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!

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”.

The Story of My Twitter Handle

Content/trigger warning: cursing, mention of several forms of bigotry

Story time.

Those who follow me on Twitter know that my Twitter name is now “Mara The Id of Social Justice RAGE Lee”. This is because of a horrible interaction I had with a popular elitist, fauxminist YouTuber several years ago, and I’ve decided to laugh at it. But I want to talk about the story because I feel like call-outs happen in social justice, and how to reply to being called out constructively. That’s related to the horrible interaction, I promise.

Anyway, Elitist Fauxminist YouTuber (hereafter referred to as EFYT) was dating another YouTuber, hereafter referred to as YouTuber Boyfriend, when this happened. YouTuber Boyfriend made one too many neurotypicalist comments and had also been bad at checking his cis privilege and had been…let’s just say clumsy when discussing anti-Black racism. So I left a comment about all three areas of fuck-uppery.

Anyway, I posted on Tumblr about my feeling like I’d acted like an ~*~SJW~*~ and was hoping to not have that internal struggle next time I called someone out.

That was a mistake.

EFYT saw the Tumblr post.

She agreed that I had acted like an “SJW” and, bafflingly, thought that I was making all of her boyfriend’s fuck-ups about race. She even said “why, oh why are you making this about race?” Uh, I wasn’t. You just misinterpreted what I wrote. Maybe you don’t know what “neurotypical” means, EFYT.

It gets worse. She then encouraged her followers to correct me about how I had fucked up/been an “SJW”. I was not just dragged, but drawn and quartered. It got so bad I dissociated for…I want to say two days. Too damn long, in any case.

So what does this have to do with my Twitter handle? Well, EFYT included the phrase “the id of social justice RAAAAAAAAAAAGE” in her Mara-sucks-let’s-tell-her-why post. And something about that phrase actually appeals to me. Probably because it nicely encapsulates both her hypocrisy and someone who’s supposedly a feminist using her advanced vocabulary to rub it in people’s faces that SHE IS EDUMACATED AND THEREFORE A BETTER PERSON THAN YOU. I also like that it is an Ayn Randian level of sounding high-concept but actually being utter bullshit. I mean…she wants to tell me I’m mired in “the id of social justice rage”? Fine. I guess I am (whatever the fuck it actually means). So sue me. I’m so sorry I am passionate when it comes to caring about other people.

Am I biased because she used the word “id” and I think Freud can get fucked in the ear with a Saguaro? Probably. Am I biased specifically against this person because seeing her face pop up in my YT recommendations is a dissociation trigger? Uh, YEAH. Of course I am. But I thought she was an elitist fauxminist before she retraumatized me, so. Make of that what you will.

You know, even though I remember this like it was yesterday (thanks, PTSD), it actually happened sometime between 2012 and 2014. So hopefully EFYT is a better person now. I still think having “The Id of Social Justice RAGE” in my Twitter name is funny.

What’s the takeaway? Don’t mess with Maui when he’s on a breakaway! Er. Sorry, I was just listening to the Moana soundtrack. The actual takeaway is that the knee-jerk reaction to someone calling out someone you care about is to defend the person you care about or even to attack the person doing the call-out. Assuming it’s a real call-out and not a shitty ad hominem attack…look, no one wants to believe that someone they love did a bad thing. But we’re all fallible, and I don’t know a single person who isn’t still unlearning at least some of the lessons the kyriarchy taught us. So when your partner fucks up, try to help them learn constructively. Comfort them if they’re upset and tell them you know they’re capable of doing better. And don’t send your followers after the person doing the call-out. Even if you don’t ask your followers to be abusive, they will be.

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.

