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What actually happened and a rough timeline.

Some of you might have been following a huge goddamned blowup that happened recently on the Skepchick main site. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I’m going to give a timeline of the events and what actually happened for you to follow along with.

It started with the DDoS Valentine Amy and Elyse made for the DDoSers. After it was published, a friend of mine called out Amy and the rest of the Skepchicks for the ableism contained within (and later, another friend of mine called her out as well). This is where the first real myth surrounding this debacle comes into play; That what we’re all so outraged by is the word “stupid.” Here’s how it actually played out:

Kassiane ‏@UVGKassi
@SurlyAmy I usually love you but holyfuck your valentine to DDOSers was the most ableist thing I’ve seen in a WHILE. Be better

Kassiane @UVGKassi
@skepchicks You couldn’t make the point w.o being disgustingly ableist? #abledpeoplesay #whyicantbefeminist

Amy Davis Roth ‏@SurlyAmy
@UVGKassi How so exactly?

Kassiane @UVGKassi
@SurlyAmy all the “stupid” & “I’m surprised you remember to breathe”. Like, holy fuck ableism. Considering tossing my surlies. It’s THAT BAD

Amy Davis Roth ‏@SurlyAmy
@UVGKassi The words of the poem were by Elyse. I did not realize that stupid is an ableist term. Can you advise on substitute words?

Kassiane ‏@UVGKassi
@SurlyAmy pretty much anything that isn’t intellect related? The “surprised you remember to breathe” shoulda made all y’all pause. #ableism

Amy Davis Roth ‏@SurlyAmy
@UVGKassi Thank you for pointing it out to me. I will look for alternatives in future writing.

Kassiane ‏@UVGKassi
@SurlyAmy This is a really disappointing lack of thinking from a collective I did admire.

Kassiane ‏@UVGKassi
@SurlyAmy Thank you. I would like to continue liking skepchick, but when ppl like me are the punchline I CANT.

Amy Davis Roth ‏@SurlyAmy
@UVGKassi You JUST said we are not thinking. That is an intellect related insult. You realize the irony here, yes?

Kassiane ‏@UVGKassi
@SurlyAmy “Aren’t thinking” and “you can’t think lols idiot” are vastly different. You can see why, right?

Amy Davis Roth ‏@SurlyAmy
@UVGKassi I apoligize, I just looked and the word idiot is there. Again, I didnt write the words so I must have forgotten.

Amy Davis Roth ‏@SurlyAmy
@UVGKassi SO I have heard you and will try to do better. If you want to throw away my art that is your choice.

ischemgeek ‏@ischemgeek
@SurlyAmy Stupid, IME, is polite-company “r*****d.” I say as a person who has been called both.

Amy Davis Roth ‏@SurlyAmy
@ischemgeek Thanks for further clarification. I’d list all the names I get called everyday but twitter is only 140 characters.

ischemgeek ‏@ischemgeek
@SurlyAmy further clarification: Stupid is to retard as shrill or harpy is to b***h/c**t. It’s a dogwhistly way of saying the same thing.

So as you can see, the initial outrage? Not over the word “Stupid.” There was no call for nobody to ever use the word Stupid again. The outrage was over the trifecta of Stupid, Idiot, and the essentially-a-helmet-joke “impressed you remember to breathe”. Because… there are actual people who fall under the “Can forget to breathe” category. See Apnea, for one, or the lack of breathing control that comes with anxiety. Or, actual disorders aside (and there are other, more obscure examples) there’s the fact that this boils down to “you are so mentally deficient it’s amazing you have autonomic processes at all.”

But while this is where the twitter ended, this is where I decided to come in. Because what I can see is my friends being hurt… and getting a notpology. Starting off with “The words of the poem were by Elyse.” Which… I’ve made art with other peoples’ words before. It’s basically impossible to do without reading them. All this means is that not just one person, but two people saw those instances of ableism and okayed it.

But when Amy says this, it reads as “I didn’t write them, so I am absolved of responsibility.”

Then we get to Amy’s apology. As nice as it is, saying you will look for alternatives in the future does not solve the problem now. It does not change the fact that there is still a post up being unapologetically ableist, still a print for sale being the same thing.

So we still have a problem. And so I brought it up in the main post. I let them know that this shit was not cool.

