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Some things I’ve been reading

November 4, 2009

I’ve been trying to catch up on some blog reading, and have run across some great stuff, so here’s a link roundup in no particular order of importance.

First, a couple from Lindsay at Autist’s Corner. There’s Psychology Today? More Like Psychology Fifty Years Ago!, looking at the similarity between pop EvPsych ideas about gender determinism, and assertions from the 19th century on; the explanations may have changed, but the harmful conclusions remain the same. “Spencer can be forgiven for making up tales of a Hobbesian state of nature in which the human psyche as he knew it was forged. Today, though, we have more actual evidence to work with than he did, but still the stories that are told about human nature are unchanged.”

In Small Victories, she compares very different approaches to education for “troubled teens”, while pointing out the abusive nature of the boot camp approach and other institutions which openly seek to change kids’ behavior–but not life circumstances–through control (including the Judge Rotenberg Center). “A philosophy like this is practically a recipe for abuse and neglect, because when you treat people who depend on you like enemies to be vanquished, you will react to everything they say or do as if it’s a threat or a stratagem. You’ll learn to ignore their signs of distress, and you’ll let them die — of something as treatable or preventable as a spider bite or overexertion or dehydration — before you’ll risk letting them put one over on you.” Word. I’ll be interested to see if the White Buffalo Academy does turn out to be more humane, or if it falls into the bad institutional hole with more emphasis on “you’re letting down the community with your badness”.

On Twitter, I saw a link to one of Joel’s posts from earlier this year at NTs Are Weird, on Autism and Medical Coverage. He points out the serious problems with proposals to force insurance to cover treatment for autism–not least, that we don’t necessarily need medical treatment for it, much less as defined (ABA, neuroleptics) by people working off the “tragedy” model. Some of the proposed “treatment” is better addressed by overhauling the educational system, which already has responsibility whether or not they’re fulfilling it. I don’t trust any legislated provisions not to support abusive institutions, while continuing to let them off the hook for hurting “sick” people. It also reinforces so many harmful myths that I want to cry.

An aside: Why is this crap excused, besides the fact that it’s frequently tied up in weird power structures? FWD/Forward offers some excellent observations on this in the related context of Outrageous pre-existing conditions: “Which contributes to the very popular cultural myth that people with medical conditions are somehow to blame for them — that they must have done something to earn them, that it’s their own fault they ended up that way, and therefore they lose rights to certain things because they are inflicting the costs of their mistakes on the rest of us. Because if you haven’t done anything wrong, you won’t ever end up sick. If you do end up sick, there must be something you did wrong…We get why these things are done. And they’re done to those people. Over there. Not to me and mine.” They express this the most succinctly I have seen. Whether you’re blaming thimerosol or chemical imbalances, or a refrigerator mother, or being out of favor with God–there must be a working explanation in which someone has done something wrong. That obviously makes it OK to treat those people differently. This applies just as well to any sort of “mental disorder”, which seems to be scarier than a straightforwardly physical disability.

Disabled kids get abused a lot, and not much is done about it. And disabled adult women, mentally ill people, and basically anyone with a developmental disability: “Are we concerned about abuse for everyone? Historically, individuals labeled developmentally disabled (also known as mentally retarded) have been treated with less concern than most people. Is this because they sometimes behave or communicate differently? Unfortunately, many people have been institutionalized because of these differences. Recent surveys (Baladerian, 1991; Crossmaker, 1991; Enfield, 1992; Sobsey & Doe, 1991) suggest an increased risk of abuse in persons with developmental disabilities, especially if they have been institutionalized. Abuse ranges from overt physical attacks to more insidious forms of intimidation and neglect.” A lot of this happens in “treatment” contexts. (As anyone ever confined to a psych unit “for their own good” can attest, short of Stockholm Syndrome.) Autism is also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder. People who have suffered abuse are more likely to show various symptoms and behave in ways that seem strange in the first place, and are then more likely to be abused because they’re “sick”. As Sylvia Caras points out, It’s Time to Stop Permitting Abuse.

Phillip Dawdy at Furious Seasons also mentioned the medical coverage thing a couple of days ago in House Health Care Bill Contains Autism Training Initiative. I have been meaning to write about this myself, but have had a limited spoon supply. “Combined with $60 million in NIH funding from the federal stimulus bill, this has been a big year for autism advocates with the Congress and Obama Administration. I hope they get some results with all of this money.” OTOH, it pisses me off to see money thrown down a rathole in ways unlikely to actually help anyone, while continuing to present us as “mentally disordered”–unlike people with, say, Tourette’s, which looks like a subset of the same kind of neurological setup (though that still doesn’t stop them from getting neuroleptics to control unusual behavior). Given that a lot of medical “treatment” for autistic kids these days consists of neuroleptics specifically used to control their behavior without addressing why they’re melting down and acting weird in the first place, I am a bit disappointed in his take on this. To those with experience dealing with this sort of thing, it’s no less disturbing than House Health Care Bill Pushes Mental Health Promotion, Nanny State In Workplace, much less House Health Care Bill Contains MOTHERS Act. Big Pharma and ABA providers are the only ones likely to benefit, while a lot of actual human beings are liable to get hurt. I think the old Divide And Conquer may have worked a little too well.

Today, he continues the good work of pointing out problems with the all-too-prevalent childhood bipolar diagnosis (with associated neuroleptic prescription), in Study: Researchers Shoot Down Pre-Adolescent Mania. Some of his other posts on the ridiculousness and dangers are worth searching for. Tying this back in, though I (frustratingly) can’t find a link right now, I was not surprised to find one child psychiatrist in New York saying that a great number of the possibly bipolar kids referred to her are really on the autistic spectrum. I have very little doubt that I’d have been diagnosed as such, and heavily medicated–like my cousin’s way overmedicated, now marginally functional son–had I been born 30 years later. As it was, I got diagnosed bipolar and ended up on neuroleptics at 20 rather than 5. Big Pharma wins, and the kid can hopefully clean up the damage later, either way.

I just found Who is IOZ?, and have been enjoying it. The first post I read there was Newman’s Own Economy, full of great analysis: “Tellingly, no one seems much interested in the fact that an industrial economy is by necessity pyramidal…You know, even in the Imaginarium of Doctress Rand, it is taken as given that the Atlases of the world must at some point employ and direct the debased lumpenproletariat; there are no illusions that every man is a genius. . .You cannot run a society of three hundred million people by requiring that each either invent the iPod or remain broke forever. Which rather brings up a tangential but dearly held point for the whole gang here at Who Is IOZ? Namely: You cannot run a society of three hundred million people.” Exactly.

Another great blog I ran across a couple of days ago is FWD/Forward: FWD (feminists with disabilities) for a way forward. There’s no shortage of recent posts which tickled me: Reclamation: thoughts from a fat hairy uppity lame bitch and the Ablist Word Profile series, Invisible Illness and Disability Bingo 1.0, Law & Order: “Dignity”, Worth, and the Medical Model of Disability, and Focusing on College Students’ Mental Health (For the Benefit of the Neurotypical) just to name a few. Lots of food for thought.

At Geek Feminism, Terri wrote an excellent post: How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn’t. The main reason I am one of the few of my friends not working in some computing-related field is active discouragement from studying maths and sciences. I do have dyscalculia and make a lot of transcription errors, but that does not mean that I’m not very good indeed with more abstract concepts. Girl who has trouble with simple arithmetic? Not surprising, tell her she’s incapable of doing hard sciences (never mind that she’s done OK so far, nor her 99th percentile math scores) and shove her into the humanities. Without a shoehorn. Having gotten a female TA with dyscalculia for Beginning Calculus at Virginia Tech–and a 4.0 for the semester–helped me see that, indeed, I can do math. Now I’m actively interested in filling in the gaps, and am still fighting the instilled idea that “it’s too hard for you” rather than sets of interesting logical puzzles.

