(TW: reference to ableist slurs, by way of example.)
So. Someone on Twitter – whom I respect – blithely referred to me as “ableist” because I didn’t agree with them that the words “stupid” and “weird” are ableist slurs.
Do I understand the concept of ableism? Yes. Do I recognize ableist slurs? Absolutely. I’ve worked hard to get words like “idiot,” “moron,” r*tard,” “dumb,” “lame,” etc., out of my vocabulary. (NB: “dumb” does occasionally slip in, if it’s followed by the word “ass,” but I’m trying. Habits are hard to break, but I’m getting there.) I don’t use words like “crazy” or other mental-illness-related term, unless I’m using it in a reclaiming way for myself and my own mental illness or in reference to someone who has out-loud-and-on-purpose stated that they are reclaiming the term for themself. I am very aware of disability issues, even the ones that don’t affect me personally, and while I will not claim perfection, I do try hard to be aware of ableism in the world, and try to relieve it or at the very least not add to it whenever possible.
And yet I still don’t believe that those words are ableist.
For clarification: if you’re referring to a PERSON as stupid? No. Stop that. You are wrong; go sit in the corner and think about what you did. QUITE ASIDE FROM THE FACT that it’s a cruel and hurtful thing to say, it’s also quite ignorant of how intelligence actually works. I’ve seen students who were labeled as “stupid” – by others, but sometimes by themselves – thrive and succeed, because you know what? PEOPLE AREN’T STUPID. That is a misuse of the word.
Actions, however, can be hella stupid. It has nothing to do with ability; people with quick minds, who make logical leaps that other people pass up, with access to all the pertinent facts – with all the ABILITY, in other words, that someone could need – make some pretty stupid decisions. It doesn’t mean that the person is bad, or that they are incapable of making better decisions. (In fact, that’s practically a tautology – a decision can only be considered stupid if the decision-maker COULD, with their ability and their information, have made a better decision, and chose not to.) We need a word that sums up actions and decisions of this nature; “illogical” captures part of it, as does “counterproductive,” and I’m sure there must be others, but nothing expresses every aspect as succinctly as “stupid.”
As for weird… there’s a pitfall here, yeah. The argument could be made – and is made! – that “crazy” is often used in a positive sense these days, and has nothing to do with mental illness. And that argument might hold water in the long run! Never let it be said that I am not ALL ABOUT fluidity of language! However, here and now? Nah. The “new usage” of “crazy” is too new; the accepted usage, the one with centuries of history behind it, 100% means mental illness, and in a damning way, and is still being used to hurt and attack people. Mentally ill people can claim it to their heart’s content; college students describing last night’s party need to stop. So the claim that “weird” is not currently used in a predominantly derogatory way is not, by itself, enough to justify the term.
However, the history of the word “weird” goes back to “wyrd” – the forces of fate, and fate magic, in one’s life. As the word evolved, it retained the eerie, otherworldly qualities even as it started to pick up the meaning of someone or something outside of mundane day-to-day life. Linguistically speaking, the modern meaning of “someone who isn’t like me or what I consider normal” or “someone who doesn’t adhere to society’s standards” is relatively new, and even within that meaning, it’s been fairly equally split between someone using it as an insult vs. someone using it as a compliment or a point of pride.
Now. If you’re calling someone weird (or stupid, for that matter) due to a disability issue, THAT is ableist, yes. If you’re using those words to attack and insult someone, it may or may not be ableist, but it’s definitely rude, just because attacking and insulting people is rude. But just because a word CAN be used to hurt does not make it a slur. (Example: my southern mother, who uses the phrase “bless his/her/your heart” INTERCHANGEABLY as both a compliment and an insult.) I do not believe the words themselves are ableist; I do not believe that it makes you ableist to use them.
On a wider note… I’m a little disturbed by a trend I’m noticing. I really, really don’t like it when someone appoints themselves the Keeper Of The Words. As in, “I have declared that this term is Xist, and if you disagree, clearly you are Xist!” Like. No, dude, maybe I just disagree with you on the word. I can be 100% all-in dedicated to fighting Xism, and still not agree that Word Y is Xist. And ODDLY ENOUGH, insulting me is not really going to convince me to reexamine my stance.
