Tag Archives: education

Go educate yourself (please!)

Image description: A shocked-looking cat perches on a chair, staring straight at the camera. Text reads: Concerned cat is just looking out for your best interests when she says that your tone might be alienating well-intentioned potential allies who just need a little polite education.

[Image via Tlönista in this comment thread at Flip Flopping Joy. Description: A shocked-looking cat perches on a chair, staring straight at the camera. Text reads: “Concerned cat is just looking out for your best interests when she says that your tone might be alienating well-intentioned potential allies who just need a little polite education.”]

One unfortunately common response to marginalized people saying that there’s a problem is the “Educate me NOW” demand from “well-intentioned allies” who totally mean well, but they just lack education on these issues and so just can’t understand what the fuss is all about.

I am using the following example not to appropriate from the awesome anti-racist work that Jessica Yee and the fabulous Racialicious crew (and countless bloggers around the web!) do on a daily basis, but rather for two specific reasons: 1.) I have already talked about my personal relationship with this oft-used derailing tactic rather extensively, and could probably talk about it ’til I’m blue in the face; 2.) anti-racist activism and disability activism are not completely separate, independent social justice strains — many of us who are involved in these activist projects are, in fact, fighting similar (though NOT completely analogous) battles. For me, claiming an identity as a feminist disability activist has entailed doing my best to fight racism and white privilege alongside fighting for disability rights. This is because disability and race intersect in many, many ways — sort of like how disability and gender, and race and gender, intersect. In other words, this is not just a disability issue, or a feminist issue,  or a trans* issue, or an anti-racist issue; it affects many of us in the social justice blogosphere, if in differing ways.

The “educate me now because I want to learn, marginalized person!” response played out, yet again, fairly recently in the comments to a post on Bitch authored by Indigenous activist and writer Jessica Yee. [Full disclosure: Some of us here at FWD guest blogged for Bitch as the Transcontinental Disability Choir.] Jessica had written a post on white hipster/hippie appropriation of native dress and why it’s not only ridiculous, but racist. Makes sense, right? (If it doesn’t, you might be at the wrong blog. Or go read this. I don’t know.) Overall, this piece seems like it would fit right in on a website for a magazine that is dedicated to showcasing “feminist response[s] to pop culture.”

And then the comments started rolling in, and so did the “but you have a responsibility to educate people who mean well!” trope:

I’m sure this is in fact extremely annoying. However, you might consider that when people bring that up, they’re not saying, “Hey I’m just like you and I totally understand what you deal with,” they’re trying to make a connection and learn something. Ignorant people are a pain in the neck, but they’re mostly not trying to be ignorant on purpose.

I‘m merely suggesting that if this is a cause you deem worthy of championing, then you should have a prepared source of information for them—be it this blog, book titles, or documentaries. Encourage them to learn more about THEIR history and perhaps you’ll draw a new soldier to your army.

It seems somewhat contradictory to put stickers on your laptop that indicate a Mohawk heritage and then rudely dismiss a stranger who expresses an interest in your advertisement. Perhaps a better way to accomplish your agenda (whatever it is) would be to engage in polite and open-minded conversation with those who mistake your stickers for an invitation.

Thea Lim at Racialicious pretty much nailed it in her recent post on what went down, entitled “Some Basic Racist Ideas and some Rebuttals, & Why We Exist” (which I highly recommend that you read in full, by the way). An excerpt:

This kind of hey-let-me-help-you-achieve-your-goal-by-suggesting-you-be-more-radio-friendly response totally misunderstands (and appears disinterested) in the anti-racist project, because it assumes that anti-racism is all about convincing white people to be nice to people of colour.   In other words, it assumes that anti-racism revolves around white folks.  Like everything else in the world.

Anti-racism and people of colour organizing is not about being friendly, being appealing, or educating white folks. While individual anti-racist activists may take those tacks to achieve their goals, the point of anti-racism is to be for people of colour.

I completely agree with Thea here — and I believe something similar applies to disability activism. That is: Those of us with disabilities are not here to make abled people feel comfortable, to hold their hands as they have a Very Special Learning Experience (most often, it seems, at our expense), or to make them feel good about themselves. I, personally, don’t care how “good” your intentions are, or that you reallllllly wanna learn, or if you think I’m being mean by not dropping everything to educate you when you demand it.  While I definitely don’t want to speak for Jessica, Thea, or any of the Racialicious contributors — or for people of color who do anti-racist work — I suspect that they may feel similarly about white people who come into PoC, WoC or other anti-racist spaces and demand that whoever is doing the activist work must halt whatever discussion is going on and educate them, now, because they are good “liberal” white people and have such good intentions, and you PoC want white people like me as allies, right? And if you don’t drop everything and rush over to educate me, well, you’re just a big meanie who must not want my support after all (such “support” is often conditional, and based upon whether the marginalized person can make the non-marginalized feel comfortable at all times), or you just want an excuse to be racist toward white people! Or some other ridiculous thing.

For me personally, the willingness that I “should” have to help well-meaning folks learn is also an energy issue. I am a person with disabilities, several of which I have written about at length on this website — and one of which is a pain condition subject to flare-ups. Thus, I have to manage my time and energy extremely carefully. Having to explain basic concepts over and over again to strangers on the internet because they’ve deigned to tell me that they “want” to learn — and some of whom may think, by extension, that they are somehow entitled to my time and energy — takes work. Writing takes work; additionally, a lot of bloggers do the blogging and responding to comments thing for free, on their own time.

And sometimes, those of us with conditions that intersect with our ability to do this work end up burnt out, frustrated, or we lose our patience. Though these end results are often nothing personal, they might read like it, and we end up paying the price energy-wise only to have that person who realllllly wanted to learn petultantly respond with something like, “You must not want to educate me, then, if you’re not up to answering all of my questions!” and leaving in a huff. But they reallllly want to learn. . . that is, if someone else does the brunt of the work for them and/or gives them good-ally cookies for just wanting to be educated about all this social justice stuff. Merely wanting is not enough; you have to actually follow through for your good intentions to matter.

There is, thankfully, a solution to this problem: those people who say, or comment, that they realllly want to learn must take responsibility for their own learning. There are several ways that this can be accomplished, among them lurking on blogs for a while before one starts commenting, reading a site’s archives (and most sites have them!), picking up a book (or two), reading some articles online or off. Certainly, there are a lot of things that are privileged about this assertion; of course, not everyone has the time to read about social justice, lurk on blogs, or take similar steps. But what is also privileged is the putting the responsibility for your own 101-type education onto someone else — someone who might not have all of the energy, time and patience that you might.

[A slightly different version of this post has been cross-posted at ham blog.]

Give Teens With Disabilities Access to Sexual Education

Yesterday, the Guttmacher Institute issued a press release with some study results which attracted a great deal of attention. “Following Decade-Long Decline, U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rate Increases as Both Births and Abortions Rise” hit the wires and the speculation started almost immediately. Many members of the feminist community argued that it was the result of the total failure of abstinence-only education, a form of sexual education I’ve long railed against, and advocates for abstinence-only argued…well:

Others said the reversal could be due to a variety of factors, including an increase in poverty, an influx of Hispanics and complacency about AIDS, prompting lax use of birth control such as condoms.[1. Stein, Rob. (2010, 26 January) “Rise in teenage pregnancy rate spurs new debate on arresting it.” The Washington Post, A04.]

…yeah. Thanks for that.[1. Insert meloukhia-rant which would otherwise eat up this entire post here.]

Teen pregnancy in the 1990s dropped radically. Now, it’s on the rise again, very much in line with predictions made by researchers. And there is a pretty demonstrable link here between the rise of abstinence-only and the rise in the teen pregnancy rate. This much is clear, and it’s a link which should be discussed.

