Mental health reform in the US typically comes up in one context only: in the wake of incidents of rampage violence. Such incidents are tragic and horrific, and almost as soon as they hit the news, observers decide the person responsible must have been ‘crazy,’ absolving themselves of further exploration of the incident — crazy people ‘just do that,’ and that’s how it is.
Despite the fact that this is a rampant misconception, it’s a commonly held and supported belief, bolstered by media coverage of rampage violence and mental illness. Typically, the longtail aftermath of such incidents is to demand two things: better gun control (usually from the point of view that guns need to be kept out of the hands of mentally ill people) and better regulation of crazy people — for, surely, if mentally ill people were compelled to take medication, register with government agencies, and undergo similar indignities, they wouldn’t be prone to randomly shooting scores of innocent people. (Something the vast majority of mentally ill people actually aren’t prone to doing in the first place — to the contrary, mental illness is a very serious risk factor for being exposed to violence, and mentally ill people are usually victims, not perpetrators, of violence.)
Continue reading “What Would True Mental Health Reform Look Like for the US?” »
I’ve been a lurker in the online skeptic community for a long time. I am also a feminist with fibromyalgia and several other health conditions (lifelong cerebral palsy and debilitating allergic reactions amongst them).
Whether it’s Dawkins-style puffery on which health conditions “actually exist” versus which are “somatization disorders” or, say, discussions of chronic illnesses that reduce said illnesses to strictly theoretical exercises instead of things (albeit misunderstood things) that impact peoples’ lives, there appears to be an unwillingness to make space for–and listen to–people with those very conditions.
Now, the notion of a skeptic and atheist with a “controversial” health condition will seem strange to some, and even stranger still because of the relative absence of skeptics with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and chronic health conditions in the online skeptic community. The feminist community — even online, where things like gender, ability, race, class, age, and sexuality supposedly “don’t matter” — suffers from similar problems when it comes to including and welcoming people with disabilities, as Neurodivergent K outlined in this excellent post at Feminist Hivemind. The old second-wave canard that women are physically strong is an unquestioned assumption in many modern feminist circles — and has the effect, unintended or not, of leaving out women with disabilities who are not strong or whose health conditions prevent them from being physical dynamos. The idea that chronic illnesses and disabilities like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and related pain/fatigue conditions are bad for the feminist movement–because women with these conditions apparently fulfill the stereotype of women as “weak” and fragile–has also gained some traction in feminist theory, most notably from feminist literary critic Elaine Showalter, who wrote a book in the late 1990s positing that CFS, Gulf War Syndrome and other “controversial” illnesses were media-spread, hysteria-driven epidemics comparable to alien abduction. Add to this the blithe unconcern that mainstream feminism has with disabilities of all kinds–and with women who have disabilities–and you’ve got a fairly unsafe environment for feminists of all genders who happen to have disabilities, or who think that (GASP) disability, chronic pain, and illness are feminist issues! After a while, it starts to look like current online “feminism” is only concerned about fighting for the rights of abled women–those without chronic pain, illness(es), physical disabilities, mental health conditions or who are neuroatypical. Thanks, feminism!
Continue reading “Skepticism and Chronic Pain: A Match Made in Purgatory?” »
In a nation as obsessed with saving money and pinching pennies as the United States, it is not surprising to see a growing turn toward privatisation. This country is privatising its prisons, turning an already extensive prison-industrial complex into a for-profit empire for firms like the Corrections Corporation of America, it’s created an entirely separate incarceration industry for ‘processing’ undocumented immigrants in detention facilities, it’s privatised schools and police forces, and even fire departments.
In that context, it’s hardly startling to see that the nation clings to notions that privatised health care is the best option (despite appalling health outcomes when compared to other Western countries), and it was perhaps inevitable that states would start to lick their chops at the thought of privatising disability services, as well.
Continue reading “Outsourcing Care in the New Economy: Averting KanCare” »
In fostering understanding and empathy towards marginalised groups, media representation is one of the most important tools at our disposal. Most people consume media in some form, through books, tv shows, film and comics and other types of media. Through this we learn about the world around us and the people in it from a very young age. Portraying marginalised groups accurately and sympathetically can remove some of the prejudice surrounding them, so including these characters is paramount. Disabled people are one of the groups who are still lacking accurate and respectful representation in the media.
There have been some major disabled characters in the past few years; Artie Abrams (Glee), Hermann Gottlieb (Pacific Rim), Walter Jr.(Breaking Bad), Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones), Bran Stark (Game of Thrones), Professor Xavier (X-Men), Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games) and Hiccup (How To Train Your Dragon) are among the most significant and well known. These characters all feature in popular films and TV shows and are very important for disabled representation.
