A Few Thoughts On Skepchick and Mental Illness

A Few Thoughts On Skepchick and Mental Illness

As many of you probably know, we’ve had some serious and sometimes painful discussions recently about people with disabilities and ableism on the Skepchick network. I don’t particularly want to get into the debate of what comments were and weren’t inappropriate or how things should have been handled because I really haven’t been heavily involved. However I have been considering language and how language can or cannot oppress people a great deal lately and that consideration led me to the following piece. It’s short, so please read it.

I don’t want to diminish the power of words, but it does seem important that when we’re deciding whether someone is ableist or not we look at a holistic picture of their behavior. As the piece said, I personally would rather have an ally who is willing to support my writing and my voice, help me through the difficult times, listen when I’m expressing my frustrations, and give suggestions or help when asked, even if they do sometimes use language like “crazy”. None of these actions negate bad language, but they do change my perspective on someone’s behaviors, and they should be taken into account.

There are a lot of people that have been accusing Rebecca and the network of being ableist and of letting them down. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do want to share some of the ways that the Skepchick network has actively helped me to deal with my mental illness and been supportive of me as someone with mental illness in the skeptical community. I hope that people use these pieces of information to gain a more holistic picture of the person they’re angry at, because the network does house many writers with disabilities (physical and mental), and those perspectives should be taken into account when making criticisms.

As some background, I have longterm severe depression, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder traits, and an eating disorder. I don’t generally identify as “disabled”, but my mental health severely impacts my life and functioning, and would fall under the category of disability.

My experience as someone with a disability on the Skepchick network has actually been fantastic. I first joined on as a Teen Skepchick, and my editor, Mindy, was absolutely fantastic. Whenever a writer mentioned that they were having a particularly difficult bout of mental health, she would encourage them to take off some time from writing if they didn’t have the energy. Even if we were simply overwhelmed, we were always encouraged to take care of our mental and physical health, and given the freedom to ask for what we needed in order to do that.

Rebecca has followed suit as I’ve moved into the main Skepchick network, and even better, the backchannel on Skepchick is an incredibly supportive place. People are encouraged to speak openly about what’s going on in their lives and are offered hugs, support, or advice as necessary (there’s not a whole lot of in person support we can do as we’re quite spread out). We’re also encouraged to write about our disabilities publicly on the network, and if a particular post is proving difficult, our fellow writers are ready and willing to help out or take on the comments.

I’ve also found everyone to be incredibly responsive when I mention that a topic is a bit too much for me to handle. Oftentimes these are topics that don’t need to be off-limits, but they’re willing to stick a trigger warning in there, or simply remind me that I could leave the thread that is triggering me (sometimes I forget simple fixes).

Rebecca has also given many people platforms to talk about disabilities, LGBTQ issues, and whatever else is relevant to their life. This includes hiring on a wide variety of writers for Skepchick, and planning events with a variety of speakers. SkepChickCON is boasting a wide variety of panels, including multiple ones about mental health (made up of people who have mental illness).

Perhaps even more important though is that when the internet becomes a vicious and vile place (which it quite often does for many of our writers), and when that attitude triggers a mental health breakdown, Rebecca and the rest of the writers are the first to show up, help the person who’s hurting, step into the comments and protect the person, offer solace on the backchannel, and generally fight the jerkbrain that is coming out to attack.

I obviously can’t speak to the experiences of those who have physical disabilities, or those with developmental disabilities, but from where I’m sitting, the Skepchick network has done a lot to provide me with a safe space to discuss my mental health. They have helped me to be more open, to discuss the stigma surrounding mental illness, to face topics that scared me in the past, and to be more willing to stand up for myself and for my opinions. To me, this is more important than the language they use, and I hope that others consider it when making judgments about their behavior.

 

Avatar of Olivia
Olivia recently graduated with a degree in philosophy and religion and is now after another one in linguistics! She first became interested in skepticism and atheism after attending Catholic school for 13 years and realizing that none of it made any sense. Olivia's particular interests center around women's rights, religion as it plays a role in people's everyday lives, and politics in relation to atheist and skeptic issues. Olivia also blogs at http://taikonenfea.wordpress.com/

43 Comments

  1. Avatar of Dan

    Thanks for writing this!

  2. Avatar of Joshua White

    I’m torn on this issue.
    My own disability is strangely not as effective on the internet at giving me problems and might even give me advantages (Tourette’s Syndrome and ADHD). I have an odd relationship with language that lets me tear apart the comments of others. So it can be fairly said that I don’t have the same experience with hurtful terms as other folks do.

    Personally when I encounter a person that has limitations in any area I am in, I like to provide them the safe space that they need to thrive (as I am able to detect what they need). If they ask for me and others to avoid a word, I encourage that and model it. But in the long run I don’t think that asking people to avoid words is useful and I will use an example from the community that I frequent.

    Where I spend a lot of my time the word “autism” has taken on meaning beyond what most people are used to. Instead of referring to a disorder with specific characteristics it seems to mean “socially awkward” and the resulting manifestations of social awkwardness. while I have tried to criticize this, I can’t avoid the fact that the use of the word is useful to the people using it. There really is a set of behaviors that the word correlates to for them. While I wish that they would use a different word, or modify the word in some manner, the difficulty factor is that it is really useful and people will keep using a word that is useful to them. A similar phenomenon is the use of “OCD” by people that are not really OCD but are referring to some perceptual sensitivity that does not have the associated debilitating anxiety (and/or other symptoms).

    If a word is useful people will use it. Words are tools. So either we gain the power to make the use of the tool more costly than it is worth, or we find a different way to deal with the use of the word. I can’t claim to have solutions.

  3. Avatar of Mary

    Olivia, I am so glad you wrote this. Hopefully people have taken some time to cool off so that we can have productive discussions about the issue of language and ableism (and the other -ism’s). On a related note, I’m also really looking forward to the disability sister site!

  4. Avatar of zugasaurus

    When I first learned about ableism and people working against it, I thought it seemed like a good cause. Of course I think that people with physical or mental difficulties should receive the same respect as those without; who wouldn’t? And it felt close to me because my aunt is developmentally disabled; growing up in the 1950s-60s was extremely difficult on her and everyone else in my mom’s family because my grandmother refused to hand my aunt over to an institution (the norm at the time).

    That changed the day I realized that anti-ableism advocates were talking about *me*. That might sound terrible, that I’m totally cool with them making someone else feel the way I couldn’t handle, but that’s not what I’m trying to say. What I mean is that there are people who really do need help and really do need people to advocate for them, people like my aunt, who cannot live independently and requires live-in help 24/7 to ensure her health and safety.

    But anti-ableism advocates (at least those addressed by this post) go far beyond those types of situations. Here’s where I run into the problem.

    I’m 28 years old. I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder at age 8, OCD at age 9, general anxiety disorder at 15, bipolar disorder (later determined to be a misdiagnosis) at 21, ADHD at 25, and formally diagnosed with depression at 28 (though doctors for more than a decade had assumed it and noted it, but did not directly treat it). I have been hospitalized for these issues, related to suicidal thoughts and attempts. And yes, I was even placed on disability for a short time when I was 22 because my doctors advised that I could not safely cope with the stress of my job (or any other).

    I’ll try to get to the point now. I have never once been offended or hurt by the word “crazy,” at least when it wasn’t directed at me. The same is true of “insane,” “nuts,” “loony,” or any other such euphemism. I *have* been *extremely* hurt and offended by anti-ableism advocates who call these things out and justify their commentary by *describing me and my life*. Even if they don’t know me, it’s beyond insulting to hear them claim that someone with depression, or a suicide survivor, or someone who has experienced delusional thinking, or someone who has been on disability (all of which apply to me) would be upset.

    It’s hurtful and insulting because they’re assuming that I and people like me: (1) are not already a part of the conversation, (2) are so simple as to all share the same thoughts and beliefs, (3) are incapable of standing up for ourselves, (4) are all helpless victims, (5) are unable to interact with “normal” people without assistance or shielding, and other similar ideas.

    You know why it hurts? Because when someone uses “crazy” in a way clearly outside of the context of mental illness, as a colloquialism (“What a crazy day!” or “Man, this traffic is crazy!”) *I don’t have the thought that it’s a reference to me.* I read that and know the person means, “This is so unusual that I wouldn’t have ever expected it.” And then an anti-ableist comes along, with what I assume are the best of intentions, and says, “Someone with mental illness wouldn’t like that.” And all of a sudden I *am* being called crazy in a pejorative way, and *not* by the person who said “crazy” in the first place.

    All of a sudden, it is very obvious that no, people don’t see me as just a normal person, that some of them see my disorders and illnesses instead of who I am as a complete person. They think I’m incapable. They think I need help. They think I need them to defend me. It makes me want to crawl in a hole and die. No matter how hard I try to prove myself in all sorts of positive ways, people are still going to just look at me and see “depression” or “attempted suicide” or “OCD” plastered on my forehead.

    That’s why I have a real problem with how anti-ableism advocates choose to use their efforts. There are people out there who truly can’t speak for themselves and really do need protection and advocacy. I’m not one of them. I don’t know a single sufferer of depression or anxiety who wants somebody else to call people out on obviously-non-derogatory uses of words like “crazy” or “insane.” We want to be normal; we want to exist apart from our diseases or disorders.

    While trying to eradicate these words may come from a place of caring, it’s horribly misplaced. All it does is reinforce the idea that these mental disorders are equivalent to “craziness.” The fact that the word has largely lost its meaning as a descriptor of mental illness is a *good* thing. People are becoming increasingly aware of both the legitimacy and variety of many mental illnesses and disorders. Connecting the word “crazy” when used in its newer context to these legitimate medical disorders is taking a massive step backwards.

    • Avatar of timothy

      Very well said, friend. I’m 48, have a mental illness …. and like to think that I’m a productive member of society and a loving parent and partner. I’m also a trained psychotherapist. While I try to be sensitive with my use of language, I’ll admit to using ‘crazy’, as in “This traffic is crazy!” myself. I don’t connect the use of ‘crazy’ as hurtful to me; nor do I think it is a matter of consciousness-raising.

      If you want to be an ally for those of us with mental health issues, I think there are so many, many, many other things to fight up / stand up against than the use of language like ‘crazy,’ ‘insane,’ or ‘nuts’ on the Internet.

      My thoughts, gently offered.

    • Avatar of Jon Brewer

      Well said! The difficulty is that some people (I’ve noticed this a lot on Tumblr.) forget what being an ally is. Being an ally is providing a platform for the disenfranchised, not actually speaking for them.

      One particular difficulty with mental illness and developmental disabilities is, euphemisms last, oh, well, the current one is “intellectual disability”. When I was a kid, “learning disability” was already being used as a casual slur. Make of that what you will.

    • Avatar of apfergus

      I’m pretty much on board with this. In order to know that words like “crazy” are even potentially offensive to me as a person coping with mental illness I’d have to go out of my way to read up on the etymology. Going my common usage, I just don’t see it as a problem. Having said that, I do occasionally see “bipolar” or “OCD” used as an insult or descriptor in inappropriate settings and that does upset me. In a modern context those words have actual diagnostic meaning and it does no service to anyone to misuse them and muddle folk’s understanding of that meaning. I also think that the common stigma of mental illness dovetails from here, making it more of a central issue.

    • Avatar of Paul

      I have to agree with you. It is pretty offensive when someone is being called crazy, or an idiot – this stems from an outdated mode of thinking in which we blamed people for how they behaved even when it wasn’t their fault.

      On the other hand, saying ‘this weather is crazy’ or ‘the way this system is run is idiotic’ does not and should not carry the same connotations.

      • Avatar of quietmarc

        What about “this weather is gay?” Because the reason why I’m choosing to avoid saying things like “crazy” or “stupid” when describing something are yhe same reasons why I object to people using “gay” as a pejorative. I can’t see why it’s not okay on one axis of privilege but not on the other.

        I’m both gay and have mental illness (depression and social anxiety). I fully accept that there are people who do not see the problematic nature of these words the way I do but I don’t think that lets people who care about social justice off the hook for the implications of using words like these. Any marginalised group is going to be made up of individuals, but just because some portion of that group is okay with a word doesn’t invalidate the feelings and experiences of the members of that group who are bothered by it.

        It’s not even so much about policing language as it is being aware of the language we use and who it may be harming. Any word choice could be problematic, and those of us who care about social justice should probably care about who is being harmed, whether or not others agree.

        • Avatar of Will

          I don’t think that’s a good analogy, and I’m not convinced that it’s worth comparing pejoratives like that anyway, in the same way that I would not compare being called a “faggot” and being called a “n***er.” They’re harmful in different ways for different reasons.

          It’s not even so much about policing language as it is being aware of the language we use and who it may be harming.

          I don’t buy that for one second. The only response that would have been deemed acceptable during the “discussion” following the Valentine thing was for everyone involved to vow to never use those words or sentiments again. Anything else (including Amy’s original response, “I’ll try to do better.”) was dismissed. That is an attempt to police language by definition.

          Any word choice could be problematic, and those of us who care about social justice should probably care about who is being harmed, whether or not others agree.

