Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crip Rage Internet Adventures

So, in April I joined an interest specific geek message board. Since it is related to gaming, the first thing (after the mandatory forum newbie/intro threads) I went looking for was disability stuff.  Here is what came of some of my interaction there. I have redacted links and whatnot because I do not hold the site owners responsible for what a handful of assholes do on their board. I do hold web site owners responsible for leaving bigoted stuff up without a least a nod to the fact that the bigotry is not acceptable.


There Goes the Warm Fuzzy

So I was reading a thread about handling disabilities while playing {custom game type}, and that had me feeling pretty good. Folks were honest about ability level, trading tips on helpful gear, and there was zero acrimony. Then I saw this: Abused Handicapped Permits {link redacted}.

Wow. Just wow. What the hell is wrong with people?

"Since I cannot determine your level of ability myself on one single, few second viewing you should not be parking there! Walk your fat ass!" I know that this sentiment is not restricted to this forum, or to gaming culture - that it is rampant throughout USian society. It still makes me sick every time I see it. I was really, really hoping not to see it here.

PSA for Fools: Some disabilities are "invisible." No, no one has to justify their parking tag to you. The documents have to be filled out by the patient, certified by a doc, and approved by the DMV - they are not nearly as easy to fake one's way into possession as you think. {While the specifics can vary, the generalized procedure here is a good guide-line.} I could have read Penn & Teller the riot act over their ADA episode. It was so full of ignorance as to boggle the mind. And if you have a relative with a tag, and you believe them to be able-bodied then you should take a long hard look at yourself - they probably did not want to tell you that they now belong to a group you are bigoted against. Would you do so in their place?

Oh my, the all-you-can-eat buffet of fat hatred. First off, noneyadamnbusiness. Seriously. If your disgusting, self-important curiosity must be satisfied, consider this: how on earth do you do full-body cardio from a damn wheelchair or scooter? Never mind that several conditions (and numerous medications) cause weight gain. Never mind the obvious lack of physical ability. If you must make your putrid assumptions, keep them to your damn ignorant self. Even if none of that applies, and one of my fellow 'wheelers has decided that food is one of the few unimpeded pleasures they have, then more power to them!

I say all this as a wheelchair user also at her "ideal" spot on the BMI (which is crap, anyway). Which, by the way, helps earn me the damn “WTF, lady, you aren’t disabled!” stares when I use a handicapped parking spot or my wheelchair.

There's also the ageism, which is disgusting. Old people should not drive! Hahaha! Oh, please, tell me another, won't you? Oh, oh, can you tell me a funny "old people should never have sex joke" too please? I wish you long life, so you can deal with the same bullshit discrimination.

When your TAB ass parks in one of those spots - that is abusing the privilege. With the hell you people put us through with your stairs and your clunky room transitions and your high tables and counter tops and your narrow doorways and your no ASL interpreter services and your jokes about Braille ATMs and your stupid, stupid bathrooms and your dumbass handling of  assistant animals and your disregard for the ADA and your broken elevators and your blocked handicapped parking spots and your putting your baby strollers in the wheelchair spots on buses and your I know disability when I see it attitudes - it is a wonder we put up with any of you at all.

Ahh, I see! You all built those high cabinets for job security - very clever.

The disabled are one of the fastest growing demographics on the planet - live long enough, you will likely join our ranks.

You get the whole rest of the damn world - leave us the wildly insufficient blue parking spaces and the occasional bathroom stall. The disabled are one of the fastest growing demographics on the planet. Pray you do not get old or fat or crippled and have to deal with someone like you were thirty years ago.


Whew, that rant felt good. This was probably not the best time or place for this kind of journal entry, but there it is none-the-less.


So there is a bit of what comes out when I am disappointed enough, frustrated enough, and just a little angry. Yes, just a little.

Monday, May 30, 2011


For all the writing I have completed about labels, you (Future You that has read them once I finally posted them) might think that I enjoy labels in general and enjoying collecting them to myself specifically. That would be entirely wrong. Labels are simply shortcuts to explaining aspects of a situation, place, or person. I do not like them at all, but I cannot avoid acknowledging their usefulness.

I want to write to you about another label.

I am avoidant.

What does this mean? It means a lot – it means I do not like you, Gentle Reader, not at first anyway. People (more specifically strangers) wig me in the way some people are wigged by spiders or airplanes or elevators or ladders. I do not trust you. Not yet. I might learn to trust, eventually. I do not trust you not to judge too quickly, too harshly, and without adequate data. I do not think you will be fair.

How did I get this way? Well, my therapist said that it was the way I was raised. Frankly, I was amazed that a steady diet of inequity could lead a child to expect inequity through the rest of her life. I also developed a more-than-healthy level of sarcasm, as you can see. I was also aware of my own actions and my own feelings – but even then, giving them a name made things somewhat easier.

