megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
[personal profile] megwrites
I've had this discussion before, and I will have it again. And I realize that the accusations of me being oversensitive will pour in as they did last time.

Please, allow me to show you my lack of caring. I'm not interested in people appointing themselves the Sensitivity Police, allowing "permission" to get upset about certain things and only to a certain degree. I'm not interested in how thick you think my skin should be. I'm certainly not interested in you telling me that I have no right to speak up about things that affect me and people I know, love, and care about and my society at large.

Especially not when such objections really just shut down conversations I want and NEED to have.

So, if you've come here to give me the "it's just a word" or "you're overreacting" speech, save it.

I see, daily, the word "crazy" (also, "insane", "nuts", etc) thrown around the internet. Some usages bother me, some don't. I can handle it, most times, when someone says "I had a crazy day". This is not to say other people aren't in the right if such usage bothers them, but I have my own personal set point. I try to respect the set points of others.

However, I do get very upset when "crazy" or "insane" is used to describe something that the speaker wishes to dismiss. For instance, I saw someone writing about a conservative politician recently and they described this politician (and their odious beliefs) as "crazy".

Why does this bother me?

Because I don't like it when the language and words associated with mental illness are used to dismiss and invalidate someone. And no, I don't care what other off-label uses Xanax has, if you bring that up, you're bringing mental illness and all the societal baggage that goes with it into the discussion.

You want to say someone is wrong or bad or rude or misinformed or just a plain old asshole? Then say that. The politician in question certainly merited being called an asshole.

But to say that "this person is crazy" or "that person is insane" when you're really trying to debunk their arguments is to, in essence, make the statement that you're labeling them insane/crazy because to you, insane/crazy (thus, mentally ill) = person I don't have to respect or listen to.

And if you don't think being dismissed and disrespected simply by virtue of having a mental illness is not a huge problem for people who have them, come over here, I've got lots of things to show you. Starting with the appalling history of the treatment of the mentally ill throughout history and going on to cover the ways in which people with mental illnesses ranging from depression to bipolar disorder to many other things are told that they're making it up or that they're dangerous or that nothing they say has to be taken seriously or respected - even when what they're saying is, "please stop, you're hurting me".

Don't believe me?

Take a gander at: This piece about the appalling conditions in group homes here in New York City - this is from very recently, and the (somewhat) good news is that a judge has ordered that these conditions must stop and some patients moved to their own "apartments or small homes".

Then look at the kind of conversations that happen around people with mental illness all the time.

So when I see people that I respect (or in some cases, used to respect) throwing around these words as though they have no consequence, it really hurts. When I see someone responding to a blog post they didn't like by saying, "That guy's off his meds" - equating, essentially, the taking of psychiatric medicines with dismissibility, it angers me.

Mental illness is not carte blanche to completely handwave away a human being or the things that human being has to say. Using the language of mental illness to do just that is to take such people and say, "These are the people who don't count. These are the people who's words need not be listened to, ever. These are the people who are not entitled to respect."

No, I don't care how valid others may believe my hurt and anger is. I don't care if you think that somehow, your "right" to be snarky and "clever" (scare quotes used because if you have to resort to the word "crazy" or "insane", you're anything BUT clever) outweighs the need of other human beings to be treated with respect and compassion.

You know what, English is a big damn language. (All languages are big damn languages.) We do possess plenty of words that do not come with this kind of damaging systemic blowback. We have wonderful words ranging from mild to obscene that can better convey what you're getting at without having devastating social, systemic, real ramifications for millions of people.

You know, I used to worry that these kinds of post would somehow destroy my chances of getting published. In some ways, I still do.

But now? Now I think it's something of a blessing in disguise. Because I do not want to be a cog in the machinery of oppression - of any oppression. I don't want the work that I love doing and the stories that I create to be cogs, either. I don't want to work with people who have absolutely no concern for who they're hurting so long as it doesn't directly effect them and are doubly careless when the machinery benefits them. I certainly don't want to work with people who can't listen and are more interested in defending themselves and posturing than helping others out.

I've made this post before and I'll make it again. Because people with mental illnesses matter, their words matter, their experiences matter, and they deserve - without question or reservations - the respect, compassion, and dignity that all people are entitled to by virtue of being human.

Date: 2010-03-16 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I understand exactly what you mean. I have a seizure disorder, for which I take daily medications. It blows my mind (so to speak) that, as recently as the first third of the 20th century, epileptics were still being institutionalized because they were somehow "mentally deficient" as opposed to having an organic brain disorder (and yes, I know that sometimes seizures can lead to brain damage/cognitive impairment. That still shouldn't warrant automatic institutionalization, unless there are no friends/relatives to help, and the person cannot take care of themselves).

There's someone I used to interact with on IRC, until he decided making seizure "jokes" in my presence was the high point of his day. When I'd ask him politely to stop, he'd tell me to "grow a thicker skin".

From puberty, I had hormonal issues which ultimately resulted in a total hysterectomy just before I turned 32. The Maternal Unit used to love waxing eloquent about what an "antisocial bitch" I was. So, on the one hand, I'd get yelled at for "hiding out in my room all the time". On the other hand, if I tried to interact with my family during "that time of the month", I'd get yelled at for "being a bitch". The school district, and my parents, decided that I should be enrolled in a district-run program for "emotionally disturbed adolescents" when I started HS.

I also tend to just naturally be an in-your-face kind of person. I say what's on my mind. It gets old hearing all the "clever" comments about how I "must be on the rag" because some guy didn't like what I said. I've had 17 brain surgeries, in addition to the total hysterectomy. I don't think it's "cute" or "funny" when some idiot wants to belittle what I've gone through, either with "seizure jokes" or "on the rag jokes". I'd like to see how many people who say things like that to me would feel after having gone through that themselves.

Date: 2010-03-16 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When I'd ask him politely to stop, he'd tell me to "grow a thicker skin".

Oh, I hate that so, so much. It's just obnoxious and rude, for one. And for another, it really frustrates me when someone thinks that somehow, I should be forced to deal with something that hurts me rather than them stopping doing that thing because they're a decent human being. Which goes to prove that they're usually NOT very decent human beings whatsoever.

Unfortunately, sometimes, you don't always have the choice of disengaging with such people, especially if they're family or close friends of family.

I don't think it's "cute" or "funny" when some idiot wants to belittle what I've gone through, either with "seizure jokes" or "on the rag jokes".

Agreed completely. It's not clever, cute, funny, or anything else like that. It's wrong and hurtful and shows a lot of ignorance and pantlessness. My lady bits don't work the way they're supposed to, either, leading to problems of a different sort. But I also really hate the "on the rag" jokes. I'd like to ask someone if they think it's funny after having a (TMI warning) period that lasts for three whole weeks, cramps, headaches and all. Oh, PCOS, the ways in which I don't love you at all.

Plus, I hate that it's used to shut down women in general, even if they don't have a medically diagnosed problem. I hate that a part of our bodies and a process it goes through is used to invalidate our anger when, usually, we're quite right to be very, very pissed off.

I have to really restrain myself from punching people in the face when they pull out the 'on the rag' jokes and comments.

I also hate how it gets turned around and somehow, if you suffer from severe symptoms because of menstruation (there are so, so many disorders, diseases, and conditions that cause this), you're being whiny or just looking for an excuse or being weak. I hate the "just take a Midol and get over it" crap that I've heard, too.

Date: 2010-03-16 08:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*cringes* I am guilty of the things you have mentioned and I hope I have not been doing that recently. Frankly, I think the word "ridiculous" does the job quite handily for dismissing things such as the aforementioned conservative politics without invoking privilege.

Date: 2010-03-16 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Believe me when I say I am also very, very guilty of using this type of language without care or concern and there was a time (embarassingly recently) when I would have been one of the "you're too sensitive!" people. I am not proud of that.

I don't want to hold myself up as this shining beacon of rightness. I won't even deny that I've got plenty of internalized ablism (re: mental illness) built in and that it is something I've struggled with, so I'm as guilty as anyone of doing these things. And this is as much me typing out a warning to myself as anything.

But once it is something you become attuned to, it really stings and it hurts when folks you really liked/respected show that they have no intention of listening when you say "this hurt me and it hurts other people". But I'd rather it sting than to go on being part of this fucked up system of privilege and abuse and oppression we're in.

Date: 2010-03-17 12:03 am (UTC)
ext_2888: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
It seems to me that part of the point of life is to continually strive to improve yourself. You're doing that in the best way I think anyone can, by changing your thinking. I cringe when I think of how ignorant I used to be about a lot of things, this being one. I'm also not saying that I'm doing it right by a long shot; what I am saying is that I think you should give yourself credit for how far you've come as well as looking at how far you have to go. :)

Date: 2010-03-16 09:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think you are absolutely right about this. I also know that when I have brought up this issue with friends and acquaintances, they have been remarkably dismissive, which sucks. I have had some luck working them through it with analogies & baby-steps (they seem more receptive to eliminating insults like "gay" or "lame" so I usually work from there). Even as someone who has been dismissed due to mental health issues, I still sometimes struggle to eliminate this kind of language from my vocabulary. It's so very common and tends to fly under the radar, so I think that posts like this are a really important step, just to familiarize people with the idea that hey, there might be something wrong with that. So I really appreciate this.

Date: 2010-03-17 12:04 am (UTC)
ext_2888: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Ugh. "Lame" is one that really gets me, for personal reasons. I have seen a lot more calling-out of it than I expected to, though; oddly, I've seen it most on the stupid_free communities and spin-offs.

Date: 2010-03-16 11:55 pm (UTC)
ext_2888: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
*standing ovation*

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