Insincere bigotry

The Liar Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday morning.

I refer to the Liar Tony Perkins as “the Liar Tony Perkins” because the Liar Tony Perkins lies. A lot. He lies professionally in order to convince the fearfully credulous to send him more money.

And that, of course, is what the Liar Tony Perkins was doing Sunday morning on Face the Nation. He was lying.

The delicious thing on this particular Sunday morning — unlike the Sunday mornings on which the Liar Tony Perkins is, inexplicably, allowed to attend church as though a member in good standing — he was called on it.

David Boies didn’t just accuse the Liar Tony Perkins of lying, he pointed out that the lies of the Liar Tony Perkins had been laughed out of court. (Steve Benen provides a transcript, John Cole the video). Here is what Boies said as the Liar Tony Perkins blinked and squinted and shook his head:

It’s easy to sit around and debate and throw around opinions –
appeal to people’s fear and prejudice, cite studies that either don’t
exist or don’t say what you say they do. In a court of law you’ve got to
come in and you’ve got to support those opinions. You’ve got to stand
up under oath and cross-examination. And what we saw at trial is that
it’s very easy for the people who want to deprive gay and lesbian
citizens the right to vote, to make all sorts of statements in campaign
literature or in debates where they can’t be cross-examined.

But when they come into court and they have to support those
opinions and they have to defend those opinions under oath and
cross-examination, those opinions just melt away. And that’s what
happened here. There simply wasn’t any evidence. There weren’t any of
those studies. There weren’t any empirical studies. That’s just made up.
That’s junk science.

… A witness stand is a
lonely place to lie. And when you come into court, you can’t do that.
And that’s what we proved. We put fear and prejudice on trial, and fear
and prejudice lost.

In response, the Liar Tony Perkins, unable to support his assertions because they were not true, simply reasserted them. To any reasonable observer, this was not credible and the Liar Tony Perkins was exposed, yet again, as the Liar Tony Perkins.

But reasonable observers are not the Liar Tony Perkins’ target audience. “You can fool some of the people all of the time …” Abraham Lincoln said, and the Liar Tony Perkins never stuck around to hear the rest. He had found his calling.

There’s an interesting moral distinction to be examined here and I’m still struggling to figure out whether it matters or how it matters if it does.

The lies of the Liar Tony Perkins are hateful and harmful. His lies have victims. Two sets of victims, actually.

First there are the direct victims — the people about whom the Liar Tony Perkins is lying. Quite often, those direct victims are homosexuals, whom the Liar Tony Perkins accuses of all manner of nastiness. These lies are hurtful — not just because they create a din of incessant harassment, but because they alter the cultural environment in which GLBT persons must live. The Liar Tony Perkins is, intentionally, creating a hostile environment for our GLBT neighbors. That hostility can become tangible — hindering the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of those neighbors, restricting their freedoms, their ability to make a living, to find housing, to pursue relationships, to live unmolested. This hostility and harassment can have a particularly forceful impact on young people, harming self-esteem, identity, health and happiness and leading, in extreme but by no means rare cases, to a host of problems including suicide. The unending hostility sown by the lies of the Liar Tony Perkins can also inspire actual violence, leading to physical injury to the neighbors his lies are slandering.

So that’s bad.

The second set of victims, the indirect victims of the Liar Tony Perkins’ lies, are those naive or foolish or fearful enough to believe him. These victims are doubly victimized. First they suffer financially by responding to the Liar Tony Perkins’ incessant appeals for contributions. Collecting money under the pretext that it will provide imaginary protection from an imaginary threat is, of course, fraud. And the victims of this fraud are being deprived of their hard-earned money.

But these believers in the Liar Tony Perkins are also victims in a second, more pernicious way. Their character is being corroded and poisoned by the steady diet of lies fed to them by the Liar Tony Perkins. Their capacity for love, for tolerance, magnanimity, citizenship, mutuality, honor, kindness, responsibility, hope, hospitality, generosity and neighborliness is being diminished. When you are deceived into believing hateful and stupid things you become yourself more hateful and stupid. This is not good for you.

Now, as David Boies pointed out, it is clear that the Liar Tony Perkins is lying. When he cites “numerous studies” showing that homosexuals are a danger to children and a menace to society we know that he is familiar with those studies and that therefore he knows that they do not say what he says they say or show what he says they show. Some of the studies do not exist at all. The Liar Tony Perkins simply made them up (that’s the “research” part of “Family Research Council”). Presumably, therefore, he knows he made them up.

So we know he’s lying. It may be that he has chosen to tell this particular set of profitably toxic lies because he dislikes his direct victims and enjoys harming them. It may be, in other words, that the Liar Tony Perkins is a bigot telling lies to spread that bigotry.

But it’s also altogether possible that the Liar Tony Perkins doesn’t actually harbor any personal dislike for the GLBT neighbors about whom he is telling such hateful, absurd lies. It may be that these neighbors are simply an especially profitable target of convenience.

For a demagogue in search of a subject for his demagoguery, our GLBT neighbors must seem an easy target. They are in the minority, and they are different from the majority, and therefore they are doubly vulnerable. Plus, to some devoutly religious believers — the pool from which the Liar Tony Perkins fishes for fearful, foolish donors — GLBT persons are also viewed as sinners, and that can be exploited to provide pseudo-spiritual cover for all manner of bigotry and slander.

We should note here that this religious cover is a sham, a non-sequitur. It does not follow. One cannot logically proceed from the belief that same-gender sex is a sin to the conclusion that homosexuals ought therefore to be denied full access to civil rights.

Many of the conservative Baptists among whom I grew up believe that dancing is a sin. I have never heard any of them suggest that weddings are invalid if there is dancing at the reception. Nor did any of them argue that professional dancers ought to be relegated to second-class citizenship — forbidden to marry, to adopt children, to serve openly in the military. They didn’t argue such things because it wouldn’t have made sense. The leap from “dancing is a sin” to “dancers are subhuman and should not have rights” is illogical and it’s bad theology by their own standards. The belief in a religious prohibition against homosexuality can be exploited by demagogues to produce and nurture bigotry among those who are prone to bigotry, but that religious prohibition is not, in itself, the cause or the source of that bigotry.

The question I am puzzling over here is does it matter whether or not the Liar Tony Perkins is, himself, a sincere bigot? Is there any sense in drawing a distinction between an actual bigot promoting and profiting from a bigotry he truly believes and a con-artist demagogue performing the exact same actions and saying the exact same things despite not actually believing the bigoted lies he’s selling?

The net effect on others is the same in either case. Both make the world a crueler, more brutal, less hospitable place. Both increase the aggregate stupidity, diminish freedom, manufacture unhappiness and produce tangible harm for their direct and indirect victims. We could do nicely without either one.

So from the perspective of the rest of the world, I don’t think it matters at all whether a demagogue promoting bigotry is sincere or insincere. But for the demagogue himself I think it does matter. I think it matters for — for lack of a better word — his soul.

The soul of a sincere bigot is a sad, shriveled, broken thing in need of what all such broken souls require — repentance, forgiveness and liberation. The sincere bigot requires the liberation that comes from repentance and forgiveness because he — like all of his followers — is a prisoner of the lies he is spreading. He is deceived, but the truth could set him free.

