone and even excuse the use of the R-word on its official Facebook community, and she's not alone. Martin is part of a growing number of Instant Pot owners who are now protesting the company over their comments on social media.

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"I have owned an Instant Pot for several months, and it is an extremely useful appliance for a single, working mother," Martin told SheKnows. "But, I cannot support a company that refuses to take a stand against the word 'retarded' as a synonym for stupid."

The controversy began when a community member posted to Instant Pot's official Facebook community using the word "retarded" to describe another company's shipping prices. Other community members jumped in and immediately (and politely) asked the original poster to revise her word choice, and it wasn't long before an administrator of the group got involved. But instead of agreeing with the community members who objected to the use of the R-word, the group administrator, Donna Haney, sided with the original poster.

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Image: Catherine Martin

It only gets worse from there. As the conversation grew more heated, many community members directed profanity at the members raising their concerns. While their profane comments were deleted, an admin opted against removing the original post (it has since been deleted), chalking up the use of the R-word to "cultural considerations." Later, the company's official Twitter account began to publicly mock many of the individuals who expressed their concerns.

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Image: Catherine Martin

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Instant Pot's actions have left customers like Martin confused and upset. They say they just don't understand why any company would condone such a hurtful word.

"I had hoped that once the company was aware of this issue, it would be immediately rectified. Instead, concerns have been met with defensiveness, deflection and a lack of reply," Martin told SheKnows. "It's easy to choose different words. I cannot fathom why a company would actively choose not to take a stand against hurtful words."

When contacted via Twitter, an Instant Pot representative declined to comment on the controversy directly.

Instead, they replied: "We have asked ARC to weigh-in, yesterday, via email and phone call, but as of tonight have not received a written response, just a phone comment to 'ignore it.'"

The company's Twitter representative clarified that the ARC they were referring to is the non-profit formerly known as the "Association for Retarded Citizens." However, the Arc, formerly ARC, changed its name to remove the word "retarded" in 1991. A position statement on its website states that the name was changed as the word "became pejorative, derogatory and demeaning in usage."

The organization's position statement goes on to say: "We strongly believe the only 'r-word' that should be used when referring to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is 'Respect.'"

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Unfortunately, the Instant Pot community is by no means only place where the "R-word" is still in use. The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign was created to raise awareness of how much it can hurt. Focusing on sharing individual stories about how hearing the "R-word" hurt someone with a developmental or intellectual disability, the campaign is supported by more than 200 organizations, including the Arc.

There is no excuse for using the "R-word," and we hope Instant Pot stops excusing intolerance and hate speech and gets back to what it does best—cooking.

Update: An Instant Pot spokesperson responded to SheKnows' request for comment with the following statement:

"We have had some feedback about questionable language in our community, and we take our community and the views of our members seriously. In response, Instant Pot® has undertaken a thorough review of all our community guidelines, which we will publish when that process is complete. In the meantime, any comments posted that are deemed to be offensive and not in keeping with the spirit of the Instant Pot® community will be deleted, and the issue will be investigated.

We value our community of nearly 60,000 food lovers, and they continually amaze us with their creativity and enthusiasm for our Instant Pot® product line, and so it is our goal to enable their continued enjoyment and education free from any distasteful comments.

As always, within this community, any opinions by an individual, advice, legal, medical or otherwise, do not represent Instant Pot® or this community."

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Image: SheKnows

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