10 February, 2011

on being grossed out

First off I should probably mention I'm going to try to be posting here less. I'm doing a massive amount of stuff in school and if I don't allow myself to be sucked in by the material I'll be really screwed. And anti-ableism is unfortunately able to suck me in again and again; I can think of one class I've been invested in since I started writing this blog.

I made another very long LOVE-NOS post called Some common fallacies and rebuttals, starring the Harder Fallacy, the Uncomfortable Fallacy, and all the other fallacies you've grown to know and love if you're disabled and you sometimes open your mouth (or whatever you use to talk) and express your own opinions.

Anyway, I figured a good way to transition myself into my medieval mysticism seminar is by talking about the experience of being grossed out. Like some mystics, I believe being grossed out and caving in to that is wrong.

There's a particular animal that I'm going to refrain from naming here, but a lot of people are scared of it, including me. I was recently reading the blog of someone who had a picture of the animal in question, and I flipped out. This has actually happened to me before with the same animal, except it was on my LiveJournal friends list so I immediately slammed my computer shut, opened it again with my eyes half closed, closed the browser, opened LiveJournal again, and defriended the community that had inexplicably decided to make a macro of Jonathan Groff's head on this animal.

I can't predict exactly what will happen to me the moment I die, but the only thing I can imagine is that God will be there in the form of that animal, and I won't be able to move forward until I can love God in that shape.

A lot of people are grossed out by a lot of things. The idea that we are grossed out by things because they are bad is the uncomfortable fallacy ("confusing a feeling with a fact"). So with that in mind, I'd like to talk to you about smearing feces.

In my fallacies post, I discussed the use of shock in the Shocking Behavior Fallacy and Undisabling Fallacies--the first is, "You can't tell me that the way I treat Ralph is wrong, because he bangs his head," and the second is, "You don't have the same disability as Ralph, because he bangs his head." Basically you introduce something shocking to try to distract from the fact that what you said doesn't make any sense.

I kept rewriting the examples for these fallacies, because when people use these fallacies in real life, it is so common for the shocking behavior to be something related to shit--usually, smearing it or playing with it. However, whenever I used "smearing feces" as the behavior in my examples, I ended up wanting to write a really long aside discussing how much it disturbs me when family members or professionals use someone's behavior as a gross-out tactic to try to keep you from identifying with them and defending them; and how much it disturbs me when that works. So I kept the feces references to a minimum, pretty much, and figured I would save that for another post, which is this post.

It's not as embarrassing when headbanging or biting or something works as a tactic to silence you--because it's not quite as low a tactic. When someone says, "you don't get to talk about autism, my kid hurts herself really badly," you might experience empathy for the kid; you might experience that pain for a second, imagine what it is like to hit your head on the side of a bathtub, and if it's never happened to you maybe you end up thinking--"I shouldn't talk about autism. I don't know what that kid feels like. I should leave this to someone else, who knows better."

I do think this is being taken in by a fallacy, for reasons I discussed in the fallacies post; but maybe it's a failure of reacting with compassion and not knowing how to use that compassion, of being afraid to intrude on the reality of someone who hits her head in the bathtub--of feeling like you've claimed an experience that isn't yours, by saying that you two belong to the same general group.

The shit thing, on the other hand.

No one who uses "smearing feces" in a Shocking Behavior or Undisabling Fallacy is aiming for the person they're arguing with to have empathy for the kid; and no one's who's taken in by "smearing feces" is having empathy for the kid. Smearing feces is an upsetting idea not in the way that self-injury is--it hurts the person doing it--but because you get grossed out thinking about the person who has to clean it up.

So when someone tries to shut you up by saying, "You don't have it as bad as my kid, my kid smears feces," they're actually not saying, "You don't have it as bad as my kid," they're saying, "You don't have it as bad as me because I have to be related to someone who did something gross." They're not saying, "You don't get to talk because you don't have it as bad as my kid," they're saying what...well, what a lot of them are saying deep down--"You don't get to talk because you are a kid (i.e. disabled), and we are talking about non-disabled people here." This proves why no matter how disabled someone is, they are never allowed to talk.

If we're having a contest, yes, I've been direct support staff, shit is not a thing of beauty and a joy forever. But I don't think it really needs to be put on this ultimate anti-pedestal of THE WORST THING. ANYONE COULD EVER TOUCH. IN THE WORLD, where you hear "plays with shit," "smears shit," "wears diapers," "has accidents," and that can actually put you into a tailspin of "I cannot relate to the person who does that and I cannot judge the person who has to clean it up." You can relate to everyone, and you are allowed to state when someone is being abusive, has committed a murder, or simply is saying something that you don't think is true.

It's just bodies. There's still right and wrong.

1 comment:

  1. How many NT infants & toddlers have smeared feces on occasion? It's not such an alien behavior as people make out. It's what you'd expect from someone interested in sensory pleasures who has not internalized societal taboos.