sasha_feather: Black, white, and red image of woman with futuristic helmet (Sci Fi Woman)
Occasionally I wonder if maybe I *am* the language police! Maybe I *am* too sensitive and it's not my job to tell other people how to talk or write, etc.

A few things reassure me.

One, lots of other people pay just as close attention to language and its political uses as I do, and some of these people blog about it. Some people blog about things I've never thought about, so maybe the things I notice are worth writing about.

For example:
Dave Hingsburger: Non-traditional doesn't mean unimportant.

The term I use, I insist that others use when they are speaking with me about someone they support is: non-traditional communicator. (As opposed to "non-verbal".)

Lydia Brown: Why the term 'psychopath' is racist and ableist. (Note: this post contains some upsetting language.)

Antisocial Personality Disorder, the diagnostic category that comes closest to approximating the lay definition of psychopathy, is most often a tool for criminalizing poverty, blackness and brownness, and disability. It is the diagnostic label that legitimizes non-compliance as a mental health problem.

---

Two, I find language and its uses fascinating. I will think about it anyway, so I might as well write about it.

Three, there are some phrases I use that make sense to me because not only do they seem like more accurate metaphors, they make the world a little kinder to live in.

For instance, when we speak of "lowering barriers" or obstacles, that seems kinder and easier than "overcoming obstacles". Lowering barriers is a group effort, a structural accomplishment that is done by many and benefits many. It agrees with the idea of the social model of disability. Overcoming obstacles might take teamwork, but it tends to focus on one person's drive, ambition, and success, and falls in line with the "supercrip" stereotype.

The same is true of interdependence vs. independence.

Language is subtle and it influences the way we think about ourselves and our world.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
Today I read an obituary which said, despite the person's chronic disease, "he rarely missed a day of work."

As someone who has often called in sick, I'm always bothered by this common phrase; it praises people who put work before health. Not just their own health, but the health of others: coming to work while having a communicable illness puts others at risk too.

This phrase serves to enforce our place in a capitalist, production-oriented society, where work is the most important thing, and health and rest are distant followers. Workers are granted sick days, but to take them is some sort of indulgence rather than a necessary part of being a human being with a body. We also forget that sick days are something that unions have fought for.

Because I'm always sick to some degree, I often struggle with deciding whether I am sick "enough" to call in, sick "enough" to stay home and rest. Typically I will feel guilty if I call in sick, even though my body demands rest. Having a chronic illness means that I need much more rest than the average person, and something like a migraine or cold will add to my need for rest. Language valorizing people who don't call in, ever, doesn't help to alleviate my guilt.

As I saw someone say on twitter: self care is a radical political act.
sasha_feather: Simon Pegg from Hot Fuzz holding a gun looking tough (hot fuzz)
I hope you all know by now that language and its effects are an issue near and dear to my heart. Language can be hostile or welcoming, centering or othering. This is particularly on my mind as I look at various "accessibility" policies for conventions in the SF/F world.

I am creating List of such conventions for the Geek Feminism Wiki. (This was inspired by their List of cons with anti-harassment policies.)

First, why is it helpful to have such policies online?

Because information is good access. The more information you can provide to people, even if it's to say that there are barriers to access, the better people can plan for their trip.
Secondly, if people have to ask to receive information, that in itself is a barrier. As many of us with anxiety, fatigue, or other disabilities know, it can be difficult to make that phone call or send that email. A lot of us are used to dealing with people on the other end of the line who aren't our allies and might make our lives more difficult when we ask for information.

As and someone working access, do you really want to give out the information again and again? Why not just do it once, and then point people at your webpage or printed materials?

I know there are some conventions that have had good access but don't have their policies online. Open Source Bridge, I'm looking at you. :)

Other conventions have their policies online (good!) but then make all kinds of mistakes with language. They send signals that they really don't want PWDs to attend at all, that they think people are faking disabilities in order to get good seats or other services (no one does this! seriously), and otherwise hostile language.

Several of these pages use the term "special needs". I don't think very many people on this planet have special needs. Most people have the same needs, it's just that some of us need accommodation in order to enjoy the same events at conventions, like getting to the programming rooms in a timely manner, being able to move through the hotel, being able to understand what is going on, being able to visit with friends, etc. I realize special needs is an introduced PC term for disabled people, but I am just not sure that it fits or is accurate. It makes it sound like disabled people want "more" (like champagne) when what we really want is the same stuff as everyone else (water in a glass we can hold).

Whenever you want to say or write "special needs", I suggest you substitute "accommodations" instead.