Blaming Abuse on Neurodivergence (Is Ableist)

Content/trigger warning: discussion of abuse throughout, including a specific example of gaslighting, ableist slurs (censored)

A while back, I wrote an entry on how “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse” is not a thing. But to be honest, I have never been satisfied with that entry. I felt as though it did not get my point across. This may be because it was little more than a fleshed-out Twitter thread from back when I tried to do Twitter threads. (It turns out that my brain and conceptualizing complex ideas into 280-character–fragments are not friends.) I have deleted the entry, and am just going to reiterate the points that I feel I did at least a passable job making in that entry here:

  • Describing abuse with an adjective that applies to a neurodivergent condition implies that the neurodivergent condition caused the abuser to be abusive
  • Emotional abuse is real and traumatic, but it is ableist to refer to emotional abuse perpetrated by an abuser who felt that they had to tear down the victim in order to make themselves feel better as “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse”
    • You can just say “emotional abuse” instead, or “self-serving emotional abuse” if you want to be more specific
  • Some (but not all, as far as I have been able to determine) people with NPD consider “n*rc*ss*st” to be a slur when used pejoratively, including when it is used as part of the phrase “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse” (or, oh I don’t know, on a subreddit called “Raised by N*rc*ss*sts”)
  • I am extremely upset at other ND people, particularly others with abuse-related PTSD, engaging in the lateral saneism of calling what traumatized them “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse” or saying they have “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse syndrome”

However, what I feel like I did not adequately convey is that no neurodivergent condition causes a person to be abusive. I did mention that, but I feel like I didn’t elaborate on it enough. So I will use this entry to describe Mara’s Theory of Neurodivergent Conditions and Suckitude.

Unfortunately, it seems to be a sad truth that people of all populations are capable of sucking; no matter how many (or how few) marginalized groups a person belongs to, it is still possible for them to be disrespectful, toxic, etc. Anyone can have character flaws that cause them to suck. Sometimes, people who suck are neurodivergent. Since neurodivergence affects who a person is on a fundamental level, a sucky person’s neurodivergence may lead them to suck in a particular way. As such, sucky people who share a particular neurodivergent condition may show patterns in their suckitude. However, they do not suck because they are neurodivergent; they suck because they suck. Neurodivergence simply informs how they suck.

A corollary (is that the right word? I haven’t done advanced math since college) to Mara’s Theory of Neurodivergence and Suckitude is that if a neurodivergent person abuses someone, their neurodivergence may have informed what kind of abusive actions they took, but it did not make them abusive. My abuser, for instance, told me that I could not have depression because she had depression and she would have recognized it. If she hadn’t been depressed, she wouldn’t have said that, but she certainly would have said some other gaslighting bullshit. (In fact, she has, multiple times; my favorite is that I lied to all 20something of the psych professionals I have seen about having depression symptoms because I think being depressed is ~*~cool~*~.)

This is also why armchair diagnosing a sucky person is ableist. (I’ve discussed this before, especially in my entry about why I fucking hate it when people armchair diagnose Tr*mp, but I feel like reiterating it.) I mean, armchair diagnosis is de facto ableist—the primary purpose of a diagnosis is to help the person with the diagnosis understand what is happening with them and address it, and if a diagnosis does not serve that purpose, then fuck that—but armchair diagnosing a sucky person is ableist because it is based on the ableist and untrue idea that neurodivergence causes suckitude.

The tl;dr of this entry is that no neurodivergent condition causes a person to be abusive, which is why using a phrase that indicates that a particular neurodivergent condition (NPD, in the case of “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse”) causes abuse is ableist and wrong.

P.S. No, I’m not sure why I decided to name this entry in the style of an early aughts emo song. I’m not particularly good with titles.

How You Does Ally, Part I: Allyship With the Mentally Ill Community

Content/tw: cursing, discussion of saneism

I’m probably going to do at least two of these; one about allyship to the mentally ill community and one about allyship to the Autistic community. I might also do one about allyship to cluster B people. And maybe one for the whole Disabled community, but that’s so huge and diverse, I might have to break it up. We’ll see. But I’m starting with a list of how to be a good ally to mentally ill people in general…well, with a few examples that are specific to certain disorders. Here we go:

  1. This goes for being an ally to any marginalized group: don’t get your knickers in a twist over metonymy. Metonymy is a figure of speech that uses thing X, which is associated with thing Y, to refer to thing Y; for example, the phrase “America is enacting racist policies” really means “the American government is enacting racist policies”. Similarly, “I fucking hate men” means “I fucking hate systemic misogyny and the fact that men act as oppressors due to systemic misogyny” and “mentally healthy people suck” means “saneism sucks and the fact that mentally healthy people act as oppressors due to saneism also sucks”. If you’re mentally healthy and hear an MI person complaining about mentally healthy people, don’t get all pissy and offended. And if you do get pissy and offended, maybe think about about how much you really care about the rights of mentally ill people.
  2. Remove saneist language, especially insults, from your vocabulary. Don’t call gunsexual right-wingers with their heads up their asses “ins*ne”; call them gunsexual right-wingers with their heads up their asses. Don’t call selfish, violent assholes “p*****paths”; call them selfish, violent assholes. Don’t even call that party you went to last night “cr*zy”; call it “wild”.
  3. Similarly, I’ve touched on this before, but don’t blame violence or bigotry on mental illness. Mental illness is a horrible predictor of whether or not someone will be violent or bigoted.
  4. For that matter, correct your friends and family when they use saneist language (assuming it is safe for you to do so). If you know someone who is MI and uses saneist language, well, internalized saneism is wicked hard to shake, and that should probably be handled by another MI person. Also, they could be reclaiming the terms. But definitely correct other mentally healthy people who are contributing to bigotry against mentally ill people if you can.
  5. Do not, under any circumstances, refer to suicide as being “cowardly” or “selfish”. I don’t care if you’ve been suicidal and telling yourself that suicide is cowardly or selfish kept you alive, because a lot of suicidal people believe that their loved ones would be better off with them dead or that they deserve to die. And being shamed for being suicidal may make them feel worse or even push them over the edge. Trying to shame someone into staying alive is…well, I find it morally reprehensible. Don’t do it.
  6. If someone is not a veteran and has PTSD, do not give them shit for it. I mean, sexual assault is approximately as likely to cause PTSD as serving in the military (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56506/). Anyone who experiences trauma can get PTSD; it isn’t just soldiers.
  7. Respect people’s triggers. Triggers can be anything from gunshot-like sounds to the cologne someone’s abuser used to wear. If someone says something is a trigger for them, no matter how silly it may seem to you, respect that and do everything you can not to trigger them.
  8. Use trigger and content warnings. (A content warning is ordinarily for mention/brief discussion of something while a trigger warning is for a vivid description of it/showing it.) Like I mentioned, triggers can be anything, but if you’re producing content for a large audience, the best things to warn for are what I call The Trifecta: abuse (specify the type; sexual, physical, emotional, etc.), murder/death, and bigotry. Other good things to warn for are pedophilia, blood, extreme violence, cruelty to animals, drugs (recreational or medicinal), alcohol, explosions, war, and corpses.
  9. If someone says they can’t eat a certain thing, eat in front of people, or go to a certain restaurant, respect that. Eating disorders are fucking bastards.
  10. Understand that therapy and medication aren’t right for everyone. Some people get side effects worse than their symptoms. Some people have medical trauma and can’t safely go to therapists’ offices. Some people have had such shitty therapists that they are afraid to go back to therapy. Whatever the case, mentally ill people deserve to have autonomy over their treatment.
  11. But on the other side of the coin, don’t fucking med shame. Many MI people need our medication to be healthy. Some of us need it to fucking live. Yes, late-stage capitalism is inherently unethical and pharmaceutical companies profit off of the suffering of mentally ill people who need medication. But in your zeal to take down “Big Pharma”, don’t you fucking dare piss on people who need psychiatric meds. No, we’re not just throwing chemicals at the vagaries of life because we’re “weak” or “lazy”. It’s more along the lines of “if you can’t make your own neurotransmitters, getting them from the pharmacy works too”.
  12. If you live in the United States, DO NOT CALL THE POLICE ON MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE. They don’t know how to deal with us. They’ll probably just kill us. Okay? Okay. This goes double if the MI person in distress is a person of color. The only exception to this is if the person in distress requests that you call the police.
  13. Excommunicate yourself from the Cult of Forced Positivity. Don’t ever tell a depressed person that happiness is a choice. Don’t ever tell a person with anxiety that they just need to relax. Don’t ever tell a borderline person that they just have to decide not to be afraid of abandonment. Don’t ever tell a person with body dysmorphic disorder to choose to love their body. Choosing to not be mentally ill is fucking impossible. Also, putting so much emphasis on how happiness is mandatory shames people who experience not only depression, but many other mood disorders, and makes them feel like it’s not okay for them to discuss or even experience their symptoms.
  14. Similarly, if you don’t have a mental illness, don’t give advice on how to deal with it unless you are asked. Just don’t. We’re fucking sick of hearing how doing pilates in the woods at sunrise will cure our neurotransmitter imbalances.
  15. I have mentioned this before, but don’t claim you’re “a little OCD” if you like things neat or “a little anorexic” because you didn’t have that second donut. If you think you might have that illness, go ahead. If you definitely don’t have an illness, don’t talk about having it. It minimizes the experiences of people who are actually MI.
  16. Do not feel entitled. If a MI person tells you what their triggers are or what they can’t eat or that they need you to reassure them about something, you are not entitled to any further information about their mental illness. Don’t ask why we have the triggers we do or why we can’t eat that food or why we need to hear that you don’t hate us. Just give us the respect we deserve and don’t pry.
  17. Finally, practice “pass the mic” activism. Center and amplify mentally ill voices when it comes to conversations about mental illness. Take the recent conversation about how mental illness is not a predictor of whether or not someone will shoot up a school. Sure, it’s good to cite forensic psychologists who say that mental illness is a terrible predictor of violence. But about every mentally ill person either could have also told you that, and trust me, we are Tweeting and Facebooking and blogging and screaming about it.

