Blogging Against Disablism Day: Addressing Ableist Language

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2010Today, May 1st, is Blogging Against Disablism Day. Blogging Against Disablism Day is hosted every year by Goldfish as an absolutely excellent blogswarm about ableism. (“Disablism” is synonymous with “ableism.” Disablisim is the term preferred in the U.K.; as someone from the U.S., I’m more comfortable with the term ableism, and that’s the one I’ll be using throughout the post.)

This here is a blog. And while others writing for Blogging Against Disablism Day can and will interpret the title of the event in a huge variety of ways and choose to write about a huge variety of topics and experiences, it strikes me that those words imply a perfect opportunity to address the subject of ableism in blogging communities, and in this blogging community specifically.

At Feministe, we’ve have had plenty of problems and committed many offenses with regards to ableism. As readers have educated us and as we’ve educated ourselves, we’ve made changes and attempted to do better. It’s certainly a work in progress; I harbor no illusions that Feministe is anywhere near a safe space for people with disabilities, and we are very far from perfect. One area that still needs a lot of work, and one which we have less control over than most, is our comment section, and the ableist language that tends to appear there.

Ableist language is language that is used to demean people with disabilities, or that is based on negative misconceptions about disability. Much of it is very, very deeply ingrained in our culture to the point where those of us who are unaffected by such language rarely notice it on our own. Ableist language matters for the same reason that sexist, racist, and homophobic language matters. Feminists tend to reject the word “pussy” as an insult, as it takes a word that is usually associated with women and uses it to imply that there is something bad, insulting, and demeaning about being a woman. Progressives tend to reject the word “gay” as an insult, as it takes a word that is used as a personal identifier by many people and suggests that to hold that identity is to be bad, pathetic, and/or laughable. We also reject racial slurs, as they use a position of privilege and capitalize on an ongoing history of oppression, dehumanization, and colonization to directly and purposely demean marginalized groups.

Similarly, we should reject ableist language, as it takes people’s identities and experiences and turns them into insults and jokes. And we should also reject ableist language because it involves direct slurs that represent a long history of marginalization and oppression, and wields them as weapons of privilege against those who do not have it.

In some ways, I think that our community has transitioned to non-ableist language relatively well. “Retarded” and “lame” are insults I very rarely see in our comment section, anymore; when they do appear, they’re usually from new commenters or trolls. It took a period of quite a few months, a lot of speaking out by moderators and commenters alike, and undoubtedly and sadly much harm done to readers with disabilities to get to that place. But I’m happy and proud to see that we’re there, now.

But other ableist language is an issue. And while not the only offenders, the terms I want to focus on are the ones I see the most frequently appear in our comment section: “crazy,” “insane,” and other similar terms that use language commonly associated with mental illness to indicate irrationality, unbelievability, ludicrousness, hilarious ignorance, and/or immorality.

These terms are a problem. They are terms that have been used to disparage people with mental illnesses for a very long time, to discredit them, to abuse them, and to protect those who abuse them. They are terms that are continually used in this way today. They are terms that, using their broadest definitions, could be used against me — someone who has struggled with depression more on than off since about age 13, has some PTSD issues, and probably has some other unspecified anxiety disorder. They are terms that, used very narrowly, are still used against good friends, some of the greatest writers I know, and folks who, whatever and whoever else they are, are still people. (For the record, words being reclaimed and used as self-identifiers are a VERY different matter.)

They are terms that do active harm when they are brandished, even when not used directly at the person who is being harmed. They are terms that still do harm, regardless of whether or not one specifically uses them to refer to mental illness, or whether or not one personally thinks that “the word doesn’t mean that, anymore.”

They are terms that you should probably stop using, if you use them. And they’re terms that I would like to be seen as unacceptable for use here, in this space. It would make this blog safer for a lot of people, and a more welcoming, less oppressive space. That’s the kind of space I would personally like this blog to be.

To be clear, I’m not saying that you’re a bad person if you’ve used these terms without knowing about their harmful impact. In fact, Feministe used to have a category called “Crazy Conservatives” (it was changed some time ago to Radical Right-Wingers). “Crazy” and “insane” are terms that I used to use rather liberally, before learning why my choice to do so was oppressive. I don’t write this post to make you feel bad; I write it because I don’t like seeing harm done in almost every single one of our comment threads. And causing harm is something that all people do, regardless of intent. But intent usually doesn’t matter a whole lot when harm is being done regardless.

And I think that if we are serious about holding a social justice stance that works to eventually eradicate privilege and create a world where all marginalized people are perceived as valuable and fully human, it’s our job, it’s our responsibility, and it should be our immediate desire to stop causing that harm ourselves once we know that we are in fact causing harm. No matter how defensive we feel, or how much we like the words in question. Both because it’s right, and because if those of us who purport to believe in social justice don’t act as though language, cultural narratives, and casual prejudice matter, how can we expect to convince anyone else that they do?

MOD NOTE: I understand that it’s likely this post will incite some defensiveness. But, as a general rule, we at least try to not let defenses of privilege take over threads. Today is Blogging Against Disabilism Day, so I find the idea of comments from abled folks who want to explain why something many people with disabilities find to be ableist isn’t really ableist to be in particularly atrocious taste. Those arguments have all been addressed in the various posts linked throughout this one, and in any case, you can have that conversation in about 99.9% of other places on the internet. This place isn’t going to be one of them, and comments which attempt to defend language that marginalized people have identified as actively harmful will be deleted.

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65 Responses

  1. SereneBabe
    SereneBabe May 1, 2010 at 8:51 am |

    Fabulous. Well done. Only just starting to catch myself with these language/power issues. Sharing the heck out of this post. :-)

  2. meloukhia
    meloukhia May 1, 2010 at 9:04 am |

    Thank you for this post, Cara. You have really crisply illustrated here the myriad and compelling reasons to abandon ableist language.

  3. Julie
    Julie May 1, 2010 at 9:17 am |

    Great post! I kick myself every time I accidentally say one of those words.

  4. April
    April May 1, 2010 at 10:05 am |

    I was reluctant to give up “crazy” et al, and figured that I’d just stop using it on blogs like this one, and say whatever “in real life.” Thing is, though, once I stopped using it on blogs, I stopped using it IRL. It really isn’t as difficult as one might believe. You just have to make the decision to pay attention to what you say.

  5. Lisa
    Lisa May 1, 2010 at 10:09 am |

    Great post! I’ve been starting to correct myself a lot more with the abliest language I’ve used. I’ve also noticed how common it is in most peoples everyday vocabulary.

