On ableism, manipulation, and feminist flame wars

Some of my readers might be familiar with this weekend’s Feministe debacle. I’m referring to this thread, and I feel that I should include a trigger warning for anyone with particularly strong memories of being bullied. Because that, dear readers, is exactly what happened to guest blogger David Futrelle. His terrible crime against humanity? He used the word “idiot.” Not, as you might guess given the post has nearly 200 comments, in reference to an individual with intellectual challenges. He used it in reference to Men’s Rights Activists. Again, my readers might be familiar with these activists; they frequently troll feminist blogs, mine included.

David’s alleged faux pas was derided, over the course of 200 comments, as unacceptably ableist. And in the past, these commenters might have had a point. Idiot had negative connotations for people with disabilities (PWD). However, it’s no longer commonly used in this way, and while I acknowledge that some PWDs, particularly those with learning disabilities, might object to the term, I am appalled at Feministe’s response to it in this context. Let me repeat that: context. It’s important. And I believe it needs more of an emphasis in feminist circles.

Feminists as a group have a heightened awareness of privilege. Some may be less informed on certain aspects of privilege, like trans erasure, but the feminist movement is bound by an awareness that privilege exists and is harmful. Ableism is harmful, without doubt. Though I hesitate over how public to make my diagnoses, I will disclose them in the interest of providing readers with relevant information on the development of my perspective on this issue: I have a diagnosis of Bipolar II and a genetic blood disease called hereditary spherocytosis. I don’t commonly refer to myself as disabled-I believe I’m very able indeed-but by any acceptable standard I am a PWD. And I have faced discrimination due to this.

The commenters who accused me, and other similarly minded PWDs, with internalizing ableism in our lack of objection to “idiot” had no way to know that at the age of fifteen, my diagnosis of bipolar disorder made me a target for humiliation in my small Christian high school. I was taunted daily. I was told I was only sick because I didn’t have enough faith in Jesus. My Bible teacher declared that “brain problems” didn’t really exist. Finally, I was expelled from the school despite being an honor student with a clean disciplinary record. The excuse? I was a “disturbing influence.” My brother was also expelled.

Thanks, but I think I know what ableism is.

Which brings me back to my original argument, that context is an absolutely vital factor in determining what is or is not ableism. I have used the word “crazy” in this blog, and was trolled for it. I don’t find the word inherently ableist, in fact, to suggest that any word is inherently bad is simply ludicrous and reflects a poor grasp of language. Certain words have developed negative connotations due to their misuse. I agree that this is wrong. And in certain situations, “crazy” is ableist. My use of the word was not ableist. And David’s use of “idiot” was not ableist. He used the term specifically in regards to misogyny. Misogyny is idiotic. I’d hope we can all agree.

Furthermore, I’d like to make something powerfully clear: if you are not a PWD, you do not decide what is ableist. Ever. You have no business participating in a discussion over the definition of ableist because you lack the essential life experiences that would equip you to understand exactly what ableism does to PWDs. You do not speak for me. You are not my defender, my proxy, or my guardian. Society has enforced each of those things on PWDs and I will not tolerate seeing the same discrimination in feminist circles because it has no business there. If you are able-bodied, you are participating in the very structure you are attempting to protect me from when you attempt to be my voice.

However, that doesn’t address the reality that PWDs often disagree with each other on what exactly constitutes ableism. This was an issue in the Feministe thread. And it’s tricky. Even as PWDs we each have different experiences, due to culture, location, and diagnosis, among other factors. We need to respect each other’s differences without accusing each other of somehow siding with the enemy. It’s utterly unacceptable to accuse any PWD of internalizing ableism because they disagree with you on word usage. We’re in the same fight, on the same team. Calling someone out on ableist privilege can be easily manipulated to silence someone that you simply disagree with. I don’t know whether that was a factor in the Feministe thread. I suspect it was one of many, given that David stated that he had depression and that was completely ignored by the moderator and the self-appointed defenders of the disabled. So it is something we should be aware of when we address someone’s privilege.

It saddens me deeply to see reactions like this in the feminist world. Pile-ons are not ok. It’s bullying, and it defeats our own cause by portraying an ally as an enemy. We owe it to ourselves and our allies to be aware of the importance of context in determining privilege. And the infighting has got to end. That will derail our movement far more than any bill the Republicans could dream of introducing.

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19 thoughts on “On ableism, manipulation, and feminist flame wars

  1. On the one hand, you state (rightfully) that no one can speak for you insofar as it concerns ableism.

    One the other hand, you state that there was no problem in the way the word was used by Futrelle, as if this was a general fact, even though you know many people with disabilities (I, for one, or see e.g., FWD/Forward) disagree with you in this point. By this, you indirectly claim to speak for other people with disabilities.

    I can say hurtful, misogynist things, even though I am seen as a woman. There is no need to explain this by “internalized misogyny” or whatever – there is a difference between intent and effect.

    In the same way, I can say ableist things, even though I have a mental disability. This is even easier if we consider the many different aspects of ableism there are – people that were (or are) considered as “id**ts”, thus classifying them as “lesser” humans, are not the same people as those with physical disabilities like blindness, or those that suffer from depressions. So, I could use “id**t”, not realizing how this is basically a form of hate speech, because I never suffered from exactly this form of dehumanization.
    Other people did and do, though, and that makes it still an ableist expression.

    Misogyny is not “id**tic”. We can NEVER all agree on that. Misogyny is unjust, hateful and terrible, and has nothing to do with the amount of (perceived) “intelligence” a person has. I know people who by ableist definitions would be considered “lacking intelligence” or “development”. They are great, loving people, and NOT misogynist.

    If nothing else, not using ableist language helps to clarify what we actually want to say.

    And finally, being marginalized in any way, be it by being a woman, a PWD, a POC or whatever, is *no* excuse to marginalize other people. I can be criticized as a white woman for being racist. In the same way Futrelle, or you, can be criticized for being ableist, even though you are PWD. This is *not* a pile-on, or illegitimate, or divisive. What is divisive here, if anything, is the use of ableist language in the first place.

    Futrelle should have taken care after being criticized for ableist language in his first post, especially since Adams’ text was so ableist in the first place, and many commenters on Feministe actually seem to resent the comparison of women and PWD. He didn’t, so he was criticized for it again. I don’t condone hateful speech directed at him, but he has to take responsibility for his actions like everyone else.

  2. I’m not convinced you actually read my piece through. Because I clearly stated that I think it’s ludicrous to claim that any word is inherently wrong (or ableist, in this instance). Context informs that determination. I believe that Futrelle’s detractors completely ignored the importance of context. And as a result, it made discussion impossible. It became bullying, which you neatly ignored in your comment.

    I respect your right to disagree. But I stand by my statement that his word usage was not ableist, and that the Feministe commenters were, for the most part, out of line. Interestingly, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a complaint about that word on the site.

  3. You can be convinced I read your piece thoroughly. You just are not making an argument supporting your claim – so far, it stays at a “it is so because I say it is”-level.

    The first thing you say ist that “id**t” is not used in an ableist sense any more. There are multiple examples to the contrary, even in the Feministe thread, so can we skip that part?
    (Or do you want to support your claim? This would be difficult, even the dictionary definition provided by Futrelle says otherwise.)