I think that’s all I have for now. Go forth and be a not-asshole about mental illness.

 

Less Well-Known Ableist Language

Content/trigger warning: ableist language (which you might have guessed :P), cursing

First of all, I want to discuss ableist language that isn’t widely acknowledged as ableist in this entry because I see a lot of people who are attempting to be good allies to the Disabled community or are even Disabled themselves using some of these. I also want to reiterate something that many Disabled activists have said: ableism is not a list of words. It is a violent system of oppression that privileges abled people over Disabled people and harms or even kills Disabled people. Ableist language is commonly discussed in part because it is so pervasive and in part because it is representative of the fact that Disabled people are devalued and dehumanized, so while it isn’t the be-all end-all of ableism, I think it still bears discussing. Examining one’s language can also be an effective way to identify unconscious biases.

I also want to say that not all of these are considered slurs. Some are ableist in the way that saying that all women have vaginas is transmisogynist, but does not involve any slurs. But some of these are slurs, so ye hath been warned. If ableist language is one of your triggers or you find it really upsetting, you may want to skip this one.

So with that out of the way, here we go; a (probably not comprehensive) list of lesser-known ableist language:

 

Autistic screeching/any use of autism as an insult: Please, for the love of stim toys, don’t do this. It’s incredibly ableist against Autistic people.

Blind to/Turn a blind eye to/Blinded by: Any metaphor (or whatever literary device you’re using) that describes disability as negative is ableist. These expressions are, specifically, vidist (vidism is oppression of blind people). “Ignorant” can be a good substitute.

Confined to a wheelchair: Wheelchairs help people be more mobile, not less, so wheelchairs are the opposite of confining. Instead, say “wheelchair user”.

Cr*zy (also ins*ne, m*d): I would think these would be pretty self-explanatory, but apparently they’re not. Don’t use slurs against mental illness. “Outrageous” or “ridiculous” are good alternatives. (Note: these words are often reclaimed.)

Cr*pple: It seems like many people actually do know that this is ableist, but it is ableist against physically Disabled people, and I’m putting this on the lesser-known list because so many able-bodied mentally ill people use “cr*ppling” to describe their mental illness. FUCKING DON’T DO THAT.

Delusional: Often leveled at people who are being illogical (so just say “illogical”), this one is ableist toward mentally ill people who experience delusions.

D*rp/herp-d*rp: Offensive to ID/DD people. Its origins on South Park were surprisingly not terribly shitty, but it has been coopted by shitty people to disparagingly refer to ID/DD people. Whoops.

Differently abled/diffabled: Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh I fucking hate this one. It’s so condescending in addition to representing a flagrantly inaccurate understanding of disability. (More on that when I write about models of disability.) “Disabled” is not a bad word. Just say it. Please.