But there’s another issue which I haven’t seen getting very much coverage: The denial of sexual education to teens with disabilities, even in areas where sexual education of some form beyond “keep your legs closed until marriage” is offered. This is not fair to disabled teens, and to people with disabilities in general, and it’s something which needs to be addressed, pronto, because we should be at the point in society where we recognize that all teens including disabled teens need access to balanced information about sexual health, contraception options, and recognizing abusive relationships.

People with disabilities are at increased risk of being sexually abused.[1. Myers, Leslie. (1999) “People With Disabilities and Abuse.” Readings in Independent Living.] Young people with disabilities are especially vulnerable.[1. Mansell, Sheila, Sobsey, Dick, Wilgosh, Lorraine, and Zawallich, Andre. (1996) “The sexual abuse of young people with disabilities: Treatment Considerations.” International Journal For the Advancement of Counseling, Volume 19, Number 3. Pp. 293-302.] You know what happens to people who are vulnerable to sexual abuse who do not receive sexual education? It makes them more vulnerable.

It’s time to recognize, as a society, two important things:

  1. Some people with disabilities like to have sex.
  2. People with disabilities in general are at increased risk of sexual abuse and assault, whether or not they are sexual.

These must be acknowledged so that we can start focusing on making sexual education fully accessible. Because this is a critical step in breaking down a vicious cycle which perpetuates not only widely believed stereotypes about people with disabilities, but abuse of people with disabilities, including justification of that abuse.

We need to be providing disabled teens with tools which they can use to make choices about their sexuality, like if they want to have sex, with whom, where, when, and how. And, given that able people sometimes have disabled partners, providing people with non-judgmental information about sex and disability is pretty important. Plus, admitting that some disabled folks enjoy sex too can break down a lot of social stigma, including the attitude that people with disabilities can’t have sex or don’t like to have sex. When even supposed professionals ask questions like “is your partner capable of having sex,” it illustrates a profound lack of awareness.

And we need to make sure that information about recognizing and addressing abuse is provided in sexual education, with a special focus on recognizing, preventing, and handling abuse of disabled persons. We also must ensure that people have the ability to report abuse, because almost every study I see about abuse and people with disabilities includes some variation of the line “unfortunately, reporting of abuse is limited, which makes it difficult to arrive at accurate estimates…”

Not including terms to describe sexual abuse in a communication book, for example, is a pretty effective way to prevent someone from reporting sexual abuse. Sterilizing institutionalized women so that they can’t get pregnant when they’re being sexually abused by caregivers is another very effective way to make it hard to get accurate statistics on abuse. Not giving people with disabilities the language they need to describe abuse perpetuates abuse. So does ignoring reports of abuse from people with disabilities.

Disabled teens need sex ed. It’s time to give it to them.[1. And it’s time to make some pretty major changes in the sex ed system in general. Abstinence-only aside, a lot of sexual education is highly heteronormative and binarist. Sexual education needs to be much more inclusive of a lot of things.]

Recommended Reading for November 27

via Elizabeth Kissling at re:Cycling: Mental Illness in Academe

The first question you must ask yourself is whether to tell your chair and dean. I can think of arguments both in favor of that, and against.

One of the pluses would be the psychological benefits of not having a secret and being able to be open. More practically you might be able to get extra support, or formal accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). You would serve as a model for other academics in your department and your students.

There are, of course, real pitfalls to telling, too. There is a tremendous stigma, still, around mental illness. People may believe, consciously or not, that you are unreliable or even dangerous, and they may fear you. They may think you can’t do the work or your scholarship isn’t good, even if it is very good. That may not be intentional on their part but can nonetheless have a big impact on your work life and your prospects for tenure.

Quickhit: Athlete Kurt Fearnley lambastes abusive Jetstar wheelchair policy

There are lots and lots and lots of problems with the way people with disabilities are treated while travelling. This is just one of them.

