Eater of Trees

Posts Tagged ‘language

It’s not ableist to acknowledge that people have varying ability levels.  I mean obviously come on that’s like, one of the most basic points of disability theory.

Intelligence is ableist because it isn’t actually a thing.  It’s a bunch of things, and often they aren’t correlated at all (See for example specific learning disabilities; like I’m completely unable to remember things in the short term and get distracted all the time and forget what I was doing but as soon as something is in my long term memory it is staying there forever.)

Like the best way to put it seems to be to realize it’s not really one specific thing.  It’s not even that there’s lots of ways to be intelligent—which there are—it’s that if you talk about intelligence we have no way of knowing if we’re talking about being able to remember facts, being good at processing numbers, having a wide knowledge base (like knowing twenty five languages, for example), or even readily using wikipedia so you’ll have answers to other people’s questions.

It is probably worth breaking the idea down into its component parts here, because really my ability to grasp complex concepts quickly and my tendency to become completely lost if a person uses weird organization or is at all poetic are very different things, and they’d both be considered intelligence or lack thereof.  Plus, the way people talk about it now it doesn’t even really mean anything because it’s super vague and, well, a ton of unrelated things.

The other reason it’s ableist is because people without intelligence, or specific facits thereof, are treated like shit and get their autonomy denied them and generally are abused and unaccommodated so they can’t use the abilities they do have (like, I learn really fast and have a ridiculously good memory but then I have no ability to focus and can’t read books very well, so I failed out of college.  Even though basically intellectual things are basically what I’m best at, and actually because of my other disabilities are practically all I can do)

It should also be noted that it’s not “intelligence” that’s privileged; it’s a bit more complex then intelligence is privileged and lack of it is disprivileged.  In my experience it’s really productivity that’s privileged; I mean i got forced into segregated special ed classes and generally had no material ever that was remotely appropriate to my ability level (either because it was completely impossible for me to do—I completely left the essay portion of the SAT I took blank—or because it was stuff I’d learned years ago and they didn’t know anything better to do then teach it to me six times in a row), but I was generally regarded as “intelligent”.

Certainly there’s privilege in there, including my access to an education and resources and not being completely written off as uneducatable for any of various reasons.  But in my experience, testing at the ceiling of IQ tests mostly resulted in everyone insisting I needed to be perfect at everything, and punishing me when I was merely above average.  That’s… not privilege.

(But insulting people for lack of intelligence? That’s ridiculously ableist; like there’s no way it could be interpreted as not.  So seriously stop using words like “stupid” to attack people)

Trigger warning: unpleasant sexual experiences

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I basically want to break down the way society divides up interpersonal relationships, because it seems a lot of the time the way society declares normative relationships to work has little basis in reality, and that, considering often normative relationship models are quite limiting, it seems to me that the obvious thing is to go tell them to fuck themselves.

In detail, of course, because you’re me, and that’s what you do.  Some people watch movies or play games with their friends, others write elaborate deconstructionist theory posts on their blogs… with their friends.*

Anyway, it seems like the way mononormativity works is there’s two, maybe a few more, but mostly two major classes of relationships.  First, you have the Serious Romantic Relationship, it generally consists of romantic attraction, sexual attraction, and a relatively overt degree of identification and commitment (and by commitment here I mean “you will put an effort into making this relationship work”; I know also because of mononormativity commitment and monogamy are often conflated.).

You’re also expected to only have one of it, and it’s expected to have all these parts.  Also it is Serious Business.  Though I have noticed a lot of motifs where actually having a strong friendship with the person is considered optional.  Which is probably a symptom of homosocial norms (ie men hang out with men, women hang out with women type things.)

Now, in addition to this type of relationship, you have everything else.  Other relationships are supposed to be not sexual and not romantic.  Really the definitions are a lot looser here I think, though some degree of commitment probably is involved.  They’re also less Serious Business, which is probably why society has been a lot looser at defining them. (Not that there aren’t tropes for them, like BFFs or bromance or the like, they’re definitely discussed.)

But basically the obvious extension to rejecting the idea that There Can Only Be One with regards to Serious Romantic Relationships, is that really, there’s no reason to accept the validity of the definition as a whole period.  This is especially clear to me also I am somewhat less sexual than normative, which tends to me quite honestly I don’t particularly care one way or another about sexual interactions. (There’s also a varying degree of sexuality in interactions, obviously; it’s not always clear where said boundaries are, either, and I do like certain types of physical interactions that are moderately less sexual quite a bit, and often they feel more engaging emotionally then normative sex.  But that is yet another rant.)