  6. caprette
    caprette May 1, 2010 at 10:16 am |

    This is definitely an important issue that needs to be talked about. For a long time, I never really thought of disability issues as having anything to do with me. I am lucky enough to be able-bodied, as well as all of my friends and family as far as I know. I do have friends and family members that have struggled with mental illness, but those people are just as likely to use words like “crazy” as much as anyone else.

    But ultimately, I think it’s better to err on the side of less-offensiveness. Other people’s right not to feel oppressed by my language outweighs my right to choose whatever word feels convenient at the time. I’m not perfect, but now I might try to say something is “absurd” instead of “insane,” or “pathetic” instead of “lame.”

  7. herong
    herong May 1, 2010 at 10:21 am |

    Thank you, Cara. I am working on quitting saying “lame” right now. As an LGBT person, I have an anecdote that I hold in my head to remind me why I’m working towards this.

    We had some old friends visiting and one brought a younger brother who kept saying things were “gay.” I asked him to stop and told him that it hurt me that he used the word pejoratively. His defense was that “gay” didn’t mean “homosexual,” it meant “bad!” To him, that may have been true, but his use of the word hurt me. “Lame” is the same way. Although I may not mean to be abelist when I use it, the truth is that it hurts people. So I won’t use it. End of story.

  8. Thessa Mercury
    Thessa Mercury May 1, 2010 at 10:24 am |

    Thank you for this. Eradicating “crazy” and “insane” from my vocabulary has become a priority for me lately. It’s much, much harder than I would have thought, and I slip often, but I’m trying to get better.

  9. NTE
    NTE May 1, 2010 at 10:42 am |

    yay! I’m glad to know that you are working to make this a safer space.

  10. Dominique
    Dominique May 1, 2010 at 10:56 am |

    Thank you for this. I would blog but it’s too painful right now.

  11. amandaw
    amandaw May 1, 2010 at 10:57 am |

    Thanks, Cara — learning is a process for everyone, and I have been heartened to see the re-shaping and growth of this site over time. The fact is these systems are so thoroughly interwoven and we create our identities, our selves, within the threads of this system, so when someone points out the harmful side of any given system, it feels like a personal affront. It feels like an attack on our very beings — because we have been made to think our beings are dependent on the existence of that system. But they aren’t, and we aren’t, and we can better support one another when we learn to accept that.

  12. R-Cop
    R-Cop May 1, 2010 at 11:22 am |

    Very well said. The defensiveness that comes with something like this really bugs me. I first started thinking about the problems with these kinds of words when it came up at a training session where I was working a few years ago, and what it seemed like a lot of people took away from it was, since they used those words and they weren’t assholes, it should be okay to keep using those words. They didn’t seem get that, now that they knew how harmful those words could be, using them was a pretty assholeish thing to do.

    On a more positive note, about a year ago I was at a workshop where someone was talking about an educational game they had worked on that used the word “crazy” quite liberally. After their presentation, I overheard someone go up to a presenter, and, after asking if the game was in stores yet (it wasn’t), explain the problems with the language in the game and recommend it get changed. The presenter said that one of the goals in creating these kinds of games was to be as inclusive and sensitive as possible, and that clearly they weren’t doing that with that kind of language. I’m not sure if the game was actually changed, but it was really refreshing to see that kind of reaction.

  13. Kowalski
    Kowalski May 1, 2010 at 11:24 am |

    Thanks for this post, Cara.
    I’ve often exasperated reading the comments here and interventions from mods seemed to have little effect. I was so hoping that one day there will be an actual post here on why ableist language excludes disabled women from feminist spaces, because it is really, really draining having to do the educating via commenting and it really shouldn’t be the marginalized readers’ job to do that.

    Another thing I notice a lot on many feminist blogs is how often the words moron, idiot, imbecile, and cretin, etc are used to describe reprehensible and oppressive people.
    These words have been used to dehumanize people with developmental disabilities like myself and it really is worth considering how obnoxious it is to use these words to insult misogynist, racist, or homophobic people.

  14. MER
    MER May 1, 2010 at 11:32 am |

    I am not lucky enough to be entirely able bodied or neurotypical.

    However, I do have to dissent, for the same reason that I object to the term “differently-abled”, because I don’t think it’s the same as similar discussions relating to race or gender. I feel like trying to scrub away language relating physical disability to other things is minimizing to my experience.

    Because being disabled sucks.

    In my opinion, it’s not simply a different experience, or a different body, it’s empirically less pleasant.

    If I may be political for a moment, I think that is an apt and acceptable metaphor to say that a lot of right wing ideology is ‘blind’, not seeing the whole picture, not being entirely informed.

    I’m not offended by the use of words like lame (and I do realize it’s a slang term) or crippled to describe things, because I feel like in some ways it’s more respectful to recognize a sense of something being wrong or broken. I object to the sensitization of language (1).
    I guess I personally don’t have a problem calling the recent Arizona immigration legislation ‘insane’, because I do see a parallel between it and not thinking clearly or rationally.

    I don’t like to offend people, so I am considerate of the language I use, but I guess it’s just that I put them in different categories.

    1. I want to be clear that there is a difference between what I’m talking about and using things like ‘gay’ as a negative, because as I see it, racism, sexism, and homophobia are socially constructed negatives, where being disabled isn’t.

  15. Jay
    Jay May 1, 2010 at 11:34 am |

    I’ve long disliked the word ‘retarded’; but I still haven’t yet gotten bold enough to correct other people when they say it, even though I’m always happy to correct my own language around people who’d rather not hear certain words. And I feel bad about that, because I feel like the work doesn’t stop with me, and that I should educate others, too.

    I mean, when someone uses the word “gay” as a pejorative, for example, I feel perfectly comfortable telling them that they sound like an immature middle-schooler. But if someone says ‘retarded’, I won’t correct them. Perhaps I should start.

    As someone who struggled with serious mental illness for several years, though, I’m not sure how I feel about ‘crazy’ as an insult. While I’d be fine with not using it around people who’d rather not hear it, the word doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable, even as someone who’s definitely been labeled as ‘crazy’ before.

  16. Sunset
    Sunset May 1, 2010 at 11:43 am |

    Dare I say that ableism is not as far off from a feminist issue as we think? Disabled women are at a much higher risk of abuse than regular women. I have a friend with a severe seizure disorder. Her abuser posed as a caretaker and took control over her medical supplies to keep her dependent. Statistically, this is an all too common story among disabled women.

