Saturday, April 28, 2012

Depression

Why are you writing this?

I have depression.

No, seriously, stop it.

I have a mental illness.

What are you doing? Don't you know that people are going to stop taking you seriously the moment you push Submit?

(right, because they haven't already.)

Yeah, it's not like you have anything worth saying anyway.

I'm sure you've noticed how I've barely touched this blog for the past couple of weeks. I'm sorry for that.

All two of your readers have noticed, I'm sure.

My depression's been particularly bad lately. I've pretty much stopped caring about everything because I can't even fucking build up the effort. And I mean everything.

I've been eating terribly, I've been neglecting even the basics of ordinary living. All I've done all day is play games, talk on IRC, go to school (and I've barely even done that right, missing two classes and being horribly late for a third), and sleep.

I can't build up the effort to care about what's going on in the world.

Because who cares, it's all the same old bullshit, money rules the world, it's not like you're making any difference.

And it's not like there's been a dearth of news lately. Hi there CISPA. Oh, Trayvon finally got justice. Oh, CeCe isn't likely to. Same old, same old, this is about real fucking people with real fucking lives but my depression isn't letting me care and now I feel like a total asshole, or worse, a Republican.

These are real people with real lives and you're just sitting here whining. You're useless. No, you're worse than useless.

And it's not even a failure to think of topics other than current news. I've wanted to write about the war on drugs, about how privilege hurts the privileged, about the moral obligation to fact-check, about abortion, about this thing, about that thing, let's link to this somehow, let's link to that, oh that's even one of the most beautiful things I've ever read but let's not even bother because there's no fucking point.

This is what depression does, and when I hear people tell me it's not real or that I'm just making an excuse I want to fucking scream.

Oops, except that I can't hear them say it because I'm completely isolated from everyone just on the mere thought that they might.

The people whose ideas I hold in contempt don't need to silence me, because that side of my brain doesn't seem to need their help.

And meanwhile it's telling me that there's no point to getting help, which I've finally taken steps to do after YEARS of this torture.

*deep breaths, deep breaths*

Okay, this might be a little less polished than my usual, but I have to say SOMETHING, and I'm too scared to proofread, because I'm really really afraid that I'll just delete this whole thing.

So here you go. "Enjoy."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day of Silence

Today is a day of silence, in honor of the victims of anti-LGBT hatred.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The autobiography of a strong woman

Whenever, in the history of the world, in times of darkness, a woman stands up against patriarchy, speaks about emancipation, tries to break free from her chains, she gets called a ‘whore’. Many years ago, in the preface to my book, A Fallen Woman’s Fallen Prose‚ I wrote about how I delighted in calling myself a ‘fallen woman’. It was because I knew that whenever a woman has protested against oppression by the state, by religion, or by society, whenever she has become aware of all her rights, society has called her a whore. I believe that in this world, for a woman to be pure, to be true to herself, she has to become a ‘fallen woman’. Only when a woman is called a ‘whore’ can she know that she is free from the coils of society’s diktats. The ‘fallen’ woman is really a pure and pristine human being. I truly believe that if a woman wants to earn her freedom, be a human, she has to earn this label. This title, coming from a fallen, degenerate society, should be seen as an honour by every woman. Till now, of all the prizes I have received, I consider this honour to be the greatest recognition of what I have done with my life. I have earned it because I have given a mortal blow to the decaying, rotten body of patriarchy. This is the true measure of the worth of my life as a writer, of my life as a woman and the long years of my struggle to be the person I am.

From Taslima Nasreen. Bolding original. I strongly recommend reading the whole thing, it's a powerful voice and a very unique perspective.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Appropriation in the comfort of privilege

I call it appropriation, though I'm not quite sure that's the best word. Maybe I'll rewrite this with a better word later. But the word is not the important thing, and I feel this is something that needs to be said.

I have noticed an extremely common problem among purported allies. I have also noticed that the greater the degree to which the group ostensibly being supported is marginalized, the more this is the case.

It's an attitude. Let me see if I can sum it up...

"How do you affect us?"

"What should we do about you?"

The focus is not on the people who are marginalized. It's on "our relatives". Just on how it affects "us", the privileged.

If that description is still confusing, let's look at an example of this in action. Since the ostensible advocacy group Autism Speaks is the best example of this that I can think of, that's what I'll be using.

Via Tiger Beatdown:

There are a lot of great reasons not to support Autism Speaks, and one of the most important to me is the fact that the organisation has no autistic people on its board. Unlike the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which lives and breathes ‘nothing about us without us,’ Autism Speaks reinforces the idea that people with autism cannot communicate, cannot articulate ideas, cannot be their own advocates. Autism Speaks, all right: for the parents of children with autism.