    The second point you are beginning to make in your post (and repeating in your reply) is that the context the word was used had the result of making the use not ableist. You completely fail to make any explanation why that would be so.
    It seems to me that this would be depending again from the (false) statement that the ableist usage is outdated (and so misogyny is not indirectly linked to disabled people), but I’m not sure.
    It could also be that the claim is that the different meanings of a word can be used separately from one another, without evoking the other meanings.
    My linguistic days are past for a while now, but I would state that this is only possible if the distance between those different meanings of a word has grown big enough over time. English is not my first language, but maybe “key” would be an example –
    1. a small metal thingy used to open closed stuff.
    2. (metaphorical) a means of finding an answer to a problem
    3. a set of notes in music
    Now, if I use 3, I don’t think people will link it to a small piece of metal, but 2 is so close to 1 that it is quite probable that many people will have in mind the common element between them, the “opening” function. Still, the existing usages of “key” are so different, maybe you never know.
    But with “id**t”, this is just not the case.
    The Dictionary definition makes this quite clear – even the second meaning, “foolish”, is ultimately derived from an expression for “insane” people, while “Id**cy” has the two meanings of
    “usually offensive: extreme mental retardation” and “something notably stupid or foolish”, with the meaning of intelligence for the word emphasized once more. So, I submit the “different” meanings are just not different enough to be used wholly independently of one another, without drawing from the “common theme”.

    I ignored the “bullying”, as you call it.

    This is an important point.

    For clarity’s sake, let us imagine someone uses a word that is very clearly a hurtful slur, and the context wouldn’t change that fact. And let’s say the person using it was really the only one convinced to the contrary, and not of the group of people being hurt.

    What, in your opinion, would be the difference between
    a) moderation enforcing a space where no one is free to engage in what had previously been established as oppressive/hurtful speech
    b) all the other commenters stating their opinion, possibly in different shades of hurt/anger/etc. that this word should not be used at all and
    c) bullying?

    Which priority would you give
    – the feelings of the person who is maintaining their position of using the word, and is now feeling they are fighting with their back against the wall, and everyone is against them?
    – the feelings of the people who are (rightfully, to stay with the example) hurt, triggered, etc.?

    And if we (which I obviously propose) prioritise the first over the second, how do we make sure to still take care of the first?

    And now, changing back to a situation where the use of the word is in question – how would you propose to proceed?

  4. Your argument only makes sense if language were static. You are ascribing an inherent quality to a word, and that is nonsensical. A word simply is; use is what makes it problematic and use changes over time. While I don’t argue that “idiot” is probably occasionally used in ableist context, I do not believe that context is universal.

    And I do think that enough space has grown between the different meanings of the word. We’re simply not going to agree on that, it seems. It’s a completely subjective perspective on both sides, and it’s fundamental to the debate at hand. You’re asking me to change my opinion to suit yours, and there isn’t any concrete evidence for me to do so. You’re basing your opinion on the historical usage of yet another word “foolish.” Again, we’re back to the refusal to take common contemporary usage into account. Ditto for the Feministe commenters.

    And in regards to your situation, I’d say that it is never acceptable to demand that a word not be used. That is fascism. You can state opposition, and request a change, but to call for the complete erasure of a word puts you in dangerous company. To address another point, as a regular reader of Feministe I have never seen “idiot” decried before. Unless it happened before I began to read the blog, it means the word was hardly previously defined as hate speech nor is it the prevailing opinion that it qualifies as hate speech. That is why I call it bullying. It was extraordinarily alienating and I was deeply ashamed to see that attitude portrayed as a defense of PWDs. That does not represent me.

    That’s about all I can handle for now because I am deeply exhausted for reasons unrelated to this discussion. I have no doubt I’ll probably think of numerous points I completely neglected to address as soon as I’ve finally gotten some sleep.

  5. I agree that Futrelle’s post was a shitstorm. It got wildly out of hand, and I wish mods had stepped long before it got to 200-comment-level.

    I don’t believe it was the ableism itself that caused everything to get so wildly out of hand. It was a combination of 1. David’s hostile reply to the first couple commenters who politely asked him to reconsider use of the word and 2. the trolls feeding the fire. The ones who were bothered by his choice of terms probably wouldn’t have gotten so upset if he hadn’t been so hostile, even if he had disagreed. The thing is, though Feministe prohibits ableism in its comment policy, it doesn’t do very well in follow up–not near as proportionate to the other isms they disallow. That history didn’t help, either.