Why was I talking to a therapist? Well, it was early in the lupus mystery. I knew something was wrong, but we had not reached a point where my doctors agreed with me. We had "ruled out" a number of possibilities, and had yet to find the right course to peruse. So I was subjected to a battery of tests along with interrogations every time I saw a lab coat. My therapist’s job was to find out if I was malingering, a hypochondriac, suffering from Munchausen’s or anything other than genuinely physically ill.

She, the therapist, bless her, found out that not only was I not lying about my symptoms, but that I have a condition that meant there were few things I could do that would be more painful to my own psyche than to seek out strangers which I would then have to share personal details of my life and body. That each time I went to see a stranger such as a doctor or lab technician, I was causing myself great distress.

I owe her a lot – my doctors took me a lot more seriously after they were informed of her determination. Parts of my own life made more sense to me. I finished my course of therapy with her, and am not currently treated for my avoidance. I get by, though – through one other personality trait (flaw?): there is nothing that I hate more than fear. So I push myself into situations that I fear in order to conquer that fear

This is part of why I share details of my life with you, Dear Reader. I do not know you therefore I am scared of you and expect you will treat me badly. More importantly, I have things to say and cannot abide my own fear… So here I am. 

Interaction with others is often a trial by fire event. Each interaction, each post, each place I visit, each person I meet is a triumph of sorts. One that often cost me peace of mind, sleep, and peace.

Note: being sick and/or in a lupus flare kind of kills (sedates? Mollifies? Subdues?) the “Fuck Fear” philosophy and I am far less likely to be social or post while in such a state.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Slurs Are Slurs But Are Not Other Slurs

So, Glee is doing things again – or so I thought. Sigh. I have not talked about Glee here because I do not watch it. Yes, I am aware of it as a subcultural phenomenon. That fact actually upsets me somewhat – I find their treatment of the issues of people of disabilities to be atrocious and disgusting. I know stupid, hateful people I can hang out around if I want to feel that way, thank you very much. So no Glee here, outside of watching clips to share solidarity with the people that are hurt when they watch it.

On Twitter I saw that Elon James White had tweeted about an article describing Glee’s latest screw up.

I completely agree that these slurs are not equal.

Now normally I am in the first wave of people to jump on Glee’s ass and point and laugh at the hole. This is not Glee’s project, though, it is the R-word’s project, part of the foundation that supports the Special Olympics, so I took a breath, went to their site, combed through it,  and thought about it some more…

My brain pan, let me open it for you.

First, I think that both the creators of the clip and some of the people decrying it seem to be ignoring all of the intersections at play. There are people with intellectual disabilities or neuroatypical lesbians, gays, Germans, Latina/Latinos, and blacks; I want to acknowledge that here.

Second, I went through their available content, and I think their point is poorly made but valid. The point is not a moral equivalency, but a resultant equivalency, I think. I believe that what they wanted to do was show people that may not otherwise consider it that this slur also delivers that sick, just punched in the gut feeling. That this word instantly conjures up a history of discrimination and oppressive so odious that even now people refuse to acknowledge that it even exists... if they even know about it in the first place.

Third, it is hard not to feel alienated by the line of reasoning used by some critics. Apparently, some folk feel that “retarded”, and likely also “lame,” “gimp,” “crip,” etc., are just not “as bad.” This is exactly the same wrong reasoning the commercial itself uses! The fact that there is no moral equivalency works both ways – it is hate speech. It hurts. That purpose is to wound. Do not try to feed me that “Oh, but I don’t mean it that way!” bullshit – if it was not meant negatively, you would not be using it to describe something you view negatively, okay? Okay.

For those of you thinking that “retard” and “retarded” simply do not have the same impact because they lack history, you are mistaken.  Retard is a word that went from a specific diagnosis to slur in our most recent century – but discrimination against folks with mental disabilities has a long and sordid history. This is just one of the more recent slang insults used in conjunction with a fear and hatred that is so old and so widespread that the origins of it may never be found (the above link sites the first technical writing about it to 5 B.C.E.).


(I am not even going into all the bullshite that still happens today to people with disabilities: the discrimination, the forced treatment, the "good cripple" and super-crip memetic weapons, the "mercy" killings, the astonishing rape, abuse and murder statistics, "angel babies," and so on and so on... The fact that this is still mostly invisible disgusts me.)

People perceived as being outside of some generally accepted social norm of mental capacity and thought have been discriminated against forever – tactics have extended to banishment, forced sterilization, torture, and even death. And until fairly recently (historically speaking) other “trouble makers” such as homosexuals, uppity women, and political minorities (to name but a few) have been labeled mentally incompetent in order to silence and discredit them while also subjecting them to the same treatment.

