Monday, May 5, 2014

The Feels Double Standard

Frequently (yes frequently. Not occasionally or sometimes or once in a while. Frequently) a parent or family member of a disabled person will say something really ableist and flagrantly made of red flags. Like, oh, "I wish my disabled child had died at birth".

For what should be obvious reasons, this tends to upset--or even trigger--disabled people. And then...the double standard sets in.

Abled people want us to understand this mother's tragedy, this brother's difficulty. They think we should stop confusing a parent who has said to mass media outlets "I wish my child had died" with our own parents. Patterns don't exist, don't you feel her pain? They insist it isn't saying anything about us (cultural context, like patterns, don't exist), we are nothing at all like that brave person's relative.

And then when we call bullshit on these silencing tactics and dismissiveness? Two thing happen, usually at once:

1. We are accused of being "irrational" or "too emotional" or "unable to view this objectively" or "too angry" or "projecting or any of 10,000 ways they have of saying "ummm I don't want to listen to you so I won't."

2. Invariably, able people, often but not exclusively mothers (who may or may not have disabled children), declare themselves triggered by those meaniehead disabled people, who have no empathy and make them feel unsafe.

Let's explore how we got here. Usually, the first thing a disabled person does in these situations is express that these storeies are triggering, and/or point ouut that uncritical reporting actively makes the world less safe for  us.

...The reaction to that, I already described: people demand that we understand the family's tragedy. Think of someone besides your self they say. Gosh, not all parents are like yours. Empathy. Shoes. Not like that child.

In other words, we say we're triggered by people wanting us to not exist, by saying they wish people like us were dead or they hate them or their disabled family member ruined their life, and abled people demand we understand that we're objectively wrong to feel that way.

That would make you angry too.

And then responding is irrational and triggering...except our triggers five minutes ago didn't matter. Oh but do theirs ever matter. Stop being so mean, gosh, how dare you cause someone to feel bad by calling out their flagrant bigotry.

"Being told I am expressing bigotry" is not a more legitimate trigger than "being systemically dehumanized and expected to accept that people want you dead".

Unless, of course, person A is abled and person B is disabled. Cuz in that situation, only the real person has real emotions, deserves real respect, or is at all even capable of being triggered.

Yes, this is how it works in most spaces. This isn't how it should work, it is predicated on lies and bullshit and people abusing their privilege, but it is how things function right now. Abled people? This is something you need to step up and change. You very conveniently have it set up so that we can't, because if we do we're the biggest asshats on the planet just for saying maybe an able person is wrong.

If you're truly dedicated to non bigotry, you should probably reflect on that. And start fixing it.


Morénike said...

Statements such as those fill me with nearly uncontrollable fury. Such a disrespectful, triggering, inhumane thing to say; such a horrible way to trivialize someone's life. And not just someone, their own d¥mn child!

My (non-autistic) child fights for her life every effing day. She nearly died as a small child due to illness, and has faced other health complications that could have ended her life through the years as well. She is now much healthier and has a more promising prognosis, but she will always struggle. But despite that, her life has meaning. Tremendous meaning. ALL life has meaning. Yes, even a disabled life.

Comments like those are depraved, hateful, and are basically a big outstretched middle finger to my baby, to me, and to anyone with any type of disability.

Beyond disgusted and horrified to share a planet with such "people."

Anonymous said...

And to bounce off what Morénike is saying, to all the able parents/siblings/laypeople out there: if a disabled person protests against shitty behavior by able people, y'know what you should be doing?

Hint: It's not "Well, I'm not like that! Not all of us are like that! You should specify who you're talking about!" Because that proves a very self-centered attitude where if something isn't about you, you feel the need to make it about you. And the self-centeredness makes it more likely that, uh, yeah, you actually are like that.

What you should be doing is using your voice as an abled person with abled privilege to amplify disabled voices. And to back us up when hateful people say those things. You show that statement isn't about you by your actions, not by making it about you.

Anonymous said...

Not only do I share your rage at statements like that, I feel triggered twice. Because I had a daughter who died and I get to hear the other half of the equation, which is that "maybe some things are for the best" because not only do people not want us disabled people to be born or live, they don't want our children to survive, either. "After all, what kind of life could you have given her?"