    And I’m sure that because of the visitors David usually gets on his blog (mostly MRAs. Very angry MRAs.) that David isn’t used to being calmly and politely engaged by commenters–and so he assumed bad intent, and reflexively fell back on the snark that’s he uses to respond to his MRA “fans.”

    Basically, several things combined to cause this, and it’s not the fault of any one “side” or individual, even David.

    What I don’t understand is, you know what it’s like to deal with triggers and the like, so you can empathize with other PWD who are triggered/bothered by ableist terms, yes? As an epileptic, my two biggest are when people infantilize me, and act like I’m not smart enough to know what’s good for me. The older I get, the less patience I have when I have to deal with these things IRL–just butted heads with a co-worker, actually, because she deems it appropriate to remind me every. single. night. to take my meds, and scolds me like a child when she thinks I’m doing something that will trigger a seizure, in earshot of the entire office. At first, it was a little endearing (“aw, she just cares!”). As time went on, though, it got more and more irritating to deal with (“does she really think that after all this time taking these meds, that I’m going to forget?”) and the longer it went on, the more it seemed like she was trying to force our relationship into a parent-child one. (“did she seriously just scold me for going to bed late?”)

    To close it all up, I don’t think people reacted so strongly to the word itself–because slip-ups happen with allies sometimes. We all know this. But the difference between allies and the rest of the world is, when you speak up, you don’t expect such a pushback. That pushback, in a place where you least expect it, is what people reacted to, I believe.

    • Hey, sorry it’s taken me so long to reply! But I think your post is really interesting. I agree that he probably could have responded better. As surprising it must have been to receive that particular criticism on the word (I know I was pretty shocked), it was politely worded. Unfortunately, it became the shit storm you describe. There were trolls on both sides, though I’d argue the anti-idiot side had more of them.

      As for triggers, I am triggered by very little these days. During the first few years after my bipolar diagnosis I was incredibly sensitive, and found myself engaged in constant fights over word use and the media’s portrayal of people with psychiatric diganoses. But I find myself engaging in these fights with declining frequency. I attribute this to putting an emphasis on context. Now I’m trying to learn the balance between encouraging PWD to heal past triggers and respecting the experiences that have made certain words and phrases triggering, and it hasn’t been easy.

      With that said, I am completely with you when it comes to infantilization. I’ve run into more since my diagnosis of hereditary spherocytosis. People automatically want to know what I’m doing about it–am I sleeping, am I taking any medication, am I eating the rights foods–and it gets frustrating, even from my friends and family. And no one really knows what HS is, so in addition to providing people with the intimate details of my diet and sleeping habits I have to provide the most basic information about my illness, especially since it’s usually invisible. People have a tendency to think I’m not even ill. And that is irritating. More than irritating. I would rather fight against infantilization than focus on particular word usage, especially when one word isn’t universally accepted as ableist, and hasn’t even been established as unacceptable in the Feministe community.

      Civil discussion on both sides would go a long way, just as you say. But I didn’t see much of it, only the demonization of an ally who himself admitted to dealing with a mental health diagnosis. It’s no wonder he pushed back as strongly as he did.

      • One of the key underlying issues is civility and respect, certainly. Not only for PWDs who do have triggers relating to word usage, but the respect of a community. David is a guest poster. He came into an established community that has established standards. I don’t think he violated those by the terms he chose in his posts, but by his reactions in the comments. What bothered me the most, now that I’ve had time to think about it, was the way that he came into a community and, well, was completely dismissive of the community’s concerns. The community became snarky and defensive too quickly (some of them, anyway.) and we got that shitstorm.