The insincere demagogue is less a prisoner than a jailer. Or maybe a corrupt trusty. He has the keys to his own cell door but chooses not to leave so long as he can profit from inducing others to accept the bondage he’s selling. He knows the truth, but he refuses to allow it to set him free. He has, willingly, exchanged his soul for money.

Jesus himself said that was always an option. “What profit is it,” Jesus asked, “if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?”

What profit?” the insincere bigot says. “You just said you gain the whole world. There’s your profit right there.”

So for the rest of us, it probably doesn’t make any difference whether or not the Liar Tony Perkins or the Liar Glenn Beck or the big, fat freaking Liar Rush Limbaugh are sincere in their bigotry or not. I don’t think any of them is sincere. And I think, for each of them individually, that makes matters much, much worse than if they were.

 

  • Erl

    They made noises about it but set a standard of evidence that would have been impossible to meet unless OBL confessed, in detail, in court.
    But isn’t this what terrorists usually do? They take credit for their acts of terror; otherwise people don’t know to be afraid of them. Now, if Osama had confessed before but denied it in court, or confessed in court but the Taliban had refused to convict, that would have shown that the Taliban wasn’t serious.

  • Lori

    But isn’t this what terrorists usually do? They take credit for their acts of terror; otherwise people don’t know to be afraid of them.

    Not OBL. He has never confessed to planning 9/11 or, IIRC, any other act of terrorism carried out by AQ. He talks about how the US deserved it and blah, blah, blah but he doesn’t say that he had anything to do with it. He’s playing a different, deeper game than most other people who go the terrorism route. And the Taliban really wasn’t serious about putting him on trial. I don’t have my notes with me here in the boonies so I don’t have the details at hand but the whole thing was a smokescreen. Bush policy WRT the invasion of Afghanistan was woefully misguided but the errors didn’t lie in failing to give the Taliban enough credit for good intentions and willingness to negotiate.

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is, once again, very tired

    The second says “if you need to go away for a week, go ahead, but if you don’t hand things in on time I’ll still give you a zero for them.”
    Holy crap. Is there nothing there analogous to the Office of Disability Services we have at universities and colleges in the States? Here, that would be at least very suspicious under the Americans with Disabilities Act (affective disorders do most definitely come under it). When a student is under the care of a therapist and has a diagnosis, she can get a note from her therapist or doctor, take it down to Disability Services, and DS can force professors and instructors to make “reasonable accommodations,” which would, in this circumstance, absolutely involve extensions and getting the professor to stop sending damaging emails. Eeek!
    BTW, the first was in Canada and the second the US.
    Wait, that was IN the US? Seriously, that professor could easily have been sued under ADA. Reasonable accommodation for disability is required by law.
    Seriously, if you ever see anything like it again, talk to DS immediately, they’re extremely helpful. I could never have finished my culinary degree without the intervention of the DS office.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    I’d also settle for making it a condition of getting tenure that any substantiated complaints from students with disabilities and/or students with documented psychological-health issues are grounds for denial. Professors occupy a very privileged position in society vis-a-vis the nature of universities in general, and for them to abuse their power to wreck a student’s mental headspace is absolutely unconscionable.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @MadGastronomer: if you ever see anything like it again, talk to DS immediately, they’re extremely helpful. I could never have finished my culinary degree without the intervention of the DS office.
    I wanted to fight right up to the Supreme Court if I had to — but the girl and her family were deeply ashamed of her diagnosis. She (and they) thought that if it “got out” she would lose all her friends (much they would be worth in my opinion) and she would never get a job. And the varying responses she got from professors and administration made it worse.
    And yes, I tried to talk to her and her family about this but the last thing could could deal with at that moment was more stress.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @Pius Thickness: I’d also settle for making it a condition of getting tenure that any substantiated complaints from students with disabilities and/or students with documented psychological-health issues are grounds for denial. Professors occupy a very privileged position in society vis-a-vis the nature of universities in general, and for them to abuse their power to wreck a student’s mental headspace is absolutely unconscionable.
    I am quoting your entire post because I cannot emphasize enough how much I agree with you. Professors can hold an enormous amount of power and people who are likely to misuse that power should be kept out of the job.
    BTW, I have also seen Professors who make such a kerfuffle about accommodations for students with disabilities that I, if I were that student, would never want that person ever to have the power to grade me. My favourite was the Professor who claimed that a particular student didn’t have a learning disability “he has no trouble learning, he just can’t write down in clear, easy to read, English what he knows in a reasonable amount of time.” Right, because writing quickly and legibly is what made Einstein great.

  • sharky

    K. Chen:
    What you’re not following is that they will not look good in court. They can more likely fight off a malpractice suit if they’ve seen the client four times a year and can produce all the paperwork to show that they were appropriately monitoring the case.
    Of course, as I already explained (and you dodged) the visits are, in a realistic scenario, strung out that far in the first place is because there’s someone else in charge of short-term care and they’re only overseeing the maintenance of it. But then, again, they’re not playing the role of therapist, so you probably shouldn’t have brought it up in the first place.
    And I’m agreeing that you’re way more interested in scoring points, because you’re nitpicking where you think you see a chance to nitpick (seriously, you want to quibble over my terminology when I describe therapy, and then you want to say therapists prescribe meds?) But you’re dodging or smoothly evading everywhere you can’t or you’re caught out.
    You’re also pretending an air of authority that’s completely out of place.

  • K. Chen

    @sharky
    I’ve honestly lost track of what exactly we’re arguing about, but there are in fact real situations where the only treatment people end up getting are intermittent expensive visits for a prescription, and thats it. There are a lot of good reasons this shouldn’t happen, but it does, in fact, happen.
    None of the logic in the world stops that. You can, of course, decide I’m not credible, at which point whatever I’m asserting about facts is no longer relevant.

    But you’re dodging or smoothly evading everywhere you can’t or you’re caught out.

    I’m not sure what this is. Dodge ball? A debate society? Highspeed chase?
    You don’t think I’m credible, and please God, let that be the end of this.

  • Ursula L

    When you put it this way, it strikes me as utterly bizarre that the US response was an actual real-for-real war with our armies and troops and suchlike. This sounds more like a job for some kind of Special Task Force, with like five or six people, each with some special skill, operating under a different set of rules of engagement from the regular military and with a different and more flexible command structure. This wasn’t a job for the US Army, it was a job for *GI Joe*. Or maybe the Power Rangers. Mighty Jack maybe.
    It was a job, I think, for the New York County District Attorney. And various Federal Attorneys General, in the appropriate jurisdictions.
    If you’re wanting to give it to fictional characters, I’d say Adam Schiff and Jack McCoy. Jack would be completely focused on getting the job done, and Adam would scold him until he’d dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” to do the job perfectly.