Continue reading “Lack of representation in fiction: Why is the disabled character always a cisgender, heterosexual, white man?” »
[Note: All names and identifying characteristics have been changed.]
The exact moment that I knew I was finished with academia–and, more specifically, Women’s and Gender Studies, which I had once adored and wanted to pursue a PhD in–was in 2010, during a graduate Women’s Studies seminar at a rather middling-tier state university where I was enrolled as an M.A. student. I distinctly remember shoving my sunglasses on my cried-out, red eyes before going to class, sitting down, and then hunching over to make myself appear smaller. It was a month before the end of the semester. Right before class, the instructor–also the head of the department at that time–had called me in for a meeting because she was “concerned” about my attendance. The first week of the term, I had met with her to discuss my accessibility needs, and give her advance notice that my ongoing chronic pain and fatigue caused by fibromyalgia would sometimes prevent me from making it to class.
She seemed okay with this in the abstract, and mentioned that she’d worked with several students with special accommodation needs. Until this health issue actually (SHOCK/HORROR) got in the way of my making it to her class three times in a 16-week semester, I figured we were okay. There was even an accessibility statement on her syllabus!
Continue reading “My Color is F-You Fuchsia, or, Why I Decided to Leave Women’s Studies and Academia” »
Welcome to Disability Intersections, a magazine with twice-weekly installments on disability issues, viewed through an intersectional lens. Disability Intersections will explore disability in news, culture, society, and social justice movements; our contributors will also discuss the role disability plays in their own lives. This magazine will feature vibrant intersectional voices exploring fresh, new, and challenging topics. We aim to push readers, and ourselves, further with each new installment.
We’ll be going live in the New Year, although we’ve put up a taste of some of the content you can expect to see here. We’re excited about all we have to share, and we want to hear from you: we welcome pitches for stories and ideas, as well as other feedback.
s.e. smith, Editor in Chief
Anna Hamilton, Managing Editor
You’ve just been severely beaten by your partner, and you want to call the local crisis line for help; you’ve seen their number around town, so you dial it, only to discover that they don’t support TTY. Your caregiver has been subjecting you to recurrent sexual assaults, but when you roll up to the women’s centre to ask for counseling and help, their front door is up a flight of stairs, and the counselor who comes out to the sidewalk says they don’t have services for ‘people like you.’ Your partner, who is also your caregiver, is depriving you of medication and necessary care, but when you try to ask for help, people say they don’t know what to do. You want to learn more about your options for finding a shelter, but none of the materials are available in audio or Braille.
Welcome to the world of being disabled and in need. Domestic violence and sexual assault services around the world are supposed to be available to assist people in crisis as well as those who are undergoing long term abuse and are ready to seek help. Yet, all facilities are not created equal, and the amount of help available to you very much depends on who you are; discrimination against trans women, for example, is a recurring problem, but so is discrimination against disabled people, who may find services inaccessible or actively hostile.
Continue reading “Access Denied: Crisis Centers and Disabled People” »
The Gulf oil spill that has been capturing the news cycle in the United States for the last few months finally appears to be under control, and now we’re faced with a common problem: We have a whole lot of waste from the spill and associated cleanup, and it needs to go somewhere. This includes crude oil, equipment used by cleanup crews, soiled booms, and all kinds of other spill-associated detritus.
According to a story published at Colorlines last week, nine landfills in the Gulf region have been selected as sites for disposing of waste. Waste management authorities claim the material isn’t toxic, which means that regular municipal landfills, rather than landfills specifically designed to handle hazardous waste, are being used. Of the nine landfills chosen, five are located in low income communities of colour.
Continue reading “Crude Violations: BP Is Dumping Toxic Waste In Low Income Communities of Colour” »
Reproductive justice includes the right to control the timing and spacing of children, if one wants to have them at all, but the issue of starting families and the right to have children is often overlooked, particularly among mainstream organisations. For some groups of marginalised people (such as the LGBQT community and communities of colour), this right is critically threatened and in need of protection just as much as the right to access contraception and abortion services is; among disabled people, for example, there is a very real risk that the right to have and keep children without interference will be restricted thanks to attitudes about disability and parenting.
There’s a common belief that disabled people are not capable of parenting, particularly if they have cognitive, intellectual, or developmental impairments, or if they have physical impairments. An estimated 30% of disabled people, in contrast with 40% of nondisabled people, are parents struggling in a world where the right to parent is not protected if you don’t have a normative body or brain. When your child can be taken from you because of who you are, you live in a constant state of tension; simply wheeling down the street with your child can become a balancing act. Continue reading “Disability and Reproductive Justice” »