  17. abby jean
    abby jean May 1, 2010 at 11:54 am |

    @MER – i take a lot of issue with your statement that the harms of disability, unlike those of racism, sexism, and other ism, aren’t socially constructed. certainly, there are some direct effects of disabilities themselves. but the failure of the able-bodied world to meaningfully accommodate PWDs is very much socially constructed. if i can’t get to the grocery store because no public transportation can accommodate my disabilities, that impairment in my functioning is very much socially constructed. i’d recommend doing some more reading on social models of disability to get more info on why i – and others – think that distinction is not only inaccurate, but lets able-bodied society off the hook for disempowering PWDs. here are a few resources:

    amandaw’s “disability is”
    a discussion from a group on neurodiversity in higher ed
    and even the wikipedia page on the topic is fairly helpful.

  18. Rebecca
    Rebecca May 1, 2010 at 11:54 am |

    Thanks for writing this post. Since subscribing to FWD/Forward I’ve been doing my best to eliminate ableist language from my vocabulary and that of my household. I’ve taken to pointing out sometimes when ableist language is used in blogs and other communities, but that all depends on me noticing it – something I’m not always that good at.

  19. herong
    herong May 1, 2010 at 12:54 pm |

    @abby jean – I completely agree. The harms of disability are obviously social constructed. If something is seen as “not norma,l” that is the social construction of a group of people viewing one thing as normal and variations off the norm as “not normal.” People say something is “retarded” because they see non-neurotypical as “not normal.” That’s an obvious social construction.

    I think that sexuality serves as the perfect metaphor. When homosexuality was seen as “not normal” from a medical perspective, it was much more common for “homosexuality” to be used as an insult. As the lgbt community grows in presence and political power, it is less ok to say something is “gay,” or to use the f-word. That was completely a change in social construction.

  20. amandaw
    amandaw May 1, 2010 at 1:04 pm |

    To be sure, the personal experience of disability can be negative. But the collective experience of disability is definitely not wholly negative, and we cannot assume that it must be. When we do, we end up with people like Peter Singer advocating our neglect and murder because there’s no way we could ever have worthy lives.

    So no, saying something is “lame” is not ok because being lame is obviously awful and tragedic. Nor retarded, nor psycho, nor any of the others. Because being any of these things is, simply, being a human being. There is good in that and there is bad in that, just as there is in the rest of humanity, the non-crazy/lame/idiot masses.

    To defend crazy/lame/etc. as ok slurs because they describe clearly awful conditions is to project a state of eternal and all-encompassing suffering onto every person who has ever been described by those labels. You might feel it describes you, but you cannot tell the rest of those people it therefore describes them too. That is not a fair assumption to make and not a fair consequence to ask them to bear because of it.

    Disability — like ability — will always include some negative experience. That’s what it means to live. But we don’t have to cement that negative experience as a necessity for disabled people because our social structures cannot be bothered to value different types of people.

  21. Astrid
    Astrid May 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm |

    Thanks for this post Cara. Even as a person with disabilities, including mental health problems, I still find it hard to conceptualize the idea of oppressive words, even with regards to ableism. I used to think avoiding thse words was politically correct and didn’t do much to address real oppression. While this is in part true – it is possible to make oppressive comments concealed in euphemisms -, I also learn that avoiding ableist and otherwise oppressive language does make a difference, and I am tryin got avoid these words (other than when reclaiming them).

  22. OtherJen
    OtherJen May 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm |

    You know, I hadn’t really heard the word “ableist” until I started reading feminist blogs. And it’s strange, even as a person who has had a disabling mental illness for most of my life, it’s still difficult for me to stop using words like “insane” or “crazy” to describe irrational or disturbing or wacky behavior, but I can feel how it has affected me deep down.

    Side note: It’s interesting how racism, sexism and supposed “mental illness” are closely linked much of the time–how women and people of color are more often called “psycho” or “crazy” or whatnot to discount legitimate viewpoints. I can’t speak for people of color, but as a woman with an actual mental illness, it’s been doubly difficult to fight for my own legitimacy.

  23. Rosemary
    Rosemary May 1, 2010 at 1:31 pm |

    Wonderful post! I’ve been working for about a year on my own use of words like “crazy” and “insane”, which never used to bother me even though I live with several mental illnesses. Now that I’ve gotten really good at removing these words from my own language, I find that I’m becoming more and more offended when I see and hear other people using them. It’s dawning on me how much I was affecting my own sense of self as a mentally ill person by using those words incorrectly. Language affects how we perceive the world in more ways than we often realize.

  24. Trina
    Trina May 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm |

    I feel embarrassed to admit this, but I’m having a lot of trouble eradicating “crazy” and “insane” from my everyday vocabulary. That’d be bad enough on its own, but I actually have a mental illness, I should know better. I keep subconsciously justifying my personal use of it with things like “oh, I don’t find it offensive directed at me unless it’s coupled with some other derogatory insult” or “I only use it affectionately, I’m reclaiming it” but those are both problematic, especially the first one. No, I’m not personally offended if it’s used towards me as a vague descriptor in everyday conversation, but I know the casual use of it offends others and I understand why, and why I need to do better. I can’t seem to “re-wire”. I don’t want to be that person, the one who’s basically the pet of people who use words offensively – “oh, she’s X/Y/Z and she doesn’t have a problem, why are you overreacting” but I don’t know what to do. I’ve changed before regarding other words, but something’s getting in the way here.

  25. amandaw
    amandaw May 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm |

    Trina – it takes time to sink in, sometimes, after we’ve decided we want to. it’s such an easy thing that’s so hard to implement. i’ve had the same struggles with variants of “idiot.”

    reducing is still better than doing nothing, even if it isn’t eliminating. and it takes time to rearrange your vocabulary, find other ways to express ideas or really deeply “get” what makes something bad and therefore know what it is that actually needs fixed about it. in the meantime, just keep pushing yourself.

    it’s taken me months to be pretty much rid of calling things stupid/moronic/whatever (though i may be missing incidences) even tho i knew from the start i wanted to be. but time does help, and really digesting the theory underlying the decision is what drives the actual change in behavior. which is why we can’t just expect to eliminate certain words & be done, we have to engage with the activism itself — that’s the essential ingredient.