  • sharky

    mmy: I’ve gotten the idea that it’s an odd example of the prof not thinking they are powerful.
    But like I’ve said, I’ve never gotten an example so obvious as yours. The ones I’m aware of are all pretty small, and now that I’m thinking about it, tend to involve more… lip service and no actual help. Not actual harm, or aggressive blocking of help.
    Disabilities offices are helpful, especially in knowing what paperwork to generate, but they’re really set up as part of a procedure. I’ve never seen one where the profs involved have been hostile to the whole process, and haven’t been in a position from where I might. I do know that of the times I know of where classes had to be dropped, incompletes were taken. I’m… not aware of whether or not those were refunded.

  • Ursula L

    I don’t lend much weight to the Taliban’s offer to deliver bin Laden in ’01, as it’s hard to argue there was uncertainty about bin Laden’s involvement, or that the Taliban was worried about human rights of accused criminals, or that they had a sudden change of heart after refusing to extradite despite sanctions under Clinton, or that they would go after the remainder of al Qaeda themselves after an international trial.
    Since we never actually tried proper extradition methods, there is no point in debating whether or not they may or may not have cooperated.
    If I walk into a store and try to steal a candy bar, I’ve got no basis for claiming that the shop would have refused to sell to me – I never tried to buy.
    9/11 shocked many people around the world, in a way that earlier attacks didn’t. It was a diplomatic opportunity. And it was an opportunity that the US threw away.
    What would have happened if we’d reached out to the Taliban, with offers rather than threats? The potential for economic aid for cooperation, better diplomatic standing in the international community, etc?
    We’ll never know. Because we jumped right in with threats and bombs.
    But we can’t argue that the Taliban would not have cooperated, under the new circumstances. Because we’ve got no basis for that argument, since we never tried.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    Sharky — there are no doubt far more decent people than horrible ones. There are far more people who want to help than people who don’t. For a variety of reasons I probably know more about things like this because I have been the person to whom students who were at their wits end went. Most of my colleagues are generally nice people who generally act in nice ways.
    The reason I brought up these cases right now is to explain why I was red hot angry yesterday.
    Also, should say, in my experience the problem is not that most people are evil it is that they are gutless. Whenever I am scared to speak up I think of my mother who, years ago, arrived in Montreal jobless. She was excellent qualifications and was offered a nice job with a pitifully small salary (typical of what single women were paid in the day.) She stood up, looked at the man and asked him if thought any woman could afford to live in the city on that salary without resorting to prostitution on the side.
    After picking his jaw up from the floor he improved the offered salary. My mom believed in fighting the good fight.

  • LE

    mmy, I think I’m a little in love with your mother.
    Dayum.

  • Lori

    Since we never actually tried proper extradition methods, there is no point in debating whether or not they may or may not have cooperated.
    If I walk into a store and try to steal a candy bar, I’ve got no basis for claiming that the shop would have refused to sell to me – I never tried to buy.

    If the store has a sign up that says “We don’t sell candy to people named Ursula” you have a pretty good idea where they stand even without walking up to the counter and trying to get them to sell you a candy bar. That doesn’t make it OK to steal. However, it does mean that there’s no point in the store claiming that they would have sold you the candy if you had simply tried to buy it.
    Afghanistan has no extradition treaty with the US and they had no intention of making an exception for OBL. Yes, it was discussed. No, it wasn’t going to happen.

    9/11 shocked many people around the world, in a way that earlier attacks didn’t. It was a diplomatic opportunity. And it was an opportunity that the US threw away.
    What would have happened if we’d reached out to the Taliban, with offers rather than threats? The potential for economic aid for cooperation, better diplomatic standing in the international community, etc?

    Bush wasted a huge amount of post-9/11 diplomatic capital. Even if he had never done another rotten thing as president for that alone I would never forgive him. However, the capital he wasted wasn’t with the Taliban.
    What makes you think that the Taliban was looking for better standing in the international community? The Taliban has it’s own internal political goals. Getting in good with the international community was not on their To Do list.

    We’ll never know. Because we jumped right in with threats and bombs.
    But we can’t argue that the Taliban would not have cooperated, under the new circumstances. Because we’ve got no basis for that argument, since we never tried.

    No, offers were made. The Taliban wasn’t going to extradite OBL. The Taliban had a mutually beneficial relationship with AQ and plenty of reasons for not making deals with the US or any other western power.
    I realize that it’s pretty much automatic to see anyone who ends up going up against the US as the underdog. FSM knows that Afghanistan is impoverished to the point where bombing it is not only horrific but also rather embarrassing. That said, there’s an argument to be made that no country that has earned the title “the graveyard of empires” is exactly an underdog, at least not in the long term. The Taliban was very aware of that and was not motivated to deal. It’s also important to remember that the Taliban is really, really awful and very intent on retaining power. I say that not to justify the invasion, but to point out that there were plenty of reasons not to take anything they had to say at face value. I think sometimes people get so pissed at Bush they sort of lose track of that. There was a lot wrong with what BushCo did in Afghanistan, but failing to give the Taliban enough chances to give up OBL wasn’t one of them.

  • Spearmint

    It’s also important to remember that the Taliban is really, really awful and very intent on retaining power.
    And succeeding at it, because in the end we are going to cut some sort of deal with them to secure the stability of the current regime as we retreat from the country with our tail between our legs.
    If they’d negotiated openly with the U.S. before the invasion or turned over Al Qaeda to us, they’d have forfeited their integrity as hardcore Islamist militants, which is a) their objective and b) the identity and reputation that allows them to wield power in Afghanistan. By refusing to compromise they protected that reputation, and while the war has cost them a lot of lives and some power and influence, in the end they’re going to get most of it back. They knew from the beginning all they needed to do was outlast us like they did the Soviets, and they will. Why on earth would they have wanted to turn over bin Laden to us?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    Anecdata: In the 1990s Unocal toyed with the idea of a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan and even got the US government to make some basic overtures on the DL. Nothing came of it, but one consequence was a highly embarrassing $43 million money transfer in mid-2001 came to light which was seen as a quid pro quo for Afghanistan wiping out the opium crop.

  • truth is life

    Americans don’t exactly have a monopoly on forgetting who was involved in the war. More than a few times, I’ve seen british accounts of the war casting it as “The war where brittain beat germany (and america helped)”.