Amy, in response, lets me know that she’s triggered by… “Not Cool?” by not being entirely forgiven after an apology couched in excuses and gotchas, that came with absolutely no attempt at fixing the current problem? I don’t know. (ETA: So, in the comments it was pointed out that, even though she said it was my comment that triggered her, Amy meant she was already being triggered by Kassiane’s comment on tossing her surlies? Which I can possibly understand but have expanded on in the comments.)

But she also mentions how very rude and awful the people calling her out on twitter were. The tweets are right up there. Go read them. Tell me all about how rude they are.

Now, in the original comment I also fucked up. I used the word lame. That was wrong of me… but I didn’t notice until I had already posted, and so there was basically nothing I could do but apologize. And I did.

The fact that I did that was then argued over and attack ad infinitum while the actual argument I made was… ignored.

Which is where another, huge problem came into play. Not only were Rebecca and Amy refusing to just fucking rectify their mistake, they had started engaging in shady, bully-esque techniques for getting their point across- ignoring the actual content and going for whatever low hanging fruit they could get their hands on, and deciding that one mistake meant there was nothing of value to consider in the actual post. Because telling people to not use ableist words and phrases and then defend them and refuse to remove them when it is entirely within their ability is EXACTLY the same thing as a one-off slip up that one can’t do anything more about than apologize.

Then Rebecca informed me that the conversation we were having was ACTUALLY about whether or not Stupid was ableist, which was news to me. This is where she initially tried to change the focus of the conversation from what it actually was about- an egregrious trifecta of instances of ableism- to a much easier to attack argument of “Stupid should be banned on the network.”

Kind of like, I don’t know, when Rebecca said “Guys, don’t do that,” and everyone else said “OH SO WE AREN’T ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX ANYMORE.”

But for some bizarre reason the parallels between what Rebecca is doing now and what people did to her during Elevatorgate did not stop there… because then she put up a post attacking the Strawmannish argument that nobody was actually making. She starts off with something she damn well should have recognized: “If you’re really hurt by this, then have my faux sympathy and you must live such an awful life.”

I’m relatively sure all of us have heard that same argument applied to sexist slurs. To homophobia. To racism. “If you’re really upset by people propositioning you in Elevators you must just live a life of terror. I’m so (Fake) sorry”

And then the shitty, disingenuous arguing tactics began again.

“”OK, now I’m starting to suspect that you are actually some kind of 4chan false flag operation. I wrote a sincere article without mocking anyone, but you’re insisting on being offended.”

I wrote a sincere article. I didn’t mock anyone. “A person who is triggered by words like “stupid” and “idiot” must quite seriously live a horrific life dominated by fear and pain, and I sincerely hope they get therapeutic help.” Nope, not mocking anyone. You’re insisting on being offended.

How many times during Elevatorgate did people tell Rebecca she was insisting on being offended?

We tried to point out that she was attacking a Straw Man. “was going by what people were complaining about in the previous thread and on Twitter, and “stupid” appeared to be getting the bulk of the hatred.” Again, you can read the twitter. You really can. It’s right up there.

And meanwhile, in the comments, the responses to… me defending my friends who were being once again shat on by feminism? Were becoming more and more disingenuous.

“Did you really just compare Spokesgay to a baby? How is that less offensive than using the word “stupid”?”

Then there’s more strawmanning. If you go back to the twitter, back to my first comment, you can see all of us saying that “Stupid” is not on par with sexist slurs. You can see us draw parallels to things like “harpy.” And yet we get this:

“And I’m not going to take you seriously if you bang on about how “stupid” is on a par with “retard” or other *actual* slurs”

At this point it’s impossible to have an actual discussion about the issues, because everyone is arguing against things we never said and everything is being twisted to turn us into- wait for it-

“Pearl-clutching outrage junkies”

We are the pearl-clutching outrage junkies.

Not the people arguing disingenuously. Not the people throwing a tantrum over being told to check their ableism. Not the people making entire posts attacking a strawman the very same way people attacked them.

We tried to disengage. I disengaged for a long-ass time, until it hit me just what was going down.

The gaslighting and disingenuous arguing and strawmanning? The “Get off my foot, person-whose-foot-I’m-standing-on”, “I feel harassed by you not letting me abuse you” tactics?

Are abuse tactics.

I realized why this shit had thrown me into a full on triggered meltdown. Because the way people were arguing was the same way they argue on 4chan. But not just random people. People I admired. People I had worked with for the past two months. People I thought could be better, people I thought could be called out and would be able to take it graciously.