  26. Marilyn
    Marilyn May 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm |

    Thank you for this post. After eliminating “gay” and “retarded” from my vocabulary, I replaced them with “lame” and “weak.” (I know, I know.) I never realized until now that this is ableist language. Thank you for writing this; I don’t see posts on ableism or ableist language very often, but whenever I do, I always learn something. So thank you.

  27. oldfeminist
    oldfeminist May 1, 2010 at 2:46 pm |

    Using “crazy” to describe someone’s seemingly irrational behavior usually implies there’s something else going on.

    E.g. “The GOP’s crazy idea to fight teen pregnancy with abstinence-only sex education.” The speaker probably doesn’t think the GOP is literally crazy — the speaker thinks the GOP has a hidden agenda (keeping women, especially poor ones, barefoot and pregnant).

    Simply saying the idea is ridiculous (worthy of ridicule), and therefore the GOP must have some other reason, avoids the use of the word and is more accurate and to the point.

    I’ve been measured to have very high intelligence. When people start talking about punishing or restricting the rights of those who aren’t “smart enough” by some standard (IQ, high school degree, college, not getting pregnant, whatever) I would always be thinking in the back of my mind, so you think you should have fewer rights than I do? That I should have some kind of super-rights?

    Maybe I should try it sometime just to see what happens.

    Obviously I am completely opposed to this sliding scale of rights or entitlement depending on someone’s “intelligence.” People have value just for being people. Not because they are smart, talented, kind, pretty, strong, funny, determined, or whatever. Those might be characteristics that make me want to spend more time with them, but they don’t affect their natural rights as human beings.

  28. Samantha B.
    Samantha B. May 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm |

    MER, it’s also really misinformed to assume that the perception of mental illness is not socially constructed. If this were so, perceptions wouldn’t vary dramatically from society to society and era to era. If you’d bothered to inform yourself adequately, you’d also know that the social constructions surrounding mental illness have been shown to have significant impact on the success of treatment for the mentally ill. To put it bluntly, you don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about here.

  29. Kate
    Kate May 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm |

    I’m a middle school teacher and I’m wondering if this would be a good thread for me to ask for advice about good ways to call students on (mainly) ableist and homophobic language. I definitely feel like it’s appropriate for me to point it out to them, but I don’t want to do it in a way that shames them or just makes them tune me out.

    At the moment I usually offer them a choice of more accurate words for what they may have been trying to say. As in, if they say “This is retarded,” I say “You mean it’s frustrating? tedious? boring? too hard? insultingly easy?” Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t. I’d love to hear other ideas.

  30. MER
    MER May 1, 2010 at 3:25 pm |

    aj,
    I don’t need a lecture on something that’s been central to my experience for my entire life.
    I can’t know if you see my side, but the idea of the socially constructed nature of the harms of disability is something that I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about, and in the end rejected.

    herong,
    I disagree that sexuality serves as an applicable metaphor in this context.
    The way I see it, taken out of a social context, the differences between a disabled and a non-disabled person still exist, in a way that race and gender don’t.
    amandaw,
    you’re putting words in my mouth. I never sait that it’s wholly negative, Please don’t relate me to that person. I guess I just don’t see the links between negativity and disability as being as disrespectful.
    “Disability — like ability — will always include some negative experience. That’s what it means to live. But we don’t have to cement that negative experience as a necessity for disabled people because our social structures cannot be bothered to value different types of people.”
    I don’t see necessity where you do. An imperfect analogy I think is the comparison to the fact that it’s difficult to productively discuss gender dynamics without talking about patriarchy.

    “To defend crazy/lame/etc. as ok slurs because they describe clearly awful conditions is to project a state of eternal and all-encompassing suffering onto every person who has ever been described by those labels”

    It’s a rather bleak reading of my post to be saying that the experience is entirely negative for everybody, everywhere, always.

    I just don’t think it deserves a whitewash. Maybe it’s a little bit of the English major in me talking, but I think that many of these words and their connotations make language meaningful.

    I don’t pretend to speak for everyone, and I’m not about to go out of my way to offend people.

  31. The Chemist
    The Chemist May 1, 2010 at 4:18 pm |

    @Kate

    I think that your impact is greatly limited in practice- even as you raise their consciousness about the issue. It’s limited since you’re not allowed to teach them creative ways to, for example, insult people. I myself have a difficult time trying to verbally accost someone for being irrational without resorting to “insane” or other such terms. Even “delusional” can be problematic. I daresay that single words that convey the same sense of meaning as many of these terms do not exist. You can students find other words to describe everyday situations, but you can’t help them with a broad category of expression where they are most likely to use such terms.

    This is not to say you shouldn’t bother, but be aware that they will basically continue to use these terms among themselves for lack of real substitutes or creativity.

  32. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis May 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm |

    I struggle with getting rid of ableist language and ableism is something I blog about quite bit. I don’t think anyone faults people for struggling if they are trying and not being willfully ignorant.

    When it clicked for me is when I realized that when I was using lame and insane as negative descriptors, I was only reinforcing those words meaning bad things, thus those traits being bad things. I didn’t want to add to marginalization of already marginalized groups and that was what I was doing.

  33. abby
    abby May 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm |

    “Disability — like ability — will always include some negative experience. That’s what it means to live.”

    why is it okay to say this, but not to say “everybody’s a little bit disabled”? i’m not supporting the use of crazy or lame or other ableist language as slurs, but honestly, acting like disability is always PURELY social erases my experience.

    i’m in pain all the time. i’m not in control of my emotional or physical responses to certain stimuli. are there things society could do to better accommodate me? sure. i’d love it if i didn’t get stared at for looking able-bodied and sitting in the marked seats on the bus, i’d love it if i didn’t have to explain why i can’t watch certain movies, i’d love it if i could get insurance that covered my medications for more than four months of the year.

    that would certainly help, and that could be changed by society’s response to me. but that doesn’t make the pain not hurt, and it doesn’t make flashbacks not horrible.

  34. herong
    herong May 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm |

    @ MER, I’m gonna push back a bit. You argue that if you take sexuality or race out of a social context, the “harm” disappears. Some people who see “harm” in homosexuality would disagree. Some people think that the “harm” of not being able to reproduce sexually will exist in any context and therefore, homosexuality is “not normal” or “bad.” The same thing for race, especially given the recent post about the racist Harvard email. Stephanie Grace would probably argue that the “harm” of being African American exists in all contexts. She would argue that black people “may not be as smart.” We understand that to be a social construct – racism – but she sees it as her truth. Couldn’t disability be the same – the “harm” only existing in socially constructed situations>

  35. Kowalski
    Kowalski May 1, 2010 at 6:20 pm |

    @ Kate,
    on Dave Hingsburger’s post 03:03:10 (End the R-Word campaign), a teacher <a href="“>left a comment that may be very helpful for you.

