Ableism in the Workplace

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, ableist slurs (censored), cursing

Hello, dear readers! As I probably forgot to tell all of you, I’m working full time now as a medical editor. And if you have to sell your body, soul, and labor to a bastion of late-stage capitalism to survive–which you pretty much do have to do if you live in the United States–I’ve found a pretty good place to do that. My workplace has a group called DiversiTeam, founded and led by two women of color, aimed at increasing diversity, inclusion, and justice in our workplace. And one of the things I offered to do with DiversiTeam (along with checking our agency style guide for cissexist, heterosexist, and intersexist language) was a presentation on ableism in the workplace.

I work 50-hour weeks, so I’m not keen on doing too much other work outside of that, and since I’m already making this presentation, I thought I would do a blog entry on the same topic: ableism in the workplace. (Note: since this entry came originally from a presentation I’m writing for my workplace, which is an ad agency, this entry is going to be mostly geared toward offices. I could write an entirely different entry on ableism in laboratory environments and, knowing me, probably will at some point.)

I’m going to start with ableist barriers to entering a workplace. I know, not the same thing as ableism in the workplace, but it’s related. There are a couple of common barriers to workplace entry that I see, so I’m just going to list them:

  • Ability to lift 40 lbs
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Ability to stand for long periods of time
  • Driver’s license
  • Inaccessible applications (such as ones that require you to type out your entire fucking resume even though they also are asking for your resume, what in the chicken-fried fuck whyyyyyyyy)

Note: I’m talking about jobs that have nothing to do with lifting, standing, etc, requiring these things. Obviously, if you’re going to do a job that involves driving, it makes sense to require a driver’s license.

Other ableist policies I see that exclude Disabled people from a workplace are:

  • Poor sick day policies
  • Disallowing working from home
  • Timing bathroom breaks or disallowing long bathroom breaks

I actually worked at a place that timed how long you took in the bathroom. Yes, really. And how long it took you to get up and get coffee or a snack. It was fucking ridiculous.

Other ways to make a workplace inaccessible include:

  • Not having accessible bathrooms, elevators, desks, or a cool-down room
  • Allowing people to wear scents or use scent diffusers
  • Clapping during meetings
  • Having only non-plastic straws available
  • Not having hypoallergenic food options at work parties

I’m going to explain a few of these. The not having accessible bathrooms, elevators, or desks is pretty obvious, but it may be less obvious why not having a cool-down room is inaccessible. There are many Disabled people with sensory issues or who could go into sensory overload, and workplaces can get very hectic and overstimulating, and it may not always be feasible to go hide in the bathroom when overstimulated. Also, an overstimulated person shouldn’t have to hide in the bathroom. There should be a space where they can go to cool down and get their bearings.

Next topic: scents. Scents can be migraine or allergy triggers. I love olfactory stimming, but I also support workplaces not allowing perfume, scented beauty products, or essential oil diffusers for accessibility reasons.

Straws. We’ve been here before.

Food. Lots of people have food allergies or illnesses that prevent them from eating certain ingredients. If you’re organizing a work function where there will be food, make sure you ask everyone’s food restrictions. And no, I’m not just talking about people on shitty fad diets. Celiac disease exists.

The rest of my presentation on casual ableism in the workplace is about ableist language, and I give an overview of ableist language in general and offer alternatives. You know, like I did here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.blog/2018/01/07/less-well-known-ableist-language/. Well, more like Autistic Hoya did here: https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html.I will also say that one thing I’ve noticed about ableist language in the workplace is that saneist language is frequently used to describe how busy people are. “It’s a m*dhouse,” “I’m cr*zy busy,” etc. My coworkers also frequently use saneist terms and expressions to discuss their reactions to work, i.e., “that job gave me PTSD,” “I need a Xanax after this week,” “this client is driving me ins*ne,” etc.

I think that’s all I have for now. Many thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Kael, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean. Reminder that if you support me on Patreon, you get to see my blog entries early!

Mental Health and Social Justice Call-Outs

Content/trigger warning: emetophobia, discussion of saneism and neurotypicalism, homomisia mention, suicidality mention, self-harm mention

I’ve had a really hard few days. Carrie’s yahrzeit and the anniversary of her death by the Western calendar, for one, and also December 26th is a traumaversary for me. Apparently Christmas is also terrible for my PTSD as well, as I spent half the day being violently sick for psychosomatic reasons. So if this blog entry is a little subpar, it’s because I’m operating at like a 35%.

I recently saw a semi-prominent YouTuber claim that a particular group of people had no consideration for mental health or respect for people with mental illness because they…drum roll please…were upset at him for using homomisic slurs. On the surface, this is bullshit. If you look deeper, it is still bullshit. However, it is still worth talking about mental health and call-outs, because call-outs can be triggering.

But first, I want to say that trying to defend your own bigoted behavior with “I don’t know any better, I’m neurodivergent” is neurotypicalist. Yes, really. Saying that neurodivergence makes a person incapable of understanding morality and justice is a particularly scary type of neurotypicalism and it needs to be stopped, especially if it has been internalized.

