the dehumanizers

2

You may have seen these fliers going around on social media and just to be safe I’m warning you all that this is false. It was posted maliciously on reddit and spread around to get undocumented immigrants to disclose their documentation status. Likely thinking that some would get reported on or whatever intentions that were had here.
It’s spread so much that Starbucks even sent out memos to all their stores about this rumor. Spread the information that it is FALSE.

8

Ruth Hopkins updates on the illegal evictions at Standing Rock

[TWEET #1: Helicopters, humvees, assault rifles, being used by police against women and elders on U.S. soil. #NoDAPL

TWEET #2: Armed searches, camp is being swept. This is the raid. #NoDAPL

TWEET #3: They’re arresting the veterans #NoDAPL

TWEET #4: Guns drawn #NoDAPL

TWEET #5: Arresting people praying #NoDAPL

TWEET #6: Grandmother arrested. Please don’t strip her and number her and put her in a dog kennel like you did the rest #NoDAPL

TWEET #7: The people are unarmed, singing and praying in front of police with guns drawn #NoDAPL

TWEET #8: This is not the end. This is just the beginning.]

Feb. 23rd, 2017.

consider this. I don’t care that it’s actually more profitable to feed and house people, I think we should do it even if it was an expense on society because I’m not a fucking asshole. Most homeless people are women and children and some of yall out here like “well if child labor was legal maybe these kids could buy their own food, instead of taking handouts” 

or “the government really needs to think about saving money not helping people” because we have soooo many cases of austerity measures working… lmao oh wait we fucking dont and it’s failed horribly to hoard money like literal dragons.

The rules about responding to call outs aren’t working

Privileged people rarely take the voices of marginalized people seriously. Social justices spaces attempt to fix this with rules about how to respond to when marginalized people tell you that you’ve done something wrong. Like most formal descriptions of social skills, the rules don’t quite match reality. This is causing some problems that I think we could fix with a more honest conversation about how to respond to criticism.

The formal social justice rules say something like this:

  • You should listen to marginalized people.
  • When a marginalized person calls you out, don’t argue.
  • Believe them, apologize, and don’t do it again.
  • When you see others doing what you were called out for doing, call them out.

Those rules are a good approximation of some things, but they don’t actually work. It is impossible to follow them literally, in part because:

  • Marginalized people are not a monolith. 
  • Marginalized people have the same range of opinions as privileged people.
  • When two marginalized people tell you logically incompatible things, it is impossible to act on both sets of instructions.
  • For instance, some women believe that abortion is a human right foundational human right for women. Some women believe that abortion is murder and an attack on women and girls.
  • “Listen to women” doesn’t tell you who to believe, what policy to support, or how to talk about abortion. 
  • For instance, some women believe that religious rules about clothing liberate women from sexual objectification, other women believe that religious rules about clothing sexually objectify women. 
  • “Listen to women” doesn’t tell you what to believe about modesty rules. 
  • Narrowing it to “listen to women of minority faiths” doesn’t help, because women disagree about this within every faith.
  • When “listen to marginalized people” means “adopt a particular position”, marginalized people are treated as rhetorical props rather than real people.
  • Objectifying marginalized people does not create justice.

Since the rule is literally impossible to follow, no one is actually succeeding at following it. What usually ends up happening when people try is that:

  • One opinion gets lifted up as “the position of marginalized people” 
  • Agreeing with that opinion is called “listen to marginalized people”
  • Disagreeing with that opinion is called “talking over marginalized people”
  • Marginalized people who disagree with that opinion are called out by privileged people for “talking over marginalized people”.
  • This results in a lot of fights over who is the true voice of the marginalized people.
  • We need an approach that is more conducive to real listening and learning.

This version of the rule also leaves us open to sabotage:

  • There are a lot of people who don’t want us to be able to talk to each other and build effective coalitions.
  • Some of them are using the language of call-outs to undermine everyone who emerges as an effective progressive leader. 
  • They say that they are marginalized people, and make up lies about leaders.
  • Or they say things that are technically true, but taken out of context in deliberately misleading ways.
  • The rules about shutting up and listening to marginalized people make it very difficult to contradict these lies and distortions. 
  • (Sometimes they really are members of the marginalized groups they claim to speak for. Sometimes they’re outright lying about who they are).
  • (For instance, Russian intelligence agents have used social media to pretend to be marginalized Americans and spread lies about Hillary Clinton.)

