megwrites: Beast, from Beauty & The Beast looking coiffed and unhappy. (beauty&thebeast)
S.E. Smith has a really, really fantastic post up at FWD about Coming Out In A Dangerous World, talking about mental health, ablism, and the publishing industry.

Ou mentions me by my LJ name ([profile] fiction_theory), and I think I should explain a bit that a few days ago I posted on Twitter about being quite fed up with the ablism in the publishing industry, particularly when I see things like this: 10 Lies Agents and Editors Tell You, if you look at the URL (though not the blog title) there is the addition: To Protect Themselves From Crazies.

To quote:
Which is why you’re going to be able to take it when I tell you that agents and publishing editors lie to you routinely. And it is beholden upon all you non-crazies out there to take it graciously, because if the crazies were allowed to run riot there’d be no agents or publishing editors out there to work with the rest of us, at all.


This kind of language, this use of that word, this way of using "crazy, "insane", "nutso", conflating mental illness with acting unprofessionally or rudely, or just in a way that certain people don't like is very common - and it's taken to be somehow clever or delightfully snarky. I can't begin to count the number of blogs from professionals in this industry that have done this, or have said someone is "off their meds".

The irony being that this kind of language is often used by someone lecturing others to act professionally.

Then there are posts like this one from Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm: "This is Your Brain on Drugs", saying things like this:

And maybe the difference is that I’ve never let her use the brain drugs that so many of her fellow students use. From second or third grade on, many of her friends have been on drugs for ADD, ADHD, and whatever other initials apply. The most common one seems to be Ritalin.


And:

Here is my reasoning. You have to be who you genetically are. Part of my scattered focus is related to my artistic temperment. (Artistic temperment is sometimes spelled ‘t e n d e n c y t o m a n i c d e p r e s s i o n.’) It means that I can end up with two cups of warm coffee on my desk (and who drank one of them already?) or with twenty pages of good text after a wild and exuberant evening of just talking to myself and playing the stereo too loud. I think it is just how I am wired and a part of who I am. I gave up fighting it years ago, and instead I’ve enjoyed it. There are devastating lows and breath-taking highs to my moods and through it all, I keep writing. Life’s a roller coaster for me. I’ve come to accept that. In retrospect, I’m glad it was never medicated away, even though my recollections of my twenties are tinged with a lot of darkness.


Do you see how judgmental, dismissive, and hurtful that is?

ADD and ADHD are, apparently, not actual disorders. They're just initials. And these children didn't have ADD or ADHD, they were just "on drugs for ADD or ADHD".

If you're a person who has these conditions, you don't really have anything according to this article. You're just quirky and scatter brained. Medication is just looking for an easy way out, looking to take "brain drugs", altering yourself, cheating at life.

When you (or a child you make decisions for) have a mental illness and make it known that you're being treated for it, others sit in judgment. Because in our society, we still think it's okay. It's all right to speculate, to demean, to make it our business. It's all right to judge the decisions made, in this case, these families and their children about their own well being.

It is not okay. It is never okay.

It is not okay to talk about your own experiences and expect that everyone else's are just the same, and to shame them and brag about your own LUCK in not needing them to function. It is not okay to tell people that if they seek medications to help them live the life they want, that they are cheating by altering themselves, because to alter yourself in a way that gives you more function is unacceptable

Also? Such a statement is absurd and offensive to not only the disabled, but to transpeople, to recovering addicts with family histories of addiction.

Psychiatric medications (not "brain drugs", thank you very much) are often just as life saving as insulin for diabetics. To shame someone about taking medication to save their life and improve the quality of it is inexcusable.

If you're a person who doesn't need them to function, that makes you lucky. Not better, not more honest, not more real, not more "natural", not harder working - just lucky.

I know there are plenty who would accuse me of looking to be offended, except I don't have to search for these things. Every time I click on a link to "advice from an agent" or "tips for dealing with editors" or "my opinions about life by Big Name Author" - there's a good chance it'll be right there waiting for me.

It'll be there when someone encounters a person who is socially awkward or rude and labels them as having Asperger's or Autism, stereotyping that social difficulties are the only symptoms of these disorders and that to have them is automatically to be unpleasant to be around.