People who had been in the exact position I was in now, with people attacking everything they could but their argument at the heart of the matter. People who know what it’s like to be harassed for having the audacity to suggest a differing opinion.

And so I let them know exactly what the problem is. I let them know that what they were participating in was straight up abuse. I let them know that if Amy was triggered by being told she was wrong without perfume and roses surrounding the words? So was I. Because since this shit first started I’ve been stuck having to be asleep, or being awake unable to sleep because all I can do is shake and focus on how everything hurts.

Not because there was a disagreement over a word. Because people that I admired couldn’t *handle* a disagreement over a word without turning into outright abusers.

And so Rebecca locked the thread. Saying that she and her site had been “labeled” abusers. Claiming that she had been trying to calm differing parties while engaging in all of the shit outlined above. While sitting idly by as people jumped down our throats, but making sure to tone police us when we responded in self defense.

Sorry. But when you engage in the exact same silencing and abuse tactics that people used against you personally to silence you when you were in my position?

I’m going to tell you that you’re using abusive tactics.

But tell me more about how all of this is irrelevant because we’re not even a real movement, just a 4chan conspiracy. Tell me more about how the cognitive and developmentally disabled communities just straight up don’t exist. About how the autistic community doesn’t exist. About how all of us who care when our feet get trampled on- no, not brushed, straight up trampled- are just a hoax.

Because you’ve never heard of them. Somehow.

Because you don’t see alllll the times we’ve let it slide when this network insults people over cognitive ability, when the writers apparently don’t know the basics of writing about writing about the developmentally disabled (So very tired of reading about people “with autism”).

Those were just brushing our feet. But a trifecta of ableism couched in excuses? Is an outright stomp.

Oh, and if you really want information on stupid being ableist? Here. Here. Those both come up if you just google “Stupid ableist”

There’s this post by Ischemgeek.

And two months ago, when I first joined this site, I wrote this.

There was a reason that was my introductory post. I wanted it to be crystal clear that anti-ableism is a cornerstone of my feminism. It is integral to my activism. And when needed to, I was going to fight against it, and I wasn’t going to entertain the notion that I stepped on someone’s foot by not letting it be swept quietly under the rug.

And I damn well did.

featured image courtesy of Laura Lewis via Flickr

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Grimalkin

Grimalkin

Kit "Grimalkin" Partin is an autistic genderqueer lesbian-boy-thing hailing from Dallas. He recently graduated from an online high school that he went to because his brain was so awesome it forgot how to not be depressed, and now he's pursuing a degree in art! He's a proud Atheism Plusser, and is working on an A+ non-profit. Here he is on twitter, facebook and that weird google+ thing he doesn't understand.

30 Comments

  1. February 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm —

    Hear, hear.

  2. February 17, 2014 at 1:34 pm —

    I am going to make this very very clear here:

    If you use a misstep someone makes in a post or comment calling you out to ignore the substance of their argument, you are committing a tu quoque fallacy: “But you did it too!”

    Lets abstract it to a less emotional situation(but still emotional for some): math.

    Someone makes a mistake in their process, forgot to carry a one. You point this out, and make a similar/related error. Would it be correct to ignore their correction because they made the same kind of error?

    NO ITS NOT CORRECT.

    Amy, Rebecca, Spokesgay, all did the same logical fallacy.

    They were wrong to do so.

  3. February 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm —

    In hindsight I think if the post had stopped here it would have been better…
    “I disagree, and as of right now I’m content allowing words like “stupid” to continue to be used across the Skepchick Network. I might consider requesting that writers include a content note at the top of posts that contain that language, but I’m still not really sure it’s necessary at this point.”

    With maybe a “discuss” … The compromise of a CN might well have been acceptable.

    Also all the people chuntering about “SJWs” forget Dan Fincke made this argument a long while ago.

    “But Aren’t Some People Actually Stupid?”

    Is he a “SJW”? Seems he made a good argument for it not being part of peoples lexicon, which can be discussed without discrediting through lazy means such as painting people as “SJWs”. I say this as someone who is terrible when it comes to calling people stupid or making allusions to lack of intelligence in relation to something that they said or did. Weird as I always tell myself that the intrinsic attributes of people have no relevance to if their arguments are right or wrong. So called “intelligent” people can be very very wrong and make terrible arguments, they are literally not “stupid”, colloquially at least. I think Rebecca and others have pointed out research that shows the more “intelligent” you are the better you are at supporting totally ridiculous beliefs. So calling people “stupid” for these beliefs and the bad arguments they use to prop them up is not just ableist, it’s wrong, it’s a fallacy and a bad argument itself!