The rest of this blog entry is going to be about two things: how to call someone out while minimizing the chance of triggering someone and how to respond if a callout triggers you. Let’s start with minimizing the chance of triggering someone. Here are a few things you can do when calling people out to ensure that you don’t trigger any potential health issues of theirs:

  1. Discuss the person’s actions or words instead of making statements about them as a person. I know, I know, we are all everything-ist because oppression is built into our society and we’re all in the process of unlearning. I know. I’m not being sarcastic, either; I know. But saying “what you said was [blank]ist” instead of “you’re [blank]ist” may keep a person’s douchebag brain from latching onto “they said I’m [blank]ist, that means I don’t deserve to exist/I should self-harm/etc.” And of course, stay away from ad hominem attacks, which are bad social justice praxis in general.
  2. Don’t dogpile. Dogpiling can feel like a personal attack or be overwhelming to abuse survivors. If one or two people have the call-out handled, let them handle it. Only get involved if the person being called out is responding by being a belligerent asshole.
  3. If the call-out is happening online, don’t continually post lots of messages without giving the person being called out a chance to respond. A flood of messages, even from only one person, might be too much to process for the person being called out or might feel like an attack.
  4. This one is really specific, but I’ve seen it. Don’t mock the shitty thing the other person said using the Spongebob meme mixed-case text. That meme is disfiguremisic and ableist against ID/DD/LD people.
  5. If you did trigger someone with your call-out, don’t mock them for the symptoms they’re showing, including accusing them of “crytyping”. You should have seen how shot my fine motor control was after someone complaining about bicyclists riding on the sidewalk accused me of not agreeing with basic human decency because I suggested that more bike lanes might help. My PTSD was having a fit and a half.
  6. This is more of an accessibility thing, but still relevant. Don’t use sarcasm, especially in a text-only medium. If the person you’re calling out can understand sarcasm, it might feel like an attack. If the person you’re calling out can’t understand sarcasm due to neurodivergence…well, shit.

However, sometimes call-outs are triggering no matter what. I dissociate when I get an email from my boss, no matter the contents of the email. It’s annoying, but it’s not my boss’ fault. So if you’re triggered by a social justice call-out, here’s what to do.

  1. TAKE A BREAK. Disengage. Walk away. Count to ten. If you’re triggered, your ability to respond constructively is probably limited. Go engage in self-care, or do whatever you need to do to calm down.
  2. Only go back to the call-out when you’re ready. Evaluate whether or not the call-out used any of the tactics in the previous list, in which case you can–respectfully–tell the person who called you out how to change their praxis in the future. Also, if you can’t go back to the call-out for the sake of your health, don’t.
  3. Whether or not the call-out used any of the tactics in the previous list, evaluate whether or not you did the thing you were called out for. Maybe you did. Maybe you fucked up. We all fuck up. Nobody is a perfect bastion of social justice.
  4. If you did indeed fuck up, acknowledge your fuck-up. (But if you’re tempted to self-flagellate and be like “oh I’m terrible, I am just the worst person, I feel so awful I’m going to go cut myself,” you’re either being deliberately emotionally manipulative or you’re still feeling symptoms. Walk away until you can respond constructively.) Make a real apology, which consists of acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an indication of doing better in the future.
  5. Try to take the call-out to heart. This can be hard because if a call-out was triggering, even measured, respectful discussion of whatever -ism you were called out about can become a trigger or be retraumatic, and you just don’t want to think about it. (This has actually happened to me a few times.) Do whatever you have to process what happened so you don’t end up with a new trigger. If you have a therapist, you may want to talk about it with them.

I think that’s all I have for now. Happy (Western calendar) New Year!

BAD ME I have not been listing my Patreon supporters at the end of blog entries. Many thanks to Ace, Emily, Hannah, Karina, and Sean! To be as cool as these people, visit Patreon.com/arzinzani to pledge. Even a dollar a month is massively helpful!

Some Thoughts on Diet Culture

Content/trigger warning: cursing, disordered eating, discussion of diet culture

I hate diet culture.

You might be saying, “Of course you do, Mara. You hate everything.” And you’d have something of a point, but I don’t hate, for example, my wonderful fiancee. Or coffee. Or The Good Place. (Have you seen the latest season? So forking good. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until January for more episodes.) But I’m getting off the subject.

I’m not an expert on the harms of diet culture. You should go to fat justice activists for that. (For example, @yrfatfriend, @Artists_Ali, @femmina, @KivanBay, and @chairbreaker_ on Twitter). If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m aware that it’s basically impossible for an oppressive system, culture, etc. to be oppressive on only one axis. So while I’m going to talk about how diet culture is ableist in this entry, diet culture is also fatmisic (duh), classist, and probably buys into other -isms that I’m forgetting at the moment. (I’ve had really bad brain fog this………..month.)

What you do have to know about diet culture for this entry is that diet culture is based on 1) the fatmisic idea that thin bodies are better than fat bodies and 2) the scientifically inaccurate idea that caloric intake/expenditure is the only factor in body size. Now, there are many reasons why diet culture is ableist, mostly because fatness can be directly caused by or related to disability. Weight gain and/or fatness can be features of some disabilities; for example, PCOS or hypothyroidism. Many medications cause weight gain (Carrie Fisher, may her memory be a blessing, often talked about this). Some disabilities prevent people from exercising. Also entwining fatmisia and ableism is the fact that diet culture holds that healthy = moral and thin = healthy, so by the commutative property of diet culture bullshit, thin = moral. So disabilities that cause or are related to fatness are also seen as immoral/wrong/bad.

Also, diet culture encourages people to yammer about their diets to everyone they speak to. Why is this ableist? Because eating disorders are disabilities, and diet talk can be immensely triggering for people with eating disorders. I recently went to a Friendsgiving, and two of the people close to me at the table would not shut up about dieting and weight loss, and it’s a fucking miracle of self-control that I didn’t run to the bathroom and ram my fingers down my throat. So if, for whatever reason, you are on a weight loss diet, keep your fucking lips zipped about it unless you have permission from the people around you. Yes, I am saying this now because it is almost Turkey and Genocide Day. But even when food-centric holidays aren’t happening, use content warnings when you talk about your diet on social media and ask for permission before talking about your diet in person. And add content warnings for food too.

Speaking of which, diet culture encourages judge/shame people for making supposedly unhealthy food and lifestyle choices, so don’t fall into the diet culture trap of policing people’s food choices at Turkey and Genocide Day dinner. Or, you know, fucking ever. Even if there were no possibility that the person whose choices you’re scrutinizing had an eating disorder, it’s rude and none of your fucking business. The same goes for judging/shaming people for not going to the gym/doing yoga/running/whatever; even if it’s not a disability keeping someone from exercising or making “healthy” lifestyle choices (which may not be healthy for them, hence the quotes), it could be a class issue or other issue related to being part of a marginalized group, and it’s rude and none of your fucking business.

Another thing about diet culture that triggers my eating disorder on the regular is this trend that restaurants are hopping on of having calorie information for all the dishes on the menus. My feelings about how calorie counting for a so-called diet is a slippery slope to an eating disorder if not an eating disorder itself aside, many people with eating disorders or who are in recovery from an eating disorder can’t handle seeing calorie information. I don’t mind restaurants having calorie information available if a customer asks, but having calorie information right smack dab on the damn menus can make a restaurant inaccessible. I wish I knew how to actually do something about this. If you have any ideas, by all means, let me know.

So tl;dr diet culture is harmful as shit, keep quiet about your diet or make sure you have permission to discuss it so you don’t trigger anyone, and restaurants need to stop it with the calories on menus.

That’s all I have for now. I hope everyone survives Turkey and Genocide Day.

I Can’t Even Fucking Listen to Music

Content/trigger warning: cursing, slurs (censored), disordered eating mention

So I have a new job.

It’s actually great. Well, mostly great. I’m doing something I love and that I’m good at, the location is fantastic, and most of the people are nice. Unfortunately, there’s always food around the office, which TFED (The Fucking Eating Disorder) is not pleased with. But anyway, I was at my new job and needing an afternoon caffeine fix, so I headed to Dunkin for their $2-latte-after-2-PM promotion. (I’m weak for espresso and deals. I admit it.)The music was too loud in Dunkin, which was almost an accessibility issue for me, and I was struggling to tune it out while I waited for my latte. A pop song was playing. I don’t like pop, so there was nothing remarkable about the song to me, but it was so damn loud it bored into my head. A generic female pop voice was singing some laterally misogynist sounding crap about another woman, and I barely had time to be annoyed by that before the song called this other woman “sweet but ps*cho”.

I swear.

For those of you who don’t know, I also curate two YouTube series, one about asexuality and one about my special interest in rock music. So you’d think this is the part where I say “well, pop songs may have saneist slurs in the chorus, but you wouldn’t find that in rock, metal, or punk!” Yeah, I fucking wish. There is ableism out the ass in those genres. In metal, vidist expressions are extremely common, right up to and including Trivium having a song literally called “Blind Leading the Blind”. Punk music loves to use ableist slurs and terms to refer to oppressors and/or bigots, with even bands like Bad Cop/Bad Cop that are usually aware of intersecting oppressions dropping “l*natic” and “ins*ne”. Rock music in general uses ableist language like it’s going out of style; I could name you several rock songs that have “ps*cho” in the title.

And it gets worse. Punk music has a tendency to med shame in the name of going after “Big Pharma”. “OxyM*r*nic” (which also has an ableist slur against ID/DD/LD people in the title, would you look at that?) by NOFX and “Limiter” by Descendents (which is on an album called Hypercaffium Sp*zzinate WHY DO I LISTEN TO ANY PUNK MUSIC EVER AODSHUAASDOBASDAFFFF) come to mind. It’s not only punk music, either; Delain, a Dutch symphonic metal outfit and one of my favorite bands of all time, has a song called “Your Body Is a Battleground” that not only med shames, but implies that psychiatric disabilities aren’t real.

It’s not only the music itself, either. People who are into the rock scene, especially the reviewer sphere, also love their ableism. I recently watched a popular YouTube music reviewer I don’t ordinarily watch trash the Nostalgia Cockstain’s The Wall album, and the reviewer joked about losing his sanity and having a panic attack as the result of the badness of the album. Another YouTube music reviewer I like and respect and even support on Patreon is fond of calling 2edgy4u musicians “p*****paths” and “s****paths”. Pitchfork Media’s website contains album reviews that straight up use the fucking r-slur.