Talking About FSD – How Not To (Part 2)

But because folks like she and I exist, people with “Real” medical problems (and here I’m using quotes because I’m not comfortable with claiming my problems are more real & valid than anyone else’s, just because I can back mine up with medical records, which have also been and will continue to have their value questioned anyway,) we are putting everyone else at risk of exploitation by Big Pharma. Because I want treatment for my sexual health problems, I bear the responsibility & burden of enabling Big Pharma sneaking its phallic tendrils into all of our bedrooms & regulating our sexuality. That regulation might come in pill form designed to increase our libidios – but never too much, for if we become too sexual, too promiscuous, we may just be diagnosed with the dreaded Restless Vagina Syndrome.

I was really curious; is Big Pharma really trying to develop and then exploit a new, fake disease, by piggybacking on something that sounds similar to restless leg syndrome? (Only, it’s the vagina that’s restless.) What is this?


Digital inclusion, disabled audiences and web accessibility through personalisation

There are 11 million adults in the UK with a long standing health problem or disability that affects their daily activities including their ability to work – and therefore covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. Of these, according to research from the Office for Disability Issues, 47% are over 65 and 43% are unemployed. Startlingly, 58% have never used the Internet.

Jonathan talked about the various barriers to disabled people getting online including lack of interest, lack of means and lack of confidence. These are the same reasons as for the population at large. BBC research into encouraging broadband adoption echoes the experiences of Martha Lane Fox. They focussed on the 21% of UK adults who do not have the Internet at home or use elsewhere. The figures are similar: 10.5 million aged 15+ with and average age of 61 (over half were 65+) and 67% are C2DE compared with 45% of the UK population.

Only one in five disabled students has received vital funding [UK]

Government statistics released today show that the SLC has so far distributed £43m less in funding than last year, despite an unprecedented rise in student numbers – and applications for grants and loans – in the past 12 months.

The Guardian has learned that more than 12,000 disabled students have also been left without vital funding for specialist equipment and to pay fees for personal helpers. Campaigners are now claiming progress is so slow that it would take 75 weeks to clear the backlog.

Recommended Reading for November 10

Transcript from Melissa Barton Interview

This is a transcript of Sharon daVanport’s interview with Melissa Barton for the Asperger Women’s Association. Melissa’s son Alex was voted out of his kindergarten class Survivor-style by his teacher, Wendy Portillo, in May 2008; Alex has Asperger Syndrome. The Bartons have recently filed a federal lawsuit.

Let’s start with, this was her way of “fixing” Alex. And when I addressed the fact that, no, we were in the process of developing an IEP for services, we had a Student Assessment Team, and we all knew that he very likely had autism and more specifically Asperger Syndrome. This was real well-known and I addressed this with her, and she said to me that this was her form of psychology, and this was how she was going to magically heal my child.

Fat, Health, Invisible Disability and the Intersection Thereof

A major downside to being flatbound ’cause of crippling anxiety and dealing with epic depression was no energy to exercise, and not being able to go outside to do so anyway.

Now I’m on anxiety meds and antidepressants. I still don’t have the energy to exercise, and I’m still flatbound, because the anxiety meds make so SO. INCREDIBLY. TIRED. I just made a sandwich for lunch, because I’m starving (that’s a plus to the antidepressants–I’m able to notice when I’m hungry again) and I’m wiped out. Just from making a peanut butter and apple butter sandwich, I’m exhausted.

Michigan and Acupuncture

I found out from my acupuncturist that the state of Michigan is considering requiring it’s citizens to get a doctor’s referral to go to an acupuncturists. So, in other words, rather than hearing from a friend that she went to acupuncture and that person deciding to give it a try too–Michigan wants to make it so that you have to go to a doctor first, and then, if the doctor is willing to actually give you the referral, you can go to the acupuncturist.