          And that’s the whole point of Olivia’s post that you seem to be ignoring. Rebecca cares. All of us involved with the site care. Just because some of us disagree on various issues does not mean we do not care. This is perhaps the most irritating part of this whole thing, the way that these sorts of accusations of not caring (rather than what it actually is, which is disagreeing) are projecting frustrations into people’s intentions that simply aren’t there. Olivia wrote this to illustrate her own experiences both with Rebecca and on the Skepchick network to point out that these kinds of accusations about Rebecca and the network are misguided and false.

          • Avatar of quietmarc

            “I don’t think that’s a good analogy, and I’m not convinced that it’s worth comparing pejoratives like that anyway, in the same way that I would not compare being called a “faggot” and being called a “n***er.” They’re harmful in different ways for different reasons.”

            See, I can’t compare being called a faggot to being called an “n” word, because I am gay but I am also white. I CAN compare “gay” as a pejorative and “crazy” as a pejorative because I have personal experience with being gay and with being someone with mental illness (and having family members who have also suffered stigma for same). I don’t think the analogy has to be perfect for the point to hold. Something doesn’t have to hurt in the same way or to the same degree for it still to be hurt. You can disagree, but I remain unconvinced.

            “The only response that would have been deemed acceptable during the “discussion” following the Valentine thing was for everyone involved to vow to never use those words or sentiments again.”

            There were many people involved in that discussion, and I imagine that different people had different thresholds of acceptability. You’ve asked many times that we not speak of the skepchick network as if it were a hivemind, so I’d ask you the same consideration. For many of us, the problem was more than whether or not a word was used. It was how the word was used AND the reactions from many people at being called out on something. Amy’s first response was probably not perfect for everybody, but the responses afterward were….not great. People were hurt and I saw very little attempt to understand why they were hurt. Again, you can disagree but I remain unconvinced.

            “That is an attempt to police language by definition.”

            Well, yes, but “by definition” (going by a quick and dirty look at dictionary.com, “any person or group crusading for a particular usage or omission within a language;”) is pretty broad. That would include people arguing against the use of pretty much any slur, ever.

            And, if you look again, the issue wasn’t with the words, it was how the words were used within a certain context. Very few people (myself included) are arguing for words to be banned. Even the most naive activist of any stripe knows that you cannot control language. Others are free to disagree with me, but many of us are asking for more consideration with the language we use. I’d like to see a quotation from people that shows a desire to control others’ language beyond a desire to not be dehumanised or harmed by splash damage.

            “And that’s the whole point of Olivia’s post that you seem to be ignoring. Rebecca cares. All of us involved with the site care. Just because some of us disagree on various issues does not mean we do not care. This is perhaps the most irritating part of this whole thing, the way that these sorts of accusations of not caring (rather than what it actually is, which is disagreeing) are projecting frustrations into people’s intentions that simply aren’t there. Olivia wrote this to illustrate her own experiences both with Rebecca and on the Skepchick network to point out that these kinds of accusations about Rebecca and the network are misguided and false.”

            Okay. I’ll take your word on this. There are specific things that people have said, at specific times, in specific ways, that have made me feel that there is a strange amount of callousness or obliviousness on this issue from many of the Skepchick contributers and commenters. At this late stage, I don’t see what being the umpteenth person repeating for the umpteenth time what I feel is at issue will bring to the table. I don’t know what else to say. Some people have already given up. Some people are really angry (and maybe even an apology for hurting them, even if you don’t understand why, might be a step in the right direction. Sometimes it’s better to say “I’ve hurt you. I can’t understand why or how, but I am sorry.” than to say nothing or to argue whether they’ve really been hurt or not or to say that other people haven’t been hurt or to say that you disagree that they were hurt.”).

            I think most of us will agree that this whole thing has been pretty horrible, even if we can’t agree on “horrible to whom.”

          • Avatar of Will

            I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that language can hurt people’s feelings. I’m pretty sure that has been granted and acknowledged. Amy’s initial response was that she would try harder to avoid that kind of language, but that was not acceptable to many people.

            There were many people involved in that discussion, and I imagine that different people had different thresholds of acceptability. You’ve asked many times that we not speak of the skepchick network as if it were a hivemind, so I’d ask you the same consideration.

            I’m not saying that people are a hivemind, I’m saying that generally the responses came across (to someone who wasn’t really involved with any of those discussions) as anything short of “I will never use those words again” was unacceptable.

            And, if you look again, the issue wasn’t with the words, it was how the words were used within a certain context.

            But you yourself in this very thread have said that using the words “stupid” or “crazy” are never okay to use and are equivalent to using “gay” as a pejorative. You have made the argument that it’s the words, not the context, in this thread. You said: ” just because some portion of that group is okay with a word doesn’t invalidate the feelings and experiences of the members of that group who are bothered by it.” (emphasis added). You are trying to have it both ways, making arguments against the words devoid of context, and then telling us that it’s not really the words, but the context. So, which is it? Is calling the weather “crazy” okay because of context, or is it not okay to use that word in reference to non-humans?

            I’d like to see a quotation from people that shows a desire to control others’ language beyond a desire to not be dehumanised or harmed by splash damage.

            I’m not going to go dig through the hundreds of comments on those threads again, they’re available for you to do that yourself if you want. But, you are actually admitting in the sentence above that there is a desire to control others’ language here, do you not recognize that? I’m all for asking people not to use certain words if they’re harmful or triggering. I’m not for striking all words from use simply because they might be offensive to someone, which is what a lot of the previous conversations came across as seeking to do, to strike “stupid” and “idiot” and “crazy” from language completely (while, ironically, advocating for other words that are functionally identical to those words).

            So, this is the problem I have with these arguments: they’re aimed at certain words, not really at the ideas or issues underlying how those words are used. I mean, people literally made suggestions for alternatives to those words in the other threads, and the alternatives were still insulting people’s intelligence.

            Some people have already given up. Some people are really angry (and maybe even an apology for hurting them, even if you don’t understand why, might be a step in the right direction. Sometimes it’s better to say “I’ve hurt you. I can’t understand why or how, but I am sorry.” than to say nothing or to argue whether they’ve really been hurt or not or to say that other people haven’t been hurt or to say that you disagree that they were hurt.”).

            First of all, there have been apologies. Amy apologized right at the start, though some people didn’t think it was enough. I wasn’t even involved in the discussions on the first two threads, but I have acknowledged how people have felt harmed in other threads. I don’t have anything to apologize for, and I certainly won’t apologize on behalf of others. I will let them decide if and when and how they might apologize. If they don’t, there’s nothing I can do about that.

            I think most of us will agree that this whole thing has been pretty horrible, even if we can’t agree on “horrible to whom.”

