Monthly Archives: April 2012

A note to myself

Starting projects is never easy. Some aren’t so bad, when you know what kind of structure they need, but blogs are definitely a challenge. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t actually start them until I’ve already got several finished posts that I can publish at the same time, but I’m just going to go out on a limb and start here.

Something has crossed my mind a few times recently. I try hard to be sensitive to prejudice and systematic discrimination. This grew out of my interest in feminism and LGBT issues; I became aware of the concept of priviledge and started to explore my own in all its dimensions. There is a long way to go, but right now I am interested in something called “ableism” which I don’t think is that well known (this seems like quite a good explanation of what it is). In particular I am interested by ableism related to mental illness.

A whole host of commonly used insults are directly related to ableism. Things may have gradually shifted but so many were originally explicitly related to disability, whether physical or mental (this is an excellent resource on these kinds of things). It can be hard to wean yourself out of using them, although I am trying. “Crazy” is the most insidious I find – it gets used a lot in emotionally charged political debates, and is often applied to politicians or others who speak publicly who voice opinions we find seriously distasteful. This is particularly common when people take misogynistic or homophobic attitudes, ones we feel that any reasonable compassionate person couldn’t hold. But people do say and believe these kinds of things and we have to find a way of talking about those views without resorting to terms related to mental illness, even if somehow we feel (and I’ve definitely felt this) that they must not have a good grasp on reality if they really think that way.

Looking at myself, I generally consider myself well-versed on mental illness, due to some personal experience, but recently I’ve noticed that it’s very superficial and is analogous to “I’m a woman so I can’t be a misogynist”. I’ve got to look much harder at myself, at how I use language, at how I feel about people who seem to have mental health problems that are much more serious and long-term than anything I experienced.

This is a topic I’m sure I’ll come back to, as I start to articulate more of my shortcomings and the collective shortcomings I see around me.