Jill over at I Blame The Patriarchy wrote another excellent post (No post today, just this long-ass essay), inspired by comments on a previous one. This is one of the better demonstrations I have seen of how much internalized BS we can pick up and pass along, without even realizing it. “You know how when a rapist is prosecuted, and the slutty intent of the victim is so acutely divined by the defense (’she didn’t fight back hard enough; she must have wanted it,’ etc) it may be used as a psychbomb to dehumanize her to the jury? It’s like that… Meanwhile, do even the feminists buy the whole women-are-masochists myth and just sit idly by while misogynists rip the titillators to shreds?…Anyway, intent, schmintent. I would urge the reader to recall how little intent has to do with anything. Particularly with the experience of the end user. The result is all that matters.”

The health care reform theme continues today over at Echidne of the Snakes, with Of Special Interest: Wimminz: “You wouldn’t think that women could be viewed as a special interest group, given that we are the majority. But that’s how the game is played in politics. Wingnuts hate us (they hates us, my precious), and the Democrats would prefer us to be really really quiet. And not to cost them any money whatsoever. Or so I think tonight.”

I was looking for more on that theme at Reclusive Leftist, and had to link to Violet’s post on Gang rape as entertainment. “Like Nine Deuce, I’m a little surprised at myself for being surprised. After all, I’m well aware that the cult of sexualized violent misogyny is at an all-time high. I guess I just keep failing to imagine all the possible ways in which men’s hatred of women can be expressed. These things just don’t occur to me.” I had no idea that it had even spilled over into cheesy haunted houses, having been one of the drama students putting on the plastic ax variety in the early ’90s. A few days late (not to mention dollars short), there is also Take back Halloween!, with some amusing ideas for “non-porntastic costumes”. I, too, have been taken aback by the way Halloween may as well have turned into “Dress Like A Whore Day“.

I haven’t looked at Writhe Safely in months, but spotted a great post there from July (also the most recent one), A word with you. The author talks about recovery from abuse and “safe spaces”. “Everyone I know who has sincerely worked on healing from trauma would laugh at the very fucking idea of a “safe space”, because number one we are beyond safe spaces, and second, trying to create a womblike social milieu promotes the continuing psychosis we’re trying to get over. Recovery is about learning to discern the difference between a benign and threatening stimuli, and how to respond to each accordingly. This is broken in PTSD where everything is coming at you and all of it potentially threatening.” She has some good points, and I have been thinking a lot about some of the same things. Out of a basic urge to be considerate to people with lots of triggers, I will include warnings at times, like in my last post. Even so, approaching things more from the idea of recovery these days, it seems ultimately counterproductive not to try to defuse the PTSD triggers (video from Jane at Bipolar Recovery) in whatever way works, as soon as you can face doing it. From personal experience, if you tiptoe around the snakes, they’re only going to breed. I have found out the hard way that this can be another face of the good old Broke Brain Syndrome, and ultimately do a lot more harm than good.

Here’s a link to a post on some more videos Jane has done. I have found her material very helpful in finding my own ways to work on some of this stuff.

And that’s all I can write for today.

Edit: Or maybe not. I followed the haunted house gang rape link to ND’s original post, and was even more put off. “But now it’s 2009, and we live in a world in which movies like Hostel, Saw 1-76, and the Halloween remakes (which are Rob Zombie joints, in case you didn’t know) make millions of dollars. I should have known that would affect the goings-on at the nation’s haunted houses. Stupid me.” I’d mostly been avoiding Rob Zombie’s films, and particularly intend to continue doing so after reading a review of Halloween II (the theme of “hillbilly misogyny” is a gripe unto itself). Why was I avoiding Rob Zombie, besides generally having been put off by his imagery? A guy blared White Zombie while he raped me and left bite marks, back in 1993. (I got flashbacks and just had to leave a show the Ramones were doing with White Zombie a year or two later.) No attitude connection where rape and mutilation are concerned, I’m sure.

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