What We Talk About When We Talk About Language

There are a lot of things we talk about when we talk about language, of course, but it’s worth highlighting something important: when we talk about language, we don’t talk about what it used to mean, or what it is supposed to mean, or what you think it means. We talk about how society uses language, right now. Because it’s the social use of language which can turn language into a weapon, and it’s the engrained nature of ableist language which makes it so harmful.

One of the most common defenses I see of ableist language is “well, it doesn’t mean that anymore.”

So, my question is, what does it mean?

One of the things I like to do when I am illustrating why language is exclusionary is I plug in a commonly-known original meaning of the word in question into a sentence. Let’s take “lame,” which is generally taken to mean “has difficulty walking” or “limps,” although the original use was actually just “broken.”

So, if someone says “this television show is lame” and you turn the sentence into “this television show has difficulty walking,” it doesn’t really make sense, right? Just like when you say “this social activity which I am being forced to do by my parent is a homosexual man,” it doesn’t really make sense. And this should tell you something. It should tell you that the word you are using has an inherently pejorative meaning.

Which means, actually, you’re totally right when you say a word “doesn’t mean that anymore.” In fact, it’s gone from being a value neutral term used to describe a state of being to being a pejorative. A pejorative so universally accepted that you can expect users to understand exactly what you mean when you say it. When you say “this television show is lame” you mean it’s bad, not worth your time, boring, etc., and here’s the trick: People understand that meaning and they derive it from the word that you have used, because that word is universally accepted as objectively bad.

People often accuse people like me of being “language police.” I’ve been informed that addressing exclusionary language is limiting, too restrictive, etc. That’s not actually the case. Being aware of my own language use has, in fact, enriched my use of the English language, because it has forced me to actually think about what I am saying and how I say it. And I grew up in the household of an English professor, so I know my English.

Instead of using an exclusionary pejorative, why not find a word use which actually describes what we mean?

That guy who cut me off at the intersection the other day wasn’t an idiot. He was arrogant, perhaps. He may also have been reckless, thoughtless, careless, unobservant, or possibly just a moldering toe-rag. But he wasn’t an idiot. So, why would I use the word “idiot” to describe him? And why would I tolerate that word from someone else?

Using inclusionary language is actually fun. You get to explore the roots of words you use, you get to find new and exciting words to use, and you get to learn more about the structure of a language you speak every day. It constantly amazes me to see how quickly exclusionary terms trip to my tongue when I’m in a hurry, because they are so ingrained as appropriate pejoratives. I’m actually relishing the process of eradicating them from my spoken and written language, because I love words and language play.

And I loathe essentialism. I loathe “well, it’s a value neutral term.” No, it’s not. If it was value neutral, it would not be in use as a pejorative. I loathe “no one really means that anymore.” Yes, they do, because if they didn’t, they would use a different word. Just like no one calls a “train” an “iron horse” anymore.

By 16 October, 2009.    101, language  ,  

BADD: The radical notion that people with disabilities are people, and Australia’s 2020 Summit

[This post was originally written for BADD – Blogging Against Disablism Day, and posted on May 1, 2008 at Hoyden About Town. The 2020 Summit was an attempt by the then-new Rudd government to brainstorm ideas for the country’s direction in areas including the economy, health, social inclusion, sustainability, the arts, and so on.]


This post is a part of Blogging Against Disablism Day.

For most people, health is not life’s goal. Public health is not a religion, or, as recently seen in the United States of America, health is a journey, not a destination. Health is a means to an end, it is a resource for living the full life, not something to be pursued in an obsessive way that denies risk enjoyment and testing limits.

[John R Ashton and Lowell Levin, “Beware of Healthism”]

How many people with disabilities participated in Australia’s 2020 Summit?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 19% of the young (aged 5-64) population have disabilities, and numbers are much higher after retirement age. If people with disabilities (PWD) are considered full citizens and had proportional representation at the Summit, of 1000 working-age participants, you might expect nearly two hundred people with disabilities having their say at the Summit.

Of people with disclosed or visible disabilities, however, the current count seems to stand at less than ten. According to one source, there were six. The fact that these numbers are difficult to obtain shows how important this issue is in the able-bodied national psyche.

