When you begin to learn about ableism, it is an unfortunate reality of it but often you go through this process of realising that many (if not all) people in your life are ableist. For me, I didn’t necessarily feel scared or feel like I should be cutting out friends for being ableist. Not yet, anyway. It was a part of learning about the systems that support, grow, and nurture ableism until it becomes this huge, ugly, insidious thing that makes life unsafe for the disabled.
As I learned, I was learning about my own ableism too. Since we tend to grow up with it all around us as a seemingly natural part of our communities, we all have thoughts, assumptions, and ideas that we can challenge. I doubt that any single human being is perfectly not-ableist. It is a constant journey, to uncover and discard ableist thoughts and responses.
However, there have been certain people from my life (many of them in fact) who have avoided confronting ableism altogether, perhaps seeing it as natural and okay. (This feels like an important factor for my disabled children and my disabled self). The more I listened to their reactions when called out on ableism, the more obvious this became. These are often the people who ask questions to “learn more” (or so they claim), or express public support for your beliefs, only to continue being overtly ableist time and time again.
They give ‘nonpologies’ (the appearance of an apology that is not really one at all), and ask seemingly open-minded questions, but are really only giving the impression of wanting to understand (why they wouldn’t use that same energy to actually be more compassionate instead of just pretending is a bit confusing). Social niceties have been employed simply to create the illusion that they are loving and open-minded.
In the last year or so, I have shed many of these problematic people from the life of my children and I, and I am glad for it.
I won’t pretend I cannot see the hypocrisy of you talking about Gentle Parenting at the same time as your poisoned, damaged child whose diet and life and behaviour you must control and manage (this isn’t Gentle Parenting and no, you don’t get to change the meaning of that to suit your ableism).
I will not listen in silence while you tell me about your amazing and alternative parenting and approaches to health, while your child struggles along without support for their neurodivergence (your gut healing plans are so barking up the wrong tree).
I won’t stay silent while you claim you are advocating for ‘radical acceptance’ of children and their autonomy; but then rant about ‘the rise in autism’. (Is your acceptance only for nondisabled children then?)
I will not sit quietly, smiling pretentiously, while you tut tut about my beautiful children having an emotion (the horror of an emotion!) because you think something damaged them and now see everything they do through this lens.
I will not turn away (or scroll past) to keep the peace, while you ablesplain your latest conspiracy theory about what has ’caused’ neurodiversity among humankind. (Newsflash – diversity is natural among humankind!).
I notice the hate in your fears of ‘screen time’. We all know that you fear disability so much (and have such ableