Alright so first off, I’m no expert on literary criticism and I don’t understand how this trope got started from the original post, so let’s look back to the original post now shall we?:
As a mentally ill, queer woman of color i don’t really have any sympathy for privileged mentally ill people who don’t have to deal with other types of oppression having panic attacks or whatever when they find out about oppressive systems. I don’t have that option of turning away from this stuff, I can’t ignore it. The world is triggering for me.
Don’t like, scream at the person or otherwise do something to overtly make them panic when you have a conversation with them but other than that just talk to them like anyone else.
Now, looking at the responses we should have been more proactive about this post, yes, but we never suggested that they don’t deserve accommodation or support,we simply said that in the context of talking about privilege, you do not have a reason to not learn about it.
People have summed this post up as being only a part of the first sentence, and have attacked queercomrade/this blog for not supporting solidarity, but an awareness of other struggles and an awareness of why those other struggles are happening is the first step to solidarity. If a person is unwilling to confront their own behaviors regarding intersectionality then they may by an activist but they aren’t going to be a good one. A white queer person who doesn’t believe racism exists anymore is not going to practice solidarity very well, within or outside of their movement. And their experience of homophobia doesn’t mean they shouldn’t unlearn racist behaviors. Should activism be altered for one’s audience? Yes, to some degree. Does this alteration include not teaching someone about oppression period? No.
Secondly, the post I made, that slurs are not the majority of ableism, relates both to my own experience and to the experiences of my close friends. Ableism has a concrete dimension to it: it includes the disabled minimum wage which is not even close to livable, the threat of institutionalization, being infantalized by authority figures so they can make decisions for you , and in many cases, an inability to work under capitalism and thus a devaluation of your whole self by state organizations and society. The focus that tumblr puts on slurs in general is legitimate but misplaced; the forms of oppression I listed would exist without slurs, just as racism still exists even if people use slurs yet.
Are slurs still bad? Absolutely. We should just keep in mind that they are not the only way that people are oppressed.
Since both of my degrees are in literature, lemme do that whole criticism thing that Mod R doesn’t.
"As a mentally ill, queer woman of color i don’t really have any sympathy for privileged mentally ill people who don’t have to deal with other types of oppression having panic attacks or whatever when they find out about oppressive systems."
At no point in this statement does queercomrade specifically say that she doesn’t think mentally ill people with other privileges aren’t mentally ill or aren’t deserving of accommodations. She says, very specifically, that she has no sympathy for those who are mentally ill and privileged who learn about systems of oppression and then experience panic attacks. Could she have stated this better? Absolutely. But I won’t begrudge her here for being as blunt as she was. When you’re mentally ill and suffer from multiple oppressive systems, it’s very hard to be sympathetic to, for example, a rich, white male who has even a severe panic attack when he discovers that there are people of color in his own country starving to death and being enslaved, raped, tortured, etc., in order to support his lifestyle. Which leads to her next point:
"I don’t have that option of turning away from this stuff, I can’t ignore it. The world is triggering for me."
This is precisely why she stated that she doesn’t “really have any sympathy for privileged mentally ill people who don’t have to deal with other types of oppression having panic attacks or whatever when they find out about oppressive systems.” And I completely and entirely see where she’s coming from.
Here’s some personal experience for you:
I was molested by a stranger at the age of 10 in my own neighborhood when walking home from my best friend’s house. She lived less than a block away from me, she had been told to go clean her room, and she heard my screams from the alleyway through her open window. Her parents thought she was just trying to get out of cleaning her room and refused to believe her. So she got to listen to my screams from her room. When I ran home and told my mother, she immediately called the police and we went from there. But here’s the takeaway from this:
I ended up with severe PTSD. My friend ended up with a slightly milder PTSD. She went through therapy, learned there was nothing she could have done, learned coping mechanisms for applying guilt in the right place, and went on to become a kickass activist for child victims of sexual molestation, rape, and sex trafficking. I went on to be severely crippled socially despite the therapy I went through, was terrified of my own thoughts for almost ten years AFTER the event, attempted suicide three times, and participated in self-harming behaviors that I still haven’t completely been able to get rid of.