  36. Kowalski
    Kowalski May 1, 2010 at 6:21 pm |

    Oops, sorry for the messed up code, but I think it still works.

  37. Kate
    Kate May 1, 2010 at 6:28 pm |

    @the chemist:
    Thanks for responding. You’re right that I can’t expect to make that big a change in my students’ vocabulary. Like I said, sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t.

    I am still interested in hearing about positive, practical ideas to try, though.

    Also, you may not be giving kids enough credit. One of the reasons I enjoy the age group I teach is that they are often very creative and open-minded.

  38. Kate
    Kate May 1, 2010 at 6:30 pm |

    @Kowalski–Awesome, thanks!

  39. MissaA
    MissaA May 1, 2010 at 6:35 pm |

    That these words do damage to people was really brought home to me recently.

    My younger sister is bipolar, and had a really hard time when she started university, eventually dropping out. A couple of times during this period she checked herself into the hospital because she was suicidal.

    When my boyfriend’s parents asked how she was doing, I was vague, and I forget what I said exactly, but whatever it was prompted his mother to laughe and say, “that’s crazy!”

    I felt like I had been slapped in the face.

    I wish I had said something, but I didn’t. But if it happens again, now I know I will.

    I’ve also started noticing more how “bi-polar” and “ADD” are often used to simply describe people’s caracter flaws, which does a real disservice to people who are actually trying to deal with these things.

    And yet I still find it hard sometimes to find a synonym for “crazy”. It’s something I’m still working on.

  40. MissaA
    MissaA May 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm |

    @ MER
    1. I want to be clear that there is a difference between what I’m talking about and using things like ‘gay’ as a negative, because as I see it, racism, sexism, and homophobia are socially constructed negatives, where being disabled isn’t.

    People have argued otherwise. Sexism and racism are based on physical differences as well.

    To quote the Supreme Court of Canada,
    Exclusion from the mainstream of society results from the construction of a society based solely on “mainstream” attributes to which disabled persons will never be able to gain access. Whether it is the impossibility of success at a written test for a blind person, or the need for ramp access to a library, the discrimination does not lie in the attribution of untrue characteristics to the disabled individual. The blind person cannot see and the person in a wheelchair needs a ramp. Rather, it is the failure to make reasonable accommodation, to fine-tune society so that its structures and assumptions do not result in the relegation and banishment of disabled persons from participation, which results in discrimination against them. … [Discrimination against people with disabilities], by not allowing for the condition of a disabled individual, ignores his or her disability and forces the individual to sink or swim within the mainstream environment.”

    Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 624

  41. Amanda
    Amanda May 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm |

    TIMELINESS! Thank you for this post, especially right now. I am dealing with a professional editorial colleague who uses the word “lame” regularly in staff emails. I have gotten comfortable addressing “retarded”, “gay”, and even sometimes “lame”, etc in person, but replying to an email or confronting him in person about it in a professional setting makes me nervous (no rational reason why, it just does). If anybody wants to point me to some posts that would address this issue on point, I’d love it. In the meantime, I’m off to rummage around and see if I can find them myself. Again, thanks, Cara, for the thoughtful post.

  42. MissaA
    MissaA May 1, 2010 at 7:36 pm |

    @ Kate

    You could try something like “a class divided”, or just show the documentary in class. It’s more about racism than any other kind of discrimination, but I think it is effective at getting people to understand discrimination, and hence make discussions about other kinds of inequality easier. There’s a link to a teacher’s guide on the website.

  43. Sarah
    Sarah May 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm |

    One of the most powerful things in my feminist journey has been learning how to self challenge and accept criticism. Ableist language is definitely an area in which I have a LOT to learn.
    Thanks for a great article.

  44. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 1, 2010 at 8:45 pm |

    Missa, I don’t blast around a previous diagnosable case of bipolar for obvious reasons (and if not obvious, it’s because of the ridiculous stigma around bipolar), and I feel slapped in the face every time someone asks lightly whether I’m bipolar. I’m glad you mentioned that.

  45. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis May 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm |

    I’m also greatly annoyed by the whole “I’m so bipolar” phrase that seems to have cropped up lately. Has anyone else noticed an uptick in using actual diagnoses as slang? I’m not very old, but it seems like this started happening in the last 5 years or so and I find it rage inducing.

    And back on topic of whether disability is inherently bad without ableism, that’s not a judgment I think anyone can make. I used to say, “No, as long as someone isn’t in pain,” but I’ve had people with chronic pain tell me that they don’t think their chronic pain is inherently bad. The only person who can really talk about their own quality of life is generally the person living that life.

    For me, it wouldn’t matter whether or not my disabilities were more accepted in society, the sucky parts would still be sucky. However, the way society helps makes the parts that suck worse not being there would make things a hell of a lot better.

  46. Lindsay
    Lindsay May 1, 2010 at 9:14 pm |

    Thank you for this, Cara. This is a beautifully written Ableist Language 101 guide, and I really appreciate its being posted on a site that’s read by so many progressive-minded people outside the disability-rights community.

    Like some of the other commenters, I’ve also had to wipe ableist terms from my own lexicon in steps. I was never comfortable with “retarded,” because I’m autistic and people who don’t know that about me tend to treat me as someone who is not very intelligent. So I’ve tended to take that one personally. But “lame,” “crazy,” “moron,” “idiot,” etc.? I used them all, not thinking that other people might hear those words and think, “Hey, that’s *me* she’s talking about!” I still have trouble remembering not to use “moron” and similar insults, even though theoretically those should be the easiest for me to discard, since they refer to people with disabilities like mine. But this stuff is really deeply ingrained in most of us, even those of us who should — and do — know better.

  47. Lindsay
    Lindsay May 1, 2010 at 9:16 pm |

    @thetroubleis, yes, I have noticed that.

    It seems to be some diagnoses more than others: bipolar is a big one, and OCD also seems to get casually slung around a lot, too.

  48. Bushfire
    Bushfire May 1, 2010 at 9:31 pm |

    Kate I’m a middle school teacher and I’m wondering if this would be a good thread for me to ask for advice about good ways to call students on (mainly) ableist and homophobic language. I definitely feel like it’s appropriate for me to point it out to them, but I don’t want to do it in a way that shames them or just makes them tune me out.