The formal rule is also easily exploited by abusive people, along these lines:

  • An abusive person convinces their victim that they are the voice of marginalized people.
  • The abuser uses the rules about “when people tell you that you’re being oppressive, don’t argue” to control the victim.
  • Whenever the victim tries to stand up for themself, the abuser tells the victim that they’re being oppressive.
  • That can be a powerfully effective way to make victims in our communities feel that they have no right to resist abuse. 
  • This can also prevent victims from getting support in basic ways.
  • Abusers can send victims into depression spirals by convincing them that everything that brings them pleasure is oppressive and immoral. 
  • The abuser may also isolate the victim by telling them that it would be oppressive for them to spend time with their friends and family, try to access victim services, or call the police. 
  • The abuser may also separate the victim from their community and natural allies by spreading baseless rumors about their supposed oppressive behavior. (Or threatening to do so).
  • When there are rules against questioning call outs, there are also implicit rules against taking the side of a victim when the abuser uses the language of calling out.
  • Rules that say some people should unconditionally defer to others are always dangerous.

The rule also lacks intersectionality:

  • No one experiences every form of oppression or every form of privilege.
  • Call-outs often involve people who are marginalized in different ways. 
  • Often, both sides in the conflict have a point.
  • For instance, black men have male privilege and white women have white privilege.
  • If a white woman calls a black man out for sexism and he responds by calling her out for racism (or vice versa), “listened to marginalized people” isn’t a very helpful rule because they’re both marginalized.
  • These conversations tend to degenerate into an argument about which form of marginalization is most significant.
  • This prevents people involved from actually listening to each other.
  • In conflicts like this, it’s often the case that both sides have a legitimate point. (In ways that are often not immediately obvious.)
  • We need to be able to work through these conflicts without expecting simplistic rules to resolve them in advance.

This rule also tends to prevent groups centered around one form of marginalized from coming to engage with other forms of marginalization:

  • For instance, in some spaces, racism and sexism are known to be issues, but ableism is not.
  • (This can occur in any combination. Eg: There are also spaces that get ableism and sexism but not racism, and spaces that get economic justice and racism but not antisemitism, or any number of other things.)
  • When disabled people raise the issue of ableism in any context (social justice or otherwise), they’re likely to be shouted down and told that it’s not important.
  • In social justice spaces, this shouting down is often done in the name of “listening to marginalized people”.
  • For instance, disabled people may be told ‘you need to listen to marginalized people and de-center your issues’, carrying the implication that ableism is less important than other forms of oppression.
  • (This happens to *every* marginalized group in some context or other.)
  • If we want real intersectional solidarity, we need to have space for ongoing conflicts that are not simple to resolve.

Tl;dr “Shut up and listen to marginalized people” isn’t quite the right rule, because it objectifies marginalized people, leaves us open to sabotage, enables abuse, and prevents us from working through conflicts in a substantive way. We need to do better by each other, and start listening for real.

Autistic people can have friends

One reason I started writing this blog is that I got tired of seeing social skills programs teach autistic people that they have to become normal in order to have friends.

It’s not true. There are a lot of autistic people who have friends without becoming remotely normal. Oddness and friendship are entirely compatible.

You can be autistic, seem autistic, and have friends who like you and enjoy your company.

Some people won’t like you, and that’s ok. Not everyone has to like everyone.

Some people will dislike you because they are bigoted against autistic people. That’s not ok, but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. Ableists don’t speak for everyone. Those people aren’t your friends. Other people can be.

You’ll probably always face ableism. Trying to be normal probably won’t make that go away; accepting yourself probably won’t make that go away either. You don’t need to change the whole world in order to have friends.

You can have friends as the person you are, in the world as it is now.

lilith-eves-last-stand  asked:

Sorry if this comes off ignorant, I don't mean it... My son is 4 1/2 and was diagnosed two years ago. I try to do the best I can and let him be him 💕 but while he's in speech therapy (he's still moving into the idea of talking), schools in the area (private) push ABA for students with autism. But I see young adults like yourself saying ABA is NOT good. I'm more inclined to listen to someone on the spectrum than those not, but what is the issue with ABA?

First, I want to say that I am so glad that you are turning to the autistic community for help. This isn’t an ignorant question at all. There is so much conflicting information out there about ABA that it can be hard to even know where to begin. It sounds like you really want to help your son as best you can which is admirable. 

To start off, not all therapy labeled as ABA is actually ABA. I’m going to explain what the issues are with true ABA and then explain how to figure out if the therapy they are trying to push on your son is ABA or not. 

ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis. It is a scientific method that involves observing the individual in order to identify “target behaviors,” i.e. behaviors that are undesirable to the parents/therapist. Next, aversives, rewards, and operant conditioning is used to eliminate these behaviors and encourage wanted behaviors. Overall, this may not sound like a bad thing, so let’s get into why this therapy is harmful. 

The groundwork of ABA therapy is the idea that autistic people are broken and in need of fixing. Our natural, non-harmful behaviors, such as stimming or lack of eye contact, are targeted as behaviors in need of fixing. The main focus of ABA is making a child “indistinguishable from peers,” i.e. to make the child seem “normal.” 

This often includes things like getting rid of stimming (often with the phrase “quiet hands”) and forcing eye contact in order to make the child less noticeably autistic. The problem with this is that stimming is a coping mechanism for autistic people. We stim to regulate our emotions/senses, cope with stress, and express ourselves. Eye contact can be uncomfortable or even painful for us and being forced to perform it can be just awful. 

Further, changing these behaviors does nothing that is truly beneficial for the child. Instead of being trained out of behaviors that are non-harmful, an autistic child should be taught ways to manage their autistic traits in a way that is useful and productive for the child. For instance, if a child is uncomfortable making eye contact, learning to look at a person’s forehead or nose is a great alternative as most people can’t tell the difference. 

Further, due to the focus on making a child indistinguishable from peers, there is often a push towards verbal speech even when atypical methods of communication like sign language or AAC would work better for the child. 

ABA therapy operates by using rewards/reinforces and punishments/aversives to train a child to perform wanted behaviors and to stop unwanted behaviors. Rewards are withheld until the wanted behavior is performed and aversives are used when an unwanted behavior is performed. Often, foods, such as gummy bears, candy, or other tasty treats, are used as rewards as well as praise or affection, access to a comfort object, break time, stickers or stamps that can be traded for privileges/rewards, or access to a special interest. Additionally, some therapists make use of a clicker, a device that makes a loud click sound originally used for training animals, to indicate that a wanted behavior has been performed and that a reward is coming. 

For aversives, the removal of a comfort object, withholding of snacks, removal of reward items, or prevention of engagement in a special interest are often used. Some therapists also use “taste aversives” like pickle juice, vinegar, hot sauce, or other bad tasting edibles, as well as “tactile aversives” which would be making the child touch something that sets off tactile defensiveness or distress. Withholding praise or affection is also used as an aversive. 

In DTT (Discrete Trial Training), a form of ABA that is considered to be kinder than other versions of ABA, the therapist will not look at, engage with, or respond to the autistic child until the desired behavior is performed. Similar methods are employed when unwanted behaviors are displayed. 

As a treatment, ABA is centered around compliance training, in other words, making a child compliant to the desires of the adults in their lives. Rather than focusing on how to help a child live the best autistic life they can, the focus is put on making the child seem “normal” no matter what the cost to the child. This serves only to make parents more comfortable and does little to help the autistic child as they progress through life. 

Using aversives on a child ranges from bad to cruel depending on the aversive used. Withholding rewards from the child, particularly when those rewards are food or other necessities, creates insecurity in the child. Further, by training a child in this way, the child becomes more vulnerable to victimization. When you are told by all the adults in your life that you must ignore your own pain and discomfort for the sake of adults, how is a child to know when they are being abused? How is a child to know that the adult touching them in that way is wrong when they are forced into hugs which are painful for them? 

You may have noticed that what was described here sounds an awful lot like dog training, and that’s because it is. ABA trains a child in the same way you would train an animal which is dehumanizing. Autistic children are not animals whose behavior should be crafted to suit those around them. Autistic children are unique individuals who need support and care. 

Finally, ABA therapy is often a full time job for the autistic child. Often, 40 hours a week or more of therapy is recommended for optimal results. It is ridiculous to put a child through such a strenuous routine. 

So what are you to do instead? Obviously you want to help your child live the best life possible which is wonderful. There are plenty of therapies that can be very helpful to autistic children. Speech therapy, which you’re already doing, can be great for children who are struggling with verbal speech, though methods of AAC should be provided until the child is able to communicate verbally (and even then, AAC should still be available for times when the child goes nonverbal/semiverbal). 

Occupational therapy to help with sensory integration or motor difficulties or other areas in which the child is struggling. There are also play-based therapies like floor time which can be very beneficial to autistic children. No matter which therapies you utilize to help your child there are a few things to keep in mind. 