Ana talks about this in this thread. Tl;dr version: “offensive” and “accepted” words are never set in stone; communities and identities are fluid and not a monolith. The fact that you find one person in community X who dislikes Word Y does not mean that Word Y is automatically bad. There may be a million other people in community X who adore Word Y and embrace it as their personal identity.
Beyond that, though… look, I was raised by a debate coach. Accepting something as true because someone else says so is, uh. Not what I do. I teach critical thinking; I am not simply going to swallow an unexamined proposition. If you are saying “Do not use this word for ME, I find it hurtful,” okay, fine. You are the one and only expert on you. But if you’re saying “this word is always harmful, never use it,” I’m sorry, but I’m going to need some explanation and some proof, and I reserve the right to decide “no, you are wrong.”
For the record, I almost always err on the side of not doing harm. I’ve cut words that I really loved out of my vocabulary because someone considered them harmful. But they actually convinced me that they WERE harmful. They didn’t simply lay down the law and accuse me of bigotry if I didn’t fall in line.
But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of internecine conflict; people who are ON THE SAME SIDE fighting with or insulting each other over points of purity. This isn’t a tone argument; I’m not threatening to walk away from the movement if people are jerks. But I absolutely will lose respect for people who can’t accept any honest deviation from what they have decided the standards will be.
I am not ableist – at least, I’m as not-ableist as someone like me can be. (Again, I do not claim perfection!) Disagreeing on whether a word is ableist does not automatically make me ableist. If I am factually wrong on the reasons I’ve presented, explain it to me. Convince me. It takes a lot of time and thought for me to admit that I’m wrong, but it DOES happen. But don’t just throw insults at me and think you’ve made some sort of point.
Two weeks ago, a couple of my freshmen asked me to sponsor a club they want to start next year, and a junior asked me if she could switch and have me as her EE advisor.
Last week, a student told me how much she was looking forward to coming back and helping out in my class last year.
On Saturday night/Sunday morning I stood in a Beltaine circle at the beach and spoke in wondering tones about finally being happy, about finally having a job that I 100% love for the first time in my adult life, and how it’s filled me with hope and excitement.
Yesterday I discovered a hidden “ILU [my name]” message hidden in a project one of my students turned in, and got all misty-eyed.
This morning the principal called me into his office and told me he wasn’t renewing my contract for next year.*
Happy fucking Teacher Appreciation Day to me, I guess.
I’m wrecked. I’m torn between wanting to curl up in a corner and sob and wanting to scream in fury and break things.
It’s not the job situation – I’m curiously non-panicky. I can get a job at another school. Hell, it’s not like working in Osceola County was CONVENIENT. SpouseMan’s school even has IB; maybe he can put in a good word for me.
But I was already torn up about losing my seniors at the end of the year, and I hadn’t really bonded with most of them the way I did my freshmen. I’d looked forward to seeing them for the rest of their time at my school, looked forward to seeing them grow and thrive and graduate. Looked forward to taking this class that I’d made MINE and refining it and making it better, more polished, for next year. I was excited. And now I’m going to lose these kids that I adore and… it’s not okay.
Anyway. That’s where I am right now.
*No, in case you’re wondering, he didn’t tell me why. I asked, and he refused, and he wasn’t half rude about it either. I have my suspicions, but speculating on them at this point will do nobody any good.
I feel like I should apologize for being so lax in posting here. But given that I have a grand total of like five loyal readers, one of whom is my mom, I’m gonna skip that part.
Anyone who’s followed this blog, or anyone who knows me for that matter, understands my feelings on the recent North Carolina bill. I won’t rehash them here (except to say: DOORS, PEOPLE!)
Instead, have a round-up of links going over other people’s thoughts and feelings on it:
Amy Butler, Talk With the Preacher
Religious freedom is just that: freedom. Note that we don’t call it “religious comfort.” In other words, yes, government should protect my right to practice my religion, but it’s not society’s obligation to make that practice easy or carefree. If your faith prevents you from sitting on an airplane next to a woman who isn’t your wife, then move to another seat. If your faith tells you you can’t go to the same bathroom with some people, then figure out how to order your life so that you use the bathroom in a place that seems appropriate for you. If your faith tells you you can’t sell wedding cakes to certain people, don’t go into the business of selling wedding cakes.
