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WisCon Panel notes #2 : Rethinking Disabling Metaphor

WisCon Panel notes #2 : Rethinking Disabling Metaphor

These are my messed up notes on only the parts of each panel that I managed to get something jotted down about. There will be mistakes, and lots of gaps. I'm also not really able to fit it all into a nice outline or good sentence-and-paragraph format due to spoonage and poor memory. But this is what I've got!

Rethinking Disabling Metaphor, moderated by Jesse the K, panelists Elise Anna Matthesen, Sandy Olson, and Georgie L. Schnobrich



- use of "crazy" to make self more at ease with something someone else said

- "stupid" to cut people down
- "smart" does not equal right!
- fandom, especially, seems to privilege higher than average intelligent people

- "lame" - Elise wants to give people first hand experience when they use the term inappropriately! ;)

- "able bodied" actually means "temporarily able bodied"

- All agreed that we all use these terms at times. This is not a panel to yell at people, but to work together on correcting the usages.

- usage of disabilities as insults because we fear being those things
- being afraid to have someone's disability means putting down those people to make self feel more secure

- metaphors used so as not to have to say WHY we dislike or disagree with something, and therefore often lazy

- Examples of disabling metaphors given by panelists and audience members:
* paranoid for worried or suspicious
* schizo/psycho
* retarded (as a metaphor or insult)
* "fall upon deaf ears"
* a spaz/spazzed out/spazzing
* "blind to..."
* colorblind
* lame
* crazy
* idiot/moron/cretin - used to be used scientifically around cognition (as examples of how language changes)
* crippled as imperfect (meaning: not the norm)
* dumb
* special
* challenged
* short bus

- what's being said when we say these things and how can we rephrase them?

- do we need new metaphors that are still fun to use?

- metaphor as a short cut
- and then used to diss something, as in we all "we ALL know X is bad" so X can be used to insult anything/one and we all know what it means

- Sandy says "it's not cool anymore to just say that a movie was BAD"

- is using disabling metaphors an assumption that the state is voluntary?

- we don't necessarily want to just replace one insult with another one

- by choosing new metaphors for ourselves, we are helping to change things one person at a time
- we don't have to force other people to change with us, but by using them ourselves, it can spread

- the word/term itself is not the problem, it's the way it is used to mean that something is "bad" or "wrong"

- example: "Idiot" to mean illogical or nonsensical - just SAY that it's illogical or nonsensical.
- Elise adds: if you're using it as a general insult, just say someone's an asshole!

- instead of labeling the person, criticize the argument, action, etc.

- when we say that something is offensive, stop to ask "to whom?", and also "what are we trying to accomplish?"

- examples of taking it from disabling metaphors to occupational metaphors
* Gardening: "you're just planting weeds!" (the garden won't care!)
* Cooking: "something is rancid" or "half-baked", "stale", "you can't boil water"
- best example: "The potato salad of your reasoning is rancid." :)
* Music: "out of tune"
* Mechanical: "sand in the gears"
* Computers: "needs an upgrade", "full of bugs" or "buggy", "bluescreened", "epic fail"

Many of these already exist, we just have to make a point to use them more.

- "Mind the collaborative damage" when choosing your words

- Reclaiming:
* Crutch as a Good Thing
- using a crutch is not self-indulgence or a luxury
- the implication that you should be standing on your own two feet
- a crutch is actually a tool you use yourself!
- compared with "giving someone a boost/lift"
- example: "A funeral is a good crutch for the grieving process."
* Glasses are another tool, although not as marked
- can be fashionable
- also can be equated with "smartness"

One way to change this usage of language is to modify it with "good" or "grateful for my..." until people start to get it, such as "I'm grateful for my crutch because it helps me get around", etc.

- Replace metaphors like "retarded" with "ridiculous", "laughable", etc.
- Replace things like "crazy" with "absurd", "incomprehensible", "ill-considered"

- Elise mentions the term "brain crips", which I like a lot.
- Jesse the K says "congregation of the mentally interesting." :)

My contribution: when discussing how some terms that were used as insults have now become badges of honor (such as "freak" to mean physical defect and now used to show how awesome we think being different from the norm can be), I said that even using a term as a badge of honor can be offensive to the group of people it can refer to. For example, people often say "I'm so OCD" to mean they're very neat or organized, not realizing that OCD isn't exactly a shiny happy thing for most of us who have it.
Someone behind me immediately apologized for using the term that way, which was a little awkward, because I don't want to be the "inappropriate usage of OCD" police or anything, but it was cool to note that my point got across!
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