Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Link Roundup, Feminism-and-Disability Edition

To take a bit of a break from all the long, involved thinky and researchy posts I've been doing lately, I'm just going to link to a few things I've seen around the Internet recently and been blown away by.

First, FWD/Forward, an awesome new blog that deserves lots of attention, has been running a series of posts on ableism in language. Each post in the series deals with one word or phrase, like "lame," "vegetable," "retarded," "cretin," or "hysterical."

Also at FWD/Forward, Amanda W. of Three Rivers Fog has enlarged on this older post of AnneC's, "Conceptualizing Autism," to show how it can be applied to all disabilities.

I also discovered FWD/Forward contributor Meloukhia's blog, This Ain't Livin', and really liked these two posts: "Default Settings," about the gender binary, cissexism and compulsory heterosexuality, and "How to Evaluate a Source of Information."

Elesia Ashkenazy of Aspitude! has a very interesting interview on her site, with an anonymous former behavior analyst who voices some problems ze has with ABA:
One day, I was sitting with one of my favorite clients. He was the sweetest nonverbal foodie (he ate everything) who smiled often, and listened well. We had just gone through his set of verbal training programs, and we were having a relaxing break. He was stimming [ex.: finger flicking/rippling, humming, rocking, spinning] on a musical toy and he began hyper hand-flapping. My job was to click each hand flap and *reset* his hands every time. I sat back in realization and wondered to myself: is this treatment truly helping him to become independent? Will he be institutionalized for his entire life? Why does it matter if he hand flaps? Will he find love in his life?

During this rush of emotions, it was like I saw a film reel pass my eyes, and I could see my client sitting in a home twenty years into the future, having never been given an opportunity to grow into his full potential. He had been stunted by diagnosis after diagnosis, prescription after prescription, and treatment after treatment.

How do we expect to *socialize* someone if we never give them a chance to interact socially, and we treat them as if they are rehabilitated animals at a nature center of some sort?
How, indeed. (Though I would argue that animals, too, should be free to engage in whatever odd behaviors they like as long as they aren't hurting anyone!)

Finally, via Shakesville, a wonderful article from about Dr. Marci Bowers, who does reconstructive surgery, free of charge, for women who've had their genitals mutilated.

"...[Y]ou cannot charge a fee to reverse a crime against humanity," she said. "Sexuality is a right."

Dr. Bowers is transgendered, and she brings up her experiences with transitioning in the video clip, when she's talking about what led her to start doing this work.

EDIT: There's one more awesome thing I read recently, that I forgot to include: IOZ has a thought-provoking response to this New York Times editorial, in which he raises some really important, hardly-ever-asked questions about the nature of the American economy:
... [N]o one seems much interested in the fact that an industrial economy is necessarily pyramidal, that not everyone can be an inventor (or innovator, as goes the preferred neologism) or CEO. You know, even in the Imaginarium of Doctress Rand, it is taken as given that the Atlases of the world must at some point employ and direct the debased lumpenproletariat: there are no illusions that every man is a genius. ...
You cannot run a society of three hundred million people by requiring that each either invent the iPod or remain broke forever. Which rather brings up a tangential but dearly held point for the whole gang here at Who Is IOZ? Namely:

You cannot run a society of three hundred million people.
(IOZ is also probably among my favorite prose stylists in the blogosphere, after the inimitable Twisty Faster).


Anne Corwin said...

Regarding: "How do we expect to *socialize* someone if we never give them a chance to interact socially, and we treat them as if they are rehabilitated animals at a nature center of some sort?"

I agree with you completely that "animals, too, should be free to engage in whatever odd behaviors they like as long as they aren't hurting anyone!"

This is the approach I am taking with the feral kittens I've adopted...essentially my goal is NOT to "make them act a certain way", but to find ways to communicate with them, through my actions, that I am not a predator and they can trust me. They have no good reason to trust me or any other human if we haven't earned it, and I WANT them to grow up with minds of their own.

And, as Amanda (I think) noted in a comment to my blog, there are some schools of thought which suggest that "socializing" animals ought to be about getting them to put up with being picked up and carried and grabbed all the time, etc. -- stuff that sounds a lot more like "teaching passivity" than "socializing". And I don't think that approach is appropriate for humans OR animals.

(And, really, this whole kitten thing is illustrating loads about how obvious it is that "acceptance" isn't the same as "neglect" -- accepting their feline nature doesn't mean I won't take them to the vet, give them medicine when they need it, or keep them out of rooms in the house that aren't safe for them yet due to residual moving-in clutter. It just means that I accept that they're CATS, and that they've got their own agenda on which I am not necessarily going to rank above "interesting new cardboard box". :) And frankly that is something I love them for!)

A better future for all said...

I've created a new blog if anyone wants to come to it.

Lindsay said...


Yeah, I liked what Amanda said about socializing cats. (We try not to handle ours when they clearly don't want it --- my sister says it frustrates them. She's the animal-psychology-and-behavior expert in our house. Socialization of the cats --- the younger ones, anyway --- consisted of fostering different kittens until we found two who seemed to work well together, and teaching them not to bite us when we're playing with them, which we did by yelping and stopping what we were doing whenever they bit, to show them that even tiny bites hurt the wimpy hairless humans :))

We also try to walk the tightrope between respecting the cats' autonomy and protecting them from dangers they can't understand, too.

You really need to have a decent idea of how a cat's mind works, to be a good companion to one, I think; you need to be able to tell when they need their space, and how not to frustrate them into chronic irritability, or make them afraid of everything by freaking out all the time, and you need to know what they can and can't grasp, so you know when to step in and stop them from doing something that could get them hurt.

(Mine *LOVE* cardboard boxes! They chew on them, curl up in them, pounce on them ... endless fun).

TheWiredOne said...

Might I also add that the word "dumb" as a negative adjective has some ableist origins? In today's society, chances are that if you got a nickel for every time you hear someone calling someone "dumb" to refer to them as being unintelligent, you'd get enough money to buy yourself a nice amount of snacks from a vending machine. However, it was originally used exclusively to refer to someone who could not speak (i. e. nonverbal). In some Shakespeare plays, characters say the word "dumb" to describe a person who has fallen silent for some reason. I'm not saying that Thelma and Louise are ableist. I love them and their bashings of anti-vax peeps too much to attach that label to them. I'm just saying that the word "dumb" as an insult has ableist origins.

Lindsay said...

I knew that about "dumb", SBWG.

I've also had similar thoughts that calling people "stupid" is ableist; it seems like it's related to calling them the R-word, especially since so many of the synonyms we now use for "stupid" --- say, "moron," "idiot, "imbecile," etc. --- used to be technical terms for varying degrees of cognitive impairment.

The ableist-word posts over there are an ongoing project, and they're always open to suggestions if you've got some words you'd like to see profiled, or would like to write a guest post on a word.