Storify: Rambles on Ableism

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Thoughts on #DiagnoseTrump, #StandWith hashtags, Sapiosexuality, Abortion, and Other Things

I have a lot of feels about ableism this morning and unsure where to put them. I'm also struggling to organize them, and that's frustrating too. And I want to note that these are my OPINIONS, I am not Disabled Pope.

We liberals give a lot of well-intentioned lip-service to ableism but I feel like we regularly miss the forest for the trees. Let's talk about what is and isn't ableism. (IN MY OPINION, NOT DISABLED-POPE.)

Ableism is, like most *isms, systemic oppression against a marginalized community. That "systemic" is important. Words like "crazy" and "imbecile" are ableist because those words have been used by our society and government to deny our rights. IIRC, there have been state constitutions restricting "crazy" people from voting. (Citation needed, but google probably still works.) That's also why #DiagnoseTrump is ableist. He isn't a bad president for being "crazy", he's a bad president for his shitty actions.

But then you see (well meaning! entitled to their own opinion!) liberals take that farther. And say, "well, if crazy is ableist then calling someone's actions stupid or foolish is DEFINITELY ableist" and like. No? People of every level of intelligence and ability/disability are capable of doing stupid or foolish things. Really, if you think all mentally ill and/or neurodivergent people ARE foolish but you just shouldn't SAY so, that's... a problem. :/

Then you have things like beauty standards. Mainstream beauty standards are ableist. It is ableist that many disabled people are barred access from jobs requiring "prettiness". That doesn't mean that, imo, it makes sense to police INDIVIDUAL preferences, which usually can't be changed by force of will anyway. There are people who are not attracted to my body. I would argue vociferously against people deeming that "ableist". There are people who would not be attracted to my mind. I would again argue vociferously against people deeming that "ableist".

Personal preferences CAN be informed by systemic prejudice and CAN be wielded in abusive ways (fetishization, exotification, etc.) but the preference itself is not ableist (imo) even if shaped by an ableist society. Let me elaborate: It is not SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION if, say, Brad Pitt isn't attracted to me. I don't get to pick apart his reasons for independent validation.

If people want to EXAMINE their preferences and look at whether those were shaped by ableism & if they should work to dismantle them, cool! But I am bone-weary tired of people yelling "ableism!" if someone says "I find brains/legs/hands/butts sexy". Stop that, please. Understand that sapiosexuals and buttsexuals and legsexuals and handsexuals all work together to form a vibrant society. It is ridiculous to insist 100% of people be 100% attracted to 100% of everybody else. Re-examine why that seems attainable or preferred.

Moving on, let's talk about hashtags and words and meanings.

The #StandWith framing began when Wendy Davis, a woman, was forced to stand for twelve hours to block an abortion bill in Texas. It is EXTRAORDINARILY ableist that a career in the Texas Senate REQUIRES the ability to stand for 12 hours. What is NOT ableist is hashtags which referenced her heroic act by building from the momentum of that night.

I have seen many well-meaning people upset about the "stand with" framing because it's "ableist" against those who cannot stand which effectively erases the history of that term. The fact that Wendy Davis was forced to literally stand is part of the POINT. That hash is about how women and people with uteri are forced by an ableist government to jump through impossible hoops. So complaining that my tweet above uses the word "jump" and lots of people CAN'T jump... utterly misses my point and how language works.

"Lots of people can't X" isn't a bar for whether the language is ableist. The SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION part needs to be present. I need well-meaning liberals who want to trim every word out of our language (listen, hear, see, look, stand, jump, sit) to slow down. Because (a) a lot of this I see coming from people NOT with those disabilities who are enthusiastic to help and going overboard. Even things like "but people in wheelchairs CAN'T stand" like nooooo it is more complicated than that, thank you, calm your jets. And (b) You are not disabling systemic oppression by going after someone for saying "look here" (WHAT ABOUT BLIND PEOPLE WITH SCREEN READERS).

Again, this is all just my opinion, let's adjust the banner I draped over all this. Moving on to abortion.

It is systemic oppression and rampant ableist that society works to kill off disabled people among us. Parents should NOT be pressured to abort disabled fetuses as though they are "worth less" or have less valuable lives. Full stop. It is NOT "ableist" for an individual person to decide to abort on the grounds of the care they are capable of providing. I sometimes see liberals supporting abortion bans along these specific reasons and SERIOUSLY you can eat a dick if you do that. >.<

Disabled people like myself get pregnant too. Disabled people who understand what care is needed and what they can provide. Disabled people who ALSO understand how EXPENSIVE disability is and how they may not be able to provide that level of care in our society. BY ALL MEANS please dismantle the systemic oppression around us. START with the fact that hospitals don't want to respect our Revive Orders. But do not you DARE go after individual pregnant people who do the calculus and say "I can't give this child a quality life".

Seriously, if you're spending time legislating pregnant people's bodies and choices, you are HURTING already-born disabled people. And you're hurting them in favor of hypothetical disabled people for a righteousness endorphin rush. Cut that out.

OKAY, what's the next topic on my mind. How about neurodivergence. Yes. AGAIN YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY BUT here is a thing I am weary of:

Person A: "...and that's what Schrodinger's Rapist means."

Person B: "What about neurodivergent people who can't read social cues?"

It would be systemic oppression to lock up neurodivergent people who can't read social cues as probable rapists, YES! It is NOT systemic oppression for women to feel uncomfortable around guys who talk to them on the bus. That is not ableism! Women are not obliged to go through life humoring every dude in their personal space because they MIGHT be neurodivergent!

Person A: "...and that's what man/cis/white/hetsplaining is."

Person B: "What about neurodivergent people who compulsively lecture people?"

It would be systemic oppression to strip free speech from neurodivergent people, yes! It is NOT systemic oppression for people to personally dislike and avoid compulsive 'splainers! That is not ableism! Marginalized people are not obliged to humor all 'splaining from all comers on the possibility that some people MIGHT be neurodivergent!

Human society is a complicated mesh of conflict. Sometimes person A will dislike person B for tragic reasons. I've dismissed people as friends and companions over their PERFUME or their AVATAR. Those choices aren't oppressive. You are OWED the same basic freedoms as everyone else. You are NOT owed friendship or romance or company from any specific person. Ever.

If someone is snippy at you for coming into their mentions with 'splaining, you aren't owed an independent audit of their reasons. "Ana blocked me because she didn't have her coffee so she's just an ass. Nan blocked me because she thought I was splaining so ABLEISM-" NO.

I think we understand that things can be WRONG without needing to be ILLEGAL. Similarly, something can be UNFAIR without being ABLEIST. For something to be ableist, it requires systemic oppression behind it. Someone not being your friend on social media is not oppression. They might still be unfair or an asshole or a jerk or a total douchebag! Those are DIFFERENT, and not mutally exclusive, things.

So how can you, a good liberal ally, help fight actual ableism?

1. Fight systemic oppression. Government and capitalist barriers that keep us unemployed, poor, stripped of rights, denied care.

2. THINK about your language. Don't just have a cheat-sheet of bad words. Consider "am I criticizing the ACTION or the PERSON"? Cheat-sheets of bad words is how we got to able-bodied people telling me I can't call jumping without a parachute "foolish". C'mon. Ableism isn't about "bad words". It's about what you're saying, and the history of oppression we face.

3. Be real careful before knighting in to save us from Schrodinger's Rapist explanations and #StandWith hashtags.

4. Be real REAL careful about policing individual private stuff like sexual attraction (sapios represent) and abortion.

Listen to LOTS of disabled activists and take things with a grain of salt. Everything I've said here above is in dispute. There ARE disabled people who want to legislate abortion; there ARE neurodivergent people who hate sapiosexuality. This isn't about them being wrong and me being right. It's about me exhorting you to listen and think and work out your own ideas. :)

Social justice isn't as easy as finding the loudest demagogue and doing what they want. It would be SO much easier that way. Social justice, to me, is about treating people with respect and making the world a little better through my actions. Sometimes that means disagreeing with someone's choices in a partner or to abort but supporting them because the world is complicated.

Purity purges do NOT make the world a better place and never, ever will. Let our social justice be tempered with kindness and humility. If I speak in the tongues of perfect non-ableism, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Probably.

Anyway, thank you for listening/reading/looking and I hope you all have a wonderful day.


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