naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)

Hmm . . . this sounds familiar. And not in a good way.

I figured it out! I figured it out!

Okay, the big thing that upsets me about the inspirational meme stuff like the one above is that pairing images of disabled people with messages like "It's all in your attitude" or "think positive and you can do anything" and "there are no disabilities, only bad attitudes" is basically pairing images of us, people with disabilities, with the sort of trite crap that is used to deny us when we ask for help and shove us down when we try to explain that there is a problem and something is wrong.

See, when a depressed teenager is failing at school, she is told to study harder, try harder, that she's got a "bad attitude." When a person with chronic pain is told that there are no excuses for not exercising every day and keeping a perfectly tidy house, and they react by getting justifiably angry, they have a "bad attitude", a "chip on their shoulder", they're "too sensitive", and they're "lazy" to boot. When a poor disabled person who cannot afford a wheelchair is told that the only disability is a bad attitude, and this is illustrated with pictures of $15,000 prosthetic legs*, and they don't happen to feel inspired by this, they just aren't grateful enough for what they do have. Telling someone to "think positive" when they are in the pits of bipolar despair is not just mean, it's indicative of grave ignorance and a sad disregard for the person's basic humanity.

All this stuff is doing is perpetuating the myth that leads to the stereotypes that lead to the neglect, bullying and abuse that make our lives much harder than they have to be . . . and it's perpetuating it using pictures of us.

And it is doing all of that in order to motivate and cheer up people who are not disabled.

And that is just messed.  Do you see how awful that is?

The messages alone are harmful and frustrating, even when pasted over pictures of sunsets and flowers. When put over images of us, when those words, OTHER PEOPLE'S WORDS, are literally written over our bodies and faces, that is really hurtful.** It silences us. It uses us as symbols of something that often doesn't even apply to us.

Don't erase us like that, okay? Those aren't our words. Those aren't our voices.

Don't use us to make yourself feel better about your odds of making it if you just try harder.  Don't use us to point out to your underachieving friends that they could try harder.  Because we try as hard as we can, we do, and it is often not enough.  Do you know how many of us live below the poverty line, struggling to survive because we cannot get help from state agencies without years-long battles that we are often too sick or too tired to fight, or won't live long enough to win?

This is not a game to us.  This is not a joke.  This is not a teachable moment.  This is not a moral to some inspirational story.  This is our life.  I can't be sure I will be able to afford to go to the doctor this month and buy the medication he will prescribe me.  I mean, I could wring it out of the budget, sure, but that's going to cut somewhere else.  I have no savings.  I take money from my father, from friends, because the state is dragging its heels in acknowledging how very, very sick I am.  Do you think that the low-income health programs cover my health care?  They don't.  All they will take care of is my baby-making parts, because that's all I am to them, and the rest of me is just so much defective meat.  And until I am declared officially disabled, and given a piece of paper and a number and an official designation to tell everyone else what I already know because I live it every damn day, it won't cover my medical care.  So I hurt more.  I get sicker.  Don't ignore the unpleasant reality of many of our lives to capitalize on the inspiration value of the things we do manage to accomplish.  Our adversity is not something for you to use to prop up your self-esteem.

You can have your inspiration. Nothing wrong with that. You can even find our stories inspirational; it's not the main reason I blog about disability sometimes, but I certainly don't mind if someone who is not mentally ill finds my occasional victory inspiring, or takes heart from my supposed strength or stubbornness. I don't begrudge you that.  I don't.  The fact that I can help other people by talking about this?  That is, about 75% of the time, the only thing that makes the thought that this is forever and ever until I die tolerable.  I don't care who it touches.  If I am alleviating pain, I'm happy.

Don't use us, though, to talk about yourselves, or other people.  Especially not to other people. We -- in our identity as disabled people -- shouldn't be used to represent or illustrate or talk about anything in a way that does not directly center us and our perception of our experiences.

We don't belong to you. Our lives don't belong to you.  Our bodies don't belong to you.  Our experiences don't belong to you. We aren't your inspiration. We don't deserve to be "that guy" you are glad you aren't, and we aren't brave saints who have navigated the minefield of life and emerged on the other side, triumphant, smiling, and with the wings of eagles.