On this information, that’s PWD underrepresented by a factor of thirty. How many protests would there be if there had been only 16 women at the Summit? The country scrutinised gender inclusion closely and at length, both in the mainstream media and in the blogosphere. This disablist inequality puts that to shame.

You can download the Initial Report of the Australia 2020 Summit here.

The report opens with “The Productivity Agenda”. The focus on a competition economy labels us as marginal citizens, if we are not economically useful. We are primarily a problem for capitalism, a burden to be reluctantly dealt with. We are not seen as people with thoughts and ideas and lives, people who have their own perspectives and contributions to Australia’s civic society and cultural life.

Read more: BADD: The radical notion that people with disabilities are people, and Australia’s 2020 Summit


The topic of mental illness came up again with the latest large-scale hate crime against women to make national news. It’s a nice easy narrative for George Sodini to be a psycho, to be crazy, to be mentally ill because then we don’t have to understand him. We don’t have to relate, because we’re not like that.

Thing is, we’ll never know if Sodini was mentally ill or not. We can’t tell from what he left behind, and he’s no longer around to ask. The things he wrote aren’t all that unhinged; he just took the workaday hatred of black people and women that is everywhere in our society and picked up a gun and went hunting.

And the mentally ill means violent narrative is false anyway. Mental illness correlates with an increased risk of being a victim of violent crime, not of committing it.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating because there’s so much silence and stigma and ignorance surrounding mental illness. I’ve had kind of a lot of experience with mental illness and the mental health professions. Some of it may be triggering.

I have taken (in no particular order) Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, Serzone, Xanax, Ativan, Risperdal. I’ve self-medicated with alcohol a lot and smoked cannabis and taken LSD when I could get it. I have been diagnosed, at various times, with clinical depression, bipolar type I disorder, bipolar type II disorder, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, gender dysphoria disorder, depressive psychosis, and paranoia. I strongly suspect that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which would explain a lot of my symptoms, behaviors, and difficulties. I have spent time in private and public psychiatric hospitals and spent years in weekly or twice-weekly therapy. I have damaged myself in ways ranging from very small — pulling on my hair repeatedly — to very serious — shooting myself in the left hand between the third and fourth metacarpal bones. I still have PTSD-like symptoms from the last and from growing up in an abusive environment, though episodes of it get farther apart as time passes. I have had suicidal thoughts that became elaborate plans. There were times that the only thing keeping me alive was someone needed to feed the cat. I am not alive for big important reasons; I am alive for small stupid reasons. I am alive because I didn’t want whoever found me to suffer the trauma of it. I have suffered delusions and intrusive thoughts and I have always had minor hallucinations (words printed on a page are red instead of black, patterns on a floor or wall shift while I look at them). I often have trouble understanding people when they talk and try to pass it off as being hard of hearing. I’m not; I hear fine. I have trouble processing auditory information and especially picking conversation out of background noise.

You’d think I was dangerous. I’m not. Really. I’m not even dangerous to me. Damaging myself — like it is for so many people who self-harm — is a way to stay alive, to cope with trauma. I have better ways to cope now and I don’t do that any more, but sometimes when I’ve had a really hard day and I hurt a lot and the noise in my head is very bad I remember how comforting it was to draw a blade across my arm, to feel the skin part, to see the blood well up, and how it made the noise go away for a while. Maybe it makes me crazy, but that is a warm fond memory for me. And it is what I needed to do when I needed to do it. I have the same memories about smoking, and I don’t do that these days either.

I’m much better now than I was. There are long periods where I don’t need psychiatric meds at all. But I am not cured and I never will be. I will always have mental illness in my life, just as I will always have fibromyalgia and physical pain. I’m back on an SNRI now and it’s helping and that’s good, because I could feel the old illness patterns coming back. Things have been bad lately with the economy. But I’ll be okay. I know how to cope with the bad things in ways that aren’t so drastic. There are people I can ask for help. I’m not alone.

Even if I am crazy.

Feminists With Disabilities Love Their Bodies

Today is Love Your Body Day, so a few of us are going to talk about why we love our bodies!