Let's Break down some of the specific policies and why they are problematic:

DragonCon

"We will have the Con schedule in large print available (to be read at our table or we can email a copy to you to print or download to your screen reading device)

If you have low vision, you better have a device for reading the program. Otherwise, you have to sit at the registration table to read the program! It's apparently too hard for them to print off a few more copies for low-vision attendees. (Remember, this is a for-profit con.) I really don't know why you would want people clustered around your reg desk that way.



We offer 5 stickers for badges, based on needs:

Wheelchair seating: for our wheeled folk, of course.
Chair in Line/End of Row: for non-wheeled folks with mobility impairments.
Proximity/ 50 ft. to Screen: for visual/lip reading access.
Sightlines: for access to the interpreter, safe space for working animals, and certain other unique situations.
Medical: This sticker is merely a place to put emergency information if you have a medical condition that the EMT needs to know about before they put you in the ambulance. It does not entitle you to any other services.


A person has to out themselves in order to get any of these services. It's right there on one's badge: everyone you interact with at the convention then knows you are a disabled person. It also positions whoever gives the sticker as an authority. I know a lot of people with mild hearing loss who don't consider themselves disabled, but who might benefit from line-of-sight seating. Such people wouldn't want to get a sticker even if they might use an otherwise reserved chair.


One important thing to remember: we will do our best to make sure events are accessible to you, but that does not mean we guarantee you a front row seat, or head-of-the-line privileges. If you are going to a very popular event, you must get there extra early to get a good seat, just like everyone else. The accessible seating will not be in the front row.


I guess if you move slowly, are delayed by crowded elevators, etc., you are screwed. Several other websites said this. Maybe these conventions should put a cap on their membership? (Oh wait, DragonCon is for profit.)

Phoenix Comic Con This is the worst one.

You get a special badge! Lucky you.

But the badge doesn't get you:

· Early access to panels and special events
· Guaranteed access into special events, photo ops, autographs, or panels.
· The ability to skip lines

So fuck you I guess! Especially if you are someone who can't stand for a long time!

Service Animals are always welcome at the Phoenix Convention Center. Animals are sometimes questioned if the need is not apparent, so we suggest attendees carry documentation with them for their companion.

Does anyone know if this is actually illegal? It sounds illegal to me. [eta: it is, see comments] Then again, it's Arizona... I don't think "welcome" means what they think it means, also, to be pedantic, you won't get very far questioning an animal!

Some of the other policies are much better, including for ReaderCon, FogCon, and Arisia (and WisCon, but no need to toot my own horn--plus, I always want to improve.) Some suggested bits of activism for those involved with conventions, or even those who aren't but who can do emailing:
*Encourage Conferences and Conventions to develop Access policies and list them online. Professional and Academic conferences, trade shows, etc can be included here.
*Encourage those with bad policies to improve them.

Comments and suggestions welcome.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
Thanks to those of you who took the poll and/or left comments! I ended up going with green tone outfit and no hat. Well, I wore a stocking cap because it was a whopping -1 F (-18 C) when I left the house. I had time to comb my hair a bit before the interview. Anyways, the interview went fine.

I watched most of the inauguration the other day. I quite liked it but here is a rhetorical thing that some people have pointed out on Twitter:

Regarding fair pay for women: "Our wives, mothers, and daughters..." This excludes women, making men the rhetorical "we", and also reduces them to roles in relation to men.

Response from Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) on Twitter: "As an experiment, I'm going to start referring to men as "our husbands, fathers and sons." Just to see if anyone finds that a little weird."

Regarding LGBT rights: "Our gay brothers and sisters": Similarly, this excludes gay people by making straight people the "we/our". It also excludes people who are queer but do not ID as gay.

Obviously I'm very happy the president is acknowledging these issues. But here is another way to phrase it which I learned from WisCon activists:

"Those of us who who are gay..." "Those of us who unfairly receive less pay due to the simple fact of being women in society..."

Very. Simple.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
I really appreciate that [livejournal.com profile] hc_bingo has changed its prompts to reflect events rather than identity categories (for instance "loss of vision" rather than "blindness").

Thanks, mods.
sasha_feather: German volleyballers hugging, totally hot (slash dudes)
So the AP has decided not to use the word "homophobia" any more, but to go with words like "anti-gay" instead, apparently, which has prompted some discussions around these terms. Whatever your feelings, I would like to remind you of one of the best Onion articles of all time:

Revolutionary New Homophobia Immersion Therapy Involves Lowering Patient into Tank of Gays
sasha_feather: "subversive" in rainbow colors (subversive)
The "Ehrmagerd" meme needs to die.

Perhaps it is making fun of the way certain disabled people talk, in which case it is mean-spirited and ableist. Perhaps it is making fun of Valley-girl speech, in which case it is misogynist and still mean-spirited.