        Getting that balance between healing and accepting others’ experiences can be difficult. Healing is harder in a hostile atmosphere. One of the reasons I appreciate Shakesville is that it has strict standards. I’ve been able to move on from hating my epilepsy, being bitter about the dream that’s inaccessible to me, and going on about “my stupid brainwaves” partly because of the fierce protection that Shakesville provided; as well as being connected to other PWD and well, normalizing “other.” After a day of dealing with arrogant jerks grilling me on my sleeping habits and my medication, it’s relieving to go to a safe space like that, rant and rave, and hear, “Oh, god. I’ve been there. What assholes. Have an e-drink!” It helps me keep up the energy I need to stand up to people.

        I know exactly what you mean about having people that are completely ignorant about your condition lecture you on the “right way” to do things while at the same time, demanding you educate them about it. If I never had to educate another person on epilepsy, I’d be a happy camper. Unfortunately, I can get away with that only until it becomes visible, and if it’s a grand-mal, it’s too late for education, since I’m completely incapacitated and helpless to whatever “help” they try to give me. I only started telling people because everyone was calling 911 and racking up expensive bills for me to pay. I don’t know which situation is better.

  6. You seem to be using the word ‘context’ when you really mean to say ‘intent,’ and if intent is all that counts… well, fuck, our whole movement is kind of baseless, no?

    Misogyny is not idiotic, and not just because of ableism; by associating misogyny with mental deficiency, you’re not only insulting those with a mental deficiency but excusing those who are misogynists by implying that they just *couldn’t* know any better. What misogyny really is is hate and ignorance. If you’re not amenable to the ableist argument (which, by the way, I think you should reconsider), then you should at least give this one a consideration.

    • No, I’m not using “context” to imply intent, though I do believe intent and context are closely related. I think context reveals intent. For a word like “idiot” this is particularly important because we’re talking about a debate over its commonly accepted meaning.

      I’m aware people think I should reconsider it. As if the superb examples of trolling on Futrelle’s thread didn’t already make that clear. I reserve the right, as a PWD, to disagree. I don’t think the argument that decries his use of the word has any logical merit whatsoever.

      If Futrelle actually attributed misogyny to mental deficiency, my response would be different. I interpreted his usage as claiming that the MRA position is irrational, based on poor reasoning skills. He probably should have explicitly stated that rather than simply use “idiots” to refer to them.

      • Ok, I think I get what you’re saying, and I think we agree: his language choice was poor in that it really didn’t convey his point as well as it could have. I just also happen to think that it was ableist, and I did feel an obligation to say something about reconsidering that argument because I was not involved in the original Feministe thread.

        Because it’s relevant, I am also a PWD, and unlike you I very much publicly identify that way (my Depression is such that it can only properly be called disabling.) I’m not trying to say I have more of a claim to the ‘PWD’ term than you do, but I did want to make it clear what my own claim to that term is.

  7. @Brittany-Ann

    His reaction was probably ill-advised but somewhat understandable, since the established standards you mentioned didn’t include the word he was criticized for using. Then there was a pile-on. And the Feministe community wasn’t united about the usage. Some people agreed that it was ableist and some didn’t. And those of who disagreed, and identified as PWD, got accused of internalizing ableism.

    That’s not a safe space. A safe space can’t exist if it can be manipulated by one camp. If standards are going to be established by a community it should be a democratic process, it’s not something that is decided abruptly. That’s unfair to anyone who dissents. And in the Feministe situation, the hostility radiated from both sides to such an extreme that it became impossible to actually have a discussion about the use of the word.

    You make a really valid point about the problem of placing the burden of education on PWDs. With hereditary spherocytosis, for example, I can be prone to chronic pain due to my spleen, liver, and sometimes my gallbladder becoming inflamed. It’s worse when my body is having an immune reaction, so if I’m sick, I have to go to a doctor. No questions. It’s off to either urgent care or the ER, because I can also go into either hemolytic or aplastic crisis if I’m sick enough. And my partner took me to the doctor, missed a meeting at work because of it, and later reported that one of the other managers doesn’t seem to think I’m sick. I can’t afford to educate her because I’m too busy trying to ignore the pain. And, fyi, I had a grand mal seizure once due to some bizarre reaction to anti-depressants, and it was terrifying. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live with the constant fear of seizures. HS is bad enough.

