Naturalistic Neurodiversity

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Posts Tagged ‘Community

Ableism in Atheism Anonymous #54

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Do you consider yourself to be a person with a disability?

No.

Have you (or do you personally know someone who has) felt out-of-place or limited your involvement with an atheist community because of disability-related situations?

Sort of.

I am a person with an able-body/mind, and my experience with the atheist community is limited mostly to the internet, but I do feel put-off and uncomfortable with the casual and rampant use of ableist language and comparisons.  Ableist slurs such as crazy, stupid, idiotic, witless/nitwit/fuckwit and various other things suffixed with -wit, crippled etc. are common.  Comparisons to mental illness, aneurotypicality, and lack of intelligence are also common.  I find these make me uncomfortable with involvement in atheist communities much as sexist remarks also makes me uncomfortable and unsupportive of specific atheist websites.

What steps could atheist communities take to become more inclusive?

I think meetups should be ADA compliant as well as feature persons with disabilities as speakers (whether its on a broader topic or specifically on disability related issues–for example J.T. Eberhard often speaks on broader community issues, but has also done talks about his experience with mental illness).  I also think atheist communities should enforce policies that create inclusive and welcoming spaces for persons with disabilities and don’t treat them as undesirable, wrong, or cudgels to beat other commenters with whom they disagree. On Freethought Blogs there are policies by both the blog writers and commenters to in general stop, discount, and disuse any sexist slurs or similar dismissive constructions; I think a similar style should be used in regards to ableist language.

Any other thoughts about ableism and atheism?

I think ableism like any other axis of oppression should be denounced and fought against by the atheist community. General social justice and humanistic principles are important to the strength of the community and movement and foster more inclusivity and diversity both in terms of persons and discourse.

Also, in regards to whether certain words are ableist or count as slurs, I’d prefer to err on the side of caution. I am in a position of privilege, so I am unable to definitively make such a call, however, other (non-atheistic) blogs and communities I follow that deal with ableism do count crazy, insane, stupid, etc. as ableist slurs, and as such I adhere to that. On that point, I’d also argue that it would be difficult to make a case for them not being ableist as such arguments tend to simply be retreads of other arguments related to language in discussions of sexism or racism i.e. words change, intent, generic/equal use, being technically accurate, dictionary definition etc. None of which are convincing arguments. Further, there are other words and constructions that can be used to give the same general meaning without being ableist. For example, instead of crazy, use absurd or ridiculous.

I won’t go into much here, but there is also a general trend in atheist communities to treat religious persons, or certain arguers, as lacking in intelligence (using words such as stupid, idiotic, dumb). While the individuals they are arguing or responding to may be holding untenable, badly constructed ideas or be (willfully or not) ignorant, this is a much different thing than being lacking in intelligence or being “dumb.” I object to this not on a tone basis, but on a basis of it’s reductive and all or nothing view of intelligence that treats lack of knowledge as a lack of capability to ever know and thus subtly is engaging in ableist ideas about the worth of those who may be mentally retarded or have an intellectual disability.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on way too much–I apologize. I know how hard it is to remove ableist language and constructions from my speech so I am not expecting an overnight change, but I would be glad and much more comfortable if the atheist communities made such efforts. I hope this was helpful 🙂

Response #54 from the Ableism in Atheism survey.

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Ableism in Atheism Anonymous #6

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Do you consider yourself to be a person with a disability?

No.

Have you (or do you personally know someone who has) felt out-of-place or limited your involvement with an atheist community because of disability-related situations?

No.

What steps could atheist communities take to become more inclusive?

I think wheelchair access would be a big one, but what do you mean by “able-ist?” Stuff like “We can’t run from these problems?” If that’s the problem, some people are just way too sensitive. Wheelchair access is about the only thing I can think of.

Any other thoughts about ableism and atheism?

I would think they were independent events, so about the same percentage of atheists are disabled as within other groups. Seriously though, what the heck is “able-ism?”

The above has been response #6 from the Ableism in Atheism survey.

It is a common response that people say “you’re way too sensitive” when regarding issues of accessibility to atheist events. Notice how this person self-identifies as not having a disability, and in fact doesn’t even know what ableism is. This is what’s known as “able-bodied privilege“. Privilege is essentially the ability to benefit from having all of society tailored to you and people like you, without your participation even being required for that to happen. In other words, through no fault of hir own other than the accident hir birth and life, this person is able to go through life not knowing how difficult life is for people with disabilities. Does that mean that people with disabilities are “too sensitive” in demanding accommodations?  By no means! They simply are stating their particular needs from their particular perspective. Everyone has a right to do that.

As far as “what the heck is ‘able-ism’?” goes, this person is doing ableism. Telling someone that their reasonable requests to assess and assert the need for accessibility are “too sensitive” is ableism. It is normal and healthy for people to say what they need when they need it. As social creatures, we need to be able to form communities with people who make us feel safe and welcome. As a humanist, it is in my interest to find out how I can cast a wider net, so to speak, in reaching out to others in forming a sense of humanist community with others. Thus, it is also in my best interest as a humanist to “search and destroy” ableist attitudes within my mind. I hope that the people reading this post can take it upon themselves to do so as well.

Written by The Nerd

April 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm