Thursday, August 29, 2013

More on "Trending" and Monoliths

This is still a response to The Feminist Wire being ableist and douchey, but elaborating more on some things.

The call for whatever it was treated disabled people as a monolith. Disability, according to The Feminist Wire, is one thing. A homogenous experience, or at least all related, right? No. Not in the slighted "The Disabled" do not have necessarily that much in common except dealing with this horseshit. I am multiply disabled but unquestionably able bodied. And there are folks in other parts of the disability community who think "at least our minds are fine" is an acceptable thing to say. Those are different disability experiences. The experiences of neurodivergents differ-from each other, from those with physical disabilities, from those who are able in all ways. We are not a monolith.

And my disabilities were the ones that were erased.

Usually I hate comparing oppressions, but this has happened to me in other oppressions. Every once in a while academicy people will decide to talk about the Of Color Experience. And they treat PoC as a monolith, as though our experiences are the same. They are not. My experience as a Hapa woman are not the same as those of a Latina woman or a Black woman or an Arabic woman or a monoracial Asian woman. I get glimpses of some, because I am ambiguous like woah. But these lives are all going to be different. People are going to experience racism differently. My "you'd be so hot if you dressed as *insert anime character here*" is not the same as the ways other WoC are sexualized and ironed into stereotypes-other women are assumed hypersexual or supremely submissive or what have you. They're all shitty, but they are not the same experience. The fears we learned? Are not the same. It does us a disservice to talk about WoC as though we are a monolith.

It does all diverse groups a disservice to speak about us as a monolith. Invariably you are going to fuck right up and erase people and stereotype people and be terrible. If you don't understand that there are nuances, much less what they are, you are not the person to lead the conversation.

Feminist Wire, you may not colonize my community.

Alrighty, so Feminist Wire put out a call for papers (I think. I still have no idea what it is supposed to be!) and it was utterly cognitively inaccessible.

I sent them this:

Sooo I saw your call for papers. At least I think it was a call for papers. It was so full of cognitive inaccessibility that I cannot tell. Given that I actually am pretty fluent in SJese, this is kind of an issue.
This is a whatever it is supposedly intersectional, supposedly about disabled people (assuming the disability community has come to realize, at this point, that folks with neurological disabilities are people too. I haven't heard "at least our minds are fine" since 2003). Supposedly including people without class privilege (which also tends to come without that-kind-of-education-you-need-to-understand0this privilege). Supposedly trying to cross racial lines, which feminism and disability circles are both absolute pants at.
So cognitive inaccessibility is unacceptable, both on the account of "a lot of disabled people are going 'buh?'", on account of a lot of people who couldn't afford a fancy pants education are going 'buh?', and on account that a lot of disabled people, PoC, and disabled PoC could not afford said fancy pants education. Language like this is why disability discourse (or is it rhetoric? I'm a disabled WoC who couldn't afford a fancy pants education & had to go into something besides academia, something with job security, at a community college) is so white and so upper middle class. Because no one else can understand it.
Can I get the plain language version please?
Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
We Are Like Your Child

And this is the revised version at the link: The Feminist Wire Call for Submissions.

Go read it. I'll wait.

Try to make sense of it. I'll wait a bit longer.

Note how it still makes no damn sense? Alyssa of Yes, That Too wrote to them, again, and the response she got can be found here: Yes, That Too.

My favorite part is the part where Feminist Wire tells us to translate it ourselves and share it with our communities, completely ignoring the part where they have been told we can't make head or tail of it.

This is the background for what I actually have to say to Feminist Wire:

Feminist Wire, this is colonizing bullshit. This is why I want very little to do with most feminism. I am an anti oppression activist, but I do not identify as a feminist because of behavior like this.

You may not colonize my identity. Disability is not a "trend". It isn't acceptable for able folks to sit around talking about whether or not it's ok to use disability as your go to metaphor for bad things (it's not) or why disability is suddenly popping up as, like, a thing (because we got loud and connected, that's why) or any of that. White feminists love to claim that the struggles of WoC are their struggles too. They aren't. That the struggles of poor women are theirs. Largely organized feminism is middle class-of a class that can afford to go get higher education in a discipline that's about sitting around talking about shit in fancy ass words, and teaching other people to do so. Your struggles up there? Not the same as those of poor women. At all.

And now you are trying to do it to one of my other identities. No. You may not. You can't handle the topic responsibly, as evidenced by your apparent assumption that disability = physical (I'm not convinced y'all should be using the word "Cripestemology" except to reference the conference, incidentally. Shit, I'm not sure it's my word and I actually have disabilities. Plural. Just not that kind). As evidenced by your refusal to make the teenieweeniest little effort to actually include the people you are talking about.