I’m not sure what the point of all this whining is. I guess everything I have discussed here is a good example of just how entrenched ableism is. Not just entrenched, either, but terrifyingly normalized. And the pervasiveness of ableism in punk is a good example of how even leftist spaces condone ableism.Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Emilie Autumn, who writes about mental illness from the perspective of “wow, misogynableism sucks”.

Misogynableism and Greta Thunberg

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, misogyny, and misogynableism; cursing

As with most of the things I blog about, I’m sure someone else has done a better job writing about this, but I’m going to try anyway.

I’m going to preface this entry by saying that Greta Thunberg, while she’s awesome, is not the only young climate activist we need to be paying attention to. Others include Autumn Peltier, Helena Gualinga, Tekanang, Penny Tovar, Lamboginny, Sarah-Anna Awad, Bertine Lakjohn, Liza Zhytkova, Veer Qumar Mattabadul, and Daniel Gbujie recently participated in the first UN Youth Climate Summit. They hail from all over the world and many of them are teenagers. Greta shouldn’t be getting all the attention because she’s white.

But we do need to talk about the misogynableism against her. Greta—who, for those who don’t know, is a sixteen-year-old Swedish climate change activist who recently testified about climate change at the UN—is Autistic, and unapologetic about it; she says being neurodivergent is a “superpower” for her. (I personally don’t like the supercrip narrative, but she’s sixteen and the narratives about Autisticness are different in Sweden compared to the US; give her a break.) Fox News recently called her mentally ill because she is Autistic, intending it as an insult and misunderstanding that Autisticness is not a mental illness but a neurodevelopmental disability. (Note: if you’re reading this blog, you damn well know that calling someone mentally ill shouldn’t be an insult. But Fox intended it as an insult because they’re saneist.) When Greta was preparing to speak in public a few weeks ago, she uttered the phrase “Sorry, my brain isn’t working properly.” Keep in mind that many Autistic people struggle with speaking and that English is not Greta’s first language. But Twitter took this and ran with it, with scores of people retweeting the video and calling Greta any number of ableist insults.

I saw at least one article calling the bullshit Greta was receiving misogyny. Do I think that Greta would be receiving less bullshit if she were male? Absolutely. Do I think that “misogyny” fully encapsulates the bullshit Greta is receiving? Absolutely not. This is especially evident in the way people insult her facial expressions. Greta has been described by the Autistic community as having “resting Autistic face”. While allistic people often make the effort to contort their faces into pleasant expressions with fake smiles in order to appear more…I don’t know, approachable? I don’t really get it…Autistic people often don’t bother with that (or if we do, we’re aware we’re only doing it to fulfill some bullshit allistic social contact). Greta doesn’t bother with that. She’s talking about serious issues and she looks serious while doing it. So she gets a lot of the misogynist “she’d be prettier/have more success/be more personable if she smiled more” and a lot of the ableist “look at her affect, she’s clearly [ableist insult of choice]”. The misogynist bullshit and ableist bullshit inform each other, resulting in misogynableist bullshit.

Much to my chagrin, it isn’t only misogynableist cockwaffles that are giving Greta bullshit. Some of the Autistic community is writing her off too. Why? Because in the United States, most of the Autistic community looks down on Aspie supremacy, and most of the Disabled community looks down on the supercrip narrative. For those who don’t know, Aspie supremacy is an attitude that some Autistic people who were diagnosed with Asperger’s have toward the rest of the Autistic community. This attitude can be described as “Oh, we’re not like ~*~those~*~ Autistic people who are low-functioning; we’re brilliant and gifted and better”. The supercrip narrative is a common ableist trope depicting Disabled people as “making up for” their disability (ugh) by doing things like climbing Mount Everest or making groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Disabled people doing those things; it’s when abled people start blubbering about how “they overcame their disabilities” and then expecting other Disabled people to just not be Disabled because “if xyz Disabled person can do abc, then clearly you don’t need your mobility device/accommodations/etc.” that it becomes a harmful supercrip narrative.

So yes, okay, some of what Greta Thunberg said could be interpreted as buying into the Aspie supremacy and/or supercrip narratives. I get it. But she also isn’t USian; my understanding is that Aspie supremacy isn’t really a concept that is discussed in the Swedish Autistic community. She also isn’t speaking her first language when she’s talking about Asperger’s being a superpower. Most importantly, she is fucking sixteen. I wonder if all of the grown ass Autistic people pooh-poohing Greta for not being intimately familiar with harmful ableist narratives knew about those narratives themselves at sixteen.

Tl;dr Greta Thunberg is a badass and shitting on her for being female and Disabled is terrible and bigoted, but shitting on her for not being perfect about Autisticness-related social justice concepts through a USian lens is also bad. Also, listen to young climate activists of color too, because many of them paved the way for Greta and they’re still out there kicking ass.

BAD ME I have not been listing my Patreon supporters at the end of blog entries. Many thanks to Ace, Emily, Hannah, Kael, Karina, and Sean! To be as cool as these people, visit Patreon.com/arzinzani to pledge. Even a dollar a month is massively helpful!