Libby Anne, Love Joy Feminism
Laws barring trans bathroom access don’t just keep trans women out of women’s bathrooms, they also keep trans men in women’s bathrooms. In other words, it is now the law for the man in the image in the above tweet to use women’s public restrooms in North Carolina. This means that cisgender men could take advantage of laws barring trans bathroom access to enter women’s bathrooms dressed as men and claiming to be trans men. Doing this wouldn’t even require dressing as a woman.
Benjamin L. Corey, The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey
For real. This is actually how dramatically they switch sides when it goes from protecting their rights compared to someone else’s rights.
Regulating bathroom rights? Great solution!
Regulating gun rights? Nah, laws never work. Besides, most gun owners are no threat to anyone.
Erin Wathen, Irreverin
As best as I can tell, the pro-segregation set believe that allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice, creates a public safety threat for women and girls. It’s very much a “they are coming for your wives and daughters” vibe out there. Which, clearly, overlooks the fact that anywhere in America provides a public safety threat for women and girls. If we’re going to talk about rape, let’s talk about college campuses. Let’s talk about the military. Let’s talk about football players and domestic violence. Let’s talk about a culture that worships masculinity, objectifies women and glorifies violence–all adding up to a pervading world of male entitlement that is, always and everywhere, a danger to your wives and daughters.
Fred Clark, Slacktivist
It’s simple cause-and-effect, you see: Corporate HR must be allowed to ask any job applicant if they’re gay “because we don’t hire that kind of people,” otherwise your daughter is going to be attacked by a man in a trenchcoat hiding in the stall next to hers. If two women dining together in a public restaurant can’t be interrogated about whether or not they’re a couple — and denied service if they say yes — then grown men will start using the girls showers at the local YWCA and there will be nothing anyone can do to stop it.
Captain Cassidy, Roll To Disbelieve
It’s that all the campaigning they’ve done, all the many millions of dollars spent, all the hours passionately preaching about the evils of LGBTQ people generally, all the persecution and harassment they dole out to a group that never meant them any harm at all, all the training they give their children in how to persecute and harass that group, all the tantrums they throw, all the threats they make to starve themselves for bigotry, to raise arms against the country they claim to love and even to ragequit that country by trying to secede from it, and all the smears and lies they tell with their biggest Jesus smiles on their faces, are being spent to wage a war that they have already lost and that is being lost harder every year.
Captain Cassidy, Roll To Disbelieve
Allowing these Others to roam unfettered and uncontrolled by their superiors will cause them to rise up in bloodlust and fury to vent their natural, animal urges on the beautiful, virtuous cisgender (or white, or Christian, or American) women that those Others desire above all their own women. And all that stands in the way of this orgy of rape are the good, godly cisgender (or white, or Christian, or American) men who refuse to let it happen.
Captain Cassidy, Roll To Disbelieve
There is, please allow me to stress, not one scintilla of evidence that trans women pose any kind of threat to ciswomen in bathrooms, nor that bathroom bills cause the slightest uptick in harassment of ciswomen by either trans women or cis men.
But there is plenty of evidence that right-wing, straight, cisgender Christians are already a big danger to both transgender people and cisgender people in bathrooms.
Captain Cassidy, Roll To Disbelieve
There’s really only one conclusion I can draw from the demands that transphobic Christians are making.
They want to be able to better and more quickly identify trans people by making their movements in vulnerable places more obvious.
And I can only assume, based upon their behavior and words, that they want to more easily make this identification for the purposes of abusing and harassing people they have decided are their enemies.
Libby Anne, Love Joy Feminism
At the risk of being repetitive, allowing trans people to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity is not a new thing. Before the backlash against the trans bathroom access bills (a) it was generally legal for trans people to use the bathrooms they felt appropriate and (b) trans women generally did use the bathrooms they felt appropriate. Yes, they risked getting harassed, yelled at, or facing violence, but trying to end that harassment is literally the only change trans bathroom bills make to the status quo.