I read your call for whatever, and what I got was "oh, disability is a thing now. Maybe we can get money if we talk about it. But I don't want any actual disabled people there, ewww. If we say we're intersectional we don't actually have to be intersectional, if we just so happen to exclude people of multiple marginalizations with our language. If disabled people show up we might have to listen to them, pretend we think they're people, and objectively talking about our assumptions of their experiences is what I really want".

That is what I got out of your call for papers, Feminist Wire. And your responses to criticism didn't really change that. If anything, they made the gatekeeping look flat out intentional. It's so damn inconvenient when people you're trying to talk about 'objectively' (because only outsiders have an objective view...oh wait, where have I heard that before? right, anti feminist men) actually show up.

Get off my identity, Feminist Wire. You may not colonize it. Whatever fascinating insights you think you have are pedestrian, mundane, sophomoric, simplistic, and probably flat out wrong. Your efforts to keep us out unless we are already colonized have been noted. Your flagrant ableism has been noted. Your sounding just like every other damn able people organization ever has been noted. You think you're clever, telling us that we should just make our own accommodations if it matters so much? You aren't. We hear that all the time. It's not acceptable from anyone, and it's especially revolting from people who decided they're allowed to have a voice in disability discourse.

Simple guide for cognitive accessibility (which is fancyass for 'everyone can understand it): can your non academic friends read it without a dictionary? If no, it is definitely not accessible. If they need a specialized dictionary you're not even trying.

And if you can't explain what you mean in everyday speak, you clearly don't understand it well enough to be talking about it at all. 

Dear Alyssa,
We appreciate your feedback and comments.  We've discussed the concerns, and rather than rewriting the CFP again, or creating multiple versions, we invite you (and others) to share your own interpretation of the CFP with your communities.  This seems to us the most reasonable and helpful way to proceed.
Best wishes,
Editorial Collective
- See more at:
Dear Alyssa,
We appreciate your feedback and comments.  We've discussed the concerns, and rather than rewriting the CFP again, or creating multiple versions, we invite you (and others) to share your own interpretation of the CFP with your communities.  This seems to us the most reasonable and helpful way to proceed.
Best wishes,
Editorial Collective
- See more at:

Dear Alyssa,
We appreciate your feedback and comments.  We've discussed the concerns, and rather than rewriting the CFP again, or creating multiple versions, we invite you (and others) to share your own interpretation of the CFP with your communities.  This seems to us the most reasonable and helpful way to proceed.
Best wishes,
Editorial Collective
- See more at:
Dear Alyssa,
We appreciate your feedback and comments.  We've discussed the concerns, and rather than rewriting the CFP again, or creating multiple versions, we invite you (and others) to share your own interpretation of the CFP with your communities.  This seems to us the most reasonable and helpful way to proceed.
Best wishes,
Editorial Collective
- See more at:

Dear Alyssa,
We appreciate your feedback and comments.  We've discussed the concerns, and rather than rewriting the CFP again, or creating multiple versions, we invite you (and others) to share your own interpretation of the CFP with your communities.  This seems to us the most reasonable and helpful way to proceed.
Best wishes,
Editorial Collective
- See more at:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What I would do if...

If I was triggering someone's potentially fatal and nearly uncertainly uncomfortable medical issue, I would stop whatever I was doing. I would not stop to argue about it. I would not tell them that their medical issue is not a big deal-even if I thought I knew something about it. Dunning-Kruger is a thing. I might ask later how that worked, depending on the person.

But I would stop what I was doing, apologize, and move on with my life.

If a friend of mine failed step one, and was feeling anything but proper remorse in the fallout, and for some reason the victim of their asshattery was someone I had to deal with, I would. I would do that first. My friends have more than one friend. My friend should have stopped the damn trigger. If I am responsible for a group of people, my priority in the triage is not my friend who feels sorry for themselves because their fuckup had consequences. My priority is the person who was fucked up at.

And then I certainly would not spend hours trying to make the victim feel sorry for my friends because Reasons. I would not invalidate their experience in this way. If I did, and someone called me on it, I would stop what I was doing, apologize, and try to get back on track. In that situation my first priority is to make the person who was actually hurt feel better. Not to say "well my friend feels bad too". Not sorry, just bad. That's not right.

If I did that? The correct response would be to apologize, stop doing it, and move on.

And then! If the person whose emergency it was, for whatever reason, was still not doing awesomely the next day, but had responsibilities, there are a number of things I would do:

-I would check on them early, especially if they were nowhere to be seen.
-I would check on them often, especially if they were nowhere to be seen.
-I would do everything in my power to not pressure them to do whatever it was. Even if I really wanted them to. Because it wasn't my emergencies. I have plenty, I don't need to appropriate theirs.
-I would not separate them from people acting as support people. Even if I could not stand those people. People don't always like my support folks either. Tough shit for them, & tough shit for me.

Basically, it would be about the actual injured party being the first priority. Their safety. Their feeling like they were part of the community rather than a means to whatever they were scheduled to do. They need to be ok.

There are certain assumptions I'd make. If someone is melting down up until the point they're supposed to do whatever? It's probably not going to happen. No matter how much I want it to. No matter how many folks want it to. That person is probably not ok if they are still at that space in spite of precautions. That is how it is. I'm a grownup & need to learn to deal.

If for whatever reason the person did the thing, and later said they felt manipulated because Reasons, I would not argue with them. I would not say that I shit golden crusted good intentions and therefore did nothing of the sort. I would not make myself a martyr to their being mean or their not feeling ok or them feeling icky or what have you. I may not have meant to fuck up, but that is a situation where I fucked up. We all fuck up.

The response is not to throw a big fit. That is not helping the person whose emergency escalated into a crisis. It's kind of a douche move, to keep centering myself in their narrative. It's majorly a douche move to make myself the victim of their being hurt. And I am not a douche.

I'd apologize. I'd listen, if they wanted to tell me what I did that made them feel so icky about the whole thing. I'd try to not engage in whatever it was that I did again. Even if it was really really hard. I would stop, apologize, go forth and do better. Even salvage a relationship with the person, if that is what they wanted.

There are lots of places to turn a big situation around. But it takes work from the person doing the wronging, even if they didn't mean to do wrong. Intent is not what matters. What matters is what you do. And the further down the line these things get, the harder it is to believe in golden intentions or even giving any shits at all about the original harmed party. If I fuck up, I am not the harmed party, no matter how defensive I am. That's appropriating someone else's pain and it is bullshit.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Abused kid survival skills, & the abuse thereof.

So it's no secret that I was an abused kid. Like, a really abused kid. And that my adulthood has not been all grand treatment either. And that I had compliance training, the outcome of which looks a lot like the survival skills I developed as an abused kid.

Why talk about this now?

I had these survival mechanisms exploited this week, by folks who should know better-folks who have seen the outcomes of abuse, seen the outcomes of compliance training, who should be able to tell the difference between genuine enthusiasm and "anything to make it stop please make it stop".

Saying "no" is an early, basic way of asserting boundaries. Here's the thing about asserting boundaries: when you are dealing with manipulative, abusive-especially emotionally abusive-people, you have to keep asserting them. This takes effort. This takes a lot of effort in the face of unrelenting pressure and fear. It is hard, and when you are used to standing alone, it's scary as fuck.

In my life, emotional manipulation was often, though not 100% of the time, followed by sexual or physical abuse if I didn't respond to what the abuser wanted. I do have a defiant streak a mile wide, but the fact of the matter is, I feel visceral fear that one has to be a survivor to understand. Emotional manipulation is as much a PTSD trigger as telling me that my access needs don't matter (a thing that says "your life doesn't matter", given that I have a history of actually stopping that whole heart and breathing thing & a clustering tendency) and more triggering than someone twice my size screaming at me. Yelling? I know when to duck.

So, predictably, if one speaks the right psychological words, sounds the right kind of reasonable, it is very easy to get me to shut down. It is easy to get a stream of "I don't know", which should be a sign that no meaningful agreeing is happening-no meaningful anything is happening. All the "I don't know"s in that situation? They mean "tell me what to do, I don't know what to do to make this stop, just tell me stop stop stop please". That is what the string of "I don't know" means. I cannot access my own wants and needs in that state, because the parts of my brain that control such things are hooked into survival, not agency.

Once you have hit that particular string, it is easy, oh so easy, to tell me to do whatever the fuck you want. And I will likely do it. I have an autopilot for many many things that is better than the thought out manual pilot of other folks. I had to in order to survive. I was also taught that my own self care doesn't matter, only other people do, and it's so easy to override that with the right words about honoring commitments or disappointing others. I can talk a big game about not many shits given, but I, too, have programming. And the programming beneath what I have actively worked to build up in order to save myself? It says I don't matter. It says only other people matter. It says putting other people everywhere but last is how to survive. Survival trumps self care. It always does.

So, I shut down. It's so much easier to do what they want, all disconnected, then it is to continuously assert your boundaries. Saying no is how you get physically or emotionally beat to shit. Turning off means that it hits eventually, but in the moment you get whatever it is done and hate yourself for giving in afterwards. And I have started giving myself permission to acknowledge that people who take advantage of this are perpetuating abuse, too.

Taking advantage of my survival mechanisms is wrong. It is abusive and it is bullshit and it is a threat to my continued psychological health. Manipulating me without giving me time to think isn't acceptable behavior. Without processing time, without a chance to figure out what is going on, my agreement means nothing. This is not unique to me. Taking advantage of this is emotional abuse. Those scars are just as real as those from physical maltreatment-you just can't see them. But that doesn't mean using them doesn't hurt.

Do not violate my trust that way. It is bullshit.