Here is what we are: we are struggling, hurting people who navigate the shit life throws at us with varying degrees of success, battling all the way. We never win. We just hold it off a little longer. Life is wonderful and amazing, but it is also very, very hard. There is no finish line, not for anyone, except the big black. And the days we don't win that fight, those aren't failures that happen because we didn't keep our chin up. Those are failures that happen because the world is a hard place, and being disabled in one way doesn't come with built in compensations that make us better at dealing with the hard things, or confer advantages in another area. We are as shitty at life as anyone else. And that doesn't mean we aren't trying as hard, or make us less deserving.  It makes us human.

We are warriors in a war story that never ends.  There is no happily ever after. There is just the fight. Every. Day. For the rest of our lives.

Respect us. Please.

We don't get to look at pictures of you and feel hope. We don't get to look at pictures of you and feel good about ourselves. So don't make us look at pictures of ourselves while you tell yourselves how much you can achieve, because hey, life is so easy even disabled people can do it and smile, right?

Well, no. It's really, really not.

* Let me just talk about those cheetah legs. They are made of carbon fiber, engineered to replicate the spring action of the world's fastest land predator. They are so incredibly effective that South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorious, pictured with that cute little girl above, was barred from competing in the 2008 Olympics because his cheetah legs were found by a committee to bestow upon him advantages that non-amputee runners could not match. That makes using this picture kind of inappropriate. The fact that the legs cost $12,000-15,000 combined with the caption make the pairing actively revolting. Those legs represent the absolute pinnacle of prosthetic technology, and they are extremely expensive and thus accessible to very, very few people.  You not only have to be rich, you have to be the right kind of amputee. Not everyone can afford them, and not everyone can use them. Those two people, that amazing athlete and that precious little child who is obviously having a grand adventure, are very, very lucky, and with all my heart I wish them the very best in the world, but there is no comparing that kind of luck with a good attitude. A good attitude will not buy you the world's most incredible legs.

Also, there is no prosthetic for mental illness.  Many people barely even acknowledge that it exists as a legitimate thing, not just a cluster of inconveniences and lies and concocted justifications to be browbeaten out of anyone who claims to be mentally ill.

** Yes, at least one of those quotes WAS from a guy with no legs. He doesn't speak for all of us, or even most of us. And it is super-important that you realize that.

naamah_darling: Close cropped image of a blonde ponytailed man with a woman pulling a black stocking tightly around his neck. (BDSM)
So, I wrote this on Tumblr, but I thought I'd repost it here.

A quote:

Women are often acutely aware of being gendered as female as they make their way through everyday experiences in the world. Not paying attention to masculinity might mean walking to your car at night without thinking about personal safety or the possibility of sexual assault.  Women often hold their keys at the ready, walk in pairs, or remain hypervigilant about their surroundings in ways that often simply don't occur to men.  Because girls are raised knowing they will be judged on how they look, women are intensely aware of their image from head to toe.  Men may not give a second thought to what they're wearing.  Looking good can matter for everyone, but the social stakes for men are not as high if they look sloppy, unattractive, skinny, or fat.  And what if a woman feels cranky one day?  What if she's deep in thought, or she just doesn't feel like smiling? Women are used to being told my total strangers to smile (read: Be more friendly and less ornery).  Men are rarely -- if ever -- told to smile.  Men are not required to be socially accessible.  Men don't generally get accused of PMS-ing (again, read: not being nice enough). Being acutely aware of one's gender in this way is something men rarely experience.

—Shira Tarrant, PhD, Men and Feminism

This is the truth, and something I wish more people would make an effort to understand.  It is a weird feeling to experience this and to realize that it’s a fundamental property of being read as female in this culture.

It’s even weirder when you go through your daily life and you have these experiences of being intensely aware of being “female” because you are in a “female” body, and you have no fixed gender identity.  It’s like playing a constant tug-o-war with something inside yourself.  You keep getting yanked back over that line other people have drawn for you.  Other people’s constant yanking on that gender rope is why you can’t hold your fucking ground.  You are being forced to identify and live by a set of rules that do not apply to who you are inside, and in fact should not apply to anyone.  By creating this special awareness, it imposes an identity on you that you did not create, that you did not consent to, and that you do not want, and you cannot just disown that or choose not to accept it.  It’s not made up of your thoughts or actions, but those of other people, over which you have no control.

