Metapost: Another Community Note

Content Note: Ableism

I must stress again that ableist terms are not acceptable in this space. I have seen "mad", "crazy", and "insane" all used on this board by multiple long-standing and valued commentors in the past week either in place of more accurate terms or without content notes for mental illness.

To reiterate:
  1. Being very very very very sad is not the same thing as "going mad with grief".
  2. "Crazy" is not an acceptable stand-in for bizarre or unusual. 
  3. "Insane" is not an acceptable stand-in for extreme or highly specific. 

I really really really really hate moderating posts. Beyond anything else, I can only do it on my desktop computer (my Disqus app only lets me delete/remove posts, not moderate one word within them), it takes a tremendous amount of time to do properly, and I feel like the Bad Guy for policing peoples' language. I don't like feeling like the Bad Guy.

But I also don't like having a board where the comment content triggers my friends. Please watch your language and remove "mad", "insane", "crazy", "lame", and "idiot" from your vocabulary here except in the very rare cases where you are deliberately using those words for reclamation or discussion. In which case, a trigger warning probably needs to be applied.

Thank you.


cjmr said...

Using 'mad' to mean 'angry' is acceptable, though, right?

Ana Mardoll said...

I think that one isn't triggering, as long as the context is clear that angry is what is meant, and not mental illness. At least, no one has told me that's a trigger, so until I hear otherwise, I think it's alright.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

er, wasn't the context of "mad with grief" an episode where the character in question was irrational with grief and trying to kill people? Is "mad == irrational" or "mad == psychotic break" not the correct use of the word?

Ana Mardoll said...

If the character in question truly suffered a psychological breakdown, then the terminology may be correct, but (in this case) the associated trigger warning was not present. (This was later corrected.)

If a character is merely Super Sad So Let's Shunt Them Over To The Evil Side, as many writers do in fiction, then the terminology is arguably incorrect and it perpetuates the stereotype that mental illness is always accompanied by trauma and evil behavior.

I do not know which case more correctly applies to the Buffy Example, just that either Different Wording or Appropriate Content Notes should be applied in posts relating to it. :)

Dragoness Eclectic said...

ETA: However, "mad == irrational" is most certainly not appropriate. Mental illness is not always associated with irrational behavior, and irrational thoughts/behavior frequently exist without the presence of mental illness.

... What?

Isn't that almost the very definition of "mental illness"? It's an "illness" because your mind isn't working correctly. Irrational. Not making sense of the world, or making distorted sense.

Like my un-favorite, Depression. You've expressed very well in your blog posts the distortions depression makes of one's judgement and emotions and self-esteem. I'm not rational when I'm depressed, and unlike you, I've never been confident that I had a state of "normality" to compare it with, so I thought much of the feelings you described so vividly in your blog posts were normal, and I was evaluating myself 'rationally'--that I really was that lazy and useless. I still tend to; the habits are set deep. IMHO, mental illness is irrational.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

If a character is merely Super Sad So Let's Shunt Them Over To The Evil Side, as many writers do in fiction, then the terminology is arguably incorrect and it perpetuates the stereotype that mental illness is always accompanied by trauma and evil behavior.

This may be a philosophical disagreement--I consider a normally fairly kind, caring person succumbing to berserk rage over grief and going on a revenge killing spree (in cultures where it is not a moral obligation to do so, but is in fact frowned upon) to be just a tad irrational.

Ana Mardoll said...

I said mental illness is not always accompanied by irrational *behavior* and it isn't. Sometimes mental illness is characterized by irrational thoughts, sometimes by irrational deeds, and sometimes by thoughts or deeds which may or may not be "rational" but which are still deemed to be a symptom of illness because of their impact on life quality. (Example: When I feel 'lazy' while depressed, that may or may not be a 'rational' assessment of the situation, but it is ultimately a self-harming one.)

Conflating "Irrational" with "Mental Illness" is not appropriate here for a number of reasons. They are two distinct things, and should not be treated as one and the same.

Ana Mardoll said...

This may be a philosophical disagreement

My board, my rules. This metapost is NOT an invitation to engage in more ableist language. That particular conflation is extremely damaging to people with mental illness because it reinforces the belief that Mental Illness == Violent and that is not acceptable here.

This is not up for further discussion here.

chris the cynic said...

Everyone is irrational about some things, no one is rational about everything. Depressed people are actually more rational, on average, in certain areas than healthy people. (Depressing areas.)

Also, I think that there's one illness where the people are much closer to completely rational than normal, which is a very big problem for them because most choices in life, choices that most other people likely don't even notice ("which pen do I chose" was the example I recall) cannot be made by rational means. There is no completely rational method of pen selection.


But more than that the statement was, "Mental illness is not always associated with irrational behavior," and with the behavior side of things, there are plenty of mentally ill people with irrational thoughts that don't display irrational behavior.

[is anyone else having problems with disqus? I've been trying to post this for ten minutes.]

Ana Mardoll said...

Depressed people are actually more rational, on average, in certain areas than healthy people.

Also true.

chris the cynic said...

Wouldn't, the character "going evil with grief" make more sense in this context. Also Xander's later summation would be more accurate if he'd said, "When our friends turn evil and start killing people..." instead of, "When our friends go all crazy and start killing people..."

Which, by the way, evil is another word that it not a synonym for crazy and thus for which crazy is not an appropriate replacement. The same goes for mad.

Ana Mardoll said...

Yes, I would MUCH prefer to see people start using "going evil with grief". Because -- and this is my basic understanding of mental illness -- if you've never had any symptoms of mental illness before, suffer a break immediately after severe trauma, and then have everything healed within a couple of hours via an Important Lesson or a Cooldown Hug, then you are in all likelihood a FICTIONAL character because mental illness doesn't usually work that way.*

* Which isn't to say that it hasn't happened at least once. Big world, lots of people. But this is how it's frequently portrayed in fiction and there are issues with portraying the same stereotype over and over to the exclusion of all others.

TW: Violence

A VERY big problem with the real world use of this stereotype is that you have spouses (usually men, because privilege) get off with little to no punishment for violent crimes against their spouse (usually women, because marginalization) with the cultural excuse that it was a "crime of passion". Again, I'm not disputing that this has never legitimately happened so much as that the VERY PERVASIVE cultural narrative that Violence <==> Mentally Ill means that we frequently excuse violence because we WANT violence to be a symptom of mental illness. That's more comfortable, because as long as we associate with "sane" people or don't do anything to make them "go crazy", then we'll be safe.

But that hurts victims, it hurts people who are mentally ill and not violent, and it means that we can't talk about systemic sexism or gun control or privilege and bias in the courts or anything else of the sort because, people, you know? They just "go crazy"! Whatcanyado,eh?

Aidan Bird said...

TW: Mental Illness Discussion

Chris, I... really would rather not describe someone who is severely mentally ill, especially by the end of that season, as "evil." She has several moments where she starts to have problems recognizing even her friends, and her sanity is very, very unstable in those episodes. Also, having way more magical power than she can handle puts far more stress on her mental stability, thus pushing her further into mental illness. She seems aware of some things she does, but there's others that she doesn't seem as aware of. Now I don't want to go into a super long discussion with you on this, but I think we can come to a compromise right now. If you want to define some of her actions as being evil and wrong, yes, many where, but Willow herself was not wholly "evil with grief." No. She became mentally unstable and grew more and more mentally ill through the rest of Season Six of Buffy: Vampire Slayer.

I also really do not want to go into a discussion where you require of me to go through each and every episode in a play by play of all her scenes either. Just please respect my interpretation of this, and why I find some issue with the phrase "going evil with grief" in this particular situation. I'll make sure if I ever discuss her at the end of Season six again to put in trigger warnings about mental illness.

Aidan Bird said...

Thank you for this post and reminding us, especially me, to be careful with our words. I'll avoid those words in the future and be more careful with attributing trigger warnings when they're needed. I apologize again for it.

One thing I want to add and then I'm done for good with the topic of Willow:

TW: Mental Illness

She doesn't heal with just the cooldown hug. She has a genuine breakdown once Xander finally breaks through to her; she then accepts that she has a severe problem here and is in need of help. She is then taken to England, and is with a group of people highly trained in dealing with cases like hers, where she then goes through therapy and a long healing process that takes quite awhile.

That doesn't sound like she is magically healed with a hug at all. :/ I just wanted to make that clear because I see her as a case where Buffy; the Vampire Slayer actually did a semi-decent job of showing severe trauma and ways to heal from it. The scenes with Willow in England where she is nearing the end of her therapy was inspirational to me and my own healing. It showed that despite her severity of illness with time, care, and people helping her she was able to recover - that message meant a lot to me, and I wanted to point this out because I feel like this is being erased from the discussion about her character.

chris the cynic said...

I have not seen the season in question, What comes after, yes, much of what comes before, yes, but that season I have not seen. I know it only from how Willow and Xander described it after the fact, in both cases it was done with direct comparison to something that was, hands down, undeniably evil and had no apparent signs of mental illness being involved.

Seems like Willow and Xander made bad comparisons. I apologize for trusting them.

I trust your judgement of this. She was mentally ill.

Ana Mardoll said...

I wasn't speaking about Buffy at that point, but rather in general, but good to know that in that specific case the healing process is shown as legitimately difficult for many people.

In general, it is exceedingly problematic to Real people with mental health problems to be repeatedly shown in Fiction as excessively violent and dangerous. It's possible that Joss Whedon portrayed something non-problematic, but I haven't seen Buffy and can't say.

I will say that the problem here -- either use better words or trigger warn, as the commenter sees fit according to their interpretation of the situation -- has been satisfactorily concluded as far as I can see re: Buffy, and I would prefer not to have to shut down another thread for veering off into the apparently contentious area that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. :)

Off to dinner.

Aidan Bird said...

It's only my interpretation. You may have a different interpretation. As long as we respect that and both of us seek out a middle ground with language, then we're fine.

Language is always tricky and cases like this make it even trickier for not everyone has (or agrees) with the same interpretation of scenes.

Aidan Bird said...

Thank you for explaining. I misunderstood, for I thought you were directly speaking about that character since you had replied to Chris, who had specifically mentioned Xander. Considering how difficult the healing process was for me through my trauma, I probably cling far too tightly to the decently good representations i find than is necessary. I apologize and will be extra careful in the future.

Have a good dinner. I just had trout and rice myself.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you. It was roast and potatoes tonight. :)

Majromax said...

Example: When I feel 'lazy' while depressed, that may or may not be a 'rational' assessment of the situation, but it is ultimately a self-harming one.

This. That's part of what's so horrible about anxiety or depression: often the thoughts are so rational it's difficult to tell (yourself or the afflicted) where precisely the logic train has gone off the rails.

Ana Mardoll said...

This, so much. If I remember correctly, my very first depression post was basically "depression has logic on its side". ARGH.

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