Post Round Up

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In addition to writing here, I also post in a few other places across the internet. Since some of you don’t know of my other writing ventures, I thought it would be useful to you all to compile some of what I’ve been writing elsewhere. So here they are friends: what I’ve been up to elsewhere on the internet.

Over at The Mighty, I now have 7 posts up, including two recent ones I’ll highlight here.

To Anyone Afraid To Eat Thanksgiving Dinner
Some thoughts, tips, and suggestions for people with eating disorders on one of the worst holidays in the year. I personally prefer not to even try enjoying myself because the day is everything I dislike.

When I Decided To Stop Hiding the Physical Scars of My Mental Illness
“For years I carefully arranged my clothing so people couldn’t see my scars. I would go to the gym and have small anxiety attacks every time my shorts rode up. I invested in pairs of leggings so no matter what I wore I could be sure I was covered. I was so afraid someone would see and I would be “found out.”

But this picture marks the day I chose not to be afraid.”

Feel free to pop over to my author page to see what else is living over there.

I’m also a regular contributor at Skepchick, so make sure you’re getting over there to see what I’ve got up. Here are a couple of posts I feel pretty good about.

Accessibility 101
This is actually a recap post of a workshop I co-led over the summer, but since then Skepticon has very openly used a lot of that info to adjust their accessibility policy and had great response for the most part, so I’m INCREDIBLY happy with the results of the work I put into this and I’d love it if other organizers (of events, cons, or groups of any size) took a look.

You Must Be Fun At Parties: The Myth of the SJW Party Pooper
Spoiler alert: SJWs have more fun.

It Doesn’t Matter If You Turned Out Fine

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One of the recurring discussions that pops up on my social media feeds and blog rolls is one that people have strong opinions about: hitting or spanking kids to punish them. One of the most common exchanges/memes I see in regards to spanking goes like this:

“I got hit and I turned out fine.”

“Do you think it’s ok to hit kids? Then you’re not fine.”

I have problems with both elements of this exchange. While I agree that thinking it’s ok to hit children means you probably aren’t a paragon of ethics, I don’t think the response really gets to the heart of the matter, which is this: hitting someone is a Bad Thing. It hurts them. You do not need to show any additional harm beyond the actual hitting. You don’t need to show that it causes psychological damage later in life. Hitting another person all on its own is inappropriate.

The ONLY way that spanking advocates could show that they are correct is by a. showing that the benefits outweigh the negatives or b. showing that hitting their child does not actually harm the child at all. B seems fairly impossible since you are physically striking the kid. Maybe there’s some level of spanking that doesn’t actually hurt the kid at all, but then why are you doing it if the point is to punish?

Because once again, hitting someone else is IN AND OF ITSELF a harm. It is actually the most basic definition of harm most people can come up with. It causes physical pain and/or suffering. I do not know how else to explain that hitting someone is not a good thing, and that the age of the person is not relevant.

So we move on to a. The ONLY way that spanking would be justified is if it turns out it is actually a super effective disciplinary method that works SO MUCH better than any other way of raising your kid that it outweighs the immediate harm you’re doing the child.

It’s pretty easy to look around and see tons of amazing, awesome people who didn’t get hit as children. It’s easy to find studies that show negative outcomes of spanking in terms of its use in discipline. It doesn’t make kids better behaved: it makes them more likely to lie, more aggressive, and more reliant on external forms of punishment than internal morality. Really the only benefit you’re getting is kids whose immediate compliance is faster.

So yeah, it’s possible there are long term consequences to spanking that damage someone’s mental health. But it also doesn’t matter. Because you’re hitting someone. You’re hitting someone who’s defenseless and trusts you. That’s bad. And we don’t have evidence that hitting someone is a miracle cure for bad behavior.

 

So no matter how many awesome people did get hit, it doesn’t matter. Because the only thing that could ever justify hitting a kid is if there is literally no other way to discipline them. And that is just very clearly not the case. So next time someone brings up “well I turned out fine,” point out to them that it’s completely irrelevant! Lots of people turn out just fine with all kinds of disciplinary styles! The fact that your defense of your parents’ child rearing style is “it didn’t fuck me up,” says that you know it’s bad and are looking for an excuse.