Nico Lang, Rolling Stone
“People did come to my aid. The police came. The EMTs came. They put a tube in my throat. The police officer says, as I’m sitting in the gurney, ‘This never would have happened to you if you weren’t wearing a dress and trying to fool men.'”
Samantha Allen, The Daily Beast
“We know that stigma and lifetime discrimination influence suicide rates, whether we’re talking about transgender people or another marginalized group,” she told The Daily Beast. “Policies like HB 2 are not solving a problem—they are actually making things worse.”
(CN: violence, death, death of children, torture, rape, religious extremism, Islamophobia – all content notes are doubled and trebled if you click the links)
The morning after the attacks in Paris, one of my husband’s long-time customers took the opportunity to complain about “those people” and their terrorism. “We’ve put up with it for too long,” he grumbled. “We should just bomb their entire country and be done with it.”
SpouseMan gave him a puzzled look. “France?”
“No, not France,” the man said, as if this were obvious. “The country they came from!”
The look of puzzlement deepened. “Belgium?”
Because of course, the ringleader of the attacks was a native-born Belgian citizen, and at least four of the attackers were French. But that’s not what the man in the bagel shop meant, was it? We know what he meant. Insofar as he was capable of understanding that the Middle East is in fact made up of several different countries, each of which are, well, different, he meant Syria and Iraq.
Syria and Iraq are, after all, where Daesh* is currently operating out of. Syria and Iraq are where European-born young men like Abdelhamid Abaaoud go to be transformed from disaffected, dissatisfied youth into zealous terrorists. And Syria and Iraq are where Daesh carries out massacres against minority populations, tortures teenage boys, murders innocent civilians (including small children), uses horrific violence to impose their own interpretation of religious law on others, recruits and kidnaps children to brainwash into child soldiers, rapes captive women and girls with impunity…
…huh. Y’know, the more I read about it, the more the people of Iraq and Syria start to look like the victims of this hate group, not evil masterminds who need to be bombed to rubble.
Here’s the thing. When the terrorists attacked in Paris, the city responded in beautiful, humbling ways, ways that remind us what it is to be human and to rely on each other. Parisians came together to help each other – taxi drivers gave rides for free to those stranded, total strangers opened their doors to one another. Most of us would not normally invite strangers to stay in our homes, for fear of theft or violence; in the wake of horrific atrocities, however, human compassion and the need to help the victims (and protect others who might otherwise become victims) prevailed over fear. It was beautiful, and we knew it was beautiful. We celebrated it as beautiful. The messages were clear: love triumphs over fear. We will not give in to bullies or let their victims go undefended.
Now contrast that with how we talk about “those countries.” Contrast that with how we talk about the Syrian refugees.
Let’s talk about how French victims of violence are given open doors, while Syrian victims of even worse and longer-lasting violence are turned away. Let’s talk about how people from “those countries” are automatically viewed with more suspicion than Europeans – even though most of the attackers were from Europe! Let’s talk about how Parisians overcame fear to let total strangers into their home, but we’re too cowardly to help refugee children for fear that there might – might – be wolves in sheep’s clothing among them.
These rejections – US citizens and the governors of US states trying to keep out the victims of Daesh’s violence and tyranny – are happening in the wake of the Paris attacks. Think about that. With one hand we praise Paris’s Open Doors; with the other we slam our own shut. Our governors use excuses; they cite the one attacker in Paris who came to Europe on a passport, likely posing as a migrant. This narrative conveniently ignores, again, that the other attackers were European citizens – will we also be closing our doors to visitors from France and Belgium?
No, of course we won’t. We’re singling out Syria. We’re singling out people from “those countries,” those countries that aren’t like us, those countries where Islam is the primary religion, those countries where everything is strange and foreign. Those countries where everyone is clearly suspect and the victims’ lives and safety don’t “count,” and we should have just bombed them a long time ago. Why on earth should we stick our neck out to help people from those countries? It’s not like they’re real people.