    I have a friend who has taught high school and launched a huge campaign against homophobia. In order to explain to her students why they shouldn’t say “that’s gay”, she taught an entire lesson on homophobia, including video documentaries (which you can get in my local college Education library, maybe also in yours) so that the students understood exactly what it means to call something “gay”. Then she reinforced it every time she heard it. Her theory is that if you tell them not to use language without telling them why, they’ll use it anyway. If you explain to them why it’s wrong, they’ll be motivated to change it. She has a few kids who were really against the idea of letting go of their homophobia and even parents calling to complain. She also had students come up to her in private and thank her for it because she’s improved their lives.

  49. Cassie
    Cassie May 1, 2010 at 11:46 pm |

    As a disabled individual- thankyou. Ableism comes in more forms than just words, just as racism, sexism, etc can be shown through action as surely as with words. Why people who do not know me feel they can point, whisper, and make assumptions about who I am, I do not understand. And at a whopping 22-years old, I’m constantly told I’m either faking it, exaggerating, or couldn’t possibly need that cane in my hand. I’ve finally started telling people that I not only need the cane, but I’m walker shopping these days. That normally shuts them up, at least. I truly wish, though, that people could feel what it is to spend even one day in a body as broken and sick as mine. I hope enough people standing up to say something about inappropriate behavior of this kind will help people make the changes they need to.

  50. bellareve
    bellareve May 2, 2010 at 2:27 am |

    As a woman with multiple disabilities, I am glad the feminist community is taking note of these issues.

    For me personally, individual words, when not intended to harm, are not as problematic as larger abelist ideas I have seen expressed here and elsewhere online. (I know that some folks see words, phrases, or expressions as *representative* of larger ideas, but I don’t always believe that is the case; I think context, audience, and intent matter). I don’t mind whether or not a potential ally occasionally uses words like “crazy” in casual conversation, but I DO care whether she believes that, for instance, people with bipolar should be forced to take medication, or that women with eating disorders are spoiled and privileged, or that women with depression use crying and self injury to get attention and manipulate others, etc.

  51. Natalia
    Natalia May 2, 2010 at 3:14 am |

    Well, I can relate to what Mer is saying wrt whitewashing, because for years and years (and even today), I have dealt with the “post-traumatic stress? No, you’re fine, you’re just different. Why don’t you like being different, Natalia? Why can’t you like yourself for who you are?” Etc. But my experience is not one of feeling “different.” My experience is pain and fear, and also feeling stronger when managing said pain and fear. And it’s why I own the word “crazy” – and use it in negative contexts as well as positive ones – and it shall be pried from my cold dead fingers.

    On the other hand, there’s the other horror of dealing – the idea, for example, that you can be deemed un-employable, worthless, that your autonomy can be questioned, that you can be told that you shouldn’t have children, and so on.

    It’s not so much words that I have a problem with – it’s how they are used.

  52. Jean-Pierre
    Jean-Pierre May 2, 2010 at 10:10 am |

    Mer: I got severely euphemized a couple years ago and I agree with everything you say.

  53. leedevious
    leedevious May 2, 2010 at 3:18 pm |

    I have a mental illness, and the reason I’ve never been offended by the words “crazy” or “insane” is because I’ve never thought of myself as crazy or insane, even though I indubitably act crazy on occassions. I do make an effort to eliminate those words from my vocabulary. I mostly describe things as “absurd” because I’ve always thought it sounded more intelligent anyway.

    What really motivated me to eliminate crazy and insane from my vocabulary is realizing how offended I am by the word retarded. My older sister is autistic, retarded, and schizophrenic. So I tried to make the connection between how “retarded” makes me feel and how “insane” makes other people feel.

  54. lovesickrobot
    lovesickrobot May 2, 2010 at 8:16 pm |

    Ever since my diagnosis with a mood disorder earlier this year, I have been cringing when I hear myself saying something is “crazy” or “insane”. However, it’s a more confusing issue that calling something “retarded” or “gay” I think, since actual mental illnesses can lead people to hold untenable positions based on imaginary logic. The line between actual mentally ill behavior and willfully blind or ignorant behavior is blurred because people don’t always have control over how much they understand or how logical they can be or even how factual and realistic. This conversation about language is an important and worthwhile one, especially if it leads not only to a more politically correct vocabulary, but also to a more nuanced picture in the popular consciousness of what mental illness is and what it looks like.

  55. Anita
    Anita May 3, 2010 at 12:26 am |

    Thanks for the post. I too have caught myself using words like “crazy” and “insane” and have wondered: “What am I saying?” I now try to use words that are more accurate and descriptive instead. It’s funny how these terms never seem to mean anything positive or good. The next time someone tells me about “those crazy drivers”, I’m so tempted to say “Wow, the other drivers must have truly been skillful and considerate for you to give such a compliment.” Ditto for phrases like “It’s a crazy world,” “What a bunch of lunatics,” etc.
    As someone with bipolar disorder, I feel like I can use these words in a way that the totally sane cannot, kind of like the “n” word being used by blacks rather than whites. A friend of mine who is in a mental health group with me will introduce me as one of “the inmates” (from the group) and it’s not offensive to me at all. Some of the worst offenders are family members, whom I believe really do mean well. Tonight, my sister was describing a “crazy” situation she was in, and w/o any coaching from me, went on in the course of the conversation to relabel it as “wild” instead–which sounded much more accurate to me. I’ve also learned not to take it personally. Going on what my counselor says about projection, when someone uses a word like “crazy”, I simply interpret it to mean that they probably have some mental health issues of their own that they’re not comfortable owning. Makes it so much easier to deal with.

  56. William
    William May 3, 2010 at 3:45 am |

    Its nice to see everyone talking about how they want to purge the ableist language from the vocabulary and I appreciate the effort, but this mad person is about to rant. Heres the thing with ableist language as it pertains to disability: its always going to be dominated by the discourse. Its relatively easy to say “I’m not going to use retarded/crazy/insane as an insult anymore because theres nothing wrong with being retarded/crazy/insane.” After you’ve done it you and your friends can talk about how progressive you are, you can call people out on being ignorant, you can go to bed feeling as if you’ve made the world a better place by purging offensive language from your vocabulary. Basically you’ll do the same thing progressive seeming men have been doing for women, progressive seeming white people have been doing for black people, and progressive seeming straight people have been doing for LGBTQI* people; you’ll be doing the absolute minimum.