Goddammit, Sesame Street!

Content/trigger warning: discussion of virulent ableism including filicide, Autism $peaks, cursing

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH.

Why am I even doing this? Sara Luterman already wrote an article for Slate about this. I haven’t read it because I’m afraid I would just copy what she said for this blog entry…but if I did that, it’d probably be better than whatever I’m about to spit out.

ANYWAY. Some background.

Sesame Street has just partnered with the organization Autism Speaks, so I’ll give a little background on Sesame Street’s Autistic character, Julia, as well as some background on Autism Speaks. Julia was introduced to Sesame Street in 2015 as part of an initiative called “See Amazing in All Children”. One of the aims of Julia’s character was to introduce young allistic children to the idea of accepting Autistic people for who we are, even if we seem strange and unusual at first. (I would hope that the aim was also to allow Autistic children to see themselves represented, but I’m not that optimistic.) For example, “The Amazing Song” was used to demonstrate that Autistic people can feel, and Julia wore ear defenders when she was featured in the Macy’s Day Parade, normalizing Autistic people needing sensory protection. Julia even stims; her puppet has a special pair of arms that allow her to flap her hands.

Now for some background on Autism $peaks. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that Autism $peaks is a pseudoscience- and fearmongering-peddling hate group that would love to see Autistic people eugenically eliminated. If you haven’t been reading my blog, now you know that. For more information on why A$ is a hate group, I wrote a blog entry about it: https://thisisforyoucarrie.blog/2018/04/03/autism-speaks-is-a-hate-group/

I believe that Autism $peaks, much to the chagrin of Autistic people, was involved from the get-go. To be frank, I’m not positive about that, and I don’t know exactly what hand A$ had in Julia’s creation or if they influenced Julia’s portrayal before now. I had trouble researching this because, like many Autistic people, I find reading about A$ triggering. (Also, Googling “Sesame Street Autism Speaks” seems to only bring up recent entries.) I do know that ASAN, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, an Autistic-run org, was also involved in Julia’s creation. This was crucial because we hardly ever get to be the arbiters of our own representation. So what has changed? Well, Sesame Street is partnering with A$ to—I swear to fuck I’m not making this up—push a “kit” that is supposed to help parents of a newly diagnosed Autistic kid to process the diagnosis as if their child were dead.

Again, I’m not bullshitting. I wish I were.

The 100-Day Kit, as it’s called, has a section outlining the five stages of grief. This is unbelievably harmful because it buys into the narrative that when a child is diagnosed as Autistic, any child that the parent/s could have wanted is dead and a new incomprehensible monster has taken their place. It paints Autisticness as a tragedy. Fucking excuse me but my brain is not a tragedy, thanks very much.

There are other problems with the 100 Day Kit, such as A$’s usual pseudoscience-pushing with a “cure” diet backed by precisely zero reproducible scientific research, but I don’t think I have to belabor the point. The 100-Day Kit promotes the idea that Autisticness is a tragedy and that parents should mourn for the precious allistic child they didn’t get when their child is diagnosed as Autistic. I mean, how the fuck do you think an Autistic child is going to feel when they see this shit? They’ll think their parents wish they were an entirely different person, or that their parents don’t love them. How is that seeing the amazing in every child, Sesame Street!? Not to mention the autism-as-tragedy narrative contributes to filicide, as I mentioned in the previously linked blog entry.

This decision is incontrovertibly harmful to children who see themselves in Julia, Sesame Street. This is why ASAN severed ties with you. This is why the Autistic community is begging you to reconsider your partnership with a hate group that would rather people like Julia—like me—not exist.

I have to stop now. This is too fucking upsetting. I’ll conclude with a quote from Jim Sinclair about why messages like A$’ are so harmful: “This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.”

Identity-First Language and Why You Should Default to It

Content/trigger warning: cursing, discussion of ableism

I feel like other people (*cough* Autistic Hoya *cough*) have done this better than I can, but I’m going to try my hand at this: why “D/disabled” is preferable to “person with a disability”, i.e. why person-first language (PFL) is a load of crap and identity-first language (IFL) is more respectful. Note: this is in general. There are individuals who use person-first language, and—as far as I’ve heard—people with Down syndrome prefer, well, the phrasing I just used. I have also seen PFL being used for people with cancer.

So, why (in general) should you say “disabled” instead of “person with a disability”? Several reasons. One, the social model aspect of disability. I maintain that the social model of disability, which posits that disability exists because society is not set up to accommodate Disabled people, is flawed—even with all access barriers removed, my brain would still be trying to kill me, and it would still fuck seriously with my ability to do things—but the ablenormativity inherent in society does indeed disable Disabled people. The use of “person with a disability” instead of “disabled” ignores this crucial fact.

Two, “person with a disability” implies that disability can be separated from a person. Because of the social aspect of disability, this is impossible. This is especially true for Autistic people because our Autisticness informs so many aspects of our lives that it is impossible for autism to be separated from the person. Even allistic Disabled people, though, cannot be separated from their experiences of being Disabled by society and their bodies/brains. And you know what? “Disabled” is not a dirty word, and that is because disability does not reflect negatively on the person. Seeing disability as reflecting negatively on the Disabled person is ableism, full stop.

Three, “person with a disability” is a misguided attempt at making people see Disabled people’s humanity that is predicated on an ableist idea. If someone has to say “person with a disability” in order to remind themselves that a Disabled person is indeed a person, that’s rooted in ableism too deep to be fixed by an incorrect euphemism that is in and of itself ableist. PFL, instead of emphasizing a person’s humanity, plays into the aforementioned (point two) ableist concept of disability; if you have to separate disability from the person because “oooooh disability is BAD”, that’s ableism. (Remember how I said earlier, though, that PFL is preferred for people with cancer? Yeah, this is why. People saying that cancer is horrible are completely right.)

Look, words mean things and semantics have an effect on how people think. IFL recognizes the experiences and identity and humanity of Disabled people. PFL dehumanizes Disabled people. Which one would you rather use as a default? (If you say PFL, get the fuck off my blog.)

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May the 4th Be With You (2019); Acceptance vs. Awareness, Revisited

Content/trigger warning: abuse mention, cursing, slurs (censored)

Happy Star Wars Day!

Honestly, one of my favorite parts of Star Wars Day is that it’s in May, meaning that fucking April is over. (I should just call it Fucking April from now on. It’s no longer April. It’s Fucking April. Or Autism Hell Month.) Unfortunately, when I escaped domestic abuse back in January, I forgot to bring my glitter eye shadow with me. So I’m wearing a glittery shawl, glittery nail polish, glittery earrings, and eye shadow that has at least some glitter in it. And a shirt with Carrie Fisher’s signature on it.

Anyway, May. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, which…yeah, I’m not big on that name. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before–specifically in regards to autism–“awareness” is not the best concept to use in pro-ND activism. So I’m going to use this entry to talk a little about the terminology surrounding Mental Health Awareness Month and similar concepts related to pro-ND activism.

In my acceptance vs. awareness entry, I said the following:

Needless to say, I don’t like awareness campaigns. This makes me nervous when I see awareness campaigns for mental illnesses. “Awareness”, to me, will always have the connotation of “be aware, these people are Other”. It matters quite a bit, though, who runs the campaigns. Autism $peaks’ flavor of “bewareness” is motivated by allistics who hold an inherently bigoted view of Autistic people. Many mental illness awareness campaigns are actually run by people with the illness. That makes a huge difference. I would still prefer to see acceptance campaigns because I don’t like the connotation of “awareness”, but that might be me.

Yeah, I don’t think it’s just me. “Awareness” isn’t enough. Mentally healthy people are aware of psychotic disorders and they still use “psychotic” to describe violent assholes. Mentally healthy people are aware of cluster B disorders and still use “n*rc*ss*st”, “p****path”, and “s****path” to describe abusers. Mentally healthy people are aware of PTSD and they still use “triggered” to mean “offended”. Mentally healthy people are aware of depression and they still don’t know not to call the police for “wellness checks” when a loved one is suicidal.

We have awareness. What we need now is acceptance. This is necessary in part because acceptance requires understanding. I’ve seen the pattern so many times of mentally healthy people claiming they support their mentally ill loved ones but freaking out and being unsupportive and straight up saneist as soon as their loved ones start showing symptoms. Acceptance means knowing that being mentally ill means having certain traits and symptoms and not being a dickweed when a person shows those traits or symptoms.

Of course, this means that mentally healthy people need to be educated about how mental illness actually works. That, to me, is what “awareness” campaigns should actually be; not just saying “whatever percent of people have X diagnosis” but saying “X diagnosis means [symptoms A, B, and C]” and “X diagnosis does not mean [saneist stereotypes D, E, and F]”. I’m not so naive that I think that all mentally healthy people are going to learn from acceptance campaigns and stop being saneist as soon as they learn the truth about mental illness, but I do think that acceptance campaigns would be a good place to start.

As long as I’m yammering about terms, I don’t like the term “mental health advocate”. A lot of people call Carrie that, but it doesn’t make sense to me. Most “mental health advocates” are actually mentally ill people who talk about the absence of mental health. Being Autistic, I like the term “self-advocate”, which we in the Autie community often use–hell, there’s an entire big Autistic justice organization called the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network–and I think “self-advocate” would make more sense than simply “advocate”. “Mental health advocates” don’t advocate for mental health so much as they self-advocate for a particular kind of disability justice: psychiatric disability/mental illness justice. So “mental illness self-advocate” or “psychiatric disability self-advocate” make more sense to me, because those terms seem to actually mean “mentally ill person who self-advocates for justice for mentally ill people”. If “mental illness advocates” can’t self-advocate because aren’t actually mentally ill, then…well, they probably need to shut up and pass the mic. I also like the idea of “[psychiatric] disability activist” as a term if “self-advocate” seems too, well, self-centered and not focused enough on fighting for justice for the mentally ill community.

Continuing to yammer about terms, I also said this in my last acceptance vs. awareness entry:

Side note: “stigma” is really a manifestation of neurotypicalism. It’s a system of oppression, not just an unfortunate opinion. That’s important to keep in mind.

