Sunday, 14 October 2012

Inconsistent attitudes towards ablism in social justice spaces:

We it seems can all agree on sexist statements being a bad thing, the use of "Nigger" being a bad thing. (Except in reclaimatory ways by PoC)

But when it comes to disabilist or ablist language people flip the fucking hell out over being asked not to use it. Please note I am going to draw comparisons to racist terms here, not because I think they're comparable, they are different oppressions, but to highlight the completely different reactions and expectations there often are to requests not to use stigmatising and offensive language in safe spaces depending on the minority affected by it.

If a poster on most feminist websites came out with "Nigger", there would be nobody defending and excusing them. It would be considered a ban worth offense, but use ablist slurs and watch the apologetics begin, up to and including the use of social justice tools to silence and shut down people who like PoC and feminists want a safe space as well.

Apparently only Women and People of color are allowed safe spaces in feminist or indeed in many so-called social justice groups. Got a disability? You don't have a right to enjoy the same rights as your peers in a safe space because of it.


A feminist blogger who likes to use and defend ablist slurs on feministe. FYI for the unaware, feministe explicitly bans ablist slurs and ablist language in it's rules, not that you'd think it from all the times it's been allowed by mods, defended by most of the commentors. Evidence:
Ablist views have even been aired by the mod in some of her posts such as the time she argued that it was okay to question women on GF diets because "they might have an eating disorder", because it totally isn't sexist as fuck to question women about their eating and to assume that a specialist diet = ED, and it totally isn't ablist as fuck to claim that people eating GF as a "fad diet" is a legitimate concern that trumps every woman's right to fucking privacy, and then to defend it when celiac posters and other poster who have GF diets for medical reasons explain that they'd rather she didn't fucking encourage people to continue their habits of being inappropriately fucking nosy about what we eat and why we eat it. For the curious.

Needless to say Feministe has a history of being full of ablist fucking people and allowing ablism. I thought I'd highlight one of the fails and go through and explain what total fucking bollocks the defending arguments for why Ablism is okay are.

Here Tori asks a guest blogger not to use idiot an ablist term. If he'd used "Nigger" or similar slurs relating to racism or sexism, that post wouldn't have been posted. If somehow it had gotten past the censors like that? He would have been expected to change it. No ifs, buts or maybes about it.

But when it's an ablist term? Roll out the defending.

Straight off Diane leaps to defend the use of the slur: Basically saying that the objecting person is a dumbass. Could you imagine if the response on a feminist site to a poster complaining about racist or sexist language was "you're a dumbass"? The net would ring with outrage, but since it's disabilism in this case, it's apparently okay.

Back comes the guest blogger with defensiveness:

Argument 1: Omg don't we know it has other meanings?

Yes, it does. But other meanings don't magically erase that the word is part of an inbuilt belief system about disability, any more than the reclaiming of derogatory words by minority groups changes that when a privileged person uses it? It's still fucking derogatory.

The overriding meaning behind many disability related slurs is disability stigma and bigotry. A few other uses doesn't really change that the root of these words is disabilism.

Argument 2: Omg but everyone uses it!

Just because a word was widely used and accepted doesn't mean it has to remain so, there are words that were not offensive or demeaning to a minority group from only 50 years ago that most people wouldn't have even heard of. Words go out of fashion like many things do, when was the last time you saw someone drinking Mercury like they did quite a while back? I'd guess never since it's bloody toxic. 50 years ago lead was in a lot of things, then we figured out it hurts people. 100 years ago Uranium was a common component in watch dials to make them glow in the dark, I highly doubt you are wearing one with uranium paint today.

Argument 3: How do you function if this offends you!1!!!!!

This argument assumes that we are obliged to spend 24/7 educating people. It's bullshit because like any minority group we pick and choose our battles, sometimes we speak up, and sometimes we don't have the energy or the patience to deal with yet another round of bawling from ablist people.

Nobody would think to ask a person of color on feministe how they function and talk to people if the word "Nigger" offends them. 

Argument 4: Omg you'll drive people away from your cause if you point out that their language is problematic.

To be blunt, if I have to turn a blind eye to the ugly shit you say for you to be my ally? You not only suck as an ally, you suck as a decent human being. Allies don't feed this shit and decent people don't demand an exception from being asked not to do things in return for saying they're our allies.

Nobody fucking complains that it's the fault of people of color if a white person won't listen because he or she still wants to use terms like "wog" or "nigger", because we recognise that people of color shouldn't be required to tolerate racist terms to have their voice heard.

Not to mention taking that comment as a whole it's incredibly fucking patronising for a privileged person to lecture a minority on "you're tackling your oppression wrong by asking people not to say shitty things because they might not listen if they have to stop that". Nobody would tolerate that shit said to a woman and/or a person of color on many feminist sites, yet it's often considered fucking fine to say to it to disabled people.