It'll be there when someone conflates being fastidious or nitpicky with having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, trivializing it, when this disorder can make daily life miserable for those going untreated.

I've posted before about why the use of the word "crazy" can be hurtful and offensive, and why it reinforces the attitudes and stereotypes that oppress people with mental disorders or disabilities. There's also a great series on Feminists With Disabilities called the Ableist Word Profile and I highly recommend going and reading every single post and really, really thinking about it.

It makes me tired and angry very often when I see these things from people in the business I want to be in, people that I may one day find myself working with. It worries me that if they find out about my own history with mental illness, if I should need medication in the future, that this will mean they won't work with me because I'm "one of those crazies", no matter how professionally and respectfully I act.

I'm tired because there are better words for what actually is being said. If someone is rude, call them rude or inconsiderate, insulting, impertinent, disrespectful. If someone is being unprofessional, say that.

There's no reason to bring the language of mental health into these discussions this way. There's no reason to call someone "crazy" if they send you a nasty response to a query rejection or don't follow guidelines or post something you don't like. Calling them "crazy" or "off their meds" is wrong, and it is just as unprofessional and rude as anything that person might do.


ETA: Changed pronouns referring to S.E. Smith, as I wrongly gendered ou. My deepest apologies. I obviously made a wrong assumption (cisprivilege fail!) and am deeply sorry and will not be making it again. I obviously have cisprivilege issues that need working on.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
I'm having sort of a genre related thought about ablism.

Right now I'm considering sci-fi, particularly SF set in the far future when humanity is far more technologically developed and there's sort of a theme that follows in this subset of the genre that bothers me a lot when I come across it, and that's the idea that nobody in the future will ever be disabled. Disease have been erased! Genetic abnormalities sorted out! There's a pill or treatment or medi-pod for anything that ails you!

It seems as though when science fiction envisions a better, or at least more advanced, version of humanity it is one without disability, and thus one without disabled people. When you imagine a future without disability, it is a future in which you imagine that there are no disabled people.

I'm sure someone will rush to say, "No! No! They'll exist, they just won't be disabled, that's all! They'll be cured in the future, isn't that great?"

Not so great, actually.

First, because we are not in the future, thus when you say such statements, you're impacting actual people in here and now. You're saying, "Wow, won't it be great when you're not like that anymore. When you're different?" Which is saying, "The way you are now is not okay."

Second, because your idea of "great" is finding ways to make disabled people "normal". I put scare quotes around normal because, well, normal is about the most oppressive, offensive, evil word in my vocabulary.

More people have suffered more evil and oppression on this Earth because they didn't fit somebody else's idea of "normal" than any other single thing I can think of. "Oh, look, people of a different culture and race! They're not normal! Let's shoot them with these nifty guns we have and take over their lands and then tell complete lies about them!" or "Oh, look, those other people there are having sexual relations with the wrong people. They're not normal. Let make nasty laws and beat them up!"

A gross oversimplification, of course, because oppression is ever so much more complex, layered, and insidious than all that. But I hope that it makes the point. People in general value "normal" without stopping in many instances to wonder if it's worth valuing - both here and in the future and the literature of the fantastic and the future.

This future we imagine, this disability-free ideal place is not one in which we've decided to stop narrowing the definition of normal and able, in which we've decided to stop shoehorning based on ability and disability decided to expand what we consider to be just another part of the wide spectrum of collective human ability. This future is one in which we (for the value of "we" which is society/humanity) pick the limitations of ability, of normal, and finally manage squeeze everyone into it ability-wise. And often, it seems, these same stories tell of a future in which we've finally squeezed everyone into the same culture and same gender definitions and sexuality. At long last, homogeneity!

This future is not one in which we have better definitions, just better medicine. In those worlds, our science evolves, our compassion and tolerance and understanding do not.

I do not like this future. It scares me and it erases so, so many people.

Why do so many writers assume that disability wouldn't follow us to the stars? What disabilities that don't even exist today would exist tomorrow? What would be reclassified as a disability or not a disability?