Basically, if I take the sexual requirement and the monogamy requirement out of the Serious Romantic Relationship, and can include sexuality in nonromantic relationships, it becomes increasingly clear that you could easily also add romantic attraction to a non-SSR, at which point the distinction rapidly becomes meaningless, and it becomes apparent that, fuck this, you might as well make your own categories, mixing and matching tropes from other types of relationships society likes to insist are the Only Way.

So anyway the obvious practical result of this theory is that me and Devyn went and created a new category because we didn’t think the ones that existed did want we wanted, and we ended up calling it “brain twins” because we seem to have weirdly-but-awesomely similar problems and histories.

And for some further areas this could be expanded on, I didn’t really touch much on family either, which I think is probably an important element of this, I haven’t had too extensive identification of people as my family so I’m not super experienced at this.  Obviously the main tropes with family seems to be you’re supposed to be commited to them (whether you like them or not, which, obviously is a prime thing for abuse) and that you’re genetically similar to them, or they are your One Serious Romantic Relationship.

Nor did I touch on heteronormativity or, for that matter, how cissexism contributes to this (Serious Romantic Relationships are always between One Man and One Woman and obviously we can always readily tell who’s a man and who’s a woman and who’s one person and nobody’s anything else) or how commitment goes from being a healthy thing (“Let’s put some effort into resolve conflicts!”) to an extremely unhealthy thing (“Care about your family! Wait what your parents are abusive? YOU STILL MUST CARE ABOUT THEM THEY REALLY LOVE YOU.”) in the hands of kyriarchy.

There’s also a point, which occured to me recently, is that a further extension of this theory is also that you could quite readily have a relationship that is called, for example, “marriage” but lacks almost if not all the characteristics of a Serious Romantic Relationship, beyond, of course, the name, and that, furthermore, this relationship would be entirely valid as marriage.  Which, obviously does mean we are threatening the sanctity of marriage.  …but more obviously, marriage shouldn’t have any sanctity in the first place, that undermines people’s ability to live their lives how they want.

*I have the BEST friends. 😛 …also I now have a Deconstruct All Things category. Ha!

…well they aren’t the same thing, they’re hyponyms* of a broader category and we’re generally mostly just concerned about the broader category; forcing sex and gender to be different things serves to marginalize trans people by forcing gender onto their body parts.

And doing so usually involves copious ignoring of facts, because everyone who decides my sex must be male apparently sees a penis and stops; they don’t bother to notice that because of hormones I have breasts, and body odor and skin texture that’s within the norm for women, and because of lasers my hair coverage is again, normative for women.

This isn’t to say that a woman who doesn’t have those traits body is still not female, of course.  Just that very frequently the idea that sex is what’s in your pants serves to completely ignore everything outside of said pants, which, actually makes it relatively clear how objective said fact really is.  But even if your body entirely conforms to the general societal expectations of men’s bodies, you can still call your body female; and telling someone who does so that their body is male is very much cissexism.

And I do want to be clear that people may not necessarily identify their sex as the same as their gender.  I’m not entirely sure at this point whether I do or not, myself.  Respect people’s identities and don’t take this to mean you can yell at people who call themselves “male-bodied.” (Calling other people who don’t identify that way things like that? Yeah yelling may be appropriate) The point is, however, people can identify both their sex and gender however they want and the actual gendering of specific classes of body parts is a socially constructed convention and IT IS COMPLETE BULLSHIT and HIGHLY OPPRESSIVE TO TRANS PEOPLE.)

*it occurs to me “hyponym” may not be a well known word.  It’s like… there’s a broader category that the words that are hyponyms belong to (eg. “chair” is a hyponym of “furniture”; “furniture” is a hypernym of “chair”)

There is now a “Bigotry is not a mental illness” tumblr.

Sorry that’s all I have to add here.

(Well, also, do I really need to spell this out? When I say -phobia language hurts people, I’m speaking from experience.  But nooooo, apparently gaslighting is popular now.)

Phobias are real things that impact the lives of many people.  Bigotry and oppressive forces are also a thing that impacts the lives of many people. But they’re not the same thing.  At all.

Specifically phobias are when something or other produces an extremely strong unpleasant emotional reaction, mostly fear or panic.  You see a bee, and you completely freeze up and can’t move because the bee is going to hurt you (even though, logically, you know that’s unlikely and if it did the pain would be annoying and not serious)

Phobias are not generally taken very seriously.  This is a recurring problem; wherein people will try to expose you to your phobia for a variety of reasons, possibly because they think you need exposure therapy and have decided to skip the informed consent stage.  Or possibly because they find it funny, or any variety of reasons.  All of which are extremely ableist; at best trying to “help” you in a way that denies your agency, at worst outright abuse.