            I can agree it’s been pretty horrible for people on all sides. I haven’t really seen any recognition for how this could have been horrible for many contributors to Skepchick, though. We’re mostly being monolithized and treated as if none of us care or have disabilities or have experienced marginalization or have been harmed by language or been abused, etc. Much of the discourse has also erased many of our experiences and feelings, too. No one seems to want to acknowledge that and recognize that perhaps that’s why some people who were engaged in the other threads are silent now. They’ve withdrawn and moved on to other things because they’ve also been harmed in this.

          • Avatar of quietmarc

            “But you yourself in this very thread have said that using the words “stupid” or “crazy” are never okay to use”

            Where? Where did I say this? What were the words I actually used? Because I cannot see where I said “never use these words.” This is an example of where it seems like there is an unwillingness to extend good faith here. I -never- said never in this thread. I can go back and look at the other threads, but I don’t think I said it there, either. What is it that I am saying that makes you think that I am saying “never”?

          • Avatar of Dan

            It’s pretty hard to interpret

            What about “this weather is gay?” Because the reason why I’m choosing to avoid saying things like “crazy” or “stupid” when describing something are yhe same reasons why I object to people using “gay” as a pejorative. I can’t see why it’s not okay on one axis of privilege but not on the other.

            as meaning something other than “I don’t think these are ever acceptable.” Unless you don’t mean that?

          • Avatar of Will

            In addition to the phrase Dan pointed out, you followed that with (emphasis added):

            I fully accept that there are people who do not see the problematic nature of these words the way I do but I don’t think that lets people who care about social justice off the hook for the implications of using words like these.

            That is claiming that the problem is with THE WORDS, not with the context.

          • Avatar of quietmarc

            I’m still not saying ban these words. I am saying these words hurt people. You agree?

            So then stop acting surprised and hurt yourself when the people you are hurting are being angry and telling you you’re doing it wrong.

            Basically you are saying “I can’t have empathy for everybody, so these are the people that I am willing to leave behind.” And hey, I guess as a tactical decision there are some positives to that, but at that point you’ve left intersectionality behind.

            It’s impossible to never hurt anybody, you say.
            So these are the people who will be hurt, and that’s sad.
            But I’m unwilling to explore other options or consider the language I use to get my point across.
            But I still want these people to like me. Why won’t these people like me? Why are they so angry?

            Running tally on the name-calling, incidently: “awful. simply awful.” (Rebecca). “Disingenuous.” Will. “4-Chan conspiracy” Rebecca. “not being grownups – Dan.

            Gee, since people who disagree with you are simply awful, disingenuous, childish 4-channer word police, I wonder why the discussion gets so heated? It’s ridiculous.

          • Avatar of Will

            Are you fucking kidding me with this shit, quietmarc? It’s like at this point you’re just desperately grasping at straws trying to find things to continue to argue about after it’s been demonstrated how you’re being totally inconsistent in your claims about words and contexts.

            I’m still not saying ban these words. I am saying these words hurt people. You agree?

            Yes, you are advocating that Skepchick ban these words. You are telling us that YOU don’t use them, and that we SHOULD REFRAIN from using them on this site because they hurt people’s feelings. Are you not advocating that? If you’re not, then why do you bother pointing out how you don’t use them and that they are harmful? Isn’t the purpose of pointing out how they are harmful to tell us to STOP USING THEM?? And many of us have already agreed that certain words can hurt people’s feelings, so I don’t know why you keep saying that no one wants to admit that. We have. Repeatedly.

            So then stop acting surprised and hurt yourself when the people you are hurting are being angry and telling you you’re doing it wrong.

            I wasn’t even involved with the discussions about these words on the Valentine thread or Rebecca’s insults/slurs thread, so why are you directing this criticism at me? And if I had used them and someone said they were hurt by them, I’d do exactly what Amy did which is apologize for hurting their feelings and promise to try to do better in the future. That does not preclude me from agreeing with Rebecca’s distinction between slurs and insults. And agreeing with Rebecca on that particular issue does not mean that I will necessarily continue to use certain words myself when writing for Skepchick. I’m not “surprised” by any of this, and I certainly haven’t had my feelings hurt either. So, stop directing this kind of rhetoric at me.

            Basically you are saying “I can’t have empathy for everybody, so these are the people that I am willing to leave behind.” And hey, I guess as a tactical decision there are some positives to that, but at that point you’ve left intersectionality behind.

            I’m not saying that at all, where the fuck do you get that from anything that I’ve said? You’re trying to change the subject of this discussion, which is that you are advocating the banning of certain words regardless of their contexts, despite making the claim that you’re not doing that. And I don’t think that’s the right approach to take to fighting ableism.

            It’s impossible to never hurt anybody, you say.
            So these are the people who will be hurt, and that’s sad.
            But I’m unwilling to explore other options or consider the language I use to get my point across.
            But I still want these people to like me. Why won’t these people like me? Why are they so angry?

            That’s a lot of words you’re putting into my mouth there.

            I do agree with others that it is impossible to never hurt anyone. I also know that when I do or say things that hurt people’s feelings, I apologize to them and try not to do it again. If those people do not accept my apology and continue to throw a bunch of shit my way after I’ve apologized, I’m not going to engage with that. I don’t know why you think I (or anyone else) owe it to people to continue to rehash shit over and over with them, especially when nothing productive is coming out of it.

            The last two lines of that quote are complete bullshit. I do explore other ways of using language when I feel it’s appropriate and necessary (and that can be based on what others are telling me or on my own views). And I don’t really give a shit if people in the comments “like me” or not since they don’t even actually know me. I’m more interested in having productive dialogue than with making friends.

            Running tally on the name-calling, incidently: “awful. simply awful.” (Rebecca). “Disingenuous.” Will. “4-Chan conspiracy” Rebecca. “not being grownups – Dan.

            Seriously? Saying that someone is being disingenuous is name calling now?? Do you see why saying things like that puts us in a no-win situation? I’m not allowed to be critical of anyone without being accused of name-calling or being ableist or not caring or whatever. In essence, and what I’ve been arguing all along, is that you will accept nothing but a complete and total agreement with your position and anything we say that is not in line with your views is deemed OPPRESSIVE and HARMFUL. And you wonder why no one wants to engage with you? This is not about dialogue, at least as far as you are concerned. This is about you making your point without being challenged.

            Gee, since people who disagree with you are simply awful, disingenuous, childish 4-channer word police, I wonder why the discussion gets so heated? It’s ridiculous.

