For the uninitiated…
If you’ve been hanging out on Twitter lately, you’re likely to come across the #AbelistScript hashtag. The hashtag is meant to gather tweets from all kinds of people, detailing all the ways the able-bodied have said hurtful, offensive, and discriminatory things. It sounds sort of pointless and bitter, doesn’t it? It’s a bit of an outrage fest, no? Well…
The tweets are incredibly disturbing
This hashtag has revealed far more than the typical “Hey, Helen Keller, where’s your dog?” nonsense. It has revealed deeply unsettling stories—stories most of us would rather ignore. Some “ableist” people are innocent, but misguided.
Some people are shockingly presumptuous and uninformed.
Some lack tact and respect, even when dealing with loved ones.
Some, of course, are downright offensive.
Scary, isn’t it?
It’s more than mere outrage fuel
It’s viral, and for good reason: it is a medium through which we can come together and express the things that make our blood boil. It’s an opportunity for us to release some of the tension, helplessness, and frustration many of us have been bottling. Some of us have kept quiet out of courtesy, or the fear of burdening people. Others are afraid to be perceived as whiny or high-maintenance. Still others feel ashamed of their anger. Do they have any right to be upset? Are they being unjust? Is their suffering legitimate? Are they just “easily offended,” “thin-skinned,” or “obsessed with political correctness?” I’ve no doubt that some people are, but there are too many of us to dismiss our feelings entirely.
I’d like to think our suffering really is legitimate. Life can be very lonely, especially if your disability is particularly rare. That feeling of isolated desolation is emotionally crippling.
We are bombarded by unwanted opinions. Stop taking those medications and deal with your problems. Use the power of positive thinking. The only disability is a bad attitude. Suck it up, buttercup; it can always be worse. Be grateful that you have as much as you do. What you have is more than many can enjoy, so keep your chin up.
This is so much more than a hashtag
You may well ask what we could accomplish with all this public, viral venting. Besides the undeniably cathartic benefits, there are more concrete, long-term goals we can achieve if we reach enough able-bodied people. Much of the “ableist script” can be altered or eliminated. We can clear up misconceptions and debunk myths. We can explain why certain ideas are genuinely harmful. We can foster empathy. We can educate. The internet does a lot of harm, but in this case, it’s a remarkably useful tool. Viral attention can be an asset, and I think we need to pounce on this opportunity.
Some are already feeling hopeful, which is a very welcome sign.
We need more than an echo chamber. We must do more than blow off steam. We should strive to advocate for ourselves, but we should not do so at the expense of clarity. We can’t allow our anger to distort our messages or alienate the very people we are trying to persuade. We are capable of intersectional solidarity, and we can put it to good use. Don’t dismiss this purely because it’s a hashtag. In this case at least, it has enormous potential. We mustn’t waste it.
As someone who has contributed to this hashtag, I think it presents some unique insights that are unlike any we’ve seen with previous hashtags such as #ChatterboxChallenge or #HeardWhilstDisabled. I’m not sure why this is, but I find the tweets poignant, moving, and (generally) far from angry. One tweet that broke my heart was one written by a parent of an autistic child, that went something like this:
“Oh, I’m sorry your child has autism.”
“That’s OK. he’s lovely and wonderful.”
“Oh, then he MUST be high-functioning.”
And yet these children (and their parents) who receive such pity become adults the world does not know how to accept. Then, instead of pity (which is bad enough), they are treated with fear and disdain.
Several years ago, I had the unique privilege of volunteering for a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. It was challenging, frustrating, and yet, it filled something in me, while giving something back to these adults who rarely if ever saw their families. They didn’t care that I couldn’t see. One of them would’ve been happy if I sat at the piano and played “Amazing Grace” over and over and over again, humming along, using only the few words that she knew how to say.
And yet, we as a society don’t know how to openly love and accept people who don’t fit our definition of “normal”. I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this myself.
I responded to one tweet asking why #TheAbleistScript hashtag was being used; why complain about our problems when we could fix them? In response, I said something like the following:
We’re not complaining so much as we are giving voice to comments and attitudes that we encounter nearly every day of our lives. Yes, we need to change attitudes, but we can’t change attitudes until we make it clear that infantilizing us, denying our disabilities, pitying us, or treating us like inspirational porn stars is hurtful, discriminatory, and has to stop. If someone is unaware, being nice can only educate so much. Putting these comments in black and white gives them power that simply parroting them back wouldn’t have.
You make some excellent points I hadn’t even fully articulated. I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t dismiss this as “blind people complaining”. I’ve actually been shocked at how many blind people have been totally callous about it. This isn’t just about us; it’s about all disabilities.
I could have easily shared a lot of things I considered ableist but one thing I found particularly ableist was something said to my parents over 20 years ago by a visiting teacher that I doubt even had a clue about blindness as she came from the education department what I shared was in a dm exchange with blindbeader. blockquote. is it ableist for somebody’s parents to be told to tag along to a date to show one where to put their hands? response please clarify. my parents were told by a visiting teacher that when I was old enough to date somebody they would have to tag along to a date to show me where to put my hands. blockquote end. in my mind relationships and dating are part of life and to tell my parents to tag along to a date just to show me where to put my hands is about the most ableist thing for somebody to say.
I happen to really like it myself. I get Ableism more so when it comes to being Autistic than anything else. Because I am rather high functioning people want to say it is not a disability in my case (my doctors, family, friends disagree thank you). That to be disabled by it have to be the constant rocking, AAC user (nothing wrong with them I have friends who are them). Autism $peaks refuses to give any voices to actual Autistics, or parents who don’t feel a cure is needed now, no other disability rights group has no people on the board without the disability, or feels this way.
Blindness it tends to people assuming it is fun to use a cane, or that because I can see some, and do try and use it that I am not blind, or it isn’t that bad.
Long story short I agree with you it is making a difference at least showing people they aren’t alone.
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