    The hitch, to my mind, is that purging from your derisive vocabulary the words used to describe and oppress entire groups of human beings means very little. Its not an accomplishment not to use the N word to describe a white person who shares traits you associate with african Americans in a way you find distasteful, its basic human decency. The really ugly underside is that, in excluding words from being used as insults, you’re targeting the wrong problem. You’re looking like you’re doing something while maintaining the discourse. You not only leave the oppressive words intact but you further exclude those to whom they are applied by underlining the great degree of perceived difference between “them” and normal folk.

    This is especially insidious when we’re talking about madness because virtually all of the words we have to describe people who experience the world in a different way than the constructed (and largely fictional) norm specifically reduce. Crazy has an obvious etymology that conjures the image of a rabid madman, retarded has all of it’s negative connotations as well as the assertion that someone is poorly developed, even the politically correct “mental illness” both invokes the disgusting history of “mental hygiene” being used to oppress people who strayed too far from conventional morality and outright defines certain kinds of human experience as sickness to be cured. More importantly, the criteria we use to define madness is not the same the the criteria we use to diagnose cancer or syphilis. Madness is still, and likely always will be, something which powerful people perceive in less powerful people through observation and comparison to value-laden ideals.

    We don’t really have language to discuss and describe disability (especially those forms located in the mind) that doesn’t make disability something repugnant. Thats the point and thats the problem. Of course we use “crazy” to describe anything we dislike because that is all the word has ever and can ever mean, it means the same thing if we’re talking about someone with Bipolar or someone who watches Glenn Beck. The values might be slightly different, but the underlying message is the same. Its all about power, and until you begin addressing that power neither good intentions nor minor changes in linguistic custom are going to amount to much.

  57. amandaw
    amandaw May 3, 2010 at 7:17 am |

    Did I interpret poorly? (I ask genuinely; I’ve been chewing on this all weekend.) What I saw was this:

    1 – Cara says “ableist language is bad because it associates disability with badness”
    2 – MER comments saying that she doesn’t think it’s wrong to associate badness&disability because disability has been bad for MER. (this is perfectly legitimate to feel.)
    3 – people push back against this, self included, saying that disability is not wholly bad or particularly bad compared to ability – and that representing it that way can be dangerous
    4 – others push back against that, saying that it erases their struggles with the negative side of disability.

    These exchanges always frustrate the hell out of me because I can’t tell if we are talking past each other, or understanding each other perfectly and just coming from fundamentally different places.

    It frustrates me that every time someone points out the problem with associating the language of disability with badness, insults, being pitiable and dismissable — someone replies with “but disability IS objectively bad.” It’s not just MER — this happens every. single. fucking. time and it is highly frustrating to try to engage disability issues on this site when this response always pops up — from TABs who say “but the literal definition of retarded is backward and bad!!!!” and “of course it’s bad to be lame! are you saying disability ISN’T eternal suffering??” (I have to resist the urge to hit something in response to these) and from PWD who say “but my experience of disability HAS been exceedingly negative” (which I think is valid) but who seem to be implying that means that the cultural representation of disability as Always Bad, Horrifically Bad, For Everyone, At All Times must stay, because their individual experience has been bad.

    It’s not a matter of where the badness comes from — social setup or inherent difficulty no matter what social context — it’s the fact that when some PWD voice concern that there is no room in our cultural ideas on disability for anything other than awful, wrenching pathos, someone has to come in and refute that concept — not even saying whether disability is good or bad itself, but talking about cultural representation of disability — by saying that individual experience can be very bad.

    I do regret that my participation in these discussions makes people feel erased. But these discussions still just don’t sit right with me, and I don’t know what to do with that feeling.

  58. MER
    MER May 3, 2010 at 9:27 am |

    At risk of sounding like an asshole, It upsets me that people
    -don’t recognize that disability is not comparable to race or gender.
    -keep insisting that I’m saying that disability is completely terrible always ever.
    As for talking past each other, I can only speak for myself, but I do think I understand where the other side is coming from. And I don’t agree that using words like lame or crazy is necessarily indicative of the sentiment of overwhelming gloom and doom badness.
    “it’s the fact that when some PWD voice concern that there is no room in our cultural ideas on disability for anything other than awful, wrenching pathos,…”
    I don’t think that this is what a lot of us are saying. Some of us are just upset that a lot of these attempts to push these words out of the language seem to be making our experience into something it’s not. It’s the same reason that the term “differently-abled”, it erases ALL negatives, and sends the message that there’s nothing wrong, if people would just stop being such meanies.
    “it is highly frustrating to try to engage disability issues on this site when this response always pops up”
    It’s frustrating to try to talk about anything with a bunch of people that have very different opinions on very personal matters. If it was a clear, clean issue, we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all.
    I think that it is possible to question the cultural representation of disability without stripping language of meaning.

    Oh, and you’re going to have to try harder than that to erase me.

  59. coldneedles
    coldneedles May 3, 2010 at 10:50 am |

    Personally, even though I experience my disability as largely painful and unpleasant (even with societal problems removed this would be the case), I still find language of the kind Cara is talking about to be ableist and am trying to eliminate it.

    Firstly because I recognise that not everyone has the same experience of disability and this kind of language refers to them as well as me. For example, if someone uses the word lame (refering to inability/difficulty in walking) as a shorthand for bad, then they are not referring to only me who doesn’t like the difficulty I have walking but also to people like Harriet McBryde Johnson, who didn’t want a cure for her neuromuscular disability and enjoyed her life the way it was. That does not seem a fair and judicous use of language to me.

    The second thing is that such language essentially uses disability as a shorthand to mean something else. It feels to me like someone is invoking a very difficult and complex part of my life/my body merely as a means to say how much something sucks. It seems to trivalize the experience of being disabled, whether that experience is good, bad, neutral or a bit of all three.

    Thirdly, most of these words convey inaccuracies about disability. Blindness/deafness are not equivalent to choosing not to see/hear, having a mental illness does not make someone’s judgments inherently and purposefully irrational, not being able to talk does not equal stupidity ect. I don’t see a lot of real meaning being conveyed, just ugly stereotypes.

  60. William
    William May 3, 2010 at 10:58 am |

    It’s the same reason that the term “differently-abled”, it erases ALL negatives, and sends the message that there’s nothing wrong, if people would just stop being such meanies.