First, therapy should be supplemental according to the child’s need rather than the central aspect of their life. If the therapy schedule would be exhausting for an adult, it’s not appropriate for the child. Next, does this therapy help the child live the best autistic life they can or does it focus on making the child appear to be “normal”? Normalization is for the benefit of parents while good therapy focuses on helping the child with things that the child finds problematic such as learning to cope with sensory issues or learning better communication (whether that’s verbal communication or AAC). 

So how do you figure out is what is being presented to you is true ABA or something else masquerading as ABA? There are some questions you can ask to help sort this out. First, though, we need to go over why there are therapies that aren’t ABA calling themselves ABA. In the US, most insurance plans will ONLY cover ABA for autistic children. As such, many therapists who perform other therapies have resorted to labeling themselves ABA in order to be covered by insurance. This allows them to work with children that otherwise wouldn’t be able to access these therapies. As such, what is being pushed for your child may not be true ABA. 

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What is the goal of the therapy? As we’ve discussed, ABA focuses on making the child “indistinguishable from peers” or normalization. If you hear that phrase, turn away and don’t look back. Even if the therapy isn’t ABA, the goal of making a child appear “normal” is not a useful goal for the child and can be detrimental. 
  • Does the therapy make use of rewards and aversives? We’ve discussed why aversives and rewards can be damaging to a child. A good therapy for your child will use other means to discourage harmful behavior. 
  • Does the therapy emphasize compliance? Compliance makes for a “well-behaved” child but does not lead to a healthy, independent adult (which I’m sure is what you’re hoping for in your child’s future). Therapies should focus on helping a child manage any harmful traits they have without forcing them to be compliant to an adults wishes. Just like all children, autistic children will not always be obedient or follow adults’ wishes. This is how it is supposed to be. Children need the space to make their own mistakes and learn and grow. Compliance teaches a child to shutdown their own needs and desires to fit the desires of another. 
  • Does this therapy discourage non-harmful behaviors? Autistic children will sometimes engage in behaviors that are harmful to themselves or others. These behaviors definitely need to be addressed and worked on. For instance, a child’s stims may physically hurt another person such as grabbing onto other people to stim. This behavior is not ok and a parent/therapist should work with the child to redirect the behavior. However, ABA often focuses on stopping behaviors that are not harmful. For instance, most stimming does not hurt anyone. It may be atypical behavior, but it generally does not hurt the child or anyone else. If a child is being bullied for their stims, that should be addressed with the school to change the harmful behavior of the other students rather than stopping the child from engaging in behaviors that are useful for self-regulation and expression. A good therapy will focus only on discouraging harmful behaviors. 
  • Are you allowed to observe the therapy as you please? In non-harmful therapies, you will generally be allowed to observe the therapy whenever you wish as they have nothing to hide. If a therapy will not allow you to observe what is being done, then it may be harmful to your child. However, even some therapies that are harmful may allow observation, so, when you do observe, make sure to really pay attention to how they treat your child. 

If the therapy being presented to you passes all of these questions, then it is not true ABA and could potentially be helpful for your child. As we’ve discussed, there are many therapies that can be beneficial to autistic children. Some useful goals of therapy could include:

  • Changing harmful behaviors- if a child is causing harm to themselves or others, the behavior needs to be addressed and the child should be provided with alternatives to help redirect the behavior. For instance, if a child is playing with their own poop, the child needs to be taught that this is unsanitary and provided with playdoh or other sensory tools to use to redirect the need for sensory input. Similarly, if the child hits others while melting down, one alternative may be providing the child with a pillow or stuffed animal to hit instead. 
  • Communication- While many therapies focus on speech, the true goal should be improved communication. This may include speech as a goal if that is within the child’s abilities, but it should also include forms of AAC to be used for communication either until the child is able to learn verbal speech or instead of verbal speech if speech is too difficult for the child. AAC can include letter boards, picture boards, text to speech apps, among others. Sign language can also be useful in facilitating communication. 
  • Managing Sensory Input- Many autistic children are hyposensitive and/or hypersensitive to sensory input. As such, it is important to teach the child ways to manage their sensory sensitivities. This may include managing their sensory diet by setting aside time for sensory play, use of sensory defenders like headphones/ear defenders/ear plugs, sunglasses, or other methods of regulating sensory input, and stimming as a method of regulating sensory input. 
  • Anything that causes the child distress- If a child is struggling in an area and it causes them distress, that is a good thing to work on in therapy. For instance, if the child is having frequent meltdowns, one of the goals of therapy should be to figure out why the child is having so many meltdowns and find ways to accommodate the child to prevent meltdowns. Similarly, if the child struggles with socializing with other children and is upset by this, social skills classes may be beneficial. If something is upsetting for the child, then it is likely a good goal for therapy. However, if the child is not bothered by something, therapy likely isn’t necessary (unless it is causing harm to the child or others).

So this got super long. I hope I’ve addressed everything you needed covered. If you have anymore questions, you are welcome to send me more asks or check out @autism-asks to get more info about autism. 

Finally, I’m going to leave you with some links that cover ABA from other perspectives:

I hope this helps you and your son! 

-Sabrina

We're autistic, we're human, get used to it

Some dehumanizing descriptions of autism are negative. For example, some people believe that we are incapable of love, or incapable of imagination, or incapable of understanding anything of importance.

Some dehumanizing descriptions of autism are positive. For instance, some people believe that we are incapable of lying, incapable of being manipulative, and that we always say exactly what we mean.

Autism doesn’t work that way. We are fully human, for better and for worse. We are fallible. We make communication mistakes. We don’t always know what we mean, and we don’t always express ourselves clearly. For instance, sometimes we say things that feel direct but that are actually very confusing. That’s human.

We are capable of treating others well, and we are capable of treating others badly. We are capable of caring about others, and we are capable of indifference. We are capable of being kind, and we are capable of being cruel.

Autism means having disabilities that can affect how we communicate, how we move, and how we understand things. Autism doesn’t make us better than other people, and it doesn’t make us worse. We’re not subhuman, and we’re not superhuman. We’re just people.

On trauma aftermaths that don't advance the plot

The way TV shows trauma can lead people to expect every reference to trauma to be a plot point. This can be isolating to people coping with the aftermaths of trauma. Sometimes people treat us as stories rather than as people. Sometimes, instead of listening to us, they put a lot of pressure on us to advance the plot they’re expecting.

On TV, triggers tend to be full audiovisual flashbacks that add something to the story. You see a vivid window into the character’s past, and something changes. On TV, trauma aftermaths are usually fascinating. Real life trauma aftermaths are sometimes interesting, but also tend to be very boring to live with.

On TV, triggers tend to create insight. In real life, they’re often boring intrusions interfering with the things you’d rather be thinking about. Sometimes knowing darn well where they come from doesn’t make them go away. Sometimes it’s more like: Seriously? This again?

On TV, when trauma is mentioned, it’s usually a dramatic plot point that happens in a moment. In real life, trauma aftermaths are a mundane day-to-day reality that people live with. They’re a fact of life — and not necessarily the most important one at all times. People who have experienced trauma do other things too. They’re important, but not the one and only defining characteristic of who someone is. And things that happened stay important even when you’re ok. Recovery is not a reset. Mentioning the past doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in crisis.

On TV, when a character mentions trauma, or gets triggered in front of someone, it’s usually a dramatic moment. It changes their life, or their relationship with another character, or explains their backstory, or something. In real life, being triggered isn’t always a story, and telling isn’t always a turning point. Sometimes it’s just mentioning something that happened to be relevant. Sometimes it’s just a mundane instance of something that happens from time to time.

Most people can’t have a dramatic transformative experience every time it turns out that their trauma matters. Transformative experiences and moments of revelation exist, but they’re not the end all and be all of trauma aftermaths. Life goes on, and other things matter too. And understanding what a reaction means and where it came from doesn’t always make it go away. Sometimes, it takes longer and has more to do with skill-building than introspection. Sometimes it doesn’t go away.

On a day to day level, it’s often better to be matter-of-fact about aftermaths. It can be exhausting when people see you as a story and expect you to advance the plot whenever they notice some effect of trauma. Pressure to perform narratives about healing doesn’t often help people to make their lives better. Effect support involves respecting someone as a complex human, including the boring parts.

The aftermath of trauma is a day-to-day reality. It affects a lot of things, large and small. It can be things like being too tired to focus well in class because nightmares kept waking you up every night this week. TV wants that to be a dramatic moment where the character faces their past and gets better. In real life, it’s often a day where you just do your best to try and learn algebra anyway. Because survivors do things besides be traumatized and think about trauma. Sometimes it’s not a story. Sometimes it’s just getting through another day as well as possible.

A lot of triggers are things like being unable to concentrate on anything interesting because some kinds of background noises make you feel too unsafe to pay attention to anything else. For the zillionth time.  Even though you know rationally that they’re not dangerous. Even though you know where they come from, and have processed it over and over. Even if you’ve made a lot of progress in dealing with them, even if they’re no longer bothersome all the time. For most people, recovery involves a lot more than insight. The backstory might be interesting, but being tired and unable to concentrate is boring.

Triggers can also mean having to leave an event and walk home by yourself while other people are having fun, because it turns out that it hurts too much to be around pies and cakes. Or having trouble finding anything interesting to read that isn’t intolerably triggering. Or having trouble interacting with new people because you’re too scared or there are too many minefields. Or being so hypervigilant that it’s hard to focus on anything. No matter how interesting the backstory is, feeling disconnected and missing out on things you wanted to enjoy is usually boring.

When others want to see your trauma as a story, their expectations sometimes expand to fill all available space. Sometimes they seem to want everything to be therapy, or want everything to be about trauma and recovery.

When others want every reference to trauma to be the opening to a transformative experience, it can be really hard to talk about accommodations. For instance, it gets hard to say things like:

  • “I’m really tired because of nightmares” or 
  • “I would love to go to that event, but I might need to leave because of the ways in which that kind of thing can be triggering” or 
  • “I’m glad I came, but I can’t handle this right now” or
  • “I’m freaking out now, but I’ll be ok in a few minutes” or 
  • “I need to step out — can you text me when they stop playing this movie?”

It can also be hard to mention relevant experiences. There are a lot of reasons to mention experiences other than wanting to process, eg:

  • “Actually, I have experience dealing with that agency”
  • “That’s not what happens when people go to the police, in my experience, what happens when you need to make a police report is…”
  • “Please keep in mind that this isn’t hypothetical for me, and may not be for others in the room as well.”

Or any number of other things.

When people are expecting a certain kind of story, they sometimes look past the actual person. And when everyone is looking past you in search of a story, it can be very hard to make connections.

It helps to realize that no matter what others think, your story belongs to you. You don’t have to play out other people’s narrative expectations. It’s ok if your story isn’t what others want it to be. It’s ok not to be interesting. It’s ok to have trauma reactions that don’t advance the plot. And there are people who understand that, and even more people who can learn to understand that.

It’s possible to live a good life in the aftermath of trauma. It’s possible to relearn how to be interested in things. It’s possible to build space you can function in, and to build up your ability to function in more spaces. It’s often possible to get over triggers. All of this can take a lot of time and work, and can be a slow process. It doesn’t always make for a good story, and it doesn’t always play out the way others would like it to. And, it’s your own personal private business. Other people’s concern or curiosity does not obligate you to share details.

Survivors and victims have the right to be boring. We have the right to deal with trauma aftermaths in a matter-of-fact way, without indulging other people’s desires for plot twists. We have the right to own our own stories, and to keep things private. We have the right to have things in our lives that are not therapy; we have the right to needed accommodations without detailing what happened and what recovery looks like. Neither traumatic experiences nor trauma aftermaths erase our humanity.

We are not stories, and we have no obligation to advance an expected plot. We are people, and we have the right to be treated as people. Our lives, and our stories, are our own.

You can't fight stigma by making disability unspeakable

I’ve noticed that a lot of well-meaning people try to fight disability stigma by making disability unspeakable.

The logic seems to be like this:

  • They notice that when people are seen as disabled, they are respected less. 
  • They call this stigma, and think of stigma as a very bad problem. 
  • They then try to figure out how to make stigma go away so that people will be respected more.
  • They think that if no one was seen as disabled, there would be no stigma.
  • They try to get people to pretend that disability doesn’t exist.
  • They expect this to somehow improve the lives of people with disabilities. (On the grounds that if everyone ignores disability, there will be no disability stigma.)

This approach doesn’t work. Disability exists, whether or not anyone is willing to acknowledge it. When we try to fight stigma by ignoring disability, we send the message that disability is unacceptable.

When people are made to pretend that their disability does not exist, they learn that basic things about their body are unspeakable. When people are made to pretend someone else’s disability doesn’t exist, they learn that if they stopped ignoring basic things about them, it would be impossible to keep respecting them. These are not good lessons.

If you need to pretend someone isn’t disabled in order to respect them, you’re not really respecting them. You’re giving imaginary respect to an imaginary nondisabled person. People with disabilities deserve better. People with disabilities don’t need fake respect handed out as a consolation prize. People with disabilities need to be treated with real respect, as the people they really are.

If we want to fight stigma, we have to get real. Disability exists, and pretending that it doesn’t just makes the problem worse. Stigma is not caused by noticing disability; stigma is caused by ableist attitudes towards disability. It is ok to be disabled, it is not ok to be ableist, and it is upon all of us to build a culture that understands that.

maybe politicians and the super rich are so worried about poor people cheating the system to survive because they think we’re like them and want more money than we could possibly spend … at the tax payers expense, which is exactly what they do for themselves. They’re worried we cheat the system for money to live on because they cheat the system for billions to sit on.

