Recognizing ableism in language is important. There is no “default and alternative,” and language should never infer, refer or defer to anyone or any group as inferior or superior. The same applies to ableist language and left handedness. It exists, it should be recognized as a problem.
There are some words which cannot be changed, even if they are biased. Not only would no one accede to a different term than human rights, what would we replace it with? But the word right and its usage – ability, correctness, appropriateness, justice, political leanings, morality, possession – all have positive connotations. Only the use of right for political extremism is used in a negative way. (See also: the root -rect- which means right, as in correct, rectangle.)
Compare this with the word left. In nearly every language worldwide, the word left has derogatory meaning or usage: inferiority, weakness error, evil, incompetence, femininity, homosexuality. Most reading this will say that femininity and homosexuality are not things to be ashamed of. Why should any derogatory meaning be attached to the word left?
There are not just negative definitions but also colloquialisms and metaphors:
- “two left feet”
- “left handed compliment”
- “good with the left hand” (Japan: a heavy drinker, an alcoholic)
- “on the left” (Russia: corrupt)
- “left luck” (Hungarian: bad luck)
- “left handed marriage” (an affair)
- “left handed wife” (a mistress)
- “left hander” (homosexual)
- “left hand path” (satanism)
The list of terms used to insult seems endless: awkward, butterfingered, cack handed, cuddy wifter, gauche, graceless, ham-fisted, ham-handed, handless, heavy-handed, maladroit, molly dooker, southpaw, unhandy.
It’s reasonable to ask (but unrealistic to expect) that no connotations be attached to either hand (no more use of right for “good” or “correct”). But it is not difficult to use proper and appropriate (Latin proprius: one’s own, special) instead of right for things that are good and well fitting (e.g. “the proper way” instead of “the right way”).