Was her experience terrible? Yes. Absolutely. She was powerless to do anything while she heard me screaming. Did she learn how to cope with that? Yep. Did she have flashbacks to that event? Probably. But her relationships with other people were nowhere near as negatively affected as mine, she didn’t have to watch what was happening to me, and at the end of the day, she was still safe in her home while I was being violated less than 100 feet from my own home. And she recognized that fact and protected me in any way she could, which I’m eternally grateful for. But I already had depression and anxiety, and once the PTSD was added into that equation, I was essentially doomed. And that’s not an exaggeration; like I said before, I attempted suicide three times between the ages of 10 and 20. I’m sometimes shocked that I’m still alive.
But I recognize a few things about my experience, as well. My parents believed me without hesitation and called the police. My molester was found and brought to justice, and I even got to face him in court and read a statement right to that motherfucker’s face before he was taken away. My parents loved and supported me through every bit of my struggle. To this day, they try their best to understand what I go through every day, even though they often fall short. They praise my accomplishments and treat my failures gently. They acknowledge that I need psych meds and they don’t question it.
This puts me in a position of EXTREME privilege over other survivors. I know this, I admit this, and I accept this. I had support (and still do have support), I had closure (to a degree), my parents were still together (and still are). And all of this doesn’t even take into account that I’m a white woman, meaning I’m more likely to be believed in the first place. Women of color aren’t. But I’m also poor, grew up in poverty. If we had attempted to sue my molester for damages, we would have been seen as money-grubbing and my entire family’s economic history would be put on trial, severely lowering the chances that he would actually be convicted. I know this because the lawyer who represented me and all the other victims (yes, there were others, and there were many) flat out told us so.
So the issue of mental illness and privilege is very, very intricate and nuanced, and although queercomrade may have come off as abrasive and rude (and some people claim ableist), she has a very, very valid point. The world is triggering for me. I don’t have the option NOT to learn about systems of oppression, and I have very little sympathy for those who live a life of extreme privilege if, when they learn about the varied systems of oppression that exist, it causes them to panic.
I don’t think this is an inherently ableist statement. I think it’s a statement that comes from anger and pain and a very deep place of helplessness. Because while someone who is learning about systems of oppression may be triggered by it, some of us are literally living those systems of oppression every single day. It’s like someone gets a paper cut on their pinkie finger and then wants sympathy from someone who lost an entire hand. Does the paper cut hurt? Absolutely! It needs a bandaid and Neosporin and care to make sure it doesn’t become infected. But you still have your hand.
And if anyone tries to gaslight that shit with an argument of “oh it could always be worse,” I will fucking destroy you. That’s not what I’m saying.
"Don’t like, scream at the person or otherwise do something to overtly make them panic when you have a conversation with them but other than that just talk to them like anyone else."
Here, queercomrade states pretty bluntly that you shouldn’t actively attempt to trigger someone or make them panic when they’re learning about systems of oppression. That’s a shitty thing to do. She finishes her response with, “…just talk to them like anyone else.”
This means acknowledging their discomfort and anxiety. It means acknowledging that they may have a difficult time talking about it. It means having patience while they work through their own anxiety regarding the subject.
But it doesn’t mean that we have to personally feel something other than frustration. It just means that we have to outwardly acknowledge another person’s suffering. And that’s basically what this entire conversation is about.
Ableism is so much more than slurs, and yes, we should all work to remove ableist slurs from our vocabularies. But no one can, or should, police how we feel or think or personally react to different situations. Could queercomrade have handled that response better? Sure. But ALL of the mods on this blog can handle a lot of responses better, and I’m frankly surprised that this particular situation blew up as big as it did.
I think as members of the mentally ill community, we all tend to live on a hair-trigger, and we live that way because we really don’t have any other choice. Our every move is judged, from whether we medicate or not, whether we seek out therapy or not, whether we ever get an “official” medical diagnosis or not… Our coping mechanisms are judged, our responses are judged, and everyone seems to think they have the right to tell us how to feel, how to think, and how to react. I’m not even going to touch on the media’s representation of the mentally ill as somehow inherently violent. We live every day being told that we aren’t legitimate, that we aren’t productive, that we aren’t even good members of society, and that makes every single one of our illnesses worse.
Like I said this is a nuanced and extremely complicated issue. Ableism always is, always has been, always will be. But we need to be willing to read and think critically about what we claim to be ableist and how it needs to be combated.