Diane returns with:

Argument 5: But if we change it, then we're encouraging them.

Cos heaven fucking forbid we encourage people to speak up and ask for a safe space, heaven fucking forbid we make an effort to consider the feelings and oppressions of disabled people when in a safe space.

We might actually encourage people to think they have rights and god only knows where that would stop!11!! Extreme sarcasm btw.

This is a shitty fucking argument, nobody would consider it okay to argue that not using "spic" as a slur was encouraging Hispanic people to expect it not to be used as a slur, so why use it about disabled people and our slurs?

Then Florence chimes in with:

Argument 6: I'm disabled and I don't find it offensive.

Well hoofuckingray for you. Your disability =/= the right to decide if other disabled people can find it offensive. Nobody cares if you don't find it offensive, the point is the rest of us do.

Argument 7: Intent is magic.

You are not harry fucking potter okay?

Genderbitch wrote a far more rocking rebuttal to this crap:

I don't care if you're a fucking lost angel who has no mean intentions, you can still say hurtful and harmful shit even if you don't intend it. You wouldn't argue that you didn't intend to step on someone's toe if you did so, you'd apologize and look where you were putting your feet in future, what you say is not magically exempt from the same rule of intent doesn't stop you from hurting someone.

Argument 8. Calling this crap out is power and privilege.

Admittedly, I used to believe this crap, but I was wrong. It's a boneheaded belief.

A: A minority person cannot have privilege in an area they are a minority. B: Asking someone not to do it is not the same as forcing someone.

C: Asking people not to say shitty fucking things that add to the oppression of a minority group is in no fucking way comparable to reaping a systematic benefit from society because of you are white/able bodied/a man/rich/cis-gendered/heterosexual.

Diane comes back with:

Argument 9: Omg but we need negative hurtful words! We can't talk without them.

The English language has some 600,000 words. No more than perhaps about a hundred or so feed directly into the oppression of people. If words were rice grains, I doubt being a hundred or so rice grains short of  600,000 would cause someone's immediate starvation.

In short, if you make this argument, you either speak English so poorly that you have a limited vocabulary or you're just too damn lazy to find alternatives.

The language is evolving, why not make up new words? Or just get them from other languages, it's not like it's anything new for the English language to "acquire" terms from other languages, we've been doing that for centuries for fucks sake. In the last ten or so years we pinched schadenfreude from German because English doesn't have an equivalent term.

I find it hilarious that Diane also argues that people asking David not to use ablist slurs are "unable to accept the evolution of language" since her argument here is that language can't change because she won't have words.

Diane is back with:

Argument 10: If you say someone said something ablist, that's the same as calling them a bigot.

Contrary to popular opinion, I and everyone else do not spend our lives calling people bigots, asking someone not to use a slur =/= calling them a bigot. You can say shitty things without actually intending to be bigoted, you can say them without being overtly bigoted towards others.

In fact overt bigotry is less of an issue that social accepted and inbuilt bigoted beliefs are. It's easy to call the guy being explicitly racially hateful a racist, but it's harder to deal with the vast majority of people who hold and reinforce harmful beliefs about minorities but who insist that they aren't part of the problem because they don't go around being overtly hateful.

You might not be a bigot, but if you say something bigoted, asking you to stop using the word in a safe space is not the same as going "omg I hate u I wisH you deaded you hatefull bigod!111!".

This is a red herring argument, used to derail and force the people asking for positive change to stop and to assure everyone that we didn't call so and so a bigot and we don't think he's a bigot, we'd just like him to stop using the slur. An assurance that will never be accepted because to do so would mean people like Diane giving up this red herring argument.

Diane comes back later with:

Again a hark back to argument 3 and partially argument 11: Omg you're oversensitive, you're the problem.

This argument is a straight out belittle. It basically paints the objecting party as being unreasonable, it's also pretty fucking ablist, because it assumes that anyone who has an issue with triggers is inherently unable to function in society because they have an issue while basically absolving everyone else of the responsibility to not fucking trigger people in safe spaces.

Youmei comes out with:

Argument 12: omg nobody uses it as a derogatory term for a minority anymore.

It's only been about 20 years, less in some places since the term in question was being used as a medical term. It is in fact still widely used colloquially to refer to people with cognitive impairments.

Florence comes back with:

Argument 13: You're being unreasonable.

Here it takes the form of calling people out as condescending and ridiculous for being upset about a word. This argument is basically a form of "There's no problem at all, you're just being unreasonable and making a big fuss", it's belittling and offensive. It's all about the other party being pissy because us unreasonable disabled people ruined all the fun by objecting to such language.