D*mb/D*mbass: This one insults intelligence, and saying that low intelligence is inherently bad is ableist against intellectually Disabled people. Hell, the whole damn concept of intelligence is ableist, and don’t get me started on how many –isms are involved in IQ tests. Actually, get me started on that some other time. There will be an entry on it. Avoid insulting intelligence, okay? Oh, and this one also is ableist against non-speaking Disabled people because of its history of use to mean non-speaking.

Ermahgerd: This one is offensive to Disabled people whose disabilities affect their speech. Yes. Really. I only learned that fairly recently myself.

Fall on deaf ears/tone-deaf: This one is audist, or discriminatory against D/deaf people. Like I said before, don’t use literary devices that present disability as inherently bad.

Fuckt*rd/libt*rd: If you’re reading this, you probably know that r****d is one of the worst ableist slurs. Derivatives of the r-slur are also ableist slurs.

H*ndic*p: The “hand-to-cap” story is reportedly not true, but this one is still a slur. I’ve heard some older Disabled people use it, but…internalized ableism is hard as hell to shake. As with many others on this list, just say Disabled instead.

Hearing impaired: Many D/deaf and hard-of-hearing people don’t like this one. Say D/deaf or HoH instead.

Id*ot/imb*cile/m*ron: Not only do these have a history of use by pro-eugenics asswads to label intellectually Disabled people in order to determine whether or not they should be institutionalized, sterilized, etc., they insult intelligence. I’ve already talked about why that is a No. Don’t insult intelligence; insult poor decisions or moral bankruptcy instead.

L*me: This one specifically targets people with mobility or physical disabilities, especially those affecting the legs. This is usually used as slang to refer to something that is “uncool”. I’m really terrible at argot and colloquialisms, but I’m sure there are other slang terms that aren’t ableist that can be used to mean “bad” or “uncool”.

Ps*cho: This one is offensive to people who experience psychosis. The same goes for use of “psychotic” as an insult.

P*****path/s****path: These are both slurs for people with ASPD that rely on the ableist idea that empathy is what makes us human, a necessary trait to be a good person, etc. Many neurodivergent people have low or no empathy and are still good people and not in any way a threat to society. Oh yeah, that’s what these words mean. That people with low/no empathy are a danger to society. The only people I’m a danger to are (usually ableist) people who are a danger to me. Avoid these and just call someone morally bankrupt. Or an evil fucker. Or whatever.

-phobic (to refer to bigotry): I’ve never liked this one, and it turns out there’s a good reason for that; it conflates bigotry with phobias, which fall under mental illness. Conflating bigotry with mental illness is a towering pile of Don’t Fucking Do That. A good alternative to –phobia is –misia or, if you don’t think that will be recognized/understood, –antagonism.

Short bus/you belong on the short bus/that’s short bus material: Targets ID/DD/LD people. Avoid this one, and, as I said before, any insult to intelligence.

Sp*z: This one specifically targets people with cerebral palsy and other neural issues. “Disorganized” or “incompetent” will suffice.

Special needs/special: The needs of Disabled people aren’t “special”, they’re fucking necessary. And referring to a Disabled person as “special” or “a special” is just…my soul hurts too much to even think about that. Don’t. Stop. No. Just say “Disabled”.

St*pid: Remember what I said about not insulting intelligence? Don’t.

That gave me a flashback/that gave me PTSD: A coworker recently tapped me on the shoulder after lumbering up to me. Seeing as heavy footsteps and being touched without warning are triggers for me, I jumped about a mile and I felt a sensation like my soul shooting out the top of my spine, and suddenly I was fifteen years old again and my abuser was pinning me to a wall. I was dissociated for the rest of the day. That’s a flashback. Your difficult exam or that bad movie you saw did not give you PTSD or flashbacks.

Triggered (when used as an insult): See above. It’s immensely disrespectful and minimizing of the struggles of people with PTSD (and other conditions that can be triggered, like, say, anxiety or epilepsy).

 

Like I said, that was not a comprehensive list of ableist language; it was just a list of less common ones because I think there are a lot of well-meaning people who use these not knowing that they come from a place of bigotry. Also, I keep seeing a lot of people on the left using these to tear down right-wing bigots, and for the love of SSRIs, please don’t fight bigotry with bigotry.

I think I’m going to stop with the Carrie Fisher quotes. She said a lot of memorable things, of course, but I’m running out of quotes that are apropos for these entries. I might pick up doing the quotes again when I can finally read one of her books without crying.

“I’m Triggered!”

Content/trigger warning: descriptions of ableism, cursing

No. Actually, I’m not. I’m fucking furious. 

Or maybe I am triggered, as in the symptoms of my illness have been exacerbated by an external stimulus, because unchecked rage is a rare symptom of PTSD, but oh do I have that symptom.

It’s time to talk about ableism in comedy.

I’m typing this because I was just watching SNL (not deliberately; it’s disgustingly saneist, but it was on in the background) and a skit came on that was a fake advertisement mocking people who are aware of social issues and work to improve them. The skit involved clumsily shouting social justice buzzwords, including “I’m triggered!” in response to…oh, I don’t fucking know, some question about the fake product being advertised. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that ableism is rampant in comedy, and that fucking terrifies me.

I’ve been meaning to do this entry for a while because I keep seeing this. A little while back, I was watching America’s Got Talent, and I saw a comedian who described a physically Disabled woman not disclosing her disability prior to a Tinder date as being “catfished”. Then he mockingly mimicked her gait. The crowd, of course, was laughing hysterically. Because insulting Disabled people is fucking hilarious, right? And of course, scads of comedy YouTubers use ableist language like it’s going out of style. I even saw a rock music reviewer use the phrase “trigger warning: I don’t like Twenty-One Pilots all that much”. Dude…really?

Comedy seems to condone or even expect not just ableism, but all forms of bigotry. I used to do open mic nights. I didn’t do stand-up—I sang—but I did prepare a single stand-up routine for a day when my usual open mic night fell on April Fools’ Day. I wasn’t able to attend that open mic due to homework, so I decided to try my hand at a comedy open mic night with that one routine. I got a really good response, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how much bigotry, especially homomisia and ableism, I saw that night. One comedian, who I had seen before at my usual open mic and who I had shouted at for a homomisic joke, had edited his joke to be…almost exactly the same, except he said “homosexual” instead of “gay”. I also couldn’t help but shout at a female comedian who used the r-slur. (At least she apologized afterward, but way to make me feel hated.) The worst part was the conversation after the open mic had closed; several comedians agreed that no topic was off-limits and that “racist” or “homophobic” jokes were actually totally acceptable. Another comic, who perhaps misinterpreted the look of horror on my face, came over to me and told me, “You have the gift”.

I never went back. I don’t go where I’m not safe if I can help it.

Some cockwaffles people argue that comedy is supposed to be “subversive” and that it’s totally fine to joke about horrible things in order to deal with them. As someone who jokes about being a living dead girl in order to deal with the fact that my trauma effectively destroyed my personality and left behind an empty husk, I understand this impulse. But this argument doesn’t hold water when the point of the comedy is just upholding the idea that Disabled people are worth mistreating or mocking us or, worse, that mistreating and mocking us is funny. The idea that reinforcing ableism is totally fine and dandy is because “it’s just a joke” both befuddles and infuriates me. I don’t understand why finding bigotry funny makes it acceptable. It isn’t subversive; it’s the opposite. All it does is reinforce negative stereotypes and bigoted attitudes.

I don’t have much else to say about this topic besides that it needs to fucking stop. Comedy should not be—and I hate to use this phrase—a safe space for bigotry because bigots like to laugh while indulging their shittiness. And I beg of you, if you’re reading this, don’t let bigoted jokes fly, even if it’s just ableist language in a joke. Challenge the shittiness. Challenge the idea that jokes get a free pass from bigotry even though they are capable of reinforcing bigotry.

“But Mara,” you might say, “why would you focus on such a comparatively small issue when there are people out there armchair diagnosing the Las Vegas shooter?” Well, one, because I already did an entry on neurodivergence and gun violence, and two, because it is possible to care about multiple issues at once. All manifestations of ableism need to go, even the smaller ones.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “Sometimes you can only find heaven by slowly backing away from hell.”

Emotional Sensitivity and Neurotypicalism

Content/trigger warning: death mention, neurotypicalist slur

Oh, hey! I found this entry in my folder of blog entries and it turns out I wrote it a long time ago and never posted it. So have a real entry!