I am not humorless: I love memes; I just think they work best when pointing fun at those in power, not those who already lack power. In other words, I don't like it when humor is use to reinforce existing oppressive structures.

Feel free to link this post.

words

Sep. 4th, 2012 01:15 am
sasha_feather: "subversive" in rainbow colors (subversive)
I apparently have a lot to say today-- that's because I've had three days off in a row and finally feel rested.

Instead of saying "it's not a choice", which I think you all know by now that I have a problem with, I propose we say that being gay/queer/whatever is "not negotiable".

I got this idea from an interview with Tyler Clementi's mother. She also has some other wisdom to share in this article, although it is painful to read.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
I had a rather involved, mostly non-heated argument (as much as I can be non-heated in an argument) with a friend the other day about language and I'm still thinking about it so I want to write it out.

My premise is that if you are a gay man, don't say "ew" or other such words in describing your reactions to women's genitalia. At the very least, be more tactful, because it's just rude to refer to someone's body that way. (I got him to agree on this point). Furthermore, you might think it's just about your own personal reaction, but we live in a misogynistic world, and your reaction is colored by structural misogyny. My friend didn't agree with me on this point, but I still think I'm right.

I didn't say it quite so clearly in the actual argument, of course! This is one of the reasons I stopped reading Dan Savage's column: I got tired of him saying things like this, of him not getting it, not understanding the power of language. Writers in particular, you think they'd understand. But a lot of people don't make that connection between "my personal opinion" and "systemic oppression".

Then I got to thinking today about how I don't ever hear lesbians refer to men this way. I can only think of once-- in the pilot of "The L Word," when a woman says, "Ew, I can't believe I used to swallow this stuff," when referring to the semen she's using to try and get pregnant. And that's the one and only instance I can think of. In fact most of the lesbians I know read and write m/m slash fanfic, which celebrates male anatomy, and celebrates queer men. This may be due in part to our own internalized misogyny, or it may not be, but it's interesting to notice.
UPDATE I am wrong about this last part apparently!
sasha_feather: drag queen with red boot (kinky boots)
Friday:

28: Dressing to make a statement
The Rotund, Sarah Emrys, Laura, Beth Shupe, Betsy Urbik

Mostly a very good panel. Panelists spoke a lot about Steampunk and Lolita styles. Gender and class were discussed. Style is one's personal expression; fashion is the culture's moment. Fashion's major purpose is to signify gender and this is why people can get angry at those of us who dress outside traditional gender types. The Rotund talked about dressing as a fat person and dressing "agressively". She talked about getting sent home from work once because of what she was wearing (a professional dress that showed some cleavage), implying that her body was unacceptable. One panelist talked about dressing in a Victorian style to express a type of femininity that is both visible, but not sexually available. Ageism and classism within Lolita were brought up. Some people brought up that white men in particular tend to limit themselves style-wise. It'll be nice when men can wear feminine styles more openly.

One hiccup when a panelist did not understand cultural appropriation at all!

I know most of you get this but let me explain! When one culture is colonizing, they have the power to appropriate, to pick and choose elements from the colonized culture.

The colonized culture cannot appropriate from the dominant culture. If they are taking elements from it, they are either assimilating, ie trying to fit in, or they are transforming, turning one thing into something else. Or perhaps they are doing something else! But it's not appropriation.

*sigh*

After this I hosted the first-time WisCon dinner, went to Opening Ceremonies, then went to the Vid Party. For me, the most fun part of the vid party was the sing-along with captioned vids.
sasha_feather: Legend of Korra promo  (Korra)
to gay bait, verb: when a (generally) straight person awkwardly tries to figure out your orientation by repeatedly bringing up "gay" topics and asking weighted questions.

This can be done non-awkwardly, or incessantly and annoyingly.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
FWD/Forward: Today in Journalism: Simply Overcome by s.e. smith


...The thing about terms like ‘suffers from’ and ‘victim of’ is that if someone self identifies with them, that’s fine. But when they get used as generic terms to refer to people with disabilities in general, it sets a precedent. It tells people that disability is suffering, and that people with disabilities are victims. The reason that we ask people to use neutral language when talking about disability is not because we want to tell other people how to feel about their disabilities, but because we don’t want to tell nondisabled people to think negatively about disability.

This is an important thing, when talking about language. There’s a big difference between identifying with a term and using it, and using a term in general to refer to everyone like you, or, in the case of nondisabled people, using a term you’ve heard someone use as self identification to refer to everyone like that person. If the media presented disability in neutral terms, ‘The locals known Ray Magallan, a man with cerebral palsy who…,’ it allows readers to approach the article with neutrality. But here, from the very start, the subject of the article is a victim.