            Go (re)read what I said about couldbesun being disingenuous. I was very clear. It was NOT because I “disagreed” with them. It was because they were saying hurtful stuff to us via the contact form while pretending like their honest, good-faith attempts at engagement via the contact form were being ignored. That’s a textbook example of what it means to be disingenuous.

          • Avatar of Dan

            Come on, Marc. You should know based on our previous conversations that I am referring specifically to people using this as an opportunity to act out and behave badly and not everyone who disagrees about the use of vocabulary. But go ahead and misrepresent me and then wonder why people think it’s disingenuous.

          • Avatar of Dan

            Lastly,

            It’s impossible to never hurt anybody, you say.
            So these are the people who will be hurt, and that’s sad.

            Is addressed to me. But the point is not that some people get hurt and are therefore left behind, the point is that because it is inevitable that people sometimes get hurt (and please don’t pretend, Marc, that you have never hurt anyone in your whole life because you are just that careful and essentially psychic) that we have to take “sorry” for an answer when someone offends us. No one gets anything out of continuing to make it a thing even after people have apologised and promised not to use ableist language in the future. As Amy did. As I promised in another thread, even though I have not (to my knowledge) used it in my public writing.

            What exactly do you think my position is, anyway? Given the way you paint it it seems pretty clear that either I have not been sufficiently clear or you are willfully misinterpreting me or conflating me with some other person.

        • Avatar of skeith

          I don’t think it’s possible to equate “gay” and “crazy” in a linear way. “Crazy” can be used as an insult (“my ex is crazy”), in a neutral descriptive fashion (“this is crazy weather we’ve been having”), and in a positive way (“that video of the BASE jumper who hit the cliff is fucking nuts! I can’t believe he survived that!”). I know of no similar linguistic construct around “gay,” not currently anyway. When used outside of being a descriptor for an individual person’s sexual orientation, it is invariably negative. The two words are not strictly equivalent in usage.

          • Avatar of quietmarc

            As I said above, I don’t think two words have to be “strictly equivalent” for both of them to hurt. Things hurt to different degrees and in different ways to different people. It seems to be really difficult for anyone to concede that these words hurt some people at all, let alone to what degree. What is the required burden of proof for someone to demonstrate that a word is hurtful to them?

          • Avatar of Dan

            There is a false dichotomy going on here: the question is not whether some people are hurt by a word (and come on, I doubt you could find anyone here who wouldn’t concede that some people are hurt by these words, and if this is not clear to you then you haven’t been reading the same comments I have). The question is whether, given the fact that all language that is intended to insult people is probably going to be found hurtful by someone somehow, we can figure out where the appropriate line is for public discourse.

          • Avatar of skeith

            Whenever a person says anything within the hearing of another person, or writes something that another person can read, the possibility exists that the other person will be hurt by it. This might seem pedantic, but it’s true and it’s my experience. I’ve had people be hurt by my mentioning a meal that contained meat. By talking about a visit to a doctor where I was treated shoddily. I was pretty upset by the doctor’s visit, and kind of ranting about it, and one of the people present was a medical professional and became quite offended at the suggestion that a doctor might have discriminated against me after seeing my medication list. There have been others but those stuck out at me.

            I do some self-censoring to avoid using terminology that is =likely= to hurt someone. The word “retard” was quite common when I was a kid, but I don’t use it anymore. So was “pollack” and obviously I don’t use that either. But there comes a point where it is no longer reasonable to make someone else’s feelings my responsibility. I’m supposed to not talk about my doctor’s visits, unless they are 100% positive experiences? Really? That’s not a reasonable expectation, and that individual who was super-offended by my irritation was just shrugged off by me. Her offense was real, but it’s not reasonable to expect me to be able to foresee that she would have that reaction, and it’s not reasonable for me to censor myself to that extent now that I know she is going to have it.

            My point is this: I’m sure it sucks to be that lady, but she doesn’t get to use her negative feelings to dictate to me how I can talk about my experiences. The word “pollack” is a racial slur and cannot be used in a positive way, so it is reasonable to expect me to excise it from my vocabulary. The word “crazy” does not have the same invariably-negative use. It is not reasonable to expect me to censor it. You can reasonably expect me to not use it in its negative, insult aspect, but it has other uses and context is a thing.

  5. Avatar of cityzenjane

    “I don’t want to diminish the power of words, but it does seem important that when we’re deciding whether someone is ableist or not we look at a holistic picture of their behavior.”

    Here’s the thing…. I know none of you personally – this is a public blog – meant to be a world wide resource… It’s not a living room. We live in an ableist culture – just like we live in a racist and sexist culture. Able people are for the most part ableist. It’s damned near impossible to avoid. It’s not about “knowing” the whole person and forgiving foibles on a one on one level…It’s about not harming people with disabilities more than they are harmed every day – constantly.

    You would not be taking the same stance should the offense be something closer to your personal sore spots whatever they may be.

    This is about how you operate publicly….taking the high ground in discourses around gender….behooves you to LISTEN when people with disabilities are telling you you are failing in your professed goal of being of service and an ally to people with disabilities….or LGBTQ people who bring you a failing, or people of color who point out a failing…

    So – no special pleading for yourselves. Be as harsh a self critic as you are a critic of others and you may get back on the path.

    It is so strange to me that the approach has been so problematic… but it is a point in the conversation – to listen more to people with disabilities – and open up space for people with disabilities to run this conversation.

    • Avatar of Will

      I generally agree with your comments about trying to reduce the harm done to marginalized people and to listen more.

      That being said, this:

      You would not be taking the same stance should the offense be something closer to your personal sore spots whatever they may be.

      Makes me think you did not read Olivia’s post very closely. It’s almost as if you stopped reading at that line you quoted from the second paragraph. And this:

      It is so strange to me that the approach has been so problematic… but it is a point in the conversation – to listen more to people with disabilities – and open up space for people with disabilities to run this conversation.

      Makes me think you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on around here lately. You do realize that Skepchick is quite literally “opening up a space for people with disabilities to run this conversation” very soon, yes?

    • Avatar of daedalus2u

      Very well said. As someone else said, it is difficult to come up with ways to insult people that do not impact marginalized people.

      Maybe that is what needs to be done, come up with ways of insulting people that don’t hurt the feelings of anyone but the person being insulted?

  6. Avatar of couldbesun

    My problem with the linked piece and with the argument presented here is that it presents a false dichotomy. Either we can accept that some people use ableist language and support worthy actions or we can have people who seemingly seek to end ableist language but do nothing to support worthy actions. This is incorrect. What we should be working towards is ending ableist language AND supporting worthy actions (ending ableist language itself being an example of a worthy action).