No more excuses. There is no evidence that spanking turns out people who are better. And all other things being just about equal, not hitting people is better than hitting people.

Not the Same: Vaguebooking and Making It About You

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Ok friends, it’s time we have a talk. This is a talk about Facebook and etiquette on Facebook, because people are really bad at understanding some basic rules of human interaction when they happen on the internet.

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Here’s a basic rule: whoever is posting on their own page or wall or whatever gets to decide what they want to talk about. When people post things, it is not an invitation for you and you personally to share your opinion with them, no matter how ridiculous or uninformed your opinion is. Unless the status seems to invite conversation, your opinions may not be relevant.

This is especially true if your opinion is on the attractiveness or non attractiveness of a woman either pictured or mentioned in the status. Especially if you’re going to be a jerk, sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. no one is required to listen to your opinion. So if you post a crappy response on someone’s post and they delete it and tell you to shut up, it still makes sense for them to be on social media. You whining that they shouldn’t have said anything if they didn’t want debate makes no sense, because people want all kinds of things out of their interactions, and mostly they don’t want assholes.

Ok? Does that seem fair? Not everything another person says requires you to respond, and not everything another person says is a way to get a conversation started. Usually we can figure out these differences by noting if the person is asking a question or presenting an argument. If you’re unsure, you can always ask!

But basic principle: people post things for all kinds of reasons. They are not necessarily asking you to contribute your opinion.

Now every time I say this, I inevitably get this response: “But what about when someone is posting something super emotional and then they don’t say what it’s about? Shouldn’t I ask them? Shouldn’t I tell them that it’s frustrating when they’re super vague but clearly want attention?”

I won’t lie, this response makes me want to hit something. Look at the basic principle. Does it say that there is NEVER a time when people want your feedback? No. Does it say that you can’t ask a question of someone’s status? No.

If someone is vaguebooking, based on your super awesome powers of understanding basic human interactions, you can probably tell that they’re in an emotional place. They might want some comfort or attention. That’s cool. You know what they probably don’t want? Your opinions on whether or not they should vaguebook. Instead, you can ask them what would be helpful right now, offer them some supportive words, ask if they’d like you to call or come over, etc. Ya know, do nice human things for a human who is clearly in distress.

Note that these things are not in any way related to your opinions about the content of the status. Note that it is possible to connect with other people and offer support or condolences or excitement or all kinds of things without bringing your opinions into the matter.

The problem here is that once again individuals are too worried about how this affects them and their ability to speak whenever they want to, instead of how it might be a helpful principle for their friends or for vulnerable people. This idea has been circulating because there have been tons of statuses that are horribly derailed by jerks. It might simply be that there was a picture of a woman and people felt the need to comment on whether she was fuckable or not. It might be that someone posted a status about feeling down and got a lot of people telling them what they should or shouldn’t do to cure their depression. It might even be as simple as someone putting forth a factual argument and having another person say “but what about if I’m attracted to x person or not attracted to y person?” thus totally derailing any real discussion of the facts.

The world won’t end if you decide that it’s better just not to post something. There is a way to respectfully respond to all of the things mentioned above, but it’s never necessary. The point is that when you make it all about your personal opinions, attractions, and what you want to talk about, you’re being an asshole. The point is that “you posted something so you were asking for my opinion,” is never a valid reason to offer up awful, misogynistic, creepy, racist, or otherwise harmful opinions.

Maybe I’m so annoyed because I feel like this is something that we should have all learned ages ago: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It doesn’t apply to all situations, but it definitely applies to responding to other people’s Facebook posts. If you’re worried about someone else, and trying to consider their feelings when responding, then this isn’t about you. I get that sometimes seeing a post that berates behaviors can feel like it’s definitely for sure berating you. But I promise, if you’re self aware enough to be thinking about other people and worried about them, and trying to consider what their status means and how to help, you’re already light years ahead.

And don’t forget: you can always, always, always ask someone what they’re looking for when they’ve posted. It’s easy, and something we should all practice more.

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Neurotypicality Is Not the Goal

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Disclaimer: the person and tense in which I write in this post change throughout because I found myself fairly distressed trying to figure out who I was speaking to. Basically if you’re anyone who has any influence over someone who is neurodivergent and their treatment, pay attention.