    So that’s a serious issue. And it’s not our responsibility to educate, really. But as a community I think we need to work out some sort of balance. When do we educate, what exactly qualifies as ableist, and when do we simply tell someone to GTFO? Unfortunately, the situation at Feministe makes that conversation really difficult.

    • I don’t think that it was a pile on, since, as you said, the community itself couldn’t come to an agreement on the usage of that one specific word in that context. I don’t think it’s possible (or advisable) to come up with a list of words that are unacceptable, but I think it is possible to make clear that certain attitudes and positions (sexism, ableism, racism, homophobia, and cissexism) are unacceptable within a community. Responses can be tailored depending on the context and intent of the commenter (or in the case, the OP). In cases of good-faith engagement, it can be as simple as “hey, would you mind reconsidering X? That’s Y because of Z. Thanks.” Which summarizes the comment of the first person who took issue with it, but well, it went downhill from there, and it wasn’t because of the initial protester. If I remember correctly, she remained calm and to the point past where I might have been. But yeah. An active mod is indispensable for this.

      Yeah. Education is important, but it’s something that needs to happen before shit hits the fan, when the abled (and differently-abled) aren’t so defensive.

      I tried to mitigate this when I started my new job, by telling my manager and supervisor, educating them on it, and letting them know that if I have a seizure, they need to call my father to come get me, and not an ambulance. If I have partial seizures (which manifest as anything from a slight flinch to my entire body jerking) I probably need to go home, since I could hurt myself or damage equipment. My supervisor said (these were two different convos) that she’d probably call an ambulance anyway, because she’d “be freaking out.” My manager said that I’d have to use my PTO and take a half-point if I went home because of partials. I don’t think they understand how much of a liability suit they’re handing to me should I ever get hurt.

      Funnily enough, it doesn’t scare me anymore. I’ve gotten some nasty head injuries and scraps and bruises galore, (stairs are my worst enemy, heh.) but I recover from the grogginess of epilepsy quickly enough now to where I can be my own advocate if I’m caught in public. Last time I had one in public (on campus when I was still an undergrad) I was able to refuse treatment before they could get me into the ambulance. Unfortunately, I believe the only reason the very visibly doubtful EMT relented was because a friend showed up and promised to “take care of” me. That part is frustrating to no end.

      • Ugh, and by “handing me a liability suit” I mean by their being so hostile and resistant to allowing me to go home without being penalized, pressuring me to stay by taking away PTO and giving me “points,” which, if I get enough, can lead to my getting dismissed.

        I don’t and wouldn’t sue if I simply got injured on the job, because of course, seizures are something I have to expect, despite being on medication, getting enough sleep, and keeping stress levels to a minimum. Doing these things can lower the chances of my having a seizure, but it won’t completely eliminate them, because hey, brains are funny things, and we don’t understand yet all the ways and functions of the human brain.

  8. Here’s the thing – DF has done this before. His last post was roundly condemned for his usage of the r-word. He has used ableist phrasing in comments on the the site. Stop defending him. He is a man, in woman’s space, who continually ignores the code of conduct, says hurtful things, but thinks he can get away with it because he’s a man.

    To decry the outrage against him as ‘trolling’, to say he’s being bullied, that he’s depressed poor fing, is pathetic. Truly pathetic.

    Feministe is full of double standards. There are moderators like Jill who are guilty of being heterosexist, ableist, classist, she’s even misogynist sometimes. She thinks everybody is a white middle class new yorker like her. Able, with disposable income, straight, cisgendered and cissexual. Nobody not like her exists. Her writing is targeted at her clones and any protest is batted away by her saying the person doesn’t understand her sense of humor. DF is the same. Funny how his ‘depression’ did not surface during the r-word debacle. Funny how the only thing he has learned is not to think carefully about word choices, or to be more respectful, but to do as you do and cry “I’m disabled too! Leave me alone bullies! I’ll be as ableist as I wanna be!”

