It’s a common experience among folks with disabilities. At some point, some well-meaning person will leave us out of events because “I figured you wouldn’t be able to go”. It’s presumably meant as a nice act, by taking away the need for us to say no, but in actuality all it does is make us feel even more left out than we already do. More than that, it ends up being condescending because it suggests that you know better than we do what we can and can’t do.
Living with a disability often results in social isolation, but the truth is that it doesn’t have to. What is ultimately the biggest barrier towards people with disabilities being able to socialize well is a lack of social imagination. When people consider parties or get-togethers, the thought is rarely as to how to make the event more inclusive to people with disabilities. Moreover, friends never seem to consider the possibility of suggesting low effort hangouts as well.
Instead of adding to the social isolation by excluding us and making us feel othered, instead here is a list of ideas to have disability friendly events as well as a list for fun disability friendly get-together ideas.
It’s become a trope. A white man is involved in a shooting, and within moments people are rushing over themselves to call him mentally ill. Sometimes this happens even before there is a suspect on which to pin the label. There are several cartoons and memes out there depicting the trend, and comparing it to the coverage received by people of colour in similar circumstances.
Whenever people are called on it however, there is always someone rushing in to defend the idea claiming that no “sane” person would commit such a heinous act of violence. That that level of obsession, that level of hatred, could only be the result of there being something mentally wrong with a person.
I understand why we need to believe that. Growing up listening to tales of good and evil, the villain is always readily identifiable. Whether an underground network of evil super villains, the wicked witch, or even just the bully at school, there is always some way of telling who the bad people are. To borrow from Christian mythology: some mark of Cain identifying the evil inside. Continue reading “The Violence of the Mental Health Excuse”→
Jurassic World is a spectacular film. The scale of the resurrected-dinosaur franchise did not appreciably increase with the previoustwosequels two decades ago, but here, it swells to encompass a larger ecology of reborn dinosaurs, a larger setting, and a larger cinematic vision, which is a fitting continuation to the spectacle of its forebears. Less fortunately, that larger scale has pushed the franchise away from its suspenseful, adventure-film roots toward creature-feature garishness. At least they added or restored several characters of color and acknowledged in-universe that their undead sauropsids often bear only superficial resemblance to their ostensible forebears.
As much as the biologist in me was shrieking the whole time, the movie had one joyous redeeming feature, and that was Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Claire Dearing.
On June 17th, 2015, a white man entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States and killed 9 people. This was a targeted terrorist attack meant to strike fear into the black community. His choice of church was highly symbolic. The AME church in general is a famous denomination, but this church in particular is also steeped in civil rights history. It was here that community organizing took place dating back to before abolition. This church had been previously burned down by white supremacists, attacked and raided.
This choice of location was a reminder that even 150 years after slavery was abolished black people are still not welcome in the USA and are still treated as less than human.
Before he murdered these 9 people, the terrorist defended his actions in the name of protecting white women from the criminal advances of black men. The murder of black people in the name of protecting white women’s purity is an excuse that has a long racist history, and as a white woman I would like to join with others in saying #notinmyname.
The human brain has a great deal of real estate devoted to the tasks of recognizing faces and recognizing emotions in those faces. Neither of these tasks is foolproof: seeing faces where they are none is the most common form of pareidolia and has whole religions devoted to it, and prosopagnosia and difficulty reading emotions in faces are both common difficulties associated with autism. One of the most common malfunctions of this facial recognition module is treating animals as though their facial expressions and other behavioral signifiers mean the same things as ours. It’s from here that we eventually get snarling velociraptors in modern creature features.
A great deal of cruelty is had when people refuse to read animals for what they are saying, and instead read what they think ought to be there.
I have a challenge for all of my blogger friends. I want you to try and go one month without using the list of words below. For one month, in your blog posts and public opinions, I want you to not use these words. I will explain why. I will give you a reason, and regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I want you to try. For me.
Why does this matter?
The truth is that the concerns of the disabled community are often pushed to the side or seen as less important. Just a year ago there was almost a network wide outrage over being called on the use of ableist sentiments and words. It ended with one of the more dedicated and active disability and neurodiversity activists, who has actually created a lot of the accepted vocabulary of the neurodivergent movements, accused of being a troll. The concerns were ignored, a new network was launched, and little to no progress was made in improving the use of ableist language or sentiments in our community. The verdict was in. As one person famously put it: disability activism is not a real thing.
And then the whole thing was ignored. For most people it was just not enough of a big deal.
Every few months someone writes a post asking people to not use “crazy” as a pejorative, that gets summarily ignored.
And these things do matter. In the same way that racialized words perpetuate systemic racism, and the same way that racialized words can find themselves in the most seemingly benign words, ableism too is so prevalent as to be invisible.
The sad fact is that most ableist slurs are considered the soft swears, the use-instead-ofs. Want to insult someone in relatively polite company? Chances are you may reach for one of these as a stand-by. But words matter. Language shapes our perception and when we make disability an insult, when we make ability an insult, we are implying that there is something wrong with being that way. It adds to a system that treats people with disabilities as being less than human. In some cases people go so far as to imply that people with disabilities don’t have feelings or don’t feel pain. Moreover it creates a perceptions, a link between being disabled and being otherwise incompetent.