This is a common problem in disability advocacy. Instead of focusing on people with disabilities and their own lived experiences, including what they have to bring to the table and their differing opinions on policy and other issues, the focus is on their parents and other loved ones and how disability impacts them. This inherently positions disability as an externality, something that happens to someone else, to people who are not quite real, to faceless and amorphous individuals rather than actual human beings. It also positions disability, typically, as something that requires endless sacrifice, work, and misery from the people around the disabled person. And, of course, it suggests that disabled adults don’t exist.

Autism Speaks also routinely silences autistic people who speak against them.

Another great example comes from our president, Barack Obama. Let me quote from two separate sections of the 2012 Women's History Month proclamation (with emphasis added):

While we have made great strides toward equality, we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.

[...]

During Women's History Month, we recall that the pioneering legacy of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers is revealed not only in our museums and history books, but also in the fierce determination and limitless potential of our daughters and granddaughters.

Notice how, routinely, women are positioned in terms of how they are related to us. This, incidentally, has been a generally consistent pattern; this proclamation is not an exception to a rule.

What this does is position marginalization as something that the other people go through, not us. This only serves to marginalize even more, to entrench privilege. It is tremendously alienating. This is what othering is: to be regularly looked at as those other people, those strange people, those poor miserable people who need our help because they can't do anything without us...

After all, the privileged don't actually have to listen. Just showing the slightest interest in the marginalized experience gets them marked as a wonderful person. They have exceeded expectations, often not realizing that those expectations were lower for them due to the privilege they had in the first place.

This is how people like Barack Obama can be thought of as a feminist ally even while participating in othering. He's a man, and too many men don't even give feminism basic lip service.

People will listen to the privileged all day about the marginalized, and more so if it reinforces what they already believe. Never mind whether the actual marginalized people are saying something entirely different.

This is why spaces for marginalized people are so important. This is why diversity is so important. This is why LISTENING is so important.

So if you are a privileged person, listen. And learn. Even if you don't like what you hear. Because what you are hearing is probably something that really needs to be said, something that that person is trusting you with.

Thank you.

PS: If you've been donating to Autism Speaks under the impression that you've been helping autistic people, please stop, and donate instead to an advocacy group that makes a positive difference. I tend to recommend the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Conversation

Capitalization intentional, as Ashley Judd refers to the Conversation that way, in this piece. Excellent read despite the problematic title; given the content, I'm inclined to believe that the author didn't have control of the title.

Excerpt:

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Watch your language.

[trigger warning for discriminatory language]

Fuck that asshole...so full of shit.

Well, that sentence alone probably guarantees that children will be kept off this site. Clearly that sentence is horrendously offensive.

But who is being talked about?

It could be essentially anyone. That sentence tells you nothing about the person's sex, gender, race, sexuality, religion, disability, physical ability, the list goes on. It's just a bit of aggression against someone who, apparently, has achieved the dislike of the speaker.

Now let's ask another question about that line...who is hurt by it?

Children?

They don't even know what it means. It's only offensive in the sense that it's viewed as "bad language", and they might not know that.

It might make them seen as rude, crude, offensive, impolite.

So would calling someone ignorant. So would calling them a joke.

Are these words used with intense emotion?

Frequently, but they're not the only words that are, or even the only words that are used with their type of emotion.

Now, let's look at a few other derogatory words.

That's so gay.

Well, that's just lame.

You're retarded!

These words are generally commonplace. They can be used for essentially anything the speaker doesn't like, and unlike the words used in the opening sentence, aren't considered particularly offensive.

All they do, after all, is constantly remind people who actually are gay, people who actually have physical disabilities, people who actually have mental disabilities, just how society views them. People don't use these words to mean "what I aspire to", after all.

These words aren't used for the privileged, except to compare them to the marginalized. It constantly sends a message - these things are bad.

It's these words, not "shit" and "ass", that I would argue should be subject to a general understanding as offensive, and subject to censorship.

Of course, it's not only these words, and rather unlike the current understanding, this is not arbitrary.

Just ask two simple questions:

Does this word imply that someone is bad, for something beyond their control?

Is this word disproportionately used to target a specific group of people, again for something beyond their control?

Think about what you say.

Update 4/11: Edited to alter a word which I wasn't aware was considered ablist...which, I guess, goes to show how important it is to educate oneself. And in case anyone was wondering, no, I haven't missed the irony that the first time this happened on this blog was on this post of all things.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hamza Kashgari

This man fled from his home country of Saudi Arabia to Malaysia to seek asylum after people in his home country started calling for his death. He was arrested by the government of Malaysia, and deported from there to Saudi Arabia.

His crime?

Blasphemy.

He posted about Muhammad on Twitter - three tweets about an imagined meeting with the prophet - and is likely to be put to death for it.

I hold in complete contempt the notion that any person, any idea, should be above critique and examination. That idea is how falsehoods thrive. That idea is what holds up tyrannies. That idea shows a callous disregard for reality itself, discarded in favor of what is thought of as revelation - and of course, the idea that it might not actually be revelation is certainly never to be considered.

Sign the petition here. Hamza Kashgari is an innocent man by any reasonable standard.