    People who have been called “stupid” because of their autism or dyslexia etc make bad arguments and good arguments. Implying not being neurotypical or “able” is somehow relevant hurts them personally and just as importantly causes splash damage by associating bad arguments and “bad” with those attributes. As well as elevating our idea of “intelligent” as being synonymous with *right* and conferring unwarranted authority to intellectual figures *cough*Dawkins*cough* … Same as I now avoid calling something “bad” or a person out as “insane”, “crazy” etc, this seems to fit into that category. But damn it’s hard purging ableism from daily language as it is so pervasive… But that really is not an argument against trying. So thanks for helping me solidify the reasons why I personally will try and avoid this… Expect many failures and apologies from me 🙁

  4. February 17, 2014 at 9:55 pm —

    Please don’t take the Lord’s Name in vain

  5. February 17, 2014 at 10:23 pm —

    I’ve seen Watson respond really well to requests that she do something differently, even if she doesn’t quite grok the problem the way those affected do, which is what I tell people about her basically every time she comes up because I wanted people to know that she’s not demanding anybody do anything for her she’s not willing to do when it’s her turn. I wanted people to see that she treats correction like other people ought to be willing to accept that data in the interests of doing a better job because she personally takes corrections as opportunities to do a better job of living up to her own standards.

    I miss being able to say that. This has been super disappointing.

    I’m not perfect at getting rid of ableist language either, but when people point out areas for improvement I sure as hell hope I do a better job of accepting the opportunity to grow than some at Skepchick have done here. Very sad.

  6. February 17, 2014 at 11:11 pm —

    When I was reading the comments on Rebecca’s post, it really jumped out at me how those defending the word “stupid” were not providing any citations to back up their claims. I had no trouble googling “list of ableist slurs” and finding some of the same pages you linked to, supporting the idea that “stupid” counts as an ableist insult.

  7. February 18, 2014 at 12:34 am —

    What triggered Amy was this tweet:

    Kassiane @UVGKassi
    @SurlyAmy all the “stupid” & “I’m surprised you remember to breathe”. Like, holy fuck ableism. Considering tossing my surlies. It’s THAT BAD

    If you don’t get why, then maybe you should read up a bit on how mistreatment/destruction/trashing and/or parodies of Amy’s work are a major part of the abuse she gets online. Dismissing the years of abuse she has taken online and pretending this somehow has nothing to do with the current situation (or that the initial call-outs were remotely civil) frankly doesn’t paint you in a good light.

    And this is from someone who is sympathetic to your position.

    • February 18, 2014 at 12:55 am —

      Dan, I think people can sympathize with what Amy has been with over the last few years. And maybe, after Kassiane and others are able to feel that their hurts have been addressed, they will be able to address the hurts they caused -because- they were already feeling attacked.

      It’s a bit harsh to expect call-outs to always be civil, especially when you are a member of a marginalized group, on top of the micro- and macroaggressions you encounter every day. If people are expected to factor in the years of abuse that Amy has suffered, can we not also factor in the -lifetime- of abuse that disabled people can suffer as well?

      Elyse should not have used those words. Amy should not have used those words. That happened first. People are not calling for punishment, no one wants Amy to feel terrible, but what is wanted and needed is an acknowledgement that there was a harm done. At this point there have been several harms done. But it began with Amy and Elyse’s actions, and I don’t see why Amy’s pain should be given more priority over Kassiane’s or Ischemgeek’s or any of the other people hurt by those words and that phrase who maybe themselves were too triggered to speak up.

      • February 18, 2014 at 1:34 am —

        Thank you for *splaining social justice 101 to me. However could I have gotten along without you?

        • February 18, 2014 at 7:31 am —

          I’m sure you do fine. I apologise that you feel *splained to. But for someone who is “sympathetic to (Grim’s)) position”, you haven’t demonstrated much understanding of it.

          In other words: maybe you should read up a bit on how words and phrases like “stupid” idiot” and “forgetting to breathe”are a major part of the abuse disabled people get online. Dismissing the years of abuse they have taken online and pretending this somehow has nothing to do with the current situation frankly doesn’t paint you in a good light, either.

        • February 18, 2014 at 10:37 am —

          What if you actually address specific claims in the actual comment you’re replying to? I don’t see any *splaining or social justice 101 there.

          I’m not going to entertain short little quips in response to actual arguments here. Address what someone is actually saying or straight up don’t bother commenting. This has been one of the huge problems throughout this.

          • February 18, 2014 at 11:19 am

            What I did was address two claims Grimalkin made in this very piece right here:

            a) That Amy was triggered by someone saying “not cool” (explicit)
            b) That the discussion didn’t start out heated (implicit).

            I actually agree that the language is ableist and note that I didn’t say otherwise. I appreciate the huge pile of assumptions though. It really makes me feel good about defending your position elsewhere.

          • February 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm

            I don’t see where your claim “b” actually happened. Grim uses the word “outrage” a couple of times in describing the twitter conversation. Once to say the outrage wasn’t because of the word stupid by itself, and again to say that the outrage WAS about the trifecta of the words. The conversation was heated, because “heat” is a natural reaction to being hurt. Kassiane was upset by the ableism, so she reacted like someone who was upset. No one is claiming that this didn’t start out heated…because people get heated when they are attacked, which is what happened to Kassiane -first-.

            There is the argument that things got worse, but that’s on the people who engaged in ignoring, minimising, and willfully misinterpreting what Kassiane, Grimalkin, Ischemgeek, and others were saying. I won’t argue that Amy doesn’t have a right to be hurt or upset, but her right to be hurt or upset does not trump the people who she hurt and upset through her own actions. Ableism is rampant in this community, and this whole situation demonstrates that clearly.

    • February 18, 2014 at 10:29 am —

      Here’s the thing. Kassiane didn’t say “I’m going to toss my Surlies in an attempt to ridicule your art!” She said “I’m *considering* tossing them because this is *that bad*”

      It’s not about Amy or making her feel bad. It’s about a) Kassiane is not going to advertise for someone who participates in ableism, and b) quite frankly? It’s disturbing to have around a reminder of someone who will fight for everyone’s rights but yours.

      Also, really, point me to anything rude in there that doesn’t boil down to “she doesn’t want to wear the art of someone who is being ableist”

      And when you’ve done that, argue that those are not entirely justified examples of anger coming from someone being really fucking hurt.

      Because here? Ableism might be a side issue, because y’all are *feminist* activists. But to Kassiane? She *is* a disability activist. This is not some minor quibble to her. This is not a hypothetical, this is her and her friends and her allies being hurt here. And I can SO understand not wanting to wear the art of the umpteenth feminist to handwave the disabled like… this week. And I can understand saying it, too, because it *does* illustrate how VERY BAD what happened was.

  8. February 18, 2014 at 1:07 pm —

    Dan, let me clarify. I want you to address specific claims instead of doing this:

    “Thank you for *splaining social justice 101 to me. However could I have gotten along without you?”

    I do understand what you’re saying about the reason Amy was triggered. I understand that. I’ll expand my thoughts further and amend the post to reflect that once I have the time.

    • February 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm —

      I addressed specific claims in my first comment (and only specific claims):

      “Amy, in response, lets me know that she’s triggered by… “Not Cool?” by not being entirely forgiven after an apology couched in excuses and gotchas, that came with absolutely no attempt at fixing the current problem? I don’t know.” As you acknowledge, this is an error and needs to be amended. That is what I was trying to address. Then I got a response that assumed that:

      a) Somehow I claimed Amy was the only person hurt (this is obviously not true)
      b) Somehow I claimed that her being hurt trumps all other hurt ever (which is also obviously not true)
      c) I need to be condescended to because obviously my desire to fix an error comes with a complete misunderstanding of the principles of social justice. (FFS) I’m not just some random dude on the internet, so maybe give me a little credit.

      Look, if everybody takes license to act out and pile on when they feel hurt, then a bunch of people get hurt, and they also act out and pile on, and nothing ever gets solved. People have a right to be angry, but it’s simply not realistic to expect that being angry at someone who takes a whole lot of targeted abuse is going to be a productive way to engage with someone you want to be an ally.

      A lot of responses to you in that thread and elsewhere were dismissive and inappropriate. I am not defending them either. And disagreeing with one point of your summary <em<doesn't mean you get to assume that I do.

      At the very least we should try to give each other a little credit and not immediately assume that any response or clarification or minor disagreement constitutes a complete dismissal of your position. It doesn’t get anyone anywhere, and I will reiterate that I am not dismissing your position. I agree with your position and stated as much in my first post. But I still think it’s important to be fair and accurate in describing the situation, and not doing so (whether unintentionally or deliberately) is only going to make things worse.