    I’m not a fan of “differently-abled” either (I didn’t get wings or X-ray vision in exchange for my CP and MDD), but I think you might be misunderstanding where a lot of people come from when it comes to policing the language of disability. I have absolutely no problem with a disabled person defining their own experience, being loud about it, making demands because of it, and generally agitating for the kinds of social change that are necessary to have the same rights as everyone else. Hell, I applaud it when someone has the energy and will to do so. What I take offense to is language which strips people of their ability to define their experience. Terms like “differently abled” are just the otherside of the same coin as a term like “disabled” or “retarded.” They are signs which exclude the signified. They create a taboo around disability, they serve the needs of society not of the disabled person. Negatives should be erased when they are created by the society, only then can disabled people be allowed to define what we are living in a way which suits us.

    I think that it is possible to question the cultural representation of disability without stripping language of meaning.

    Language is cultural representation. Any meaning you might find in it is cultural representation. To question the culture is to question the meaning. Human experience isn’t objective and normative. It is idiosyncratic, messy, chaotic, constantly changing. Any word or term which we might develop to signify so broad an experience as disability is bound to lack nuance, it is bound to be an oversimplification, it is bound to serve the needs of persons currently holding power. You can subvert the signs, appropriate them, argue them, mock them, reject them, replace them, but you can never separate them from the judgments and values which they signify.

  61. Samantha B.
    Samantha B. May 3, 2010 at 11:11 am |

    “Oh, and you’re going to have to try harder than that to erase me.”
    That reads as pretty damn arrogant given it tends to look an awful lot like you’re attempting to erase my own experience and those of others like me with a mental illness.

    it erases ALL negatives, and sends the message that there’s nothing wrong, if people would just stop being such meanies.

    No. First of all “differently-abled” does nothing to erase negatives; it focuses on positives, which is hardly the same thing. To get back on topic (your discussion of the term “differently abled” which was not addressed in this post, is highly diversionary,) “crazy” is an absolutely useless term when used to refer to mental illness. It says absolutely nothing about the nature of mental illnesses; it’s just a blanket insult that, here we go again, “erases” the specifics of mental illness. It’s not a particularly astute term, and your allegiance to it starts to make it look like you’re committed to telling yourself that you’re better than other people. Go ahead. I’ve had enough experience with friends and relatives that are mentally ill and otherwise disabled to know that you’re dead on wrong. If you want to make yourself appear arrogant, poorly informed, and not terribly aware, you certainly have that right, although I do question that this is an ideal space for it.

  62. Kristin
    Kristin May 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm |

    I am physically disabled. I loathe the term “differently-abled” because it isn’t descriptively accurate. It’s one thing to suggest that “all people are differently abled.” That’s a benign statement that also happens to be true since, you know, we’re all special snowflakes of a sort. But to label people with disabilities as “differently-abled” is patronizing and alienating in the extreme. We are not “differently abled” as much as we are marked as *less* abled (especially when it comes to external judgments about our utility within the capitalist work force). It does nothing for me or my community when good privileged people insist on referring to me in hushed, euphemistic, PC terms. For the record, I hate words like “special” and “special populations” just as much.

    I am not completely neurotypical. I have struggled all my life with major depression, but I hesitate to identify as non-neurotypical mostly because I did not identify as a person with disabilities until I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease. My depression and mild dyspraxia tended to be well-controlled and manageable until I became physically ill, and I have concerns about being appropriative of “non-neurotypical” as an identity. It is likely because my own mental and emotional struggles are fairly secondary to me as a disabled person that insults like “crazy” and “insane” don’t bother me as much as others. It doesn’t elicit a visceral hurt response from me, but I nevertheless try not to use it because I think it’s important to listen to people who *do* find them hurtful.

    I also want to say that I think people are being a unfairly dismissive of MER here. While I agree that it’s important not to use slurs that are linked to disability, i have *also* felt a lot of pressure from able-bodied individuals to “be positive” and “embrace” my identity with pride. When I first became ill, it seemed all of a sudden as if people expected me to have turned into a Wise Sage with Wisdom for the Ages on hand. They thought I’d suddenly be more spiritual or something, and they wanted the kinds of advice that one finds in New Agey positive thinking seminars. I always have–and still do–hate that shit.

    Many people are uncomfortable with hearing about our pain and suffering, so they’ll ask about what we’re “most grateful” for when it comes to our illness. Or about the “most important lesson” we’ve learned. My response is always that I’m not an object sitting around to serve as your Inspiration/Positive Thought for the Day. Often, this kind of treatment happens in progressive, well-meaning communities of people who are well-trained in the art of Not Using Anti-PC Slurs. I think what MER may be getting at is that using the right words isn’t enough because we *still* get treated in blatantly offensive, paternalistic ways. And over-emphasis on language can make people think we want them to shower us with sappy compliments and thank us for existing all day. Those kinds of things, in case it hasn’t been heard yet, are JUST as offensive and othering as slurs. I personally experience them as *more* so. I do not like being treated like a child in a self-esteem seminar.

    Furthermore, I understand the idea of embracing identity, but this is all too often used as a silencing mechanism to keep suffering people from speaking honestly about their suffering. And I do NOT want to be lectured by able-bodied people about the need to embrace my identity–in fact, I don’t think able-bodied people need to be having a discussion about this part of disability experience *at all.* It’s happening in this thread to MER, NOT because the able-bodied people here are worried about her self-esteem, but because the “negativity” makes them uncomfortable. I suffer from a chronic pain condition, and I feel very similar to her about my disease. There is *nothing* about it that makes me grateful. It causes constant pain that prevents me from leaving home for long stretches at a time. My lack of physical stamina railroaded my promising career and has left me in poverty. I am struggling to learn to live with it, but that doesn’t mean I want to jump with you all onto the Positivity Train in order to make you feel better about your own mortality or whateverthefuck it is that you’re after. It makes me incredibly angry to see MER being pressured like this here.

  63. Anna
    Anna May 3, 2010 at 1:26 pm |

    There are an awful lot of people with disabilities in this thread that you need to ignore in order to get that able-bodied people are telling MER to cheer up and be positive, including amandaw and abby jean.

  64. Marc
    Marc May 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm |

    This could be a valuable discussion… if one side wasn’t dipping into the ad hominem well and calling MER “arrogant” or saying “you don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about here.” Why is she the only one that has to be open-minded? Why is she a bad person (according to quotes like the above) and not just someone who has a position you disagree with? Why would ANYONE insult the person or position of someone who is dealing with disability and simply sees things differently from you? #fail

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