Still true. Because of this, I don’t like it when people talk about “destigmatizing mental illness” or “mental illness stigma” without mentioning the larger context. Just saying “stigma” isn’t enough because it doesn’t get at the root of the problem. I’d prefer that people say “mental illness stigma as a result of saneism”. Talking about stigma is fine–it totally exists and is a real problem–but the reason why stigma exists is that society is set up to oppress mentally ill people and privilege mentally healthy people. The big picture is always important in social justice. And this includes acknowledging intersecting axes of oppression as well; there are some denizens of Disabled Twitter who I really admire, especially @autistichoya, who often talk about how white supremacy supports ableism and that there is no dismantling ableism without dismantling white supremacy. I really hope to feature a guest blogger on that topic one day. Speaking of passing the mic.

That’s all I have for today. May the Fourth be with you. Wear #glitterforCarrie and fight for justice for mentally ill people in her honor.

Thanks to my only Patreon supporter, Karina! To become as cool as Karina, please consider supporting my work on Patreon: My Patreon.

I Did an Activism for Autism Hell Month

Content/trigger warning: filicide, Autism $peaks mention, fucking April

I fucking hate April.

April drains the Autistic community. I keep hearing stories of burnout, depression, more frequent meltdowns and shutdowns, and completely shot executive function.

I feel that. I’ve been pretty damn useless this month.

But I did do something for April as a middle finger to Autism $peaks. I went to an open mic and sang a song in Katie McCarron’s memory, prefacing it with the story of her murder. My amazing fiancee—she proposed after my performance, and yes, I’m incandescently happy about that, and of course I said yes—filmed it. So here it is, with a transcript. Before the filming started, I introduced myself with my stage name, Valkyrja, which is Old Norse for “valkyrie”. Even before that, I asked if I could take the mic off the stand; the MC jokingly gave me a hard time and my Autistic ass thought he was being serious. Anyway, here’s the video and the transcript.

Transcript:

…and you can call me Valkyrie if you can’t flip the “r”, or if you aren’t interested in Old Norse, or whatever. And the song I have chosen to perform tonight is actually…[sigh] in memoriam, so I’d like to give a little context before I start, if that’s okay. I cannot see jack with these lights; I don’t know if I’m getting a nod, so I’m just going to go ahead.

Okay, I need you all to imagine something for me. I need you to imagine that you have a condition that causes you to perceive and interact with the world differently from most people. And yes, it’s certainly a disability, but it’s mostly so because of the way society treats you. Got that so far? Okay. Now, I need you to imagine that a MASSIVE charity—supposedly—gets the director of the third Harry Potter movie to make a short film about what it’s like to live with this condition…and they don’t get anyone with the condition to be involved. What the fuck, right? They got the director of The Prisoner of fucking Azkaban to direct the thing and couldn’t get anyone with the condition to even be interviewed? What the hell, right?

Now…this is where it starts getting fucked up. Trigger warning for ableism and murder. So, I want you to imagine that a board member on the charity who does not have the condition says in front of her daughter who does, in this film, she wishes she could kill her daughter and then herself.

[Crowd “oooh”s]

But she can’t, because she has a normal child to take care of. Stay with me.

[Someone in crowd says “all right”]

Now imagine this film premieres. A woman who doesn’t have the condition but has a child who does sees it. Three days later, this woman murders her young daughter who has the condition. You’d make some connections in your head about this series of events, wouldn’t you?

THEY HAPPENED. The “charity” is Autism Speaks. The film is Autism Every Day, which premiered in 2006, and yes, they got Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to direct, and yes, his name is fucking mud in the Autistic community right now. We hate that guy. And if you couldn’t tell by the way I couldn’t tell he [indicates MC, who was being an asshole earlier] was being an asshole, I’m Autistic as fuck.

So the young woman who was unfortunately murdered. Her name was Katie McCarron, and I would like to dedicate this performance of “We Are the Others” by Delain to her, may she rest in power.

[sigh] Okay, if I’m not gonna cry, I’m ready to sing.

I’m walking with Katie tonight,
She lives in the air that I breathe;
I can’t get it out of my mind
How you were left to bleed
Was it how you stim?
Or how you act?
I can’t believe
How she could act so violently,
Without regret,
But we will not forget

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)

As simple as air in your lungs
As simple as words on your lips
And no one should take that away
No one should argue this
Now with our heads up high
We’ll carry on,
And carry out,
And we won’t let them get us down,
Wear us out,
‘Cause we are not alone

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)

Normal is not the norm,
It’s just a uniform
(We are the others)
Forget about the norm,
(We’re the outsiders)
Take off your uniform,
(We are the others)
We are all beautiful,
(We are the others)

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)
We are the others (we are the others)
We are the others

 

Many thanks to my sole patron, Karina! If you would like to be as awesome as Karina, enjoy my work, and would like to support me, please consider becoming a patron of mine on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ARZinzani

Misogynableism

Content/trigger warning: misogynableism (of course), cisheterosexism, exorsexism, violent ableism, sexual assault, ableist slurs, cursing

A while ago, I wrote an entry on emotional sensitivity and neurotypicalism. It contained the following quote:

“Anyway, let me give an example. Well, an intersectional example. ‘Hysteria’ used to be a mental illness. Women were actually diagnosed as ‘hysterical’ for, well, having strong feelings. Specifically, these feelings included anxiety, irritability, and nervousness. Oh, and sexually forward behavior. The term ‘hysteria’ was used because those dishing out the diagnosis literally believed that having a uterus caused the ‘mental illness’, and hysterectomies were sometimes carried out as treatment. (I’m mostly referring to what was happening to women in England and the States during the industrial era.) In any case, to this day, women are referred to as ‘hysterical’ when we are upset in order to delegitimize our feelings. This is an example of misogynableism: the intersection between misogyny and ableism. The use of the insult ‘hysteria’ is meant to undercut a woman’s experiences by insinuating that she is mentally ill, therefore her experiences and feelings about them can be ignored.”

Of course, there are women without uteruses and people with uteruses who are not women, but the Victorian-era white English and Statesians didn’t know that, and I stand by the assessment that “hysterical” is a misogynableist term. And I decided to do an entry on misogynableism.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “don’t stick your dick in crazy”—with all its cisheterosexist assumptions intact—you’ve been exposed to misogynableism. No one ever says—again, with the cisheterosexist assumptions—“don’t let crazy stick their dick in you”. No, the big, scary problem is that the woman might be mentally ill.

The cisheterosexism in that example is starting to make me feel ill, so let’s move on to another example: the “hot, sane, single” meme. I had the misfortune of having to Google “hot, sane, single” for this entry as research, and DAMN did I find some doozies. Quotes from the execrable Tucker Max’s books. Reddit threads (naturally). YouTube videos. More traditional meme images. The idea of “hot, sane, single” is…ah hell this one’s heterosexist too. Why does the world suck? (Rhetorical question.) Anyway, the idea of “hot, sane, single” is that, according to misogynableist straight men, there is a problem among women that they can only be two of that trifecta. So yes, this is misogynist as fuck, and the fact that “sane” is one of the desirable traits makes it misogynableist.

A third example is a nerdy one, so bear with me. I play World of Warcraft. There’s a character in WoW called Jaina Proudmoore, and she was one of the few leaders in the game who was a known peacemonger, despite her interpersonal relationships being something of a Trauma Conga Line. And then her home—her entire fucking island—was destroyed. Horribly. And she experienced severe trauma from the event to the degree that her previously blonde hair turned white. Understandably, she decided to renounce her peaceful ways. She performed several morally questionable (at best) actions that were obvious to me as stemming from untreated—and, sadly, because Blizzard can’t write WoW women, yes I went there—uncontrolled (as in the character herself seemed to be making no attempt to rein in destructive impulses) PTSD. Rage at the source (or perceived source) of trauma is a lesser known PTSD symptom, but boy fucking howdy is it a symptom. Not to mention any actual character development of Jaina’s is ignored in the writing, which focuses only on her rage at her enemies, i.e., her PTSD symptoms.

Anyway, one of the quest rewards one can get in WoW is a picture of Jaina Proudmoore with blonde hair, and the description of it is “before she went crazy”. First of all, Blizz, you were the ones who wrote Jaina’s behavior, so fuck you for insulting her acting the way you decided to portray her. The portrayal itself is pretty misogynableist; using a female character as a prop to make players of one faction believe that the other faction is bad, all while calling obvious PTSD a saneist slur. (Yes, other WoW players, I know I simplified Jaina’s story, but…come on, you know WoW lore. I had to.)

The next example is a terrifying and depressing one, so hold on to your asses. Disabled women are twice as likely to be abused—sexually and otherwise—than their abled counterparts. And while Disabled people overall are three times more likely than abled people to be sexually assaulted at least once, the rate at which Disabled women are sexually assaulted is 83%. You read that right. Eighty-three percent of Disabled women will experience at least one sexual assault in their lifetime. If you want a direct comparison between men and women (I know, I know, exorsexist, but I couldn’t find stats on sexual assault of Disabled nonbinary people), 80% of ID/DD women will experience one sexual assault in their lifetime, compared to 30% of ID/DD men. Oh, right, source.

I’m super low on fuel right now, but I also want to mention fetishization of mentally ill women. “Why are the hot ones always crazy?”. Weird and creepy bullshit about how maybe you’re not supposed to stick your dick in crazy, but the crazy girls are better in bed. Recent depictions of Harley Quinn, especially in Suicide Squad. I…uh…there are probably more. Can’t think of any right now, but the next time you see one, think about those sexual assault statistics.

Of course, none of this even touches the intersections with queerness, race, religion, class, and more, but I decided to write about–or at least, start with–two axes I was most familiar with. You bet your ass I could write about how being a queer woman intersects with ableism. And intersections really need to be discussed more, because there’s no dismantling ableism without dismantling white supremacy, heteronormativity, capitalism, etc. Perhaps more on that later; I’m hoping I can get some guest bloggers who experience oppression that I don’t to help me with that.

Oh, right, and I have a Patreon now! https://www.patreon.com/ARZinzani If you’re learning from my blog, please consider supporting me. You’ll even get to vote on what other entries I write or, at higher tiers, request topics for me to write about.