The whole thing with trying to assign Pennywise as an LGBT icon is just… bad. Like, the Babadook thing was due to Netflix categorizing it in it’s “LGBT Movies,” section and it became a running joke. People made memes and wrote long articles about the experiences of the Babadook to the experiences of a gay person. But AS. A. JOKE. A running joke/sarcasm based off a Netflix error. 

The thing with Pennywise is that the joke over Babadook was seemingly missed and instead it was treated as if the LGBT community randomly assigned Babadook as an actual gay icon. So now what? Every time a monster movie comes out we have to hear about how that’s an LGBTQ icon too? Do we really need that sexual/gender identities as movie monsters list? As if we’re not seen as monsters enough? 

And to make it worse you’re attempting to assign a character as an LGBT “icon” that is featured in an explicitly violent homophobic attack. A character that also homophobically taunts a boy who was seemingly characterized as closeted in the previous adaptation. My goodness. 

If anyone ever tries to tell you that slavery never existed in Canada, they’re lying to your face and are perpetuating myths of Canadian benevolence and US-Canada contrasts. They’re ignoring over 200 years of enslavement, and the recorded 2,683 Indigenous slaves, mainly from the Pawnee Nation, and the recorded 1,443 Black slaves that occupied New France ALONE before the Conquest by the British. By the way, the entire population of New France back then was apx. 60,000, and the enslaved population made up 4,200 of those.

(So if French Canadians tell you that slavery appeared with the British Conquest, in actuality the British took steps to make it easier for people to own slaves through Article XLVII of the Articles of Capitulation, that many French settlers at that time took advantage of.)

Slaves were held by fur trading post officers, colonial officials, members of the military, Jesuits, Roman Catholic Churches, Baptist Churches, 50% of the later Quebec Parliament, and the common people who often went into debt to have the status symbol of owning a slave.

In 1781, the island of St. John (now P.E.I) passed a law that legalized slavery and paid a 40 shilling bonus for every Black slave brought into the province. In 1790, the Imperial Statute allowed British Loyalists from the states to bring in slaves to the whole country without tax. The same went for the cutlery, furniture, and farm tools they brought with them.

People will try to tell you that Indigenous people owned slaves as well. They kept prisoners of war and exchanged people to pay off debts and replace war-dead, but they were never dehumanized like slaves under European slavery. The two systems are not the same and aren’t even remotely interchangeable.

Slaves weren’t treated like members of the family or like well-loved butlers. They were subject to the same treatment endured by slaves in the 13 colonies. Ownership was justified in similar ways as well: using the Labour Supply argument, where white workers were “too costly” to hire and Black slaves were sometimes said to be “too expensive to import from the French Caribbean.” (They were sold here anyways.) This explains the higher amount of Indigenous slaves.

It also means that Black people have been in Canada for as long as whites; the first recorded slave in Canada showed up in 1629. He was from either Madagascar or Guinea.

People will cite Canada’s lack of a Code Noir as proof of a lack of slavery. Just because we didn’t have a specific document to regulate it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. It did. There are newspaper advertisements in such papers as the Montreal Gazette for runaway slaves and slaves that were up for sale.

The life expectancy of a slave in Canada was 17 years old. The 1790 Act to Limit Slavery pushed by John Simcoe said that slaves born after 1790 would be freed at age 25. See how that doesn’t work?

But most importantly, people will try to tell you that slaves didn’t resist. They did. They launched legal protests and challenges, but were opposed by Judicial members who owned slaves themselves.

Well-known Canadian figures who owned slaves include but aren’t limited to:

James McGill of McGill University fame, Joseph Brant, Sir John Johnson, and William Jarvis.

Modern historians and scholars have tried to deny this. A historian who tried to tell the true story was Professor Marcel Trudel, who wrote “Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: 200 Years of Bondage” in the 1960’s. He was shunned by the academic community, relocated to Ottawa University from his previous chair, and was personally asked by Quebec politicians to stay quiet about the matter because he revealed that slavery existed in New France before the British - destroying the idea of French Canadian moral superiority in that regard. He died in 2011, and his book which so many tried to discredit but so many never could, was only translated into English in 2013.