    Heck, if Orwell is to be believed this literally started as soon as the Soviet flag waved from the top of the Reichstag. He points out in his “nationalisms” essay that if you ask someone which country–Britain[1], the Soviets, or the US–did the most to win the war, the answer isn’t determined by a rational examination of the facts[2], but by which country (and/or associated political/economic system) the person in question happened to like the most. And that was in 1945!
    [1]: Which at that time was understood to include the Dominions and Empire, despite the former being largely independent for several decades prior. This is probably the source of mmy’s frustration at the ignorance of people with regards to the Canadian and Australian contribution. That plus the relative unglamour of both (the Australians were under the egomaniac MacArthur, while the Canadians were sort of everywhere, but especially in the Battle of the Atlantic doing convoy work) is probably why they’re ignored[3].
    [2]: Which would probably indicate that the US and Soviets were about equally important in winning the war in Europe (in the Pacific it was mostly America’s show), with the Soviets taking the prize if for no other reason than the truly horrific price they paid in blood to escape from Nazi domination (that also explains a lot of later Soviet behavior, especially with the puppet states and massive military spending. They were absolutely determined NEVER to let that happen again). The biggest US contribution was its massive economy–other people have noted that the US ended the war with more than half of global GDP, and didn’t happen just because a couple of other major powers had their industrial base blown to smithereens–and the consequently gigantic amount of materiel it was able to turn out, combined with a large manpower that meant we could build a very big military (about 16 million men, total, through the whole war. I believe that figure only includes men and does not include women (like my grandmother) who served in groups such as the WACs, WAVEs, etc.). The Soviets in particular really needed some of it (trucks, supplies) to effectively launch offensives (that’s why I rated the US as high as I did). Britain and the Empire were also important, but they just didn’t have the industrial capacity to do what the US did, nor did they have the manpower to do what the Soviets did.
    [3]: Eg., I happen to own a WWII RTS by a well-known Canadian development team, and while I wasn’t particularly surprised to learn that the initial single-player campaign was an American one starting with Omaha beach and the 101st Airborne–the US is the biggest market for that sort of game, after all. What I was somewhat bemused about was that in the first expansion pack they added some non-US campaigns–and rather than have one based on the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division at Juno Beach, who faced obstacles similar to those at Omaha but overcame them with proportionately about 2/3rds as many casualties, got closer to its D-Day+1 objectives than any of the other forces, then proceeded to join up with the British forces and participated in a number of major battles (including the Battle of Caen, about which more later), they chose to have one based on the decidedly British part of the operation, though the Canadians do make a cameo during the Battle for Caen segment (suicidally attacking fortified German positions until you break through). I figured it would have been the perfect time to show a little Canadian pride and a little-known segment of history.

  • truth is life

    Considering that all they did after 9/11 was rubber-stamp Bush’s idiotic whims out of either Party Unity or pants-wetting terror of being seen as Weak On Terrorism, I actually think I can ignore Congress this time.

    Ah, but you see in that very quote that Bush wasn’t ignoring Congress. It’s just that what Congress wanted to do (at that moment) and what he wanted to do (at that moment) were close enough that he could convince them to do what he wanted without arm-pulling.
    The point was that any other President, who didn’t have “Bush’s idiotic whims” would probably have ended up doing a lot of similar things (some kind of Patriot Act analogue, though hopefully less oppressive; some kind of DHS analogue, hopefully more competent and less malicious; some kind of military action in Afghanistan, though it might be as little as bombing up the Taliban, sending in forces, grabbing OBL, then leaving a mission in place with the new government; and so on), simply because Congress wanted him to. The President leads, but Congress can push. The big things that were wholly avoidable where a lot of his (non-terrorism-related) domestic agenda and the invasion of Iraq (and that humongous shitstorm).

  • http://www.nightkitchenseattle.com MadGastronomer, who is, once again, very tired

    I’ve never seen one where the profs involved have been hostile to the whole process, and haven’t been in a position from where I might.
    My DS office went over the head of my department to make sure I and others were taken care of. On at least one occasion, they went straight to the President; on other occasions, to various Deans. They can be extremely helpful. It varies on the school and the people, and you have to be willing to stand up for yourself first, but something like making professors accept assignments late is well within their powers.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    mmy: the more I hear about your mother, the more I honour her. She was awesome.

    Britain DID NOT STAND ALONE. Saying that insults the many people/nations that stood with Britain — including Canada. Obviously this means more to me than some others since I have relatives who served in the Canadian Armed Forces* and saw active duty long before the US came into the war.
    Quite so. I mean, we’re proud of how we stood against the Nazis under extremely trying circumstances, but let’s stay out of the Ignorance Club. There’s room for more than one brave nation in the world at any one time.

    I am still angry enough to bite through nails about what happened to the second girl.
    I’m not surprised; that poor soul. Thank goodness she had you in her corner.

    Miss Whitfield, I’d sincerely like an apology, because I actually take a lot of offense at the suggestion I’m more interested in scoring points than what I have to say, particularly about the nature of mental illness.
    1. Ms Whitfield, thank you. I’m thirty-three years old, married and nine months pregnant; I was ‘Miss’ when I was a little girl. ‘Ms’ is the most respectful term if you don’t know what a woman prefers. Or you could just call me Kit; I don’t see why you shouldn’t use my first name even if we are quarrelling.
    2. If my terms were overly personal – okay. Maybe I was wrong, and it’s never smart to impute motives one can’t prove. So, sorry about that. However, if you’re not more interested in scoring points, you’re not making your motivations very clear either. I’m not hearing much compassion expressed for the mentally ill in your posts, which is why I got angry; debating the issue without compassion makes me mad, for reasons I’m sure are clear to you. It’s hard to tell what your posts aim to achieve, which is why I went to ‘self-assertion’; if there’s another motivation, perhaps you could elucidate it better.
    So I’m sorry if I offended you; I will try to be more constructive. But I’d appreciate it if you’d do likewise.

    On the subject of mental illness in universities. I was fortunate enough to be in good mental health, but I do remember that there would be a few casualties every term; the environment was intensely pressured, and some people just collapsed under the strain. There was something of an air that the whole experience represented admission into the middle class through trial by ordeal, and the provisions for those to whom the ordeal proved too hard were poor.
    Example: someone tried to talk to her tutor about how hard it was to cope with the stress. His response: ‘Have you considered tranquillisers?’
    Example: someone was showing some problematic behaviour in supervisions. The authorities responded by changing his supervisor and leaving it at that. The meeting in which this was discussed scolded him for his behaviour, warned him not to push his luck again, and recommended as a side-line that he might want to see the university counsellor. Not unnaturally, the scolding and warning made the deepest impression, and he was too scared to go to the counsellor. He was, in fact, severely depressed. Though he stayed in the university system postgraduate until he dropped out with a complete breakdown that nearly destroyed him, the authorities never twigged. They didn’t twig after the breakdown either; he just fell off their radar.
    Example: someone was suffering from incipient psychosis. Her father having suffered the same thing and wound up in a psychiatric hospital, she was utterly terrified of being locked up and very reluctant to go near any mental health professionals for fear of being sectioned. She was, however, profoundly fragile and needed daily support. This support did not come from the college, so the burden of it fell on her best friend, to the point where this friend (who wanted to be an academic, and so needed absolutely top-flight grades) found it difficult to get the time to do her own work. The sick girl eventually did wind up in a hospital, but till then was entirely dependent on the support of a single twenty-year-old girl with no power, no resources and no help from anyone, to the point of jeopardising both their futures. There was a clearly identifiable mental health problem going on with her, but the authorities just let it drift.
    I’m with Pius on the tenure issue. I’d also make a position of academic authority conditional on completing some kind of course in the basics on mental illness, including spotting the symptoms and providing pastoral care. You put a lot of kids together in an environment like that and some of them are bound to have psychological vulnerabilities just by the law of numbers; add to that the university pressures and the experience of being away from home for the first time, and of course some of them will struggle with mental illnesses. It’s not an off-chance, it’s a certainty, and colleges should anticipate that, because if you leave with your brain in worse shape than when you went in, the place has not done its job.
    We could start with What A Mental Illness Actually Is, and How To Discuss The Possibility With A Student Without Sounding Like You’re Calling Them Weak Or Bad. With a supplementary course of Students Will Bring Their Own Issues About Mental Health To The Table And You Need To Learn How To Work With Them.
    I’d also like to see a mandatory lecture for each new intake of students that covers the basics of mental illness, works on de-stigmatising it, stresses how common it is and gives a clear idea of the resources available. The talk should address both what if you feel ill yourself and what if you’re worried a friend has a problem – because it’s often friends rather than sufferers or teachers who are best placed to see the illness. Student friendships could be a very valuable first line of defence if the students were better informed and had somewhere to go that would offer help without feeling like you were betraying your mate.
    It makes me mad for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that universities are incredibly well placed to do a lot of good if they’d just get their acts together. It’s a dire waste of a unique opportunity. Think how many people could be saved if universities were good at this stuff.