    And you say you have not internalized anything. Bull.

    • I approved your comment because I believe everyone has the right to at least express an opinion. But your tone is unacceptable and I’m warning you about it now. I have given clear reasons for why I do not think his use of idiot was ableist. That does not mean I have internalized ableism. It simply means that I have spent a great deal of time considering the matter and have arrived at a conclusion different than your own. I have also carefully described in my original post and my comments on it that I have faced serious discrimination due to my diagnoses, and am therefore keenly aware of the problems ableism poses for our society.

      You do not, therefore, get to accuse me of internalizing ableism, when I have gone to such lengths to explain why this is simply not true. I have been very public about my thought process on the issue, as I feel I ought to be, given that it’s controversial.

      I also find it very interesting that you describe Feministe as a “woman’s space” but then criticize its founder, Jill, for being cissexist. By describing it as a woman’s space you just erased anyone who identifies as trans or genderqueer. You also erased male allies. Talk about sexist.

      Idiot was not established as a violation of community standards. Nor should those violations be decided in the heat of the moment by one camp, as I’ve already stated. Therefore, he could not have violated any known standards by using the word.

      I wasn’t aware that he used the word “retard.” Since its connotations are still so intertwined with intellectual disability, I agree that this is ableist. Oh wait. I forgot. I was supposed to have internalized ableism. Right, I’ll just go back to wasting my breath.

  9. This series of events is a good example of why, while I will fiercely defend women’s equality to anyone, in-person or online, I generally do not get involved in feminist communities. I find the great majority** problematic in terms of being equal opportunity, and I also question their ability to actually solve, or at least work on solving, the problems they discuss.

    There have been several occasions where I’ve contributed a carefully worded response to some community or another, and the commenter after me took exception to a word that would be considered benign by 99 out of 100 people, even if context WEREN’T taken into consideration. And I have watched on maybe fifty times as many more occasions as this derailing was done to someone else. This effectively halts productive discussion in its tracks, and makes each feminist space in question look more like a place where you go to complain than a progressive, proactive social movement.

    I have two emotional/mental disabilities and a third involving my GI system. All are invisible, and believe me, I have endured my share of infantilizing treatment in my time. However, the last place I’ll turn to discuss this or bounce some problem-solving, rights-campaigning, public awareness, or general “how to deal with jerkstore X” strategies off of folks is a feminist space, because of the very issue you outline in this post. No, I’ll go to an ADHD message board, a Crohn’s forum, a PTSD support group, or even Narcotics Anonymous first. Why? Because in many feminist spaces, regardless of my word choices, regardless of how carefully I edit and re-edit my words, I will inevitably be accused of malfeasance, and perhaps worst of all, accused of “internalizing” one or more “isms.” That hurts. That’s ableism. And above all, it de-legitimizes and dilutes feminism as a whole, turning even more people away.

    (**Your space is not included in this criticism. I like it very much.)

  10. (p.s. Being that I actually have to take a pseudo-narcotic and several other Schedule II/III substances to treat my ailments, the irony of preferring NA over a space like Feministe is especially ironic. Given the choice of being yelled at for having an impure/drug-addled mind because I take buphenorphrine, or being yelled at for internalizing ableism though, I’ll probably choose the former 9 times out of 10. Ugh. I wish this weren’t so. And I wish I, and others, didn’t have to make these observations.)

    • Thank you so much for your comments! I also have to take painkillers thanks to an invisible illness (blood disorder, in my case) and I’m open about my experiences with depression. And like you, I’ve started avoiding ‘feminist spaces’ like Feminist and Shakesville. Those spaces are actually terrible for my stress levels and I often feel more defensive in them than I do in ‘non-safe space.’ I think I have the right to relate to certain terms for my own reasons without encountering the accusation that I’m somehow too ignorant to comprehend and confront my own oppression.

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