And further, people will often treat people with phobias very condescendingly.  Insisting that you should just magically get over it or that your emotional reaction is a sign of weakness or any other variety of derogatory treatment for it.  People will completely disregard the needs of their readers, and, for example, illustrate their writing with pictures of blood or insects in ways that make it hard to avoid said pictures; assuming that their readers emotional safety is just a concern to be casually tossed aside.  (Further ignoring the fact, of course, that if you trigger your readers, they are unlikely to remain your readers.)

The thing is, the suffix “-phobia” is used for two completely different things.

One thing is phobias; which are a mental process that is rather disruptive and tends to preclude clear thinking.  The other is bigotry.  Bigotry is hate.  It’s treating people as less than human.  It’s systematically denying people basic rights and disrupting their lives.

But it’s not a phobia.

Calling it one gives reasonability to the panic defense; when someone claims that they just panicked because the victim of a hate crime was different and that made them commit said crime.  Because phobias do result in an inability to think clearly, although they don’t usually result in violence so much as hiding.  Further calling bigotry a phobia serves to make oppressors sympathetic.  After all, their bigotry is just an out of control emotional reaction.  It says that they are the ones who are suffering, not the people who they are oppressing.

Using “-phobia” to discuss bigotry shames phobias as well.  Telling people that their emotional reactions are as bad as forces that systematically dehumanize and kill people on a regular basis prevents people from being able to discuss their reactions without being read as terrible people.  It prevents people from being able to deal with their phobias in useful ways, whether by avoiding them or by attempting to find treatment for them.  It encourages people to hurt themselves by entering painful situations and ignoring the pain, because the pain is seen as a manifestation of their own personal failures.  Using “-phobia” for bigotry is an example of bigotry and is definitely oppressive.

This becomes especially a problem because occasionally oppression and phobias overlap.  If you spend your life shamed for expressing a personality trait or because of your mind, and are constantly harassed and demeaned because of something about you, and see people around you who exhibit said trait be harassed and treated as jokes or disguisting or terrible people, you can quickly develop a phobia of said trait.

But then, when you have that reaction, everyone around you uses the words to describe your reaction to describe the people who hate you.  Who’s oppression has caused this reaction in the first place.  You have panic attacks when you try to transition because you’ve been bombarded by messages that trans people are terrible and freaks.  Only then, you can’t talk about it.  You can’t say “Oh hey I have a phobia of being trans” because transphobia isn’t anxiety about stepping outside of prescribed gender roles, it’s oppression of people who do that.  Calling oppression of trans people transphobia is likely to be oppressive to trans people.

Fighting bigotry with bigotry isn’t just helping one group at the expense of another, it’s hurting the group you’re trying to help, and makes their oppressors sympathetic. This is, understandably, problematic.

Further, there are relatively reasonable replacements for many common “-phobia” terms, that often serve better to explain what the oppressive forces are.  For example, cissexism much more clearly encompasses all the manifestations of oppression and erasure of transness, not merely the overt violence.

Monosexism, cissexism, and heterosexism are all words that much more clearly discuss how erasure and normativizing one group at the expense of others is a problematic element of society.

(In addition, replacing “phobia” with “-hate” or “-bigotry” can serve to allow discussion of specifically more overt violence, or in cases where there isn’t such an obvious replacement term.)

[Crossposted from here]

Okay how is it that we internalized this idea that ‘offensiveness’ is the problem?

Because I mean seriously, when people make, say, jokes about how trans people are not really their gender and such, the problem isn’t offensiveness. It’s oppressiveness.  You’re not offending someone. YOU’RE HURTING THEM.

Equating being oppressed with being offended is a way to derail the conversation and draw attention away from the fact that oppressive actions are hurting people.

Plus it is so subjective, it’s not like there are dozens of men who are offended by the prospect of women standing up to them, or homophobic fucks who’re offended by seeing gay people show affection, or cissexist asshats who’re offended that you’re not comforming to your patriarchal box.

Offensiveness is comparing me to a slime mold. Kind of maybe painful but not really problematic.  Oppressiveness is mocking me because my gender doesn’t match the one I was coercively assigned, or insisting that should be shut away because of nonneurotypicalness. THIS IS THE SHIT THAT RUINS PEOPLES LIVES.