Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Going off the rails on a Fail-y Train

This morning a member of the Twitter Nation posted a Tumblr link to a list of alternative words for "crazy," due to the fact that the word crazy is a "an ableist, psychophobic slur against people with mental illnesses." Some of the alternatives include "farcical," "ghastly," and my favorite, "protracted." Dude, that skateboard move was really fucking protracted! I would think that this was a joke, if not for the fact that I've seen similar posts from "social justice activists" many other places in the so-called feminist/disabled/ism-ist blogosphere.

DSM IV code: !!!.!! for "Crazy Awesome Disorder."  
I could, maybe, agree that "crazy" is an uncool word to use to describe a person who is actually mentally ill. I don't find it offensive as someone with ADHD, and I use it for myself (crazy doctors! crazy pills!) but I can see how someone else might, and I'd try to respect their wishes, even though I'd probably forget. But as a general modifier? Perhaps it's different in German (which has a fine distinction between the terms Kraziredonkulieben and Krazibrainkersplat), but in English, words have multiple definitions. As such, "crazy" does not always mean "mentally ill," and that's not even the first definition that most people think of when they hear that word... until people keep on pointing out the connection. Essentially, today's hypersensitive bloggers are what 1990s conservatives imagined "PC thugs" to be, when we pointed out that "bitch" isn't such a great word to describe an assertive woman, or that white people maybe shouldn't casually fling around the N-word so much. (And no, I wasn't really politically active in the 1990s, but I do remember them! Kinda. They're not really as great as people think they were.) And while I understand it's problematic to tell someone their pet political ideals are petty and tell them what they should be spending their energy on... yeah that's pretty much what I'm going to do because, well, this is petty. Protractedly petty.

When you try to say this kind of thing in "social justice" land, you'll often get the rejoinder "words mean things." Which they do! For instance, do you know what the word "derailing" means? Not to mention, when you use blanket generalizations like "this language offends the mentally ill," you're automatically speaking for me and assuming I take a position that I just don't. To use a phrase from the feminist blogosphere, this shit is invalidating.

You want to fight ableism? Why not fight for a single-payer health system that would keep disabled people from either having to work jobs they hate to keep health care, or live in poverty on Social Security benefits? Why not fight against forced electroshock therapy, or the grossly invasive Ashley Treatment? It's perhaps not as glamorous as getting outraged every time "Crazy on You" comes up on Pandora, but might have more positive, concrete results.

In other news, I'm typing this at Starbucks, to which I biked, and I must say that I am still really enjoying this biking thing. When you bike, you tend to notice other people on bikes, and also all the various obstacles put in the way of those of us on bikes. Today there was a bunch of plastic crates blocking the Starbucks bike racks, and I wished for stickers stating "The Towson Critical Mass is displeased." Maybe the stickers would be a multiple-choice ticky box, so that I could also say that "The Towson Critical Mass approves" of conveniently located racks, curb cuts at intersections where I have to transfer to the sidewalk, and drivers who give me plenty of room. I could also put them on bikes I particularly like the looks of. But all of this is vandalism and therefore conduct unbecoming of the only member of the Towson Critical Mass.

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