Maybe if disability wasn’t routinely framed this way, it wouldn’t be such a frightening identity, and people who find the word upsetting or frightening would view it with more neutrality. As a facet of identity, rather than an all-consuming tragedy...
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
My mom is into the political use of language too; that is probably where I get it from. Listening to NPR:

"Isn't ridiculous that there are these groups that can call themselves things like Protect Marriage and the media honors that?"

Another one she doesn't like is "suicide bombers". What they are doing, she says, is not about suicide at all. Murder and terrorism, yes, but the fact that the bombers are dying too is not the main thing to be focusing on.

My aunt, who has adopted children, thinks that the word "adopt" has become devalued. Adopt a highway! By picking up some litter a couple of times a year. Adopt a park! Etc.

I was listening today to On the Media on public radio, and they referred to John Edward's "illegitimate child". Strange. Aren't all children legitimate?
Later in the show someone said, "love child." Another strange phrase. Don't we want all children to be love children?
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
"pimping" a show, book, or fandom

I suppose an argument could be made that we're reclaiming this word, (I have changed my mind on this point) but it still seems suspect to me. Thoughts? Is there another word we could use instead? "Tipping" someone into a fandom?

Using "teenage girl" as an insult

There are two elements to this, one is ageism (young people are undeserving of respect), the other is misogyny (young women are *especially*) undeserving of respect.

The moment that sealed it for me was a couple of lines from a fanfic called Ordinary Life by Cesperanza and shalott:

excerpt below the cut )

-----

In linkspamming "The Special Disability (Fail) Episode" of Glee, I saw several people say, "I wonder if any people in wheelchairs tried out for the role of Artie?"

The producers claim that they did have wheelchair users audition, but that none were as talented as the able-bodied actor who was cast.

I'd like to point out that there is a different way to frame the question. Did the producers actively recruit wheelchair users for this role? Did they go out of their way to create an accessible and welcoming environment? Is there a reason that a wheelchair using actor might stay away from such an audition? Oh, like maybe discrimination and oppression?
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
Or, hey look I wrote something!

Guest Ableist Word Profile: Crutch at FWD/Feminists with Disabilities
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
It's been called to my attention that certain language I've been using related to eating is disturbing and possibly triggering. I will stop using it. I apologize. In addition, it's always de-friending amnesty day at this journal; and if you want to be taken off filters amnesty applies there as well.

Language

Oct. 28th, 2009 09:52 pm
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
As much as I love the references to the patriarchy, I wonder if I should be saying kyriarchy. I'm not even sure how to pronounce that word.

A note on inclusive language:

"Those of us with disabilities."

"The queer community is our community. It is us."

Meditate on that one.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
Today is Ursula K. Le Guin's 80th birthday. I'm celebrating by thinking about The Dispossessed, which I re-read recently for my book club, Beer and Marmalade.

warning for discussion of rape )
sasha_feather: Teyla from Stargate: Atlantis (teyla)
This is in response to Feministing and Ableist Language; the link roundups are at [community profile] access_fandom.

It turns out that [livejournal.com profile] mystickeeper and I both got into separate arguments over ableist language in which the defender cited the dictionary. We each found it pretty upsetting. "How do you even argue that?" She asked me.

Well if someone is going to hold up a Holy Book and thump it at you, maybe there is no talking to that person, and you should disengage for the sake of your own emotional safety.

But this argument assumes that dictionaries are set texts, a canon handed down to us from a central authority, rather than living, changing texts that reflect the culture they arise from. We the people get to decide how language is used, not some cabal of dictionary writers sitting in a locked room somewhere. We have a lot a power!

I have a 1965 dictionary in my house, and I just looked up an offensive word in it. It does denote "usually taken to be offensive." I imagine the earlier editions did not have that note included in the definition.
sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
OOOOOH there is some fail going on at Feministing with regard to ableist language.

Click at your own peril.

For background, there is the Open Letter to Feministing.

I've been collecting a few of these in my Mini-Link Spam on Disabling Language, and [personal profile] trouble has some more links here, if you are someone who likes to read up.

I found particularly helpful the post, Why Inclusionary Language Matters, and if you read just one link, read THIS ONE.

So stop it. Stop using exclusionary language. Start including people.

And stop trying to defend it. If you’re too lazy to find a better word or phrase to use, that’s your problem, not society’s. If you can’t be creative enough to think of a different word or phrase, a word or phrase which does not exclude or silence someone, you apparently have not heard of a thesaurus.


Since [community profile] linkspam seems to be on hiatus due to drama or something? Maybe people could collect links as they see them and post them in the [community profile] access_fandom comm or in [community profile] disability comm, what do you all think?

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