      • February 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm —

        Thank you for clarifying. I still would like to see what specifically makes you see a, b, and c.

        Regarding A, I can see where marc is clarifying that other people were hurt, but not in response to you saying only Amy was. You didn’t make it clear that you understood the hurt went both ways, though, and I can see why marc would clarify.

        As far as B, it does come off (and perhaps you intend this) as “Amy has suffered abuse, therefor she should be criticized nicely”, which… people who are hurt never have an obligation to be nice about being hurt. There may be a place for talking about feelings afterwards, but there is no place for “You weren’t hurt nicely enough.”

        C- show me exactly what you’re talking about, I do not see it, straight up.

        Also, really not cool with calling this “Acting out and piling up.” This is multiple people being hurt and having something to say. It was two people making different points, and then a third (me) moving the call outs to where it actually belonged (not twitter). If that’s a pile up… that’s a small pile up. That only happened because it apparently takes three people saying something… and then a huge shitfest starting, for changes to be made. OH WAIT, changes haven’t been made. Future promises, yes, but no actual concrete change.

        Seriously. I do not care who stepped on my foot as they are standing on it and refusing to get off. I am going to react with justified anger and if it turns out that they are triggered by being yelled at by people whose feet they step on? We can talk about that after they get off my foot.

        Also, not convinced anyone said you were completely dismissing my position. I do see you holding the position hostage though, with ” It really makes me feel good about defending your position elsewhere.” Seriously, if you agree, you agree, but it doesn’t take specific claims you make off the table for argument. And I have a huge problem with you saying “Well I said I agree, but if that doesn’t mean you won’t argue with me…”

        • February 18, 2014 at 6:09 pm —

          “C- show me exactly what you’re talking about, I do not see it, straight up.”

          Oh come on now. This is just disingenuous. Marc acknowledges he initially thought I was derailing, and responded accordingly. I think we’ve come to terms there.

          I misread the intention of “This is where the first real myth surrounding this debacle comes into play; That what we’re all so outraged by is the word ‘stupid’,” as meaning that the original calling-out was not overtly hostile but just impassioned, and your posting the twitter conversation was meant to show Amy reacting badly to reasoned criticism. This is clearly not your intention so that’s fine.

          For the record, it did take a bit for anyone to be clear about what they found objectionable. Considering everyone was upset about the DDoS, I think it is easy to understand where this language came from and how its effect on people other than the intended target could have been overlooked. That doesn’t excuse it, but we all screw up when we’re upset. I know you don’t think Amy’s apology was sufficient, Grim, but it’s really not that much less of an apology than the one you made for using “lame” when addressing someone who upset you.

          Maybe when someone apologises and expresses a desire to do better–even if it’s not the ideal apology you have in your mind for whatever reason–the most productive thing would be to take that as an expression of good faith and try to work from there to a solution, at least if you can be fairly sure that the person you’re engaging with actually wants to be an ally and do better.

          I think it’s really unfortunate that things went the way they did after that, not least because of all the nastiness expressed later on from people who were clearly less conciliatory and were not interested in actually listening to what you had to say because they were in full heel-dig defence mode.

          We all try our best, and that isn’t always good enough. But I think we all agree that combating ableism is one of the values we support on the network, even if we aren’t all perfect at doing so all the time. That’s why it’s so damned hard.

          But in the end all of us who write here do have to work together constructively even when we don’t immediately agree on things, and its worth keeping an eye on how best to keep flared tempers from undermining our ability to do so going forward. That was an important lesson for me when I started writing here, and one that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind whenever something like this comes up.

          Anyway that’s all I have to say on this topic, other than that I will keep trying to do my best to use inclusive language in my own public writing and that despite the acrimony, this incident did at least remind me of how important that is.

          • February 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

            Okay, so… if it’s all cleared up regarding c then, okay I guess? But for the record I’m not asking to discredit you. I literally just could not make the connection between your claim of what he did and his words. Which may just be me since I’ve got some… brain, issues regarding doing that stuff, so… carry on.

            Also, still not ever going to use hostile to describe *people defending themselves*. Angry, yes. But not hostile.

            And the thing with the apologies is while Amy held the ability to do things like edit the post or fix the valentine or whatever, I literally had nothing I could do besides apologize.