  • Amaryllis

    Kit Whitfield: mmy: the more I hear about your mother, the more I honour her. She was awesome.
    Seconded. As for mmy herself, I wish I could clone her and put one of her in every department of every university in America.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @Kit Whitefield: the more I hear about your mother, the more I honour her. She was awesome.
    She was.
    As someone about to give birth (any time you don’t post for several hours I wonder if you are in labour) this might be of special interest.
    Like most people I had issues with my parents. As a teenager I knew, of course, that they were wrong about just about everything :) – then as I got older I struggled because I could see all their shortcomings and I just didn’t get why they couldn’t change. Anyway, typical story.
    Now, after watching over my mother’s deathbed, helping my father go through her things, sell his place and move into a really nice retirement community I have had a chance to get over the “child struggling to be herself thing” and look at my parents as people.
    [Insert reminder -- due to waiting for WWII to end and then serving actively in Korea my dad started the whole father thing really late -- my parents are as old as most of my friends grandparents]
    These are the things I got from my parents.
    One of the reasons my dad fell in love with my mother is because he admired her intelligence. She came from a community with a one-room school where few people got more than a grade 8 education and yet she managed to matriculate and go to teacher’s college. Life made it impossible for her to go college at the time but she never stopped taking courses when she could and finally got a BA in her 60s.
    When both her brothers were off to WWII and her father was hospitalized and almost died she and her mother alone did all the work that three men had done to keep her parents from losing their farm. She didn’t realize it at the time but she had ovarian tumours and they were one of the reasons that she would regularly vomit as she was laying fence.
    She was an officer in the Canadian Army during WWII at a time when some men would cross the street and go out of their way rather than have to salute a woman.
    At a time when few women even drove and before the interstates were finished she would pack up her two daughters every summer and drive [it was shorter to go through the US] from Ontario to New Brunswick to visit with her parents. We had exciting adventures in the backwoods of Maine.
    She wanted grandchildren but she didn’t want her daughters to be housewives. Both of us were raised to believe that we were certainly smart enough to just about anything we wanted to.
    She managed to find the humour to see that a woman who went off to New York with only a few dollars in her pocket to see if she could find a job and send money back to her parents [during the depression] should not be surprised to have one daughter living on a commune while the other picked with migrant workers.
    She believed that no woman should ever be at the mercy of her husband and so set up a back account for me (not joint with Mr. Mmy) and deposited money every month. She loved him as a son but that didn’t change her belief that every woman should have a bolt hole. [Dad knew and rather agreed. When she died he gave much of what she left to the local battered women's shelter.]
    When one of her daughters got pregnant — back in the day when this was still treated as a public shame — she didn’t want to hide it. My family is deeply Catholic and things like that weren’t openly talked about they were whispered of in dark corners. She and my father were publicly and proudly grandparents. Their grandson spent part of the summer with them and part with Mr. Mmy and me because otherwise my sister would have never had a moment of vacation while he grew up. She and my father paid for their grandson’s braces, his summer camp and started a college fund for him.
    Teaching wasn’t a job for her it was a vocation. She believed in her students.
    She was tiny but lord she would fight if she saw wrong going on. She took very seriously the idea that doing nothing in response to evil was in itself an evil.
    She loved books. When she was poor she would skip meals in order to save up and buy books. She memorized poetry and she would recite long poems to me as a child to while away the time on our long road trips. Her particular love was history and her favourite king was Henry of Navarre — to this day I know more about him than I do most members of my family — since her way of entertaining me as a child while she ironed or cooked was to tell me all about the books she was reading.
    She was a passionate lover of libraries. They had been invaluable to her when she was poor and she believed that everyone should have the same opportunity and so she worked as a volunteer librarian not only in her own home but also in the town where where my parents wintered after they retired.
    So yeah, I honour my mother. And she will never really be dead as long as I am alive because I carry her with me always.
    As you look forward to giving birth remember that your son won’t recall much of the hard work you do as a parent. He won’t remember the nappies changed and the midnight feedings and times you sneak into his room to listen to him breath and make sure he is okay. He will remember YOU. He will see your actions and read your words. He will watch you as a person. He will learn to know what is right and wrong by watching you and Gareth. He will be embarrassed by you when he is a teenager because almost all teenagers are embarrassed by their parents and then he will look back some day and realize that his intelligence and his morals have been shaped by you two. He won’t think you were perfect but he will admire you for the choices you made and the things you thought were worth fighting for.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Thanks, mmy; that’s my hope. (And wow, your mother was amazing. I can see where you get your courage and principles; I’m sure she must have been proud of you, and I hope you could feel assured of that.)
    As to my son … I fully expect him to find me the most embarrassing and uncool person in the world when he’s a teenager; my attitude to this is that well, he probably should be cooler than me, because I’ll be a middle-aged mum and he’ll be a teenager and that’s the way things should be. I expect him to get angry with me for my faults (and to see them with an unflinching eye), and to feel like sometimes he has to fight to make his own space. I expect that sometimes I’ll accept this and sometimes I’ll fight it, and sometimes I’ll be right and sometimes I’ll be wrong.
    I expect that the more independent he feels from me, the easier he’ll find it to forgive me, and I hope he’ll find his own way to make that transition. I hope that whatever bad feelings I inflict on him will not, in the end, hurt him badly enough that he can’t make his own recovery. I hope that whatever damage I inflict will be mild enough that it doesn’t damage his ability to heal himself. I hope that in the end, he’ll feel that the love was the most important thing.
    I hope I can manage not to impose my feelings on him to the detriment of his own. I hope I can give him the support and approval he needs, because even people really mad at their parents still want their good opinion. I hope I can listen to him when he tries to tell me who he is, and to love him for being that person, and never to forget that he knows who he is better than I do.
    In the end, I just hope he’s okay. I hope he remembers me with love and forgiveness too, but if I really screw up and he needs to stay mad at me to survive – well, better that than that he doesn’t survive. I hope he becomes a person who knows how to take care of himself with compassion and good sense, and who knows how to care for others.
    And I hope he’s born soon, because I’m not very comfortable!

