David Futrelle is having a bit of trouble understanding ableism, language, and the concept of “a thousand cuts.” Founder of Manboobz, he is currently guest-posting on Feministe, and in his last two posts, he uses ableist language. We all slip up occasionally, right? We fuck up, apologize, edit the post, and move on. Not this guy.
I’m starting to wonder if the MRAs that flood his blog are starting to have a negative influence on him, because the way he has reacted is abhorrent. You wouldn’t know, once you got past a certain point in the comments section, that you were even on a feminist blog at all.
He reacts in a very typical MRAish fashion. In one comment (#34) he pulls the whip-out-the-dictionary-to-prove-I’m-smarter-than-you trick, accuses commenters (fellow feminists! WTF!) of being whiny, oversensitive, and of being unable to function in the world, accuses commenters of being bad feminists for pushing others “who are not in fact ableist” away, and being counterproductive. He also very much takes offense (as in, hand on heart indignation) at being “equated” to misogynists. Because ableism isn’t as bad. Or something.
Despite that bit of trolling, many commenters patiently explain to him why ableist language is wrong, that Feministe is a safe space, why his reaction is inappropriate, etc. Unfortunately, they get nowhere, trolls jump out the woodwork, and David jumps at the opportunity to “prove” Feministe’s regulars wrong.
He whips out the “I have a FEMALE friend who is a FEMINIST (!!!) and she AGREES with me. So there. I win.” and “SEE those PWD that agree with ME?!?! So you’re WRONG and I’m RIGHT! Ha!” Right. Because all feminists and PWD are supposed to be a monolith, and if he can find one or two that agree with him, the rest of us are wrong, and should…shut up?
Another galling thing here is that he’s not even doing this on his own fucking blog. He’s a guest poster, a guest, and he’s acting like a jerk.
Then there’s this comment, by Florence, at #42:
“The constant chorus about ableist language is distracting and frustrating. As a person with several disabilities I think it’s condescending and ridiculous to problematize language for the purpose of blog-gotchas.
Language has history. A lot of words that we use on the regular have extremely socially colorful roots. To insist that we change or constantly mitigate the use of standard English to participate in discussion demonstrates a lack of understanding of how language spreads, works, and grows, and encourages us to police and silence one another despite clear authorial intent and meaning, which is in itself an appropriation of power and privilege.”
Ahem. As a woman with a disability, who has studied language, this is ridiculous. If you’re a PWD that has no problem with ableist language, that’s cool. Go on with your bad self. But some of us do have a problem with it. It’s not your place to tell me that I shouldn’t have a problem with ableist language. I have to wonder where this commenter gets the idea that we PWD that take issue with problematic language are simply being malicious and engaging in “blog gotchas.” (What the hell are those, anyway? Some type of word-tag?)
On language: this commenter clearly has no idea how “language spreads, works, and grows.” Language evolves, and is constantly evolving. Words change meaning over time. Words die and words are created. Eliminating ableist language is a form of activism–you cut out bigotry in our very language, you cut it out of society–a deliberate effort to evolve language, if you will. But, this commenter has no issue with ableist terms (do they take issue with sexist and racist language, or is that okay, too?) so it is not surprising that they know little about the importance of language, and it being the very foundation of society.
I hope that Feministe will kick this rude and demeaning guest to the curb, and flush the comments of that post quickly of the trolling and ableism.