Slavery existed in Canada. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

  • person with epilepsy: i'm going to use a wheelchair today so i can shop without worrying about hurting myself too much in case I have a seizure
  • person with epilepsy at the grocery store: *briefly stands up to reach something on a tall shelf to add to their cart*
  • them: OH I SEE ANOTHER LAZY FAKE DISABLED LIAR FOR ATTENTION STEALING FROM THE REAL DISABLED WHO I ALSO DON'T CARE ABOUT.
  • person with epilepsy: you know... there are other reasons people use wheelchairs for besides completely not being able to walk?
  • person with epilepsy: are you actually saying I should chance having a seizure in here and hit my head on the hard ass ground and possibly concuss myself at a much higher risk than if I am able to use this wheelchair.
  • them: well i didn't think of that because I'm an ableist fuck. (:
On bearing witness to the humanity of disabled people and the destructiveness of ableism

One of the most powerful things that we can do is to bear witness to the humanity of disabled people and the destructive consequences of ableism. When we bear witness to our humanity and to the things that others do to us, it changes the conversation. Our stories are powerful.

Some people have the privilege of being largely untouched by ableism. (Or being untouched by a particular kind of ableism.) Most people who are privileged in this way are also unaware of how deeply marginalized disabled people are being harmed. (I’m using disability as the primary example here, but this actually applies to ever kind of marginalization.)

We are dehumanized, and a lot of people don’t notice that it’s happening. They’re taught to overlook our humanity, and a lot of what happens to us is hidden from them. When people learn how to notice, they often start caring.

Bearing witness to our humanity means making it impossible to discuss disability in the abstract. It means making people have to notice that when they talk about disability, they’re talking about *actual human beings*. We do things. Some of us have jobs. Some of us are artists. Some of us write. Some of us are married. Some of us are fans of TV shows. Some of us are experts in our fields. Some of us cook. All of us matter. Making people notice us as real human beings changes the conversation about disability.

Speaking out about the consequences of ableism also changes the conversation. When institution survivors bear witness to what happens in institutions, it becomes much more difficult for people to believe that institutionalization is good for disabled people. When people speak out about what authoritarian childhood therapy did to them, it’s harder to pretend that compliance training is harmless. When people speak out about electric shock, it is much harder to pretend that people who are tortured with electric shocks think that it makes their lives better.

When disabled people talk about what it is like to learn the name of their disability by eavesdropping and googling, some parents listen. Likewise, when disabled people talk about what it’s like to grow up without accurate language for ourselves, some parents come to understand the importance of talking to children about their disabilities.

Bearing witness also matters to other disabled people. We often learn to overlook our own humanity. We often learn to disregard the things that others have done to us. When other disabled people are unapologetically human, it’s easier to see ourselves as human. When other disabled people talk about the harm ableism does, it’s easier to remember that these things shouldn’t happen to us.

This doesn’t always work. When people with disabilities bear witness to our humanity and to what happens to us, we often get hostile responses. Even when some people are listening, there are usually also angry people who are not. Even when people are eventually willing to listen, they are often initially angry and mean. Those of us who talk about these things pay a price for doing so. Everyone has the right to decide for themselves whether this is a price they’re willing to pay in a given situation.

Your stories belong to you. Stories can be a powerful force for liberation, but you are not a liberation object. You are a person. You have the right to decide whether or not to tell your stories. If you choose to tell stories, you have the right to decide which stories to tell, how you want to tell them, and who you want to tell them to. (Including, whether or not you want to answer questions that people ask you.) You can also change your mind. Doing some advocacy work doesn’t make you an advocacy object, and it doesn’t strip you of the right to say no. No matter how politically or socially useful your stories are, they belong to you.

Abuse does not make you a broken monster

Our culture often sends the message that if you were abused as a child, you’ll inevitably abuse your children.

It’s not true. I know multiple people personally who grew up in violent homes who have chosen not to be abusive. They experienced violence as children; they do not commit acts of violence as adults. It is possible, it is happening, and people making that choice deserve more respect and recognition.

It’s easier to learn how to parent well from growing up with good parents. It’s also possible to learn from other people. I know this because I’ve seen people do it. To some extent, *everyone* learns from people other than their own parents. (Including their own children. Kids are born with minds of their own, and people who respect their children learn a lot from them about how parenting can and can’t work.) 

It’s a matter of degree. Everyone needs some degree of help and support in learning how to parent; some people need more help and support. Abuse (among other things) may mean that someone needs more help learning parenting; it does not mean that someone will inevitably become an abuser. 

I think we need to talk about this more. Abuse survivors should not be treated as broken monsters. Violence is a choice, and abuse survivors are capable of choosing nonviolence. Abuse survivors are full human beings who have the capacity to make choices, learn skills, and treat others well.