  • Mentallo Ill

    Wow… I see a lot of people using “mentally ill” and “idiot” as an insult in this thread too… I don’t think I’m an idiot, but I know I’m mentally ill… why is it OK to use that as an insult, but not “fat?”

  • Ursula L

    Wow… I see a lot of people using “mentally ill” and “idiot” as an insult in this thread too… I don’t think I’m an idiot, but I know I’m mentally ill… why is it OK to use that as an insult, but not “fat?”
    It’s not okay, as many people here (especially Kit) routinely point out.
    For myself, I find it works best to focus on describing behavior, rather than insulting. People can be foolish, ignorant, cruel, uninformed, have poor judgment, etc. all of which describe far more accurately than calling someone mentally ill or an idiot.
    I’ve worked at several group homes for developmentally disabled adults, and some of the older residents actually had “idiot” or “moron” as their diagnosis in their early records, from back when it was still a technical term. So I try to avoid those terms as insults, since they’ve been used to formally diagnosis people I know (and have cared about.) And while these people were certainly mentally retarded/developmentally disabled, they fit along the scale of nice/not-nice people in about the same proportions as the general population.

  • K. Chen

    1. Ms Whitfield, thank you. I’m thirty-three years old, married and nine months pregnant; I was ‘Miss’ when I was a little girl. ‘Ms’ is the most respectful term if you don’t know what a woman prefers. Or you could just call me Kit; I don’t see why you shouldn’t use my first name even if we are quarrelling.

    I think its impolite to use someone’s first name without having been invited to first, and I try to avoid it. Miss rather than Ms. was a dumb mistake.

    However, if you’re not more interested in scoring points, you’re not making your motivations very clear either. I’m not hearing much compassion expressed for the mentally ill in your posts, which is why I got angry; debating the issue without compassion makes me mad, for reasons I’m sure are clear to you. It’s hard to tell what your posts aim to achieve, which is why I went to ‘self-assertion’; if there’s another motivation, perhaps you could elucidate it better.

    I do in fact, have compassion and understanding for the mentally ill. As I have elected to remain fairly opaque on this public fora about my identity, my personal history, my schooling or career, (for various reasons) so I am reluctant to tell any anecdotes. To do so seems to be a particularly slimy sort of evasiveness, where I dole out only personal information that suits my arguments, but for those who are generally curious, ask and provide some sort of e-mail or instant messenger address.
    My motivation is to present a perspective on mental illness that is focused on mental illness as a disorder, rather than another sort of social leprosy, or yet another place where our society is unjust. I felt it was a perspective that was lacking. I think its a more useful, and even a more compassionate way to focus on understanding the intrinsic difficulties – even dangers, of mental illness, especially as to getting care.
    For many of the mentally ill, or at least, the ones to my knowledge, getting care is a struggle, and will always be a struggle. If money isn’t an issue, it’ll be the fear of family and friends finding out. If it isn’t that, it’ll be the laundry list of bad experiences with previous mental health professionals. Or why go to a professional when you can just talk to a friend? Even when all the external barriers to seeking care are knocked down, there are internal ones, that, as far as I can see, most people remain ignorant of. I used the word “terrifying” earlier and I use it again because I think it captures the moment. Many of the mentally ill are terrified of getting better. Because they think they’ve learned to function well enough, and don’t want to risk changing, because they’re terrified of the prospect of their past feelings and encounters being invalidated as chemical imbalances, because they’re terrified of losing themselves. Because they’re terrified of losing something and finding out it was just illness all along. Of course I have compassion for the mentally ill. Its impossible to be familiar with it and not feel compassion.
    What I described immediately above may not be universal, but it is entirely all too common, and it is all to common for the friends and family of the mentally ill to focus only on the extrinsic factors, or to approach the problem with a true, but banal and unhelpful “but you’ll be happier this way.”
    My motivation is to speak to that truth, as I know it. I still don’t know how, but I continue to try.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    @K. Chen: For all you know Kit Whitfield’s name is a pseudonym. Mine certainly is. The usual convention online is to address a person by their online identity, however spelled or constructed. At least, it’s been that way in my experience for a loooong time.
    (/old grackle mode off)

  • K. Chen

    @K. Chen: For all you know Kit Whitfield’s name is a pseudonym. Mine certainly is. The usual convention online is to address a person by their online identity, however spelled or constructed. At least, it’s been that way in my experience for a loooong time.

    Yes, but hers would be a published literary pseudonym, and I was under the impression that *is* treated like a real name.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @K. Chen: Miss rather than Ms. was a dumb mistake.
    If you don’t know how a woman prefers to be addressed use Ms. That has been the standard for several decades now.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Thank you for your clarification, K. Chen.
    For the record, Kit Whitfield is my real name. And anyone on this thread who wishes to call me Kit is welcome to.

  • Fitcher’s Bird

    For many of the mentally ill, or at least, the ones to my knowledge, getting care is a struggle, and will always be a struggle. If money isn’t an issue, it’ll be the fear of family and friends finding out. If it isn’t that, it’ll be the laundry list of bad experiences with previous mental health professionals. Or why go to a professional when you can just talk to a friend? Even when all the external barriers to seeking care are knocked down, there are internal ones, that, as far as I can see, most people remain ignorant of. I used the word “terrifying” earlier and I use it again because I think it captures the moment. Many of the mentally ill are terrified of getting better. Because they think they’ve learned to function well enough, and don’t want to risk changing, because they’re terrified of the prospect of their past feelings and encounters being invalidated as chemical imbalances, because they’re terrified of losing themselves. Because they’re terrified of losing something and finding out it was just illness all along. Of course I have compassion for the mentally ill. Its impossible to be familiar with it and not feel compassion.
    My apologies if I’ve misconstrued your argument, but I fail to see how you could type the above paragraph and not see how much the stigma society places on mental illness contributes to sufferers failing to get or to keep up with treatment. Surely many of the above issues would be greatly mitigated if mental illness was generally better understood. (As a sidenote, it may be that the brevity of your initial comment aided the intrepration of it as callous. Without the further nuance you have added, it was easy to read in the context of the current discussion as a statement of victim-blaming).