Argument 14: But we always end up talking about this, it's not fair to us to have to put up with your complaints.

This argument basically argues that the problem is it being brought up rather than the fact that if it has to keep being brought up? It's because people keep fucking doing this shit. No more ablist language? No requests for it to cease. No defense of ablist language? No complaints about said defense.

In short the ones keeping the problem alive are those who fucking persist in using and defending ablist bullshit. Bonus assholery is had in the put down of complaints about this language as being complaints about a "piddly problem", could you imagine if someone said that to a PoC who asked someone not to use the N word?

Argument 15: Waaaaaah you're trying to control and manipulate us.

When everyone else asks for slurs about their gender, class, sexuality, race or anything else to not be used, that's social justice. But when a disabled people does it? It's manipulation. This is a common gaslighting tactic used on disabled people, I've been subject to it as an autistic person, when NT people use tactics to get me to behave in ways that please them? That's therapy. When I ask them to please not do something because it bothers me? That's manipulation.

Apparently asking people not to use slurs and explaining why they're harmful is maladjusted shitty rude behaviour.

Argument 16: Omg you're trying to keep language from growing and evolving.

This is a ridiculous fucking argument coming from people who are basically arguing against certain terms going out of acceptable use like many others. If anyone wants to keep language and social involvement static it's actually them.

Argument 17: omg you're abusing us.

This is a really fucking shitty argument to use against people who are asking you not to abuse them. How is it abuse to ask you not to use a term? Nobody is going to show up at your house and kneecap you if you keep using it. The argument is a form of abuse, it's an emotional manipulation technique used to force someone on the defensive.

Florence again:

Argument 18: It's your responsibility to protect yourself in a safe space.

Let me make this fucking clear, feministe? Is supposed to be a safe space. Visitors should not be fucking obliged to assume it's just as fucking bigoted as the rest of the world if they happen to be disabled.

Argument 19: It's off topic to complain about ablist words here.

How the fuck is it off topic to complain about social justice issues on a site about social justice? Is it off topic to talk about women's issues on a PoC site? Is it off topic to talk about WoC issues on a feminist site? Fuck no. Same thing applies to ablist comments that affect women being talked about on a feminist site!


Argument 20: It's derailing to protest my refusal to listen.

Let's make this fucking clear, if people didn't use ablist terms, nobody would fucking object. If people didn't defend and excuse ablist terms, nobody would object. If there is a derail, it exists because David and co decided to be assholes.

Argument 21: Using alleged feminist allies who support you as backup for why you aren't being shitty.

Just because someone agrees with you? Doesn't make them right, and secondly, there's something fucking gross about a MAN arguing on a feminist site that lots of women agree with him so there's not a problem.

Argument 4 also rears it's ugly head again.

Sarah J comments:

Argument 22: You're belittling my thoughts as a disabled person by complaining about something I don't think is a problem.

This is partially a resurgence of 6 but it deserves it's own category because Sarah went the extra step of calling the complaints of others "so-called" and "arrogant" while complaining that they shouldn't say it's offensive because it's "telling her what she can find offensive".

Hypocrisy in action.

Lascaramouche just has to let everyone know:

Argument 23: You're going too far.

As if asking for ablist language to not be used is somehow a jump right off the end of a slipper slope. Again we come to the notion that ASKING for people not to do something many members of a minority find hurtful is somehow fucking unreasonable and completely unacceptable! In a fucking safe space?!

Kelsey chimes in with:

Argument 24: Don't you have bigger problems?!

Yeah, because somehow little things like the use of slurs in a fucking safe space isn't a problem. This is another belittlement argument.

David comes back with:

Argument 25: But other words are MORE offensive.

Typically when people use this argument, they mean other words without a history or a connection to social marginalisation. Because asshole is far 'more' offensive than ablist slurs, but we still use that so ablist slurs should be okay, when really it's like comparing oranges to apples.

Argument 26: You don't speak for all of your group!

This is as ridiculous as complaining to a person of color that they can't object to you using the term "Nigger" because they are not the spokesperson for every single person of color ever.

People shouldn't have to parade every single disabled person ever through and have them say "I agree with them" for you to accept that some people do find it offensive and to be a considerate person.

Not to mention the thoroughly nauseating way he used a woman to oppress other women, or him accusing women of being "manipulative" on a feminist site. David, you fucking fail so hard even the fail sites are jealous.

Back to argument 4 again as well, as if a man has the right to tell women what is "healthy for feminism".

There are others, but going through the thread has exhausted me, none of these arguments would be acceptable in response to issues with sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, transaphobia, homophobia, or any other bigotry in a safe space, yet they are all it seems acceptable in response to people having issues with ablism in safe spaces.

Feministe and similar sites are basically wastebins of this shitty kind of behaviour.

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