Many people who know about the history of midwives in the U.S. know why this is such an extraordinarily bad idea. But for those who don’t know that history–what this particular requirement would do is first and foremost, place an incredibly unfair burden on those people who don’t have health insurance. Those who are unable to afford a doctor would simply have yet another health alternative option removed from their already limited health arsenal.

Just …. arrrrgh.

My school district needs to cut $1.5 million from the budget this year. $900,000 of that comes from “an accounting error”. Think about that.


Wouldn’t you think that *somebody* might have been suspicious of a miraculous decrease in special ed costs, given that special ed is both expensive and needed by more and more students?

In the news:

Good Dog, Smart Dog

Their apparent ability to tune in to the needs of psychiatric patients, turning on lights for trauma victims afraid of the dark, reminding their owners to take medication and interrupting behaviors like suicide attempts and self-mutilation, for example, has lately attracted the attention of researchers.

In September, the Army announced that it would spend $300,000 to study the impact of pairing psychiatric service dogs like Jet with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. Both the House and Senate have recently passed bills that would finance the training and placement of these dogs with veterans.

Recommended Reading for November 5, 2009

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot!

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, UK-folks!

Via SpiralSheep: Feminist Spoons

Friends and family are aware enough of my health problems to understand when I have to cancel things, or rearrange them. But these days, I am much less involved in feminist activism than I ever have been.

This is definitely spoon-related, and also directly related to my main local feminist group meeting in an inaccessible venue for so long that I gave up arguing with them about it. (They now meet somewhere which may be accessible, but they’re not sure. I feel so thoroughly disenamoured with them that I’m not willing to test it out).

But I have also found that while individual feminists can be very understanding with my lack of spoons on a day-to-day basis, it sometimes seems less acceptable when it interferes with my ability to attend actions, protests and meetings.

Sick Bodies: Health Care and the Body-As-Machine

But, more fundamentally, I find it problematic that the entire set up of a hospital is about the production of health care, not the recipients of that care. Long after being shuffled into a room filled with equipment and posters not designed with my challenging body in mind, and as I watched the doctor treating me struggle to find words beyond, “Well, I’ve not actually met anybody who has done that,” I wondered seriously about what could possibly be done to fix a system that has so little respect for the bodies of the individuals it treats.

We all carry our scars, surgeries, allergies, broken bones, memories, genetics, blood, hopes, and guts with us wherever we go. We are stunning in our uniqueness, and our bodies are the seat of who we are. Of course, we all have the same basic parts, but I wouldn’t take a car to any old mechanic or my pet to any vet—I want someone who understands the particular quirks of my engine or that my cat needs to be coaxed gently out of her hiding spot.

In the news:

Politics are Crippling State-funded Services to the Disabled [US] [long]

This week, Meyer’s 16-year struggle for a productive life will become more difficult. Scheduled California budget cuts will increase the deductible some low-income disabled people must pay for workers from the In-Home Supportive Services program. The cost hike may leave him with as little as $600 a month to live on, pushing him closer to the point where he’s forced to enter a nursing home. “I just want to be able to stay here, live a healthy life, and be a productive citizen,” he says.

Lawsuit filed against school district:

The suit contends S.G.’s May 2007 Individual Education Program was never modified and he was “unilaterally removed from his ‘inclusion’ classes without notice to (his parents) solely as a result of disability in December 2007 and in direct violation of his IEP.”

The suit also claims S.G. was placed in a more restrictive environment when removed him from his inclusion classes, “caused negative cognitive and social effects as well as mental anguish.”

Moreover, S.G., who has an allergy to milk and soy products, was given them on a daily basis during the 2007-08 school year.

These links are to images that belong to Getty Images, so I’m just going to link to their site rather than post them here. I cannot speak for how accessible their website is, though.

They are shots of wheelchair-using athletes “finishing in the wheelchair division of the New York City Marathon”.

Hugging! Different hugging! Action shot!