  • ajay

    If you don’t know how a woman prefers to be addressed use Ms. That has been the standard for several decades now.
    I’d always just use “Doctor”. That gets past the Mrs/Ms/Miss problem and, with ambiguous names (like “Kit”) the Mr/Ms problem, and it’s a bit flattering as well…

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    It seems to me that the issue with what K. Chen is saying is this: what one might say to oneself or a person one is close to, and what one might say to promote societal change, are two different things. It’s about context.
    *heads up: I’m going to refer to rape by way of analogy, so if that’s triggering for anyone, be advised*
    For instance: if we’re talking about how rape in the context of laws and justice, then I’m going to argue that the behaviour of the victim – how she was dressed, where she went, who she was with, how she acted and so on – are irrelevant and should not be included as part of the trial. If, on the other hand, I’m talking to a young woman whose safety I’m concerned about, I’m probably going to tell her to make sure she stays with friends, doesn’t leave her drink unguarded, keeps to well-lit areas and so on.
    If I’m talking to society, in short, I’m going to argue that the behaviour of the victim should not affect society’s willingness to protect her. If I’m talking to a potential victim, I am going to talk about her behaviour, with a view to maximising her benefits.
    The difference is that an individual has the capacity to control their own behaviour (within limits) without being disempowering or punitive towards themselves. Society would be disempowering and punitive if it tried to impose such controls on the individual’s behaviour; instead, it can control its own behaviour, in the form of making laws and providing resources.
    Basically it works best when everyone, individuals and society, focus on what they can do to make a situation better.
    When it comes to mental illness, there’s something similar going on. A sick individual is going to maximise their chances of recovery by taking good decisions, and if they don’t take good decisions, there’s a limit to what society can do to help them. (Of course, the illnesses tend to impede your decision-making, which is a big problem.) On the other hand, if society doesn’t offer good supports, the decisions the individual can take are much more limited, so we need society to put the emphasis on providing options so that people who do decide to get help can actually get some.
    It is legitimate to acknowledge that a sick individual needs to take the decision to get treatment, and also to acknowledge that they may very well be resistant to taking that decision. I’ve certainly seen people be resistant, and acknowledge later that letting go of the resistance was the best thing they could do.
    I think we need to be very, very careful in acknowledging it, though, because the stigma against mental illness is liable to leave such acknowledgement open to misinterpretation. Ignorant people will find it very easy to hear as ‘Your mental health is your own problem, pull yourself together and stop whining’, and that reinforces stigma. And with more stigma comes less willingness to provide resources.
    Extremely careful phrasing and lots of provisos seem necessary, and one of the essential provisos seems to me that people with mental illnesses do need society to provide good resources, purely so they don’t hit a wall if they take the good decisions and try to get better.
    Good resources are no use to someone who isn’t willing to use them. On the other hand, willingness to use resources is no good if there aren’t resources you can use. It’s a balance.
    Personally I feel that the stigma is such a big problem that it needs a lot of air time – even on a board full of well-intentioned people like this, a lot of the posters acknowledge that they aren’t very informed on the subject – and that the you-have-to-take-responsibility-for-your-own-recovery argument, while legitimate in the right context, is a refinement best saved for a time when everyone has the basic information. Right now I feel like society in general is still flunking Mental Illness 101, and the issue of resistant patients is Mental Illness 102, so the benefits will be maximised if we keep the focus on society. That’s us taking responsibility for our behaviour, because we are society.
    Oh, and K. Chen; when you say ‘I am reluctant to tell any anecdotes. To do so seems to be a particularly slimy sort of evasiveness’, I hope you’re not calling those of us who have told anecdotes slimily evasive.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @ajay: I’d always just use “Doctor”.
    works for me

  • LE

    I’d always just use “Doctor”.
    works for me

    Medical doctors, OTOH, get weirdly protective of the title.
    I had a lab mate (a postdoc) in Uni who told this story – she’d gone the health center for something routine, and the doctor called her Jane**. So she called him John. At which point he stopped his exam and told her “I really prefer to be called Dr. Jones.” To which she replied “Well, Dr. Jones, in that case you can call me Dr. Smith.”
    **well, her first name anyway. All the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    To which she replied “Well, Dr. Jones, in that case you can call me Dr. Smith.”
    Sounds fair. A disparity in address is a different matter, because that’s about status. On the Internet, on the other hand, so many people make up nicknames that I think a reasonable degree of mutual informality is assumed unless someone actually insists on a Mr, Ms, Dr, Reverend or whatever.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/femgeek1 Melle

    MadGastronomer: *applause for Melle*
    Thank you. :)
    Though I seem to’ve forgotten to note that there are doctors out there who aren’t blinded by fat and numbers. So if there’s any lurkers out there having problems with that, try and shop around for GPs if you can, or have a look here for recommendations for Health at Any Size doctors.
    Will Wildman: These days it’s a lot harder to judge what I should be focusing on. I’ve found that I do feel better when my weight goes down, and I don’t think I’ve ever yet reached my ‘optimal weight’, but I’m not totally sure where it is, and since ‘optimal weight’ is going to include muscle mass as well, I suspect I should be more concerned with other health/fitness factors and kind of let the weight take care of itself. Which sounds like it’s the case for everyone – focus on the health factors that are measurably relevant, weight will go where it should be, and that’s just not going to be the same for everyone, so don’t try to force it.
    That’s pretty much it, yeah. Personally, I don’t even have a scale, largely for this reason — my weight actually cycles a fair bit depending on time of year and point in my hormonal cycle, so actual numbers really mean less to me than, say, size. As long as I still fit in clothes I bought when I was 16, the numbers on the scale can go take a hike.

  • Robyrt

    To be fair, that definition of CBT isn’t even on the first page of Google results – it’s way behind “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” “Computer-Based Training,” and “Childs Bertman Tseckares” the architecture firm.

  • MercuryBlue

    I’ve heard ‘heterosexist’ and ‘sexualist’.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    I suspect ‘sexualist’ is unlikely to catch on because it is, relatively speaking, difficult to say. Our tongues will want to mangle it into a shorter word, but the obvious candidate is ‘sexist’, which is already taken. And ‘heterosexist’ likewise contains the word ‘sexist’, which confuses the ear a bit.
    I’m prepared to be outvoted by LGBT people on this, but personally I think fixing the word ‘homophobic’ isn’t a very high priority. It’s a term of disapprobation, nobody thinks of it as particularly sympathetic, and we have ‘bigoted’ and ‘prejudiced’ and ‘discrimination’ to go to if we want to amp things up, plus ‘queer bashing’, which can be used both literally and metaphorically. All in all, I don’t think vocabulary is what we should be worried about.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    I’d always just use “Doctor”.
    Further on my comment above. I know lots of medical doctors. I know lots of D.V.M.s.* I know lots of Ph.Ds. The one thing I notice that it is usually the M.D. who feels the need to be called Doctor under any and all circumstances (like talking over the back fence.) I only use Dr. myself when it is appropriate to the circumstance, when the person I am talking to really, really wants to use an honorific or when some bloody asshole insists on calling me Mrs.
    Ma’am also works okay from a person who uses it as a generic title for women in authority or who merit respect.
    * Vets stun me with their knowledge of a wide number of species and because they do so much of the hands on stuff themselves. When one of my cats was suffering from kidney failure I watched a locum vet (someone who was a resplacement for the regular vet who was off having a baby) go through more than 30 different results from the latest blood and urine tests AND all the possible interactions between the different drugs our girl was taking without ever looking up anything. Person before us brought in their dog and the person afterward probably had an animal of a different species.
    That is impressive.

  • Drake Pope

    All in all, I don’t think vocabulary is what we should be worried about.

    You have to admit though, it’s a lot easier to worry about new names to call bigots than to spend any time dealing with the discrimination that people who fall under the categories of LGBT have to put up with. I can imagine the Southern Christian Leadership Conference spent a lot of time thinking up of new, more precise terms for racists.
    In all seriousness though, this sort of reminds me of the way that… racists spend a lot of time coming up with new terms (or misappropriating older ones) like “racialist” and “white separatist” and insisting that merely changing the name of their ridiculous beliefs somehow makes them less bigoted and stupid. I haven’t really counted, but there are a lot of conversations that tend to go along the lines of, “David Duke isn’t a white supremacist, he’s a racial realist! He doesn’t hate other races, he just thinks that they’re all better off if everyone is separate. But equal.” or “I’m not a sexist, I’m a complementarian.” or “I don’t hate Tribulation Force by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye; I just dislike the fact that it exists.”