We are playing into the terrorists’ hands. We are supporting their bullying; we are telling their victims “there is no safe space.” Daesh doesn’t want us to take in refugees; it doesn’t want the people it’s currently terrorizing to think that things will be any better for them if they leave. They want their victims to feel helpless; bullies always do. And we are helping it happen.
And here in the West, our callous lack of concern for Syrian children, our stated belief that their lives don’t matter as long as we avoid any possibility of risk, is part and parcel of the very attitudes that drove Europe-born terrorists like Abaaoud to join Daesh in the first place.
*Much like the Friendly Atheist, I’m considering using Daesh exclusively instead of ISIS or other terms, because fuck them that’s why**
**SpouseMan, upon hearing the threat to “cut out the tongues” of those who refer to it as Daesh, immediately began chanting “too many tongues! Too many tongues! There’s too many tongues on the internet!”
There’s more serious stuff I should probably be writing about, but I just started on a new team at work and it’s ridiculously stressful and I would rather focus on calming fun things right now instead. Like cooking! It’s not quite Autumn yet (and here in Florida it doesn’t even remotely feel like it’s even close to Autumn yet) but it’s close enough for wishful thinking, so I made a delicious Autumn-y soup-and-bread meal the other night. If anybody would like deliciousness, the recipes are below the cut.
Maybe there’s some kind of translation problem.
Maybe, when I write things like “if you are from the site in question, you are not welcome here,” it’s being run through some sort of faulty Universal Translator or something, so that the people from SKA are reading something completely different.
Something like “please share your opinion with me, I’m super interested.” Or “yes I would LOVE to have the same argument for the billionth time with people who purposefully misunderstand everything I say!” Or my personal favorite, “I would be THRILLED to educate you on the history of your own website, that totally sounds like a productive and enjoyable use of my time.”
(I actually, no-shit-I-can’t-make-this-up, got a comment from someone using the name “Not A Troll.” Like, wow. That is just SUPER convincing. It is a known fact that trolls must own up to their trollish nature, so if someone claims not to be one, welp, case closed I guess. *all of the eyerolls*)
So let me try again. Maybe if I’m more explicit, we can get around those pesky translator microbes. If you are coming here from SKA? I do not care what you have to say. I really don’t. I’m done with you. I’m done trying to teach you logic or basic human decency. I’m done trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. I don’t care if you think you have a legitimate gripe. I don’t care if you’re really nice deep down inside. I don’t care if you think I’m a big mean meanyhead. I don’t care if you think you’re holding out some tantalizing promise like “oh I’ll totes be on your side, just answer some questions for me!” Answer your questions your own goddamn self, I’m not here for you.
I don’t even really care if you’ve suddenly seen the light and want to apologize. I’m not the one you need to apologize to.
I don’t care. I don’t fucking care. I will not answer your questions, I will not engage your assertions. Your comments will not get through the moderation filter. I am not here for you. I don’t like you, I don’t believe for two seconds that you’re operating in good faith, and I don’t want you on my blog.
Now that I’m actually using this blog again, I’m gonna start off with a small personal update (for the few people who actually know me from real life!) The AC situation has been… alleviated. Somewhat.
If you’re not aware, my AC broke a few days ago, and long story short, for the price of fixing it we might as well get a new one. It’s academic though, as we don’t have the money to do either, so we’ve just been over here melting in the Florida summer heat. (It’s really awful, y’all. We’re sweaty, sticky, stinky, and cranky.) All of our windows are the kind that crank out, too, so a window unit isn’t much of an option.
Today, however, my dad showed up with a couple used standalone units that he got for cheap – they only have a vent that has to go to the window, and the rest of the window can be covered with saran wrap or trash bags or something. They’re ugly, noisy, and they smell kinda weird, but – if they’ll keep the house cool I won’t complain. (Much.)
So that’s good. Hopefully it’ll tide us over for the rest of the summer; with any luck, by next summer I will finally be in my dream job (I should get my certification back TOMORROW, you guys!!!), and we can afford to get the damn thing replaced.
Anyway. On to the main topic. (TW: rape threats, threats of violence, threats to loved ones, stalking, doxxing)