            And perhaps there could have been a way to move from apology to action in another way? But the solution I saw was to move this back to the place it actually started so it could actually be discussed. Which isn’t meant to be an excuse, just a clarification, really.

      • February 18, 2014 at 4:57 pm —

        Thank you for clarifying this and adding some context. I don’t disagree with you. That said, you should know that at first blush your comment read to me as trying to change the subject, rather than as a clarification. A lot of the comments in the other two threads here coupled concern with Amy to a dismissal of the concerns being brought up. I consider Grimalkin to be a friend because we’ve worked together on a couple of projects for A+, and the way that he was treated in the comments for Rebecca’s poorly-thought-out post was awful. In that context your post appeared to me to be a derail, an attempt to turn the subject away from the ableism that I feel really needs to be addressed.

        Your initial comments, particularly your basically inventing the idea that Grim argued that the initial call outs were civil (an “outraged” response is not a civil response, IMO), made it seem that you were trying to derail the conversation from one of ableism and being dismissive to disability activists to one of Amy being hurt. There is room for both discussions, but a lot of people seem to want to alter history so they can focus on one story over the other. Oddly, whenever this happens, it seems to be us abled people who get the lions share of sympathy. For some reason. And the stories of disabled people get sidelined.

  9. February 18, 2014 at 5:43 pm —

    I managed to stay outside of all of this for the most part, but I posted my reaction to the things that happened last night on Queereka:

    What weird old trick did one local person use to be smarter and more empathetic? The answer will shock you.

  10. February 24, 2014 at 11:25 am —

    I missed this and just found out about it now. I wanted to share my thoughts on mental disability and gaslighting having a mental disability myself. From a very young age it seemed people felt they could get away with toying with your perception of reality because no one would believe a person with a mental disability. So when being gaslighted for me it triggers a strong fear response thinking someone else is going to render me helpless again by suggesting everything I say is based on a faulty worldview. I wish people who don’t have mental illnesses could understand gaslighting makes people with mental disabilities particularly if they have anxiety issues, feel they cannot trust their own perspective. An example of this would be how I would complain about bullying to a teacher and the teacher would say they didn’t bully me, I didn’t understand what happened. People with mental disabilities go through so many similar scenarios they feel no matter what they’ll always be wrong, and inhabit a sense of learned helplessness. They have asked for help so many times, only to be told they don’t need it and it’s only a problem because they are mentally disabled and don’t know any better.

    In regards to the argument in this post, when Amy and Rebecca kept dismissing that the s-word was a slur against mentally disabled people, they were just re-emphasizing that mentally disabled people are just oversensitive, or they’re unable to realize it’s no big deal. They don’t understand what it means to have spent a lifetime of your emotions being used against you, and to constantly be told your feelings are worthless and ridiculous. All they had to do was say fine we’ll stop using it, instead they dragged it out into this spectacle. Once against mentally disabled people said, “Stop, you’re hurting me!” and nobody listened. Another version of, “Why do those r-words always get upset over everything? They just love feeling offended, they need to stop acting out for attention.” I’ve been told as much by mods in a forum, that saying I have Asperger’s Syndrome is just trying to get people to feel sorry for me, that it’s a play for attention and victim-playing. Yes also those of us with mental disabilities, oh we’re told all the time we’re playing the victim when others victimize us. Someone else upsets us, our fault for getting upset over nothing. “Why can’t you just let it go?” It’s the same thing with this, all because someone I’m assuming is neurotypical based on their lack of understanding of ableism couldn’t stop using a word. Yet those of us with mental disabilities are told we lack things like empathy, that we get fixed or obsessed with things and we’re inflexible. We’re not the ones upset because someone told us to stop using a word. I don’t want this to be neuroatypical vs neurotypical, but I do find it interesting when the negative traits assigned to mentally disabled people show up in those without mental disabilities. Once again we’re left to wonder why it’s so hard for people who supposedly hold the key to empathy, to understand how to simply stop hurting someone by not saying a word. Hmm..hmm, right those of us with mental disabilities, yeah we’re the ones who don’t get it.

  11. February 27, 2014 at 9:19 am —

    Grimalkin, I’ve done some Googling on alternative insults that aren’t ableist, but would it be okay to ask for your personal opinion on something?

    I’m considering using “fool” to replace “idiot” (in hopes that “fool” describes willing ignorance, rather than mental capacity). But would you consider there being ableist connotations to “fool”? I realize that “mileage may vary” for everyone, but I don’t want to replace one ableist word with another. Thanks for reading.