It seems to me that there is some confusion due to ignorance and stereotypes about disability between "normal" and "functioning".

Function is, in my own Meg-specific definition, being able to do what you want/need to do in a way that works for you. If that means using an assistive device or taking a bit longer or using different methods, that all fits under "functioning". You can have levels of functioning - because some stuff works better than others - but function is relative. It all depends on what works for you, what gets the job done for you.

Then there's normal. Normal is being able to do what others want you to do in a way that other people expect you to do it, and it often is the opposite of functional. Normal is an ever moving goal post of other people's expectations. It's the cry of "but you can walk, why are you using a wheelchair?" to a person with a pain disorder or spinal injury or some other invisible disability. It's the cry of "why can't you just get over it?" to someone who has depression or "that's not that bad, at least you didn't go to war!" to someone with PTSD. It's insisting that meatspace/offline activities count for more than, say, online ones even though online activities (academic classes, activism work, creative endeavors) are often more accessible (thus granting more function).

Alas, society values normal over functional and so does sci-fi many times.

Lose a limb? We'll regrow it! Get paralyzed in a space accident? We'll fix that, hop in a medical pod/chamber/box o' insta-healing! Blind? Here, have some nanobots. Deaf? Oh, there's a pill for that. You, too, can be made Normal.

Never you mind that you don't see a lot of mental disabilities/disorders. I can't remember the last time I read about main characters who have, say, ADHD or autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome or an eating disorder. Because apparently these people won't be with us in the future, and they certainly won't be allowed aboard Spaceship Normal.

What's worse? Sci-fi can be the kind of genre that could really inspire others to imagine a different course of events, a different society.

I can see the value in imagining a future with better ways to help people have greater function. I can see the value in imagining sidewalks that automatically adjust themselves to better suit use of assistive devices or the value of imagining classrooms where there are computer/laptop screens made for those students who may be dyslexic or dyscalculic to help them better read and do math.

Because that? Doesn't value normal over function, it doesn't seek to reform people so that nobody ever needs an assistive device or that nobody ever is dyslexic or dyscalculic. It doesn't value the way one group of people accomplishes certain tasks over the way others accomplish them. In fact, it values a society that broadens its ranges, that instead of telling these people to adapt to it decides to adapt to them by concerning itself with accessibility, with function over inflexible, rigid ideas of how something ought to be done, or what people ought to look like, or how they ought to live.

I'd like to find more SF (or even fantasy) that talks about different worlds, that talks differently about people with disabilities.

What things in SF/F bother you from an ablism standpoint, readers? What things do you encounter over and over and wish would stop? What things do you want to encounter (or encounter more of)?

If anyone has any book/story recommendations, that would be absolutely wonderful and I'd love to hear them! Which authors and works get it right in your opinion and why?
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
I told myself I shouldn't/wouldn't post this, because I'm not looking to draw down wank or unproductive, spiraling conversations that amount to nothing and only make people tired and repeat the same old crap.

But then I thought, "No, I need to post this. If only for myself."

I am here to address a comment by a person I have no intention of engaging with, and that's not the norm for me. I like to try to give people a chance to respond because I do believe in the power of respectful dialogues, but in this case, I really don't see how any kind of respectful response is possible.

I do know that in this case, I'm not going to change this person's mind, I'm not going to persuade them of anything, and frankly, I'm not interested in trying.

I am interested in examining the comment (not the commenter, let's be clear on that) that was made because this person is not the sole holder of such beliefs, and it's something I want to address because it's something that I think holds back progress.

The comment in question is from Will Shetterly and can be found in the comments of this entry. ETA: The owner of the LJ in which this conversation took place has removed the comments. I unfortunately do not have screen caps.

This is the comment (in it's entirety)

Keep it simple: I'm the racefail asshole here. That I've been marching against racism since childhood in the '60s (when people got killed for it) to the recent march in Tucson against the latest stupid racist Arizona immigration law is irrelevant.

Out of curiosity, were you at that march? I didn't see you. But I'm sure your antiracist creds on the web are impeccable.