Earlier this week I posted about some of the downfalls of ABA and was rightly called out on the fact that I forgot to include one that is incredibly important: ABA often pushes autistic people to behave more “normally” just for the sake of being less autistic.

This is a larger issue than just the autistic community. This affects everyone who is neurodivergent or mentally ill in any way. Because while the goal of therapy is ostensibly to help people live content and healthy lives, many therapists often forget that what they perceive as “good” or “happy” isn’t necessarily what their clients want. That means that acting neurotypical often becomes the goal. This is especially true for kids or other populations that can’t easily advocate for themselves, like people who are nonverbal.

Think for a second about treatment for people with autism. This is one of the easiest examples to use, because many “autistic” behaviors are very visual and obvious, but don’t do any harm to anyone. That includes things like hand flapping, spinning, or rocking. Many treatment plans include a goal to decrease these behaviors. Why?

Well there might be a few reasons. If someone is in school it’s true that these things can be distracting to other students. But NOT doing them is distracting to the student with autism. So why do neurotypical needs get prioritized over neurodiverse ones? And some stims aren’t even distracting but are still seen as bad because they make the person look different.

There should be one guiding principle in all treatment: has my client communicated that this behavior is something that makes their life worse? VERY occasionally this comes with the addendum that if a client can’t see that something is harming them you still might need to try to get rid of the behavior, but I can only see that applying in physically dangerous cases like self harm, extreme caloric restriction, purging, drugs, etc.

But the point of therapy isn’t to “cure” people. It’s to make them healthy. Healthy is not the same as normal, and often doesn’t mean living without any kind of mental differences. Healthy means that you can live your life in the manner you like and mostly achieve your goals. It means your life is the way you would like it to be, at least in the really big ways. Most if not all people who deal with any serious neurodivergence do that while also continuing to live with their neurodivergences, because a brain that is wired for anxiety or depression or OCD or a personality disorder doesn’t stop being wired that way. At best a person can hide it.

Hiding the way your brain works and trying to behave in ways that are counter to the way your brain works is painful and unpleasant. So again, let’s go back to the goal. WHY do you want to change a behavior? Is it because differences make you uncomfortable? Is it because you think that it must make the person unhappy? Is it because you think it’s making their life more difficult?

I have two words for you: communication and consent. I think many treatment programs forget to communicate with the client. Because that communication can help you find out why someone is doing something. What purpose does it serve? Do they like it? If so, leave it alone. If not, you still need to help them find a way to serve the same purpose. And if your client doesn’t want to change something then you don’t get to decide for them. Just because someone is neurodivergent or mentally ill does not mean that they cannot make their own choices, or that they don’t have preferences, or that they can’t tell you what upsets them and what doesn’t. Your perception of better or worse is irrelevant.

Being “normal” does not necessarily mean better. What is important is making sure that people are doing things that make them happy, that aren’t held back by their brains, that they aren’t hurting. It’s to give people the best life possible, which does not mean the most neurotypical life possible. It means a life that makes THEM happy.

Now of course for some people sticking out is unpleasant, and if they don’t like being different then by all means it’s no problem for their treatment goals to include looking more normal. But consent is the basis for all of this. Do not try to change someone’s brain without their consent. That’s called manipulation and it’s abusive and cruel and unnecessary.

The end goal isn’t neurotypicality. It’s happiness and fulfillment. It’s a life that someone with neurodivergence likes. What providers miss when they prioritize neurotypicality is that they might be actively hurting someone finds it easier to behave in a different way. If you need to stim and you can’t, it’s uncomfortable and sometimes painful. If you have extreme anxiety and socializing outside of your social circle is intensely anxiety provoking, it makes sense that you’ll want a small, close group of long term friends instead. If those people are forced to behave like “normal” people, they will be less happy and less capable of functioning.

This is why providers need to learn to ask questions more often: what do you want? Why? And then they need to learn to give their clients the time and space to give informed consent to their treatment. Even people who are non verbal. Even people you assume can’t understand. They still deserve the basic respect of having their desires for their life heard. Always. And your assumptions about what makes them happy are not more important than what they actually want, even if that means they’ll look autistic or anxious or delusional for the rest of their lives.