    I’m also very leery of the argument that all of the (admittedly very good and supportable) actions skepchick has done to support those with disabilities somehow erases the very real criticisms of ableism that exist within the skepchick network. I agree that skepchick had done a great deal to support a space for those with disabilities. I also agree that use of an ableist slur does not erase all the good that someone has done to create a supportive space. What I take issue with is when someone – when approached about the ableist language that they use – doubles down on their use said language and accuses those who take issue with it of being 4-chan trolls.

    I also take issue with the suggestion that I simply don’t know or take a holistic enough view of Rebecca or the skepchick network to be able to criticize or question their language. I have read and supported skepchick for a long time despite not commenting. I know much of the good Rebecca had done. That is what makes the current situation so difficult.

    I’m also here to say I did not feel supported on the skepchick network when I expressed my concerns. I pointed out that Rebecca’s past use of the phrase “herp derp” made me feel excluded and unwanted here. I did not say that I have never used ableist language or that this phrase meant that Rebecca and skepchick are abusive people. I simply pointed out that the phrase made me feel excluded and while I was sure it was unintended I think it would be useful to be more aware of the harm it may cause and refrain from using it in a harmful way.

    The response was no response at all. No addressing my concerns. No acknowledgment that my concerns had even been heard. I realized that commenting on a story about attracting other writers may not have been the place to address my concerns so I filled out a contact form hoping that may be a better line of communication. It has been several weeks since I first brought up my concerns and yet nobody has addressed them in any way. While I appreciate that Olivia has had a very positive experience at Skepchick, I would ask that she be open to people such as myself who have had negative experiences on skepchick. The idea that one person’s positive experience can be used to dismiss another person’s negative experience has been rightfully challenged on this site previously and I hope that it can be done again.

    • Avatar of Will

      You’re a disingenuous piece of work.

      Your second contact form came through (I never saw your first one and encouraged you to submit another one in an effort to engage with you in a conversation if no one else was going to), and it was a bunch of personal attacks and accusations. It was not the kind of thing someone sends hoping to open “a better line of communication.” You literally called Rebecca an abuser. And yet here you sit, posting comments that come across as so reserved and as if we are ignoring your oh-so-innocent attempts at opening up a dialogue. The last contact form you sent was not in the spirit of better communication, if was you venting your frustrations. Why in the hell should anyone respond to that?

      If you want to know why no one has responded to your personally from what you’ve submitted via the contact form, that’s why. It was a bunch of attack language, and you closed the e-mail by telling us you were no longer going to be reading Skepchick and that we “lost you” as a reader (obviously that was a lie). What did you want, for us to beg you to stay??

      The thing is, we probably could have had a good conversation about some of the points that you’ve made above. But I am not going to try to engage in a good-faith dialogue with someone who is so two-faced and tries to put on this show for the public but sends the kind of shit you sent to the contact form.

      • Avatar of couldbesun

        Sorry. Last thing. I did not see your post asking me to resubmit my concerns through a contact form on Mar. 17. It had been a week since my Mar. 10 comment and I had stopped checking. My first contact form may be listed as couldbesun71. I’m not sure if that would have any effect on your ability to find it. I think most of my original concerns would have very been similar to what was posted above minus the frustration over a lack of a response.

  7. Avatar of couldbesun

    I did send a second comment form saying I had had no response to my first. I did say Rebecca had closed a comment thread saying she was an abuser and that the site (I believe – although it may have been Rebecca in particular I mentioned – I wish I could recall) was being or behaving in an abusive (I’m sure I used strong language as you indicated though again I can’t remember the exact language). I’m sure if I saw it again I would make changes as – you pointed out – I was very upset to have gotten no response to my concern.

    I do feel some frustration was justified. I still do not understand why my concern was not addressed. “Hurr Durr” and later “Herp Derp” have been phrases which where used against me – especially as a child – in response to my lack of speaking ability due to my social anxiety. Social anxiety does not always mean someone appears outwardly “shy” (many performers of all sorts have social anxiety) but for me it did mean there were many pauses in my speaking, stuttering, and a quiet speaking voice. If we were speaking face-to-face right now I would most likely not respond in any way. I’ve made great steps forward thanks to CBT treatment but still have a long way to go. It was difficult to hear someone I very much like use the phrase “herp derp” and then to have no response to my concerns.

    I did say that you lost me as a reader. You are right that I clearly came back. That was clearly a lie. I apologize.

    I’m sorry about my part in this discussion. I’m sorry it has broken down so badly.

    For hope that anything good may come out of this conversation – I hope people may watch this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4truuD_xMP0) on Social Anxiety. I had always hoped I could contribute to the site more with spreading awareness about Social Anxiety and I am – despite how it might seem – really disappointed that this ended up being my sole interaction with the site.

    I wish you all well.

    • Avatar of couldbesun

      clarification – I meant to say Rebecca had closed the site saying she had been portrayed as an abused and not that she said she was an abuser

    • Avatar of Will

      Again, you’re being disingenuous.

      I did say Rebecca had closed a comment thread

      There was nothing in your submission through the contact form about closing threads.

      saying she was an abuser and that the site (I believe – although it may have been Rebecca in particular I mentioned – I wish I could recall) was being or behaving in an abusive (I’m sure I used strong language as you indicated though again I can’t remember the exact language)

      Here’s part of what you said (I’m happy to copy-paste the whole thing if you want):

      “You do not represent an inclusive community. You are every bit as reprehensible as groups, organizations, conferences, etc, who ignore the concerns of sexism, intimidation, violence, and homophobia when they are voiced. I am so deeply disappointed. I had expected so much better. In closing, Rebecca lamented that the she and her site had been labeled as abusers. You are. You are abusive. And because of that, as much as I hate to lose this space, you have lost me as a reader and as someone who proudly supported the skepchick site.”

      I seriously do not understand why you think any of us would respond to that, or what you would expect us to say to that.

      I do feel some frustration was justified. I still do not understand why my concern was not addressed. “Hurr Durr” and later “Herp Derp” have been phrases which where used against me – especially as a child – in response to my lack of speaking ability due to my social anxiety.

      There was nothing at all in your submission over the contact form about this issue. How in the hell do you expect anyone to engage with you on that if you didn’t say anything about it? And I am not saying that your frustration is unjustified, I’m saying that if you expect to engage with people in dialogue, it’s not helpful to open with the kind of stuff you said on the submission form. That does not make people want to talk to you when you compare them to their own abusers like that. I don’t think you quite grasp how much and what kind of crap people who write for this site get thrown at them, and when you make the comparison that someone who uses “stupid” or “herp derp” is equivalent to the people doxing or sending rape threats, it does not make people who are subject to those things want to talk to you.

      You demand compassion. Give some compassion yourself. It would go a long way towards establishing the “better lines of communication” that you claim to want to open.

      I’m sorry about my part in this discussion. I’m sorry it has broken down so badly.

      You have to realize that you’re not the only person involved in this, and that other people were also saying all sorts of stuff. Please see the bigger picture here. It’s not that, initially, no one wanted to talk to you about your concerns. Believe it or not, many people are listening and stepping away to mull things over. And a lot of the sentiment is that, “it doesn’t matter what I say if/when I try to engage, so I’ll just sit back and listen,” especially after the thread on the call for writers for the new disability sister site. So, people feel they are between a rock and a hard place: they’re not allowed to talk about these issues, but they’re expected to respond. “Shut up and speak” is the message they’re getting, and “only speak if you’re going to comply with what I say.”

      Lastly, it’s really frustrating that you think no one involved with this network knows anything about social anxiety (or any other type of anxiety). I had severe social anxiety myself when I was younger, to the extent that I lived in a bedroom at my parents’ house, hardly ever leaving the room except to get food and drink, and flunked out of college because I would get panic attacks at the thought of going to campus. I managed to work through those issues and I don’t really have social anxiety anymore (at least nothing major). I know how paralyzing it can be, and so I will close this comment simply by saying I hear you and I understand your frustration, but I am not going to further engage with you if you’re going to continue to insist that the people involved with this site are abusers who ignore concerns that they themselves experience or deal with, even if they don’t talk about them publicly. Stop making those assumptions.

  8. Avatar of green867

    All I can say is that if one immediately goes on the attack and refuses to forgive any time an ally puts their foot in their mouth, then we will have very few allies indeed.

  9. Avatar of blgmnts

    TBO, I hadn’t read the

    serious and sometimes painful discussions

    but I thought about problems like using the word “crazy” here and elsewhere a couple of days ago (psychic!!!), so these thoughts are more general and not specific to Skepchick. It may or may not be based on personal experience or observation.

    I think that words get used differently in different social environments, different areas, countries and (in the form of their closest equivalent) languages. So $WORD may carry some baggage in one person’s own language which has been lost (or never even existed) in another person’s language. Provided the persons involved are (linguistically) close enough, I expect the “calling out”-strategy to work in general. That was probably talked about in the aforementioned discussions…

    I expect it to get more hairy if people come from different societies with almost identical language but different histories. I find it entertaining when I read or listen to e.g. American and British English speakers discussing some mess up, like when a completely acceptable expression to one person turns into rude language to the other or different usage of $WORD makes a sentence completely meaningless. I will consider it definitely not entertaining if that turns into a fight.

    But this is nothing when your consider people for whom English is the (n+1)th language. Unless being skilled at learning languages, learning a foreign language is hard. It gets worse considering the barrage of different versions of English one is subjected to when navigating the WWW. Even if everybody used a dictionary version of English (they don’t) the differences would confuse. It is impossible to keep track of which expression is when where under which conditions considered proper, so one ends up with a mixture and it is (apart from the obvious; one doesn’t address $PRESIDENT as “hey, dude”) pure luck or very deliberate work with dictionary and hopefully correctly configured spell checker to blend in. Color, colour; skeptic, sceptic; harmonise, harmonize; that’s annoying but ultimately harmless.

    Now a non-native English speaker $NNES ventures into a discussion (they are interested in and think they can contribute to meaningfully) among people who are native English speakers, can’t agree among themselves what word use is offensive or not and then some of them admonish or attack $NNES for using $WORD. Great!

    As stated above I think this might work among “equals” to encourage to drop offensive expressions. However, the WWW is a BIG PLACE, where people from all over the world stumble over each other’s idiosyncrasies and usually can still make meaningful conversation (at least at the places I haunt). I think that if one wants to make their own language better the proper place to start will be at home where it is native. From there it can spread. So if one considers some website as .us, .uk, .ml or similar it will probably be OK to emphatically oppose the usage of $WORD. I don’t think this would work for a website considered for a more widespread, international audience because it gets tiring to police one’s English for expressions that are all over the WWW but have some bad history hidden somewhere.

  10. Avatar of silverfeather13

    In general I agree with what you’re saying here. If I’m understanding the overarching point, exclusively policing ableist language is analogous to the “Ban Bossy” thing that’s going on in feminism… the point being that preventing people from saying the word doesn’t do a thing to address the underlying oppression and inequality that cause that word to be used against [insert marginalized group here]. Also, I agree that the holistic view of Rebecca matters, and I think it’s important to be able to say that you disagree with someone, or think they handled a situation badly, while also keeping in mind that they are generally a really good, caring person.

    It seems like an important case to make that we could be both examining/trying to correct underlying oppressive systems AND working on using more precise language as well. You have been very careful to be clear that language does matter, but when I get to your last paragraph you seem to be saying that because of all the support you receive here and all the good the network does, you are willing to overlook some problematic language. (Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but that is how it reads to me). You have every right to be satisfied with that arrangement, but it seems like there are a lot of people who aren’t… and I just don’t understand why deeds AND words can’t both be focused on at the same time.

    The argument about the language that resonates with me is this: It isn’t right to use traits over which a person has no control as insults. (Hence the suggestion to go with “willful ignorance” as a replacement)

    I admit, I have been completely guilty of doing this in an ableist way (though I have been trying to fix that) because it hadn’t occurred to me to look at it that way before. But I don’t use “ugly” as an insult. I certainly don’t use racial or gendered insults. Why did I think it was okay to use lower I.Q., cognitive disability, or developmental disability as one? It made me ask myself a lot of questions about what I really value in a person (generosity, empathy, authenticity, kindness) vs. the message I was sending with the words I chose.

    After having followed the original conversation that sparked this, I really think that it’s less about just banning a few specific words and more about the nuance of what message we are sending when we use them (and how that message contributes to the underlying oppression we want to focus on). If we don’t actually believe that simply having a lower I.Q. makes a person worthy of mockery, what is the harm in trying to be more precise in describing the actions that we find detestable?

  11. Avatar of skeith

    The only thing that I have to say is that I don’t appreciate it when a disabled person (even one who shares my personal disability) claims to speak for all disabled persons, which necessarily includes myself.

    I am not, in general, offended by the word “crazy.” I am =extremely= offended when a person accuses another person of being bipolar or schizophrenic or what-have-you in an attempt to discredit that other individual, which I have seen and/or been the target of on multiple occasions. You know, as if schizophrenic and bipolar people are incapable of conveying true and accurate information or something, and are always liars who are not to be trusted. I would prefer if people did not use “crazy” as an insult, but not that fussed about it because there are more important things to be offended over. And most of the time “crazy” is not intended to be insulting at all and I am good at understanding context and can tell the difference.

    =But this is just me.= I would not presume to speak for another person, for whom a random “crazy” might be wildly hurtful. I would not try to invalidate that person’s experience just because I am less sensitive. But it seems that more-sensitive people think it’s OK to invalidate =mine= by issuing blanket statements about how offensive the word “crazy” is to people with mental illness, as though it is universally offensive.

    It’s even more maddening when the disabled person who is attempting to speak for me is disabled in a completely different way from me and honestly has no way to understand my situation that a totally able person lacks. I mean, empathy is a thing, but able people are able to exercise it, too. I can really only imagine what it is like to be physically disabled, and I would appreciate it if physically disabled people would only imagine what it is like to be me, and not pretend that they automatically know.

    I saw some of this occurring on the other thread, and it was so enraging that I stopped reading it.

  12. Avatar of daedalus2u

    To understand someone, you can only understand them from their own perspective. There is no other way to do it.

    You have to be able to emulate their thinking. That is to be able to think the way that they do. That is take what ever “facts” they think they have, and reach what ever conclusions they reach using what ever they consider to be “logic”.

    In other words, to understand someone with a delusion, you need to understand why they believe their delusion to be true in spite of overwhelming evidence that it is not true.

  13. Avatar of Dan

    I don’t have the stomach for vitriol that many of my compatriots here do (props to Will) so I try hard to stay out of these conversations unless I see something that is plain factually incorrect or otherwise seriously misguided. And here’s the thing:

    It is literally impossible to be 100% perfect all the time with regard to every conceivable axis of oppression. All of us. ALL OF US are going to make mistakes once in a while, or inadvertently offend someone, or cause splash damage, or even (heaven forbid) actually legitimately disagree about where the lines are in acceptable language.

    So if someone says something you don’t like, and you call them on it, and they apologize and promise to do better, that really needs to be enough for a day’s work, and you had best hope the next person down the line is as willing to accept your apology when you inevitably fuck something up.

    “But no!” one might respond, “if someone steps on my foot, I have no obligation to be polite! I can scream bloody murder all I like until my foot stops hurting (even after they’ve stepped aside, because how DARE they not know I had gout before accidentally stepping on my foot).”

    Actually, no. Grownups in the real world don’t actually behave that way when someone steps on their foot. And they certainly don’t punch the person in the face, which is the better analogy for some of the shit people have been flinging. Grownups accept the apology and get on their fucking way because presumably they have somewhere to be.

  14. Avatar of stevent

    Olivia, I don’t doubt that Skepchick has provided a safe place for you, but for many of us, this site has made us increasingly uncomfortable. Every apology has come with an insistence that we’re also at fault. Repeatedly, our detailed, calm complaints have been characterized as “vitriolic” (notice the tone argument) while the actions of SKepchick contributors in the comment threads has become increasingly hostile.
    Look at this thread, for example. Will has been accusing critics of trying to drum up false outrage while saying “fuck” multiple times and belittling them by claiming they didn’t read the article very closely. Dan said we need to act like “grownups,” which is really condescending. I haven’t seen anyone from this site call them out. We’re getting the impression that we’re not wanted here. As I write this, I’m nervous, thinking about how those two might respond to me.
    If you’re an ally, and you tell those you support how to act, you’re doing something wrong.

    • Avatar of Will

      Will has been accusing critics of trying to drum up false outrage while saying “fuck” multiple times and belittling them by claiming they didn’t read the article very closely.

      Are you kidding me? “Fuck” is now off limits?? I thought no one was trying to police language!? And how can you seriously complain, all in the same damn comment, that we’ve made tone arguments while complaining that I use the word fuck?? Seriously, how hypocritical can you be?

      This is so damn annoying because many of you keep fucking lying. For example, you said, “Every apology has come with an insistence that we’re also at fault.” That’s a straight-up lie. Amy apologized on Twitter for the words in the Valentine and said she would try to do better in the future. She repeated that apology in the Valentine thread itself, but at that point people had been continuing to pile on her, pretending as if she did not apologize and accusing her of not caring, so she expressed some frustration with some of the things people were saying to her, things that actually triggered a panic attack. And now here you are, over a month later, lying about apologies and ignoring how some of the responses from PWDs to Amy have been harmful.

      You say that I have accused people of “false outrage.” I’ve never done that, and in fact I have acknowledged that people have been hurt and frustrated multiple times, but said that some of the stuff people have been saying to/about the writers on Skepchick has been unfounded and has been harmful itself. NOT that their frustration is unfounded, but that the conclusions they have drawn based on frustration have been unfounded. I realize that’s a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one. And I find it so fucking hypocritical that some people are complaining to us about causing harm in ways that are harmful.

      It’s not “belittling” someone to tell them to read more closely. It’s like you’re just trying so hard to find something offensive in everything that’s said by anyone who doesn’t completely agree with you. When people post in the comments section of ANY post and say things that are indicative of not having read the post or other comments carefully, it’s a common response to tell them to go read more closely. Am I not allowed to make such a comment on posts dealing with issues of disability?? Or am I not allowed to make any critical comments ever again because it might be offensive to someone? I mean come the fuck on.

      We’re getting the impression that we’re not wanted here.

      This is exactly one of the harmful things that I keep talking about. Many of you keep speaking on behalf of PWDs, which erases the fact that many contributors and commenters on this site are PWDs, and they do not feel that they’re not wanted here. SPEAK FOR YOURSELF and stop speaking on behalf of other people.

    • Avatar of Dan

      I was very clearly talking about people who continue to spew vitriol after deciding that an apology is not sufficiently (what? I don’t even know, writhing-in-the-dirt-weeping-and-clothes-tearing?) for their taste, and so continue to pretend no one cares about their feelings, and worse to spew vitriol both in comments and in private submissions on the contact form. That is childish.

      If that behaviour doesn’t apply to you, perhaps I wasn’t talking about you? You sound just like the MRAs who say “NOT ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS HOW DARE YOU IMPLICATE US AS A CLASS” when you decide that criticism of a select group of people behaving badly automatically applies to everyone.

  15. Avatar of pandamonium

    Thank you for this discussion. I’ve been trying to be mindful of the language that I use, but I know full well that I’m a fallible human being. I hope that the next time I have to be called out on something, the person calling me out accepts that I’m genuinely apologetic, and don’t think that I’m intentionally trying to hurt them. Feelings get hurt, but that’s why we have expressions of apology in our language–to acknowledge the hurt that we’ve caused, and to express that we regret that we were the cause of those hurt feelings.* All any of us can do is “try to do better.”

    *not a linguist, so can’t claim 100% authority in this opinion

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