    • February 27, 2014 at 10:51 am —

      Fool in itself I would say is still ableist. It still has the connotation of being about cognitive capacity rather than, say, willful ignorance. (The etymology of fool is “empty-headed person” after all) A very rough and dirty guide is that if it’s a noun (fool, dunce, knucklehead) it’s probably more about being intrinsically less smart (Which is ableist) than being purposefully obtuse (which isn’t)

      • February 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm —

        Okay, thanks for the clarification. In the neighborhood I grew up in, which had a large Black* population, people used “fool” to describe people who were acting in ways that were illogical–at least, I always interpreted it as a commentary on behavioral choices rather than whether the person in question was “smart” versus “stupid.” But I also realize that the context comments are made in is very important, and I wasn’t sure how universal that interpretation of “fool” was. I appreciate you sharing your view on it.

        *I tend to use the term “Black” rather than African American because, as an acquaintance of mine once put it to me, “I’m Haitian, I’m not from Mother Africa” (speaking about his family)–I use Black to try not to make assumptions about how PoC identify, although I’m open to correction.

      • February 27, 2014 at 7:48 pm —

        The etymology of fool is more “windbag” than anything else. But a word’s history does not have anything to do with how it is perceived by contemporary speakers (at least if we buy the argument that slurs with perfectly innocent etymologies are still slurs), so you can’t argue that a word is currently a slur on the basis of a perceived taint in its distant history either.

        Do you think that fool/foolish (a perfectly reasonable adjective to describe ill-considered behaviour) are actually perceived as being ableist by significant portions of the relevant communities? That’s really the only way to answer Melissa’s question in a meaningful way.

        • February 27, 2014 at 8:09 pm —

          Oh, if the question is “do these communities perceive it as being ableist” then the answer is yes. I would say it is seen as having less magnitude than stupid/idiot/so on, at least in my experience, but it makes the list.

          Honestly, when it comes to ableist words, it’s less specific words and more the ideas being expressed. When you want to say someone *is* a fool or *is* an idiot, at least in my experience, you are trying to convey the idea that that person is *instrinsically* less smart. That’s the ablesit part- not just specific words. And, as words carry baggage, when you use certain words (idiot/stupid/etc.) you bring that connotation regardless of your intent. And conversely, should you use “approved” words but use them to convey an ableist concept (such as “someone lacks so greatly in cognitive abilities that they can’t help but make poor arguements, and that’s bad”) you still have a problem… just one being covered with weasel words.

          That’s why, if you ask a disability advocate what words one should use, we will give alternatives like “Willfully obtuse” and “purposeful ignorance” and such. The meat of our goal in this is to change the way we critique someone from “You are inherently incapable of thought” to “you are choosing to argue disingenuously.” Even beyond the ableism front, the latter means so much more in terms of not just writing people off as “Stupid” and considering the idea that people who don’t agree with us do so either by choice or entirely fixable ignorance.

          • February 28, 2014 at 1:29 pm

            Okay, yeah, I get that. What this boils down to is that I’m trying to change my own language choices to be more thoughtful. For example, if I get cut off in traffic while my young niece is in the car with me, I don’t necessarily want to call the other driver an asshole in front of her, but I also don’t want to use an ableist slur either, even though the culture at large wouldn’t blink at me calling the other driver an idiot. That’s why I’ve been trying to figure out what the connotations are for “fool”–as I said earlier, I always thought of that as a word regarding poor choices made rather than cognitive ability, but I wanted to check in on how other people perceive the word. So it sounds like my best bet is probably more something like “jerkwad.” 😉 Thanks for the discussion–I appreciate it.

          • March 1, 2014 at 2:50 pm

            One thing I’ve been mulling over is what the intent is behind the name calling. Part of it is to vent frustration and express anger and that IMO is fine and necessary, but I know that when I find myself struggling to find a non-“ist” name I’m also trying to dehumanize or “other” the target of my anger. Most of the ways we dehumanize people are going to cause splash damage almost by definition. Without getting into a discussion about “punching up/down” and people protecting their right to be angry in their own way, it may be worth trying to focus on criticising actions instead of character.

          • March 6, 2014 at 3:19 pm

            If I may recommend: “careless jerk” fits that situation. And carelessness is something that should be condemned in a driver, I think. 🙂

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