I’m meloukhia, and I love my body because, well, without a body, I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun, seeing as how we haven’t quite gotten to the state of being able to exist as floating brains just yet. Sometimes, my body and I fight. We disagree on things like when I should eat, how far I should walk, whether or not I am allowed to breathe, whether or not I should stumble into things, when I should fall down, how to get out of a car in a short skirt. But, you know? My body is pretty cool even if it does seem to have a mind of its own sometimes. It’s kind of like a cat, that way, sometimes it really pisses me off, but, you know, it always comes and lies on the bed at night, and that makes up for it. My body tells a story, my story; it has marks that I put there, that other people put there, and each one tells a history. That scar on my upper right arm is from fencing without a jacket. Those white marks in my left hand are from when someone put a fork through it. That tattoo behind my ear, it speaks to my love of language and history and the printed word. Sometimes, I stand in front of the mirror, mesmerized. This is my body! It’s all mine! And I can do what I want with it. That’s pretty terrific.

Chally here. There are so many ways in which I love my body. I love it because it is utterly mine and no one else’s; it is mine to love. I love this body that got me through endless rehearsals and pracs, my actor’s tool, I revel in it. I love these long toes, this mole on my earlobe, these pianist’s hands, my breasts, my back, because they have been my companions. I love my fabulous, gravity-defying hair, the inheritance of my foremothers, even if I otherwise don’t look much like them. This body and I have been friends on balance, no matter how much magazines, snide comments, cultural influence tried to make it otherwise. This body has been uncontrollable and put me through pain and fatigue, but I’ve learned to look after it, take care of it, keep in touch with it and respect the pair of us. I love this familiar face in the mirror. I love to see my body change, and I love that it reminds me of my mortality, so I must keep on. I love to nourish it, I love to keep it safe. Mostly, I love it because I have taught myself how valuable loving my body is, how revolutionary, how affirming.

Hi, I’m Kaninchen Zero, and I love my body. I love how tall I am, love my narrow feet and long toes, love my small breasts and sagging belly. I love the crow’s feet around my eyes and the discolorations on the backs of my hands. I love how each scar has a story behind it: This one on my knee is where my knee caught on a nail on a low-rent apartment’s cheap playground and almost tore off a piece the size of a penny. These here, on the knuckle, there were paint mixer things when I worked paint crew at university and they were all broken. Everyone who worked paint crew jacked it up at least once, pulled the shaft out the paint mixer and tried to jam it back in — zip! diced knuckles. The other ones on my knuckles are rabbit-inflicted. This on my leg was when some kid with too-jagged-for-regulation cleats stepped on me in a rugby match. The left hand? I shot myself. And I suppose I probably shouldn’t love my body what with the fibromyalgia beating me up and stealing my lunch money, but I do. Because it’s my body. A woman’s body (and a darned attractive one!). My wife’s dyke lover’s body. And it’s my canvas for tattoos. There are five so far but I’m nowhere near done yet.

I’m abby jean, and I love my body. I love that my body gives me more tangible and concrete ways to identify when I’m stressed or upset than the sometimes swirling and contradictory emotions in my mind. I love the way that using my body for yoga, or hiking, or most especially dancing, lets me get out of my head and my sometimes obsessive and circular negative thinking and forces me to focus on my sensory input. (A hot sweaty dance floor where the music is so loud you can physically feel it when lights are flashing and my hair is flying in my face and I’m just dancing, no room or space for thinking, is one of my primary self-care methods.)  I love my body because it experiences things directly and immediately instead of processing and filtering everything. I love my body and its immediate and undeniable needs (hunger, sleep, etc) as a contrast to my sometimes paralyzing indecision and uncertainty.  I love my body for the counterpoint it provides, for its ongoing insistence that I not get lost in the clouds of my brain. I love my body.

I’m Anna, and I love my body because it’s the part of me that keeps me in the here and now. My mental health condition causes me to often lose the sense of where I am, and what I’m doing – I get caught up in negative thinking and reminding myself of past mistakes to the point of self-destructiveness. My body reminds me that I am here, that I am in this place and this time, and not 10 years ago or even 2 months ago. I love my body because it reminds me of how far I’ve come from those negative times and places. My body is also pretty awesome in terms of way of carrying my brain around at the moment, and since my brain and I have to go, I’ll cut this off there. I love my body.

I’m amandaw. I love a few things about my body. It is squishy and fun to play with, for one. But my body has also taught me to respect myself. To love myself and care for myself. No healthy person has the pacing ability a chronically ill person has, and there is a reason for that. And that self-care, that pacing, that evaluation of whether something is good for you (eff whether it’s “objectively” good or not) is something to admire, no matter who you are or what body you live in. My body has given me that and for all the negative that I’ve gone through, I am grateful for that hard-won respect and self-knowledge.

I’m Annaham, and I love my body. We may get into rows from time to time, but it allows me to do many things that I love: eating, listening to music, drawing, swimming, sleeping, and hanging out. It allows me to experience certain tactile sensations that I especially treasure: the comforting touch of a loved one; my dog’s (admittedly stinky!) fur running through my fingers; my fingertips on the fretboard of my guitar; gripping a pen in my hand as I prepare to draw; preparing food using the best mixing utensils that evolution has given me; fresh grass under the soles of my feet when it’s warm enough outside to go barefoot. Oh, and my body also houses both my brain and my hands–used together, they allow me to write, even when getting the words out seems difficult.

By 15 October, 2009.    activism, bodies  , ,  


Definitions of disability affect people’s self-identity. Recognizing yourself as disabled and identifying with other people who are disabled and learning about their experiences can all contribute to understanding and interpreting your own experiences, and to knowing that you are not alone with problems you may have believed were unique to you. But being identified as disabled also carried a significant stigma in most societies and usually forces the person so identified to deal with stereotypes and unrealistic attitudes and expectations that are projected on to her/him as a member of this stigmatized group.

– Wendell, Susan. The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability. New York: Routledge. 1996. pg 12.

By 15 October, 2009.    Quotations  , ,  

Recommended Reading for October 15, 2009

Another busy day for me, so again, this is quick! (I’m coming to you from the past!)

In the blogs:

Reminder! Liz Henry is hosting the Disability Blog Carnival! Submit your links to be included!

Getting her privileged little way:

I was out yesterday with my sister, mother and nephew in Walmart. They walked away for a moment and while I was alone looking at something on a shelf , a woman pushing a large cart came toward me sideways. Instead of asking me to move, she banged the cart into the side of my wheelchair.

I’ve seen this type of rude and boorish behavior before. I was in her way and she is – well – able bodied. Never mind that there were half a dozen other people – also able bodied- who could have moved out of her way. She saw the wheelchair and I was the one in her way.

Two Hospitals to Address Access to Care for Patients with Disabilities [US]

Under a new agreement between the hospitals and the advocacy groups, the hospitals will survey and remove physical/architectural barriers to care, purchase accessible medical devices and equipment (including mammography equipment), review and modify hospital policies, provide appropriate training to staff. The hospitals must regularly report to patients and their advocates on the progress they are making. According to the Globe, advocates hope that the changes to be made at these facilities will serve as an example for hospitals across the country.

Seriously, I have ranted more than one in my own space about wheelchair inaccessibility in hospitals. My biggest pet-peeve is inaccessible waiting rooms. Don’s is people demanding he stand (that wheelchair is not for show), and then baby talking to him. Fun times.

The Etiquette of Menstrual Concealment Preserves Pain as well as Secrecy:

Kate Seear’s newly published study about the diagnostic delay in treating endometriosis finds that menstrual etiquette rules and the culture of concealment are among the most profound causes of the delay between the first experience of menstrual pain and the diagnosis of endometriosis, which then opens avenues for relief through either surgery or medical treatment. The delay is non-trivial: research estimates an average delay of 8 years in the UK and 11 years in the US. Reasons for the delay include minimizing of menstrual pain by doctors, family members, and others, and women’s inability to distinguish between ‘normal’ menstrual pain and abnormal pain, and, Seear argues, the social sanctioning women experience when they talk about menstruation in general or menstrual pain in particular.

I was thrilled to learn that the Disability Studies Lecture Series at Temple U will be available on line in both text and audio.

I’m not just concerned, I’m utterly appalled:

A trial is set to begin in Northern Victoria, in which 30 Australian Aboriginal participants will undergo gastric banding. Because you know, banding has worked for the ‘white population’ so let’s experiment on the blacks and see if it works for them too. And that is practically a direct quote. I shit you not

In the news:

Via UnusualMusic: A Fatal Cultural Gap: Depression Among Minorities

Major depressive disorder is a common disease, occurring in approximately three out of every 20 people in the United States.

However, members of minority communities, especially first-generation immigrants, often express their illness in a manner that is different from their white counterparts, which makes it more difficult to diagnose depression in them, said Dr. Russell Lim, who teaches cultural psychiatry at UC Davis School of Medicine.

“We (who are trained in Western medical schools) are defining depression though our cultural lenses,” said U.S.-born Lim. “A cultural psychiatrist, on the other hand, looks for less specific signs” than those outlined in medical textbooks.

More Research Like This, Please!

There is a neurochemical link between psychosis and creativity, according to psychiatrist Szabolcs Keri of Semmelweis University in Hungary. He studied neuregulin 1, a gene that typically is involved with neuron development and communication. A variant genotype, though, is associated with a great risk of developing mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar.

Keri studied a bunch of people who considered themselves creative and had them undergo assessments for intelligence and creativity. They also gave information on their lifetime creative achievements. Those who had the variant genotype of neuregulin 1 scored higher on the creativity assessment and had greater lifetime creative achievements. So, and wait for it, because this is exciting – a study has shown that a genotype associated with psychosis is also associated with traits and functions that people think are good and beneficial!

I don’t love the methodology of the study – measuring creativity is a difficult task in a scientific study, but I love the idea of somehow documenting something I believe about myself: my disability is not exclusively defined by diminished or impaired functioning, but also by abilities or skills beyond those of neurotypicals. I believe that we, in general, not just disability activists, should be thinking about and talking about and studying this perspective more.

(h/t Greysteppenwolf)

By 15 October, 2009.    mental health   

Recommended Reading for October 14th, 2009

A bit shorter today – Wednesdays are always busy for me!

In the blogs:

if it wasn’t so necessary, the whole thing would be impossible

# all of us are learning about our own disabilities and each others
# hard to figure out who our allies are. in nonprofit industrial complex, when we make a decision that isn’t popular with allies (like using the word “disabled” as a political word of power in our name), we don’t just lose support, ageist and ableist tactics are used to try and take our power
# this is honestly first time a lot of us have been asked: what do you want? what do you see for yourself & yr community?

In the news:

Saving Alex: A Mother Finally Got Desperately Needed Help for Her Troubled Son — By Having Him Arrested

And here comes the dirty little secret of the so-called juvenile justice system. If you have a seriously mentally ill kid, and you can’t afford treatment, you can have your kid hauled before a judge. And if the judge is particularly empathetic, he or she has the power to get services for your kid.

As long as you’re willing to give up custody of your child to the state of Arizona.

[I find this especially troubling in light of the Hyde case here in Nova Scotia.]


Follow ADAPT’s twitter feed as they protest for inclusion in health care reform, housing, and the American Dream. [US] Ms CripChick’s got a report.

Dont Write Me Off [UK]:

There are hundreds of thousands of adults with autism in the UK, all of whom have the right to lead a dignified and fulfilling life. Sadly, the majority of people with autism are not getting the support they need to find a job, and many more cannot access the benefits they need to live on.

The research that we carried out among adults with autism showed some worrying statistics. Among the people we contacted, we found that:

– one third are currently without work or benefits
– over half have spent some time without work or benefits, some for as long as 10 years
– just 15% have a full-time job
– but 79% of those on Incapacity Benefit told us that they want to work.

Through this campaign The National Autistic Society is calling on the Government to make the system fair for adults with autism, so that it takes their needs into account at every step.

October is National Disability Awareness Month [US]

“Expectation + Opportunity = Full Participation” is the 2009 theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Sponsored by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, NDEAM highlights the contribution of American workers with disabilities as well as increases awareness of their challenges.

By 15 October, 2009.    Quotations  , ,  

Second Shift for the Sick

(Originally posted November 2008 at three rivers fog.)

I had always meant to expand upon this topic, but never found the right words for it, succinct and meaningful. But, well, that’s not exactly my style either.