It may not be easier for men to step out of the box and decide they don’t need to act like “real men,” to decide that the performance of masculinity is a destructive thing that isn’t working.  I think having to do that no matter what your gender is is a very difficult thing and can be especially painful and destructive for men, who are not taught from birth that they must be The Ones Who Change.  It may not be easier for men to detach themselves from societal expectations, and there are significant social risks involved, and physical ones if you are not heterosexual, but I think for cisgendered hetero men, it just does not come with the physical aspect.  The commentary on female bodies, the way women "owe" the world prettiness, the way we are expected to be pleasant, the way our bodies are preyed on physically and often violently by rapists and forced-birthers and abusers, by the media, by advertising, and by one another.

It’s disturbing to experience the vulnerability of your body as female regardless of what gender your inner self might be.

It is a vulnerable thing to be female, or to be a person that people perceive as female, not because you are inherently weak in body or mind, but because all the people around you have been socialized to think of you in certain ways … it doesn’t matter if XYZ does not apply to you.  As long as enough people around you believe it, the world spins on as though it does.  You go through life surrounded by people who believe wrong things about you.

People make stupid assumptions all the time, but these relatively benign assumptions aren’t the ones I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the ones that are actually dangerous.  The assumption that because you are dressed a certain way, you are inviting physical contact.  The assumption that your body should be in some measure available for the appreciation of others on demand, whether that is to be touched or simply to be looked at — and to refuse those demands is not a neutral act; it invites abuse.  Again, sometimes violently.

People believe you are a certain way and that you should behave a certain way, and sometimes they have so much invested in these fictions they formed based on someone’s perceived gender or race or orientation or appearance that they have very strong reactions to anyone violating those assumptions.  Acting outside those roles has very direct and sometimes deadly consequences.  (Witness trans folks getting beaten, raped, or killed for not conforming to gender roles — it triggers a horrifying visceral rage in some people, and violence is seen as a justifiable and appropriate way to “correct” something that is direly wrong.  I cannot tell you how often I have seen the perpetrators of these crimes referring to their victims as “it.”  Literally a thing, an un-person.)

And hey, this is fucked up, too: when you do not act like you “should,” you become perceived as a threat to your own people.  For example, if you don’t adhere to the idea that women should be more chaste and virtuous than men, and that they should dress attractively, flatteringly, and modestly, you’re a skanky slut, and you make women look bad.  And then, then, your existence is used to harm other people and shame other people, is used to justify hating other people, when all you were doing is just not buying into the lie, and not living — or trying not to — as though you did.  You can easily become a negative stereotype by simply not adhering to the most positive one put forth by the group oppressing yours.  And there is no fucking way out of that loop.  There is none.

It is completely fucked.

naamah_darling: Spotted hyena teeth. (Teeth)
From Tumblr's queerandpresentdanger:

I think another reason why it’s important to not be nice when speaking of your oppression—not just a prerogative but important—is to try to really convey the severity of what you’re dealing with. When you’re nice, it’s easy for the person you’re speaking to to assume that you are dealing with minor pet peeves, not seeing the necessity of them to look within themselves to think about the ways they’re contributing. It’s easy for them to dismiss what you’re talking about as trivial interpersonal annoyances that are not representative of larger structural problems. But when you’re fucking angry—when you let across how much pain you’ve endured because of this—it comes across. It’s serious. And even if the person you’re talking to shuts down, fuck at least you feel better, and that’s a minor victory in itself.

Instead of asking us not to be angry it’s more productive to think about why you’re not. It’s more effective to think about what privilege you have for not being angry. It’s more effective to realize the oppression you’re perpetuating by demanding we convey knowledge in a comfortable manner for you when we’ve likely spent our entire lives being uncomfortable. It’s important to recognize the privilege in demanding to control what type of information you’re given and how. Realize the violence you’re inflicting by doing this, supported by and representative of larger types of violence inflicted throughout our lifetimes. And realize when that I don’t comply with your attempts to control me it’s an act of resistance.

I'm just gonna leave that there so as not to speak over the message.

Also gonna link to this guy's other tumblrs: fuckyeahchubbyguysofcolor and fatnudes. The fatnudes one is racially diverse and features nudes of all genders. I think they are both pretty awesome.


naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)

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