The things I object to in that comment and the ways they reinforce various privileges beneath the cut )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
Art has a price, both for the artist and for the culture in which that art is created. Sometimes that price is higher for one than the other, especially into relation to what a culture gets out of it. For me, as an artist and viewer of many types of art, this factors into whether that art is what I would consider 'good' or not.

For the record, I believe that ethics and artistry not only do go hand and hand but when divorced create nothing but monstrosity. You can explore the outer darkness of ethics-free art if you like. You have that right, at least in the place where I live (up to a point), but I won't be there with you and I definitely don't think it will ever be anything that's worth what it will cost.

Case in point?

Let us do a study in Amanda Palmer vs. Erykah Badu and the cost of their art.

For those who don't know, there is controversy around both these artists. Amanda Palmer for both her Evelyn, Evelyn project and a statement on twitter critiquing product placement in Lady Gaga's and Beyonce's video "Telephone" and Erykah Badu's video for "Window Seat" in which she walks through Dealey Plaza, the site of President Kennedy's assassination, stripping until she is completely nude and then shot [Trigger warning: disturbing image of a simulated assassination, may be disturbing to some viewers.].

Both have generated their detractors and supporters, both have raised hackles, both have been there to make statements, both are part of what these artists consider their art or their theory of how art should be.

I will say now I consider Badu's works and statements to be what good art should be. I think Amanda Palmer's to be the opposite.

Comparison and contrast of these works, their cost, and who pays for it under the tag. Cut for some length. )
megwrites: Beast, from Beauty & The Beast looking coiffed and unhappy. (beauty&thebeast)
I had to remove somebody from my f-list (not that they'd notice/care) because I really, honestly couldn't take it anymore and it was that or cause a whole lotta drama.

I just want to scream.

I get it, okay. I GET IT. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and a scary percentage of the Republican Party are engaged in some really rancid political tactics based on odious, racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise bigoted ideologies. I get that they lack compassion and sometimes even Earth logic. I get that they say hurtful, horrible things on the daily and that they are a destructive force in American politics. I'm there with you. Really.

But calling them crazy in every single post in which the topic comes up? That's not only excessive, it's deliberate. That's where I draw my line and decide that your posts stop being worth listening to.

If you can't think of anything better to assault someone's politics besides calling them "crazy", then you're not really writing anything that I need to waste time on. Either get more creative (and more FUCKING AWARE) or GTFO. Or in this case, expect me to stop listening.

Glenn Beck is not crazy. He's a lot of very bad things. For one, he's a total fuckmuppeting asswipe who is currently douchecanoeing his way across America spewing more rancid shit out of his mouth than a geyser under a clogged sewer. He is a no-good, self-serving, bigoted liar and hypocrite. But Glenn Beck is not crazy.

When you call him and his ilk crazy, you're not hurting them. Because in these discussions, nobody is actually, seriously considering that Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or 50% of the Republican Party are suffering from mental illnesses.

You are however, succeeding, in hurting people who live under the stigma of mental illness. Because you're reinforcing that crazy (read: mentally ill) = loud, obnoxious, dangerous, rude, unpleasant. You're reinforcing that the rhetoric of mental illness is just another way to dismiss people we don't like.

And BTW, if you are considering that Glenn Beck has a mental illness, you're also being very inappropriate. I don't care how vile and disgusting a person's politics or beliefs are. Their mental health status? Not your fucking business. Speculating on whether someone is/isn't mentally ill? Not your fucking place.

That's another note, just so we're clear. Speculating on whether someone has a mental illness is very inappropriate and all kinds of ablist. Unless that person comes out and says themselves, "I have [insert thing]", you keep your goddamn speculations to yourself. Because all you're going to do otherwise is reinforce stereotypes. "He's good with computers and bad with people, he's probably autistic!" or "She washes her hands a lot, she must have OCD!"

Because you know what? Maybe that guy at the computer is actually great with people that aren't you and your fellow coworkers. Maybe he's just uncomfortable in an environment where people speculate about such things and thus, doesn't want to engage with those people. Hell, maybe he's just really tired and doesn't have the spoons to hob-knob around the office.

Maybe the woman who washes her hands a lot is just trying not to get the goddamn flu because she's got two kids and doesn't want them to get sick!

You don't know these things, but when you sit around speculating, you just give a big ol' green light to yourself and everyone out there to buy into stereotypes.

And so what if they do or don't? Why do you feel it's your business, why do you feel entitled to know these things? Why is it so important that you know (at least in your own mind) who is and isn't mentally ill? Are you afraid a mentally ill person will stand next to you and you won't know it? Are you scared that you might accidentally treat this person like you would a non-mentally ill person, that you might give them too much respect or trust or affection or honor?

What is it to you whether someone is or isn't?

If someone's behavior is bothering you, you address the behavior in an appropriate manner. But whether that stems from mental illness or rudeness or just plain cluelessness is not your fucking business. And it doesn't matter. Other people's brains are their own, you need to respect that.

So stop it, okay. Just stop. And if you don't, then please don't expect me to stick around to listen to you. And certainly don't expect me to respect you in the morning.

ETA: Something I thought of later.
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
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.
megwrites: Beast, from Beauty & The Beast looking coiffed and unhappy. (beauty&thebeast)
I finally heard about Amanda Palmer's entire disgusting Evelyn Evelyn "project" and I almost wished I hadn't. Her entire "history" of the fake Evelyn Evelyn personas are here. Trigger warning: (fictional) child abuse and deep, deep ablism lurk within. And it leads you to her site, but at least you can get it from the horse's ass mouth.

The only thing that makes me glad is that now I know never to go anywhere near her stuff or her again. EVER. Especially after she Tweeted: setting aside 846 emails and removing the disabled feminists from her mental periphery, @amandapalmer sat down to plan her next record.

Ah, so not only does Palmer decide to basically fling every ablist trope in the book at folks, but when those same folks (some of then fans) try to tell her that it's offensive, hurtful, and adds to their oppression as persons with disabilities, she just decides to ignore them. Yet another classic move from the "How To Defend Your Privilege" playbook.

I find it really ironic that Palmer seems to believe she is doing something edgy and artistic when she's really just recycling and spitting out the same old material society has been recycling re: disabled people for centuries. She's actually being about as cliche and trite as you can get before you start actively plagiarizing other folks. Does she think the "disabled folk who 'overcome' their disability with the help of able bodied folks, thus becoming an inspiration" story has never been done? Does she think the "circus freak" story has never been told. Yeah, uh, that story was done with back in 1932 when Freaks came out.

Because trust me, every "inspirational" movie, TV episode, and made-for-television drama about a person with a disability is basically this story more or less. There are a few shining examples to the contrary, but for the most part? Palmer is retelling an old, old story. She's not subverting anything, she's reinforcing the status quo of ablism. Her project gets a bingo, and maybe even the entire thing on the Ablism Bingo Card. (Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] haddayr for the card/link, you rock!).

To act out of privilege is not to be edgy, but to wrap yourself in the ultimate cliche, to tell the same story old that society has been telling about those considered Other since it began.

The most profound, lasting, spectacular acts of rebellion are those staged by the oppressed to reclaim themselves, their bodies, their right to dignity and equality. When art acts to shatter expectations and to shred the old, old lies that oppressors tell, when it subverts expectations and twists them back into truth, that's when it's truly art. That's when it's truly edgy.

I know what edgy is. This ain't it.
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
I can't help but find this article from The Washington Post by Christopher Fairman, "The Case against Banning the Word Retard" to be a mix of ignorance, obnoxiousness, and privilege waving.

The varied and evolving uses of such words ultimately render self-censorship campaigns unnecessary. And restricting speech of any kind comes with a potential price -- needlessly institutionalized taboos, government censorship or abridged freedom of expression -- that we should be wary of paying.


As a writer, the concept of freedom of speech is near and dear to me. I think of writers in countries who truly do not have the freedom to speak freely - those who face imprisonment, beatings, torture, and execution for the mere act of criticizing their governments or writing fiction that those in power find too provocative, too controversial. I think of the people who could only get their political protests heard beyond Iran's borders through Twitter. I think of those who do not even have that much access to make themselves heard when those in power decide they must bear their burdens in utter silence.

Examination of the article and of language )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
Dear Colleen Lindsay,

I have been following the comments that you and others have made in this post made by Rachelle Gardner concerning public complaints by writers. My opinions on that can be found in other entries, if you feel like reading them. That's not here what I came to talk about.

I came here to talk about this comment that you left further down the page, the one that says (emphasis mine):

I actually didn't go into anyone's journal. Google feeds locked posts into the Google reader willy-nilly, regardless of whether the post is locked or not. I found out it was a locked post simply because I tried to reference it again to show a colleague from another agency who was also mentioned in the post and I was unable to access it through LiveJournal.

You may be loathe to point this out so I will: I just did you and every other writer a major public service by letting you all know that even if you think something is private, it can sometimes still be seen by Google Reader.

Here's a Xanax and a glass of water. Chill, please.

Colleen



This may be the scariest thing I've ever done, but I need to tell you that this is not okay. I realize that I am probably very much putting whatever writing career I might have had in jeopardy. I realize that I could face a lot of consequences for saying this.

I'm willing to live with that.

I don't know your personal life all that well, besides what you Twitter or blog, so I don't know if you've ever had cause to be someone who takes Xanax or a medication similar to that.

But I do know many friends and family who have. Including me. I'm shaking right now, because I really don't like to admit that once upon a time, I had to be put on psychiatric medications when I was a kid. I still feel ashamed of it. It was a long time ago, and I try not to think about it or about how hard I tried not to let anyone know about it because, well, letting the kids at school know you're on "crazy pills" is asking to be teased.

I saw what happened to the one other girl in school who let the secret slip. I heard the "crazy" jokes and the "psycho" remarks. I heard the "she must be off her meds" remarks if she dared to show her hurt, her anger, her frustration. I got lucky. I kept my secret and was taken off the meds quickly. To this day, the thought of ever having to go back on them make me shake. Like I'm shaking right now.

I'm no longer on any psychiatric medications, but I know so many people who take such things. Including, yes, Xanax.

Those people, those friends and family, don't take it because they're high-strung and just need to "chill". They don't take it because they're bitchy and whiny and weak. They take it so they can function, so they can lead healthier lives. It is not due to a character flaw - it is due to a disorder, a disability.

The act of admitting you need help, especially with a mental disorder, is terrifying for so many people. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding it. When you admit that you have or still do take those drugs, you're opening yourself to a lot of scorn, to people who trivialize your condition, to people who think you're just whining and complaining, to people who think you're less trustworthy or intelligent because of it.

This isn't about writers or agents or the gripes between them. I don't care about that right now. I care that a professional that I respected so much has shown such profound disrespect, intentional or not, to so many people I care about.

You're a highly visible figure in the publishing world. One look at your blog or your Twitter feed shows that a lot of people watch and listen to you, and when you say such things, you give a silent nod to ablism to all those people watching. Yes, their actions and words are their responsibility. You can't control what other people do. But you can control what you yourself do, and what you condone.

I'm asking that in the future that you think about the things you say publicly, even in moments of great irritation (however justified) and the impact they will have on others. It is something that I think anyone who blogs, tweets, or comments should think about before they hit "post".

I'm keeping this letter open because I think that you are not, by any means, the first or worst in the voices of people who also encourage a culture of ablism, whether they mean to or not. I think we all need to talk about this, need to talk about ways we can change our words and behaviors so that we're not holding people down, disrespecting them, and making their lives harder.

Perhaps open letters on the internet are also unprofessional, perhaps bringing this out into the open is unprofessional, perhaps air my past is unprofessional. Well, maybe professionalism isn't all it's cracked up to be. And I'm not a professional. I'm just some nobody, unpublished writer with stories to tell who sees other people with stories -- and selves -- that are scorned, hidden, disrespected, ignored and thinks that it shouldn't be that way. I think that comments like yours only make it harder for those stories and those selves to come out honestly, openly, and with the dignity they deserve, and that shouldn't be.


Thank You,
Meg Freeman

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