My job situation is still shitty, and I’m currently part-timing at a retail pharmacy as a cashier. (Sample day: Mid-20s white guy “discretely” [read:blatantly] takes a picture of me on his cell phone as I am kneeling down assembling a battery display; someone shits in the toilet paper aisle [seriously! a person! took the time to unbutton their pants and all!]; I set alarm off while fetching pushcart from back room.) “The injustices of retail,” I said to my coworker, as I nursed the scratch on my finger from pushing that toothpick in a little too hard.

But honestly, I still do, and always have, appreciated working with the public. It’s the kind of thing that reeks a little too much of bullshit to say in an interview (“Really! I love when people show visible surprise at the revelation that I can do third-grade math!”) but, well, it’s true. I like people. I am, fundamentally, the kind of person who likes spending time with people (though my severe social anxiety always masked it). I’m not a butterfly by any means — good God, I can’t stand parties, pubs, or the mall at Christmastime, and I always need time to recharge after any extended social time — but I do enjoy interacting with a variety of different people, and there are days I go home smiling because of it.

Today I met a man named Robert. He stopped by to ask how long a sale price on a can of Folgers was supposed to last, and we ended up chatting for a good ten or fifteen minutes — the line piled up behind me, but I didn’t give a damn. Robert was in a wheelchair, for whatever reason, and was there to pick up his medication, whatever it was. He got his “paycheck” on the third of every month, and only the third (read “paycheck,” there, as Social Security disability check) but right now he was fighting with Verizon, who apparently shorted him half a hundred dollars worth of minutes on his phone, and he was going back-and-forth with them to get the situation righted, and anyway he wouldn’t be able to come back for his coffee til then. I was nodding and exclaiming the whole time as he was describing how much fighting he had to do — to get his transportation to the doctor, to work, to the grocery store; to get his medicine filled correctly and on time; to keep his welfare benefits flowing smoothly (there is apparently a very common mistake that gets made on his account every couple months, and he then has to make a dozen calls here and there to get things patched up, and then a few weeks later some new worker makes the same mistake again, and…) etc. etc. etc.

God did I identify, and I didn’t have to deal with the half of what he did. The fatigue and the worry and the energy and the stress and the wasted time — and when I related as much to him (having by this point unfolded my stool and sat down over the counter) he laughed it off — “Oh hell, I’m used to it by now — doesn’t bother me.”

I hope I never get to that point. No one should ever have to get to that fucking point. No one should ever have to spend half their waking hours, no fucking exaggeration, correcting other people’s mistakes just to keep the basic necessities of life covered — and then getting attitude from those same people for being a pain in the ass to deal with.

This is a serious time sink for the ill and disabled. It is time that could be spend — you know, maybe working? bootstraps and all — could be spent writing, could be spent playing board games, or taking a bath, or spending time with loved ones, or going out to eat — or any number of other things that are totally productive, constructive, positive things to do — which, to varying effect, do make contribution to wider society.

And it’s a lot of time. This is why I call it the second shift: much like the second shift of professional women, who arrive home from work to do the domestic work their husbands do not do: this is a disproportionately larger share of time spent fighting, always fighting, pushing determinedly (or tiredly) through near-constant resistance.

Resistance — truly the best word for it — it is as though “normal,” “healthy” folk are able to move throughout the world uninhibited, like pushing your hand into thin air — but sick people, disabled people must move through a world which is set up to prohibit their full participation — like pushing your hand into a thick heavy bog.

That is privilege. The ability to swim through your sea with nary a care, completely obliviously unaware of the freedom of movement you are so fortunate to have, while the rest of us have sand bags tied to our limbs, anchors roped round our waists, our feet set in cement blocks… and to look back at us and ask, “What’s taking you so long?”

It’s exhausting. I cannot convey in words how exhausting the fight is. Always on the defensive, always saddled with the knowledge that your basic needs require a struggle, while everyone else’s basic needs are pretty much a given so long as they put in at least a half-assed drop of effort. It’s not even just time spent, it’s energy.

Look at it this way. How do you build muscle? You subject your muscles to resistance, just enough to create thousands of tiny little tears in your tissue, which your body then, with rest and nutrition, repairs — which leaves you stronger.