Forth: remember what you learned about the Holocaust? Do you remember learning about the six million Jews, a terrible atrocity that should have never been allowed to happen, right? Right. But you should have also been told that the grand total of people slaughtered was closer to ELEVEN TO SEVENTEEN MILLION.  I am not even going into the military and civilian deaths caused by the war itself; just about purposeful exterminations at this moment. All those other people included, but are not limited to the following: homosexuals, political dissidents, other religious dissidents, Romani, and… people with disabilities! It is a sorrowful thing to see all of those people forgotten almost every time the Holocaust is mentioned. I will never, ever degrade the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust – I want people to remember that they were not alone. 

Are disability slurs the same as racial slurs? No.

Are sexual orientation slurs the same as disability slurs? No.  

Each slur is unique, designed to hurt one specific group of people in specific ways - to justify atrocious treatment with little to no guilt on the part of the abuser.

Do they all carry long, dark histories of discrimination, oppression, and murder? Do they all carry the inherent intent to dehumanize, to "other", to separate?


They are all wrong.

Thank you for sticking with me through this piece, I appreciate it. Please do not see my limited linking above as a indicator of sparse information - there is plenty out there if you make even a basic effort to look for it. I am just out of spoons...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Race (with Fabulous Web Sites!)

First things first – I am white. I am super white. You can see blood vessels right through my sometimes nearly-translucent skin. Yes, sometimes I look like Rand McNally took LSD and decided to get into body painting. I am a shade of white sometimes referred to lovingly as “fish-belly white.”

I am anti-racist.

I am also a recovering racist.

Now, I did not have any of that extra-stupid obvious racism. I was not raised that way, contrary to numerous efforts by my mother’s first husband. (To be honest, I think a lot of that was just to get a rise out of me. That does not change the fact that even being in a position to decide to use racism ironically is okay – it is a glaring sign of privilege.) I had relatives that I almost never saw because they tried to take my toddler self down to our town’s courthouse to attend a Klan meeting – and my mother was completely not okay with that. So I only saw them at family reunions, where they would do things like pass around stickers with an “obviously” African American silhouette enclosed by a circle with a line across it. Yes, some of them are the caricatures of human beings you think of when you think of the classic racist.

So, instead, I grew up virulently anti-racist instead. I can be contrary like that.

So, to even think of myself as a racist means thinking of me as one of those people. That is really, really uncomfortable. When I say I am a recovering racist I mean that I am always looking for and fighting those subtle (to a white person), pervasive pieces of meme that are always ready to steal and keep brain space. You know, the things you can think and still not actually consider yourself a racist: that positive stereotypes are okay, that if no one of a particular group is around then it is okay to smack talk them, that you “don’t see color,” that you got where-ever you are on effort and merit alone, that perhaps “previously” oppressed folks should just get over it and live in the supposed meritocracy of the now, that some people are now unfairly advantaged over white people, that now a days it is all about class (denying racism rather than acknowledging the intersections). I am always fighting the idea that white people are somehow the default, standard human being. This  is amazingly present once you notice it, white folks.

I recognize my race privilege.

I have had fights with people over “gypsy” stereotypes. I have walked away from unacceptable caricatures of people of Asian descent. I have cursed people out over generalizations regarding immigration. I live in a neighborhood with a proud African American history (the first in our county to “allow” black home ownership). My kids are sometimes the only white kids in their classroom. I do not ask the neighborhood moms about their hair, and do my best to answer their daughters when they ask about my daughters’ hair. I remind my husband that to the neighborhood teen boys, he is a stereotypical villain (over 40 white male, heavy, loud and blond). I do not do this for cookies – I do it because it is the right thing to do. 

I do it because it is the shit we should never have to do if we truly lived in a US that was not racist.

I am not perfect, and I will fuck up. Hell, I may have fucked up in this very entry. I am, and will be, working on it.

I spend a lot of time on this issue, and there are some places that I want to point you towards so you can too. I know that you cannot walk around all privileged and expect people to be willing to take time out to educate you – but there are folks that put terrific stuff out there, and I appreciate it so much.

Elon James White is amazing, and so is his crew at the Brooklyn Comedy Company. My daughters and I never miss an episode of This Week in Blackness. The BcCo podcasts are so wonderful that they draw a fantastic audience, too: Blacking It Up, the White House, and the JTMSCast.

Dammit, I am out of time to write for now, but I have to get posting again, so I plunge forward. Just know that I am not giving any of these folks the space or accolades that they are rightfully due!

I have read Racialicious for quite a while now, and they address so much that you better settle in and plan on spending some time there. You will leave a better, more educated person for it. I am new to Jack and Jill Politics, and they are really on top of all of today’s relevant news. They talk about a lot more than the intersection of race and politics, and do it all so very, very well. My most recently added must reads include Angry Black Lady Chronicles, which are amazing, and Angry Black Bitch, which is fantastic.

If any of you Dear Readers go to these sites – please use your manners.

Oh, and avoid articles about “black Twitter.” Seriously.

And hey, Team Voltron: shout-out to the chatroom!