28 September, 2009

Objectivity: Its Uses and Abuses

A few months ago (I know it's, like, FOR-EV-ER in internet time, but bear with me, because as I have already explained, I can't update often because of various issues), Amandaw did a series of guest posts at Feministe, and--similar to what happened when she guest-posted last year--people kind of missed the point, and in some cases, did this rather spectacularly, by accusing her of not being "objective" enough in listening to criticism, among other things.

Here's the thing: Objectivity is absolutely, awesomely useful in many areas. The natural and physical sciences are just two areas where it is, understandably, required; quantitative studies in the Humanities are also useful to those of us who do scholarly work in that field.

But when you have such an e-boner for OBJECTIVITY in everything ever that you have to steamroll over peoples' experiences because you have an expert platform from which to do so, and your commentariat feels the need to pipe up about how they, too, have had similar experiences with PWDs and their goddamn bitching and why can't PWDs be more objective?!, then there is a bit of a problem. Specifically, when the entire point of someone's post is how a possible piece of legislation will impact those who need the proposed banned substance the most, being rabid about OBJECTIVITY is probably not the best strategy to take. Personal experience is subjective, and if you insist on screeching OBJECTIVITY OBJECTIVITY WHY CAN'T YOU BE REASONABLE, you are missing the entire point. The whole aim of Amandaw's post on the proposed Percoset and Vicodin ban was to demonstrate exactly why it is (and was) such a terrible idea--using her personal experience as someone with chronic pain to make her point.

If you're going to read the above-linked Skepchick post, I would suggest doing so with caution; one reason why I did not cover this when it happened was because I could not read the above thread without getting extremely upset. I'm going to get slammed for this, because it is not OBJECTIVE enough, but I still can't read through it without getting upset. Here is just a taste of the delightful comments following the post:

[Ridiculous comment by this person; macro by me, because I watched Aliens the other night for approximately the 443rd time.]

Before anyone goes all BUT THEY ARE EXAMINING IT **OBJECTIVELY**, STOP TAKING IT PERSONALLY-robotic on me, please remember: there is no way that I can not take it personally; many of the comments there are hateful toward people with chronic pain, or with disabling chronic pain. If you know anything about disability rights, or anything about social justice, or marginalized groups versus the majority, or even a very basic concept like privilege (and no, the "PWD privilege" argument in the above post is most definitely not what I am talking about here), you will see why this is not good. It does not matter if you hide your contempt for PWDs and chronically ill people behind the guise of OBJECTIVITY--you are still hiding your contempt (and just barely, I might add).

Tell me I'm wrong, skeptical people. Tell me that a (young) disabled feminist atheist like myself has a place in the movement, and not just in the young-white-cute-steamrollering-privileged-feminist subset of the skeptical movement. I wish I could see a place for myself in the movement, but right now, I really can't.

Obligatory, non-OBJECTIVE Disclaimer: This blog is a SAFE SPACE for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, including chronic pain. If you're going to leave a comment about how one of my responses makes my entire blog/opinion moot, or how people with disabilities need to accommodate non-disabled people in attitude, openness, or helping ABs process their feelings, or that I'm too angry/emotional, or that you, as an able-bodied person, can totally relate and here's a long comment detailing exactly how, please remember that such a comment might not be taken in good faith, and that I might be a jackass to you in return.


Anonymous said...

Somehow I missed this (I seem to miss the good blogwars and Feministe has some doozies).

They cannot respond to the facts and opposing viewpoints in a rational way because ironically, they have adopted their own position of privilege – the PWD. Somehow, being a PWD means you have exclusive access to truth and cannot be questioned or doubted. It means that the usual standards of scientific evidence applied in medicine no longer count.

Are you fucking kidding me? Now, having to jump through all the fucking hoops on a fraction of the FSM forsaken energy that ABs have is a fucking privilege?

Excuse me while I pop pills to alleviate the ridiculous pain that is her logic!

The commenters there are morons. All of them (as far down as I had the stomach to read). Oh yeah, we are just angry because we are afraid of losing our fix...couldn't be because some trite and patronizing ass hat had to come marching in using anti-feminist rhetoric to show us how ANGRY we are because we want to be treated like people and have our fucking experiences validated. What a bunch of whiney assholes we must be.

whew. Got that off my chest.

Anonymous said...

And WTF is with that comment (I just saw where you got the fodder for that macro. Oh my stars and garters!)? Only a person who doesn't have chronic fucking pain would dare say that.

Not one intelligent comment there. Not one. Yes, I scrolled through them all and didn't throw up my breakfast.

Why do I rant at your place? It just turns out to be the safe place to do so I guess...

meloukhia said...

Uhm, so, "being objective" is actually not the same thing as "spewing hateful exclusionary language at people who are not like me." Apparently a lot of Feministe readers have missed this memo.

For the record, I thought Amandaw was pretty freakin' objective and kept her cool in a pretty amazing way in those posts. I didn't even try to wade into the hot mess that was the comments thread there.

Like the people telling her they knew more about her disability than she did, and making all sorts of comments about how she's doing it wrong. Yeah...if I'd been wearing a lid, it would have blown at that point.

Anonymous said...

I just have no words.

Anonymous said...

Okay, having now actually talked to Don, who has both glasses and a chronic pain condition, I have thoughts!

First, when one is wearing one's glasses, one is basically normal-sighted, for certain definitions of normal. (My eyes are so bad they can't be corrected to 20/20 vision.) But, wearing glasses or contact lenses does allow one to see without a variety of side effects.

Chronic pain medications are not even in this ball park. Even with his meds, Don has a variety of side effects that would probably have the average person in bed for the day. He takes other drugs just to deal with the side effects, such as anti-nausea medication, and some industrial-strength antacids. Even so, the light-headedness and dizziness, the 'numbness', and the feeling of being disconnected from the body are still present.

Even taking his meds - which he has three levels of, from "minor" narcotics to high doses of morphine - doesn't actually "remove" pain symptoms the way wearing glasses can "remove" symptoms of near- or far-sightedness. The meds may take a 7 on the 10-point pain scale down to a 5, or even just take the edge off enough to sleep through the worst of the pain. But the pain is never gone. It's constant. Some times, though, the meds make it less awful.

But obviously this is just like wearing contact lenses, right? Right?

OrbitalDiamonds said...

As a PWD (v. invisible unicorn) and an atheist, I'm really disappointed with the Skepchick community's show of privilege. You'd think that after facing religious privilege every day of one's life, you'd be sensitive to not being a jerk about the privileges you do have.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I almost cried reading that Skepchick post and realising that no one in the comments said how wrong it was.

I have chronic pain, but its not severe just constant, so I'm lucky enough not to have to jump through hoops to get medicine.

But it was the dismissive, patronising quote from the "pain management specialist" that reminded me so much of my experiences.