But this does not mean that all resistance therefore makes you stronger. Because the more you pile on, the more tiny little tears you make. And the less time you have to rest, to eat and drink well, to tend to your bodily health, the less of those tiny little tears get repaired. And you find yourself, now, with millions of tiny little tears, and not enough time or fortitude to repair even only the thousands you had before this overload.

Which means you don’t get stronger. You get weaker.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” What unadulterated bullshit. And it has the bonus effect of implying that those who do not feel stronger after a difficult incident, those who feel fatigued and despondent, those who see themselves as in a worse place than they were when they started — it implies that those people are choosing their fate. It implies that those people get something out of their misery.

Say, all you sick people out there: does any of this sound familiar?

Robert and I wrapped up our chat — turns out he lived in Anaheim for awhile, and also attended Cal State Fullerton; what a small world! — and I moved on to the next customer, affecting the smile and the sing-song customer service voice. Hi! Do you have your [Pharmacy Name] card with you today?

But it was nice, if only for a moment, to connect with someone. To, prompted by the unspoken invitation of a new friend, reach down into myself, and connect with the real person deep inside.

Maybe our struggles make us stronger; maybe they make us weaker. It doesn’t matter. We work with the tools we are given, and we still make something whole and beautiful, something worthy, something satisfying. Why do we have to come out of every fight bigger and “better”? Why can’t we be broken and hurt? Why can’t we cry, why can’t we curse, why can’t we be angry and disappointed and let down sometimes?

Right — because we wouldn’t want to make the rest of you face up to the damage you do to our lives. We wouldn’t want to “burden” you, wouldn’t want you to have to do anything to maybe reduce a little bit the fighting we have to do to live our lives. We wouldn’t want to make you have to think about how your actions and attitudes affect other people — wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.

When we are allowed to be angry, to be sad, to be bitter and disappointed, we are allowed to be human. When we are denied these emotions, we are denied our humanity. We are denied the full range of human experience.

It is fundamentally unfair — to weigh a person down disproportionately — to pile more and more shit atop their back — and then to grow indignant when that person lets out a sigh under the pressure — much less looks straight at you and lets rest the responsibility where it belongs. But this is how we treat each other — immigrants, queer folk, the disabled, those of color, the poor and disadvantaged — because we are fundamentally uncomfortable owning up to our own power.

Life would be so much better if we realized how much power we all have over each other — and how much power everyone else has over us — our interdependency. It is the concept out of which disability grows. And life would be so much better if we could look at this fact and see, not






Rant: Your Logic is SO Faulty!

You have no grasp of logic! Your argument is invalid! – this is what I started yelling at my computer when I came across this story in my Google Reader:

Should parents be worried? A new parent survey indicates that the number of American children with autism has doubled since 2003, to 1 in 91. The National Survey of Children’s Health, which is largely based on unconfirmed information from parents on the health of 78,000 kids, is less official than the U.S. government study of six years ago, causing a debate over how many children actually suffer from autism. If the current figures are accurate, 1.1 percent of children have some kind of autistic disorder compared to 0.57 in 2003. Regardless of the exact numbers, researchers are concerned: “The study shows that the increase in autism is real—you can’t have a genetic epidemic—there are environmental factors in play,” said Rebecca Estepp, national media manager for Talk About Curing Autism (TACA). “This is a national health crisis. … I don’t know how it hasn’t been declared a national health emergency.” (beast)

First of all, lady, the name of your organization is offensive. (Also.)

Second of all, your assumption that the sole variable causing the increase in rate of autism diagnoses is an increase in the occurrence of autism is literally laughable – even more so when the number on which you’re relying on self reporting by parents. But it (rightly) doesn’t count as a diagnosis every time I self-diagnose something with the help of Dr. Web, MD. The self reporting wasn’t confirmed with medical records, not that records would resolve the issue. Pinning down prevalence rates of autism is an impossible task and the variable rates are within the huge margin of error for this difficult measurement.

And then, there’s the whole issue of variance of diagnosis based on race and/or class issues (especially this study demonstrating that prevalence rates vary primarily by income, based on access to care), including the historic tendency to place minority kids in special education as a disciplinary measure.

So basically, SHUT UP.

(very slightly modified from original posting at think on this.)

By 14 October, 2009.    mental health, Uncategorized