Today (er, on the day I wrote it, which was January 23), someone took time out of their busy schedule to tell me I was wrong for my feelings about Carrie Fisher’s death. Why would someone do that?

Well, I could speculate until the cows come home, but I have always been befuddled by disrespect and meanness. I don’t understand the motivation and may be neurologically incapable of doing so, because it’s not a motivation I have. (Low intellectual empathy. It makes life interesting.) So instead, I want to talk about sensitivity.

Actually, I want to talk about two kinds of sensitivity: sensitivity as in respect and sensitivity as in being emotionally sensitive and vulnerable. It also would be accurate that I want to talk about being sensitive to sensitivity in the sense of being respectful of vulnerability. Some people are sensitive. In modern society, especially in the US (which is where I live and therefore the place I am most qualified to discuss), sensitivity gets a bad rap. It is actively discouraged. People are told to stop being dramatic, stop crying, stop being sensitive, etc. The usual rationale behind this is that the world is cruel, so sensitivity is maladaptive and should be trained out of people. I find there to be two problems with that: one, many sensitive people can literally not be trained out of being who they are, and two, it is possible to create a world that is more accessible to sensitive people.

Many neurodivergent people are highly emotionally sensitive. (Others are highly emotionally insensitive; I might discuss that later.) It is because of this that the “your feelings are wrong and you should feel bad” attitude toward sensitivity crosses into neurotypicalism. Yes, being crappy in response to someone being more upset than you think they should be is rooted in neurotypicalism. You’re gods damned right I said it.

I want to point out that an exception to the discussion in this entry is the fact that being told one is acting like a bigot tends to hurt feelings. In this case, those hurt feelings are the problem of the person acting like a bigot, because they were perpetuating wide-scale harm and their hurt feelings are less important than the harm they were doing. Also, sometimes bigots will hide behind their hurt feelings by attempting to say “you hurt my feelings, so YOU’RE wrong”. Well, being told you’re acting like a bigot hurts. I’m white and cis, so PoC and trans people have told me I was acting like a bigot because, well, I was. I’ve internalized white supremacy and cissexism, and unlearning them is a process. Yeah, it hurt. But I was in the wrong and it was my responsibility as a moral human being to get over my feeling hurt and unlearn whatever toxic crap I was doing. And ohhh boy do I get neurotypicals pulling the “you hurt my feelings by calling me neurotypicalist, so YOU’RE wrong and I don’t have to change my behavior”. (This is why I have a “neurotypical tears” mug.) So to summarize this paragraph, I am talking about being attentive to the emotional needs of sensitive neurodivergent people in this entry, not those times when it may be necessary to hurt someone’s feelings in order to affect positive change.

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. (The idea of hysteria or a similar condition as a disease caused by the uterus was found in several cultures, but 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.

The idea that mental illness (or at least supposed irrationality related to such) and emotional sensitivity are inexorably related is pervasive. Mentally ill feelings are seen as Wrong, so they can be dismissed; on the flip side, “overly” sensitive emotional responses are seen as mentally ill so they can be categorized as Wrong. “You’re too sensitive” is not only an asshole thing to say in response to someone’s hurt feelings, but it also carries the hidden barb of “you’re crazy”. This is especially true when a woman’s feelings are being delegitimized; misogynableism is likely at play.

In short, everyone’s feelings are legitimate to them and should be respected, even if some might find them too extreme. Yes, that especially includes the feelings of mentally ill people, even if our disorders are causing those feelings; for example, my CPTSD-born belief that I deserve to suffer or die when I’m admonished for a social gaffe is irrational, but it’s certainly real. I can process that feeling much better when the fact that I’m feeling it is respected. High emotional sensitivity, like any other neurodivergent trait, needs to be accommodated, and that accommodation should lead to the curb-cutter effect and make life easier for neurotypical people who are highly sensitive. The world would be a better place for everyone if assholes would stop being assholes. Well, it might not be better for the assholes, but I don’t really care about them.

I might write more about sensitivity and radical softness later, but that might be all I have on the topic.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.'” I’m only picking this quote because I’m so out of spoons I want a depression nap, but I have to job-hunt instead.