22 May, 2009

This is Not My Type of Feminism

There are days when I question whether feminism, as a whole, is welcoming to people like me. Or to people who are not *exactly* like me, but are still part of groups that have historically been ignored, erased, marginalized, or plundered by "mainstream" feminism.

This absolute trainwreck of a "discussion"--on mental illness--happened over two weeks ago at Feministe, and I'm still thinking about it. Many (though not all) of the comments on that post are horrific displays of ableist tripe.

I do not understand why some find it so haaaaaard to grasp that disability and ableism are feminist issues, or that disability rights and women's rights are connected; I find it equally difficult to understand why some are so dedicated to holding on to the last vestiges of their privilege, even as they give lip service to things like "inclusion" and "diversity." Neither term holds meaning when used by a certain type "good" mainstream liberal/feminist/et al to describe just how awesome and progressive they themselves are; oftentimes, these words are used to make those in the mainstream feel better about themselves, their privilege(s), and their biases--some of which they just cannot let go.

Again and again, I see comments in several places online that suggest that disabled and other marginalized people, and their experiences, are only good for two things: enabling the "growth and development" of mainstream feminists, and providing abstract (at least to those who have that privilege) discussion fodder that allows various "concerned" fems to do their thing without questioning their own privilege. Both of these have the effect of depoliticizing any radical potential that those who are NOT het white cis upper-middle class able-bodied mentally "healthy" feminists may bring to the table. In a way, it's kind of like using the ideas of radical women of color--without referencing where these ideas come from!--to make a point about your wedding, of all things.

It fucking hurts.

8 comments:

randombitchez said...

In a way, it's kind of like using the ideas of radical women of color--without referencing where these ideas come from!--to make a point about your wedding, of all things. ZING!

Well said. Is it just me, or have the Big Blogs (tm) become a little more hostile towards PwDs lately?

Tiana said...

Is it horrible that I'm disabled, have mental health problems and don't understand what's wrong with that discussion? Granted, I only read the first 40 or so comments ... but all I could see were lots of unanswered questions. I ask myself those questions nearly everyday. What am I missing?

annaham said...

Tiana, I'm mostly referring to comments like this one:

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/05/08/listening-to-madness/#comment-240937

And this:

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/05/08/listening-to-madness/#comment-241007

And this one:

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/05/08/listening-to-madness/#comment-240949

And, the piece de resistance (esp. the final paragraph):

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/05/08/listening-to-madness/#comment-241121

Mostly, the comments on that thread that I object to are the ones where the commenters do not have firsthand experience with severe mental illness, and yet are perfectly comfortable buying into the stereotype that people with mental health issues are *always* a danger to others, and that that should be "fixed" in certain ways that are convenient for those around them--nevermind the opinion and feelings of the person who is actually dealing with the condition.

I hope that clears it up!

Tiana said...

Okay, thanks. I understand that. I guess what makes the whole thing so hard to form an opinion on for me is knowing from experience that there are definitely situations where what a person is telling you is not their actual opinion. It's so complicated. How can we tell the difference? Apparently I'm too confused on the topic in general to tell good comments from bad comments anymore.

Lisa said...

Hi. I just found this blog from the Womanist Musings link, and I want to say thank you so much for posting this. I didn't participate in the comments at Feministe, but I watched it go down, and I'm one of the "special snowflakes" that also found it hurtful.

In my experience, the comments section at Feministe is usually better than at some other blogs which will remain unnamed. But posting the link to an article on mental illness, and leaving an unmoderated thread does indicate a lot of privilege in this area.

I can't blame Jill if she doesn't have experience dealing with mental illness. But she really should have thought of that before posting the link, especially considering the controversial nature of the article.

Anonymous said...

I've read, but not commented on the Feministe thread. It is a subject that churns up very strong emotions.

My contribution Ham, is that not only does mental illness and societal attitudes encountered fucking hurts the sufferers.

It also fucking hurts those who love the person suffering from mental illness.

That is not pointed out to apportion blame. It is absolutely not through the fault of someone who has a mental illness. It is not a choice thing.

Discussions on this topic are extremely necessary. It is vital that persons who do have a mental illness share their experiences.

At the moment the modus operandi of both sufferers AND their families is more often than not secrecy.

It is that secrecy that makes all of us affected directly and indirectly by mental illness vulnerable to abuse from all quarters.

It is only through open and free discussion that misconceptions, on all sides, can be explored and addressed.

Sexism, racism and ableism hurts our society as a whole.

Anonymous said...

randombitchez: I think part of the problem at Feministe is that, due to a couple of recent incidents, a lot of PWDs have just stopped giving a shit about being conciliatory and understanding towards people who are being overtly ablist and who clearly don't know what they're talking about. I know I've gotten more aggressive in comments threads with people who seem to think that their mere opinion as an able person is somehow just as valid as the lived experience of a PWD. I think a lot of us who would have just cruised on by or let something sit or responded a little more gently are fed up, and thats creating a bit of a backlash. The same kind of pattern seemed to have happened with the Trans* community pretty recently too and has been happening constantly with the WOC community for a long time.

lauredhel said...

If only it were "a lot of PWDs"... much of the time it feels like three or four of us, and we're all at pretty high risk of rapid burnout.