  • K. Chen

    Oh, and K. Chen; when you say ‘I am reluctant to tell any anecdotes. To do so seems to be a particularly slimy sort of evasiveness’, I hope you’re not calling those of us who have told anecdotes slimily evasive.

    Not at all. I’m saying, I’ve been cagey about my life, and should follow through on that cageyness all the time, not just when it suits my purposes.

    My apologies if I’ve misconstrued your argument, but I fail to see how you could type the above paragraph and not see how much the stigma society places on mental illness contributes to sufferers failing to get or to keep up with treatment. Surely many of the above issues would be greatly mitigated if mental illness was generally better understood.

    There are two slightly separate issues here. Social stigma is a very (very!) bad thing, and there have been some anecdotes and explanations on this thread that exactly why its a bad very (very!) thing, and it certainly doesn’t make things better for a mentally ill individual’s sense of self, it is not the primary cause of problems. Its not the greatest analogy I’ve ever thought of, but its roughly the difference between iron and steel, with social stigma being carbon. Take away the carbon, and the resulting structure is weaker, but still strong.
    The other issue is one of knowledge – and it obviously feeds into social stigma, compromises the availability of adequate care, and other things, but I want to focus on a possible unintentional implication of what you’ve said. Mental illness strikes many different people across different intelligences, temperaments, education, and socioeconomic status. Which is to say, that it will strike, along with everyone else, the very smart, knowledgeable, and uberrational. These people are still likely to go through the feelings of terror I described earlier. What I’m getting at, is that for the mentally ill knowing about your condition, understanding your condition, while important, is not enough. This trips a lot of mentally ill up, and it trips a lot of their friends and family up.

    It seems to me that the issue with what K. Chen is saying is this: what one might say to oneself or a person one is close to, and what one might say to promote societal change, are two different things. It’s about context.
    *heads up: I’m going to refer to rape by way of analogy, so if that’s triggering for anyone, be advised*
    For instance: if we’re talking about how rape in the context of laws and justice, then I’m going to argue that the behaviour of the victim – how she was dressed, where she went, who she was with, how she acted and so on – are irrelevant and should not be included as part of the trial. If, on the other hand, I’m talking to a young woman whose safety I’m concerned about, I’m probably going to tell her to make sure she stays with friends, doesn’t leave her drink unguarded, keeps to well-lit areas and so on.

    I agree entirely

    Personally I feel that the stigma is such a big problem that it needs a lot of air time – even on a board full of well-intentioned people like this, a lot of the posters acknowledge that they aren’t very informed on the subject – and that the you-have-to-take-responsibility-for-your-own-recovery argument, while legitimate in the right context, is a refinement best saved for a time when everyone has the basic information. Right now I feel like society in general is still flunking Mental Illness 101, and the issue of resistant patients is Mental Illness 102

    And with most of this.

    so the benefits will be maximised if we keep the focus on society. That’s us taking responsibility for our behaviour, because we are society.

    And not at all with this. Theres an oft quoted number somewhere that 100% of us will be a(e?)ffected by mental illness, either by our own, or the mental illness of those close to us. Some of us will go through it multiple times. Which implies, among other things, that we will encounter mental illness in the role of individuals more than we will encounter it in the role of societal game changers.
    The resistance of the mentally ill to getting treatment is one of the most frequent points of conflict in the relationship between the mentally ill and their friends and family. Its difficult for outsiders who have never experienced it, and even for those who have, to empathize. You throw some words into a Google search, and you’ll probably find a big chunk of the 101 level information: the who what where when and whys. The 102 information seems to be lacking.
    To borrow my President’s favorite phrase: Now let me be clear. Fighting the social stigma against the mentally ill, fighting against the ignorance against the mentally ill, is incredibly important. It is just not the job I find most needed, nor one I feel particularity well suited to.

  • MercuryBlue

    I just came across ‘heterosupremacy’, though I don’t like it and can’t articulate why.

  • Will Wildman

    I just came across ‘heterosupremacy’, though I don’t like it and can’t articulate why.

    It’s not comprehensive, for one thing, since it suggests that there actually are (presumably inferior) options to being heterosexual. That doesn’t cover all the people who insist that there’s no such thing as a naturally gay person and it’s all just deviance and rebellion against God. (I wonder if such people would blow a fuse if they met a person who was gay and had never heard of any gods. What would they supposedly be rebelling against? Logically, no such person could exist – consequentially, the only way to truly prevent your children from turning to The Gay would be to never ever take them to church, pray, or in any way recognise concepts of divinity. It’s a stretch, but I think it holds.)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @MercuryBlue: I just came across ‘heterosupremacy’,
    Forgive me if someone has brought this up and I missed it — what about the term heteronormativity? One comes across it mostly in Bisexual/Transexual Theory — the argument being that for many people (gay, lesbian and straight alike) see all relationships as being made up for a strong (male/butch/dyke) and gentle (female/bottom/sub) pairing — and that such a view “others” bisexuality and polyamorous relationships among many others.

  • MercuryBlue

    How is it possible to grow up anywhere on this planet without ever encountering the concept of divinity? Or rather, how is it possible to grow up as a member of a subgroup within one’s culture without ever encountering members of not!subgroup?

  • Will Wildman

    Heretonormativity strikes me as somewhat different – I thought it also contained things like the basic expectation that people are straight until they inform you otherwise (which I’m sure I still do a lot, though I’m working at it). It can Other, to be sure, but it doesn’t carry the same premise of ‘straight = right, everything else = wrong’.
    I still grin when I recall hearing of a visual novel (a very, very plot-and-dialogue-heavy video game) that included the ‘cheat code’ HETERONORMATIVITY OFF, at which point the storyline would adapt to include a romance between two primary female characters.

    How is it possible to grow up anywhere on this planet without ever encountering the concept of divinity? Or rather, how is it possible to grow up as a member of a subgroup within one’s culture without ever encountering members of not!subgroup?

    I didn’t say it would be easy, but we’re talking about protecting children’s souls! Also, if anyone should be experts in avoiding really obvious information, it has to be the people who think the UN rules the entire world.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mmy mmy

    @Will Wildman: Heretonormativity strikes me as somewhat different – I thought it also contained things like the basic expectation that people are straight until they inform you otherwise
    I think that that was how it was first used, but the other meaning (the one I suggested) is quite well known — had a student who did an entire thesis on it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Pius Thicknesse

    I’ll tell you what heteronormativity means for me.
    Even when I’m totally OK with two guys hugging, kissing, or whatever, I still have to act like I’m not staring because it’s considered out of the ordinary. I still have to deal with that twinge of uncomfortableness. I still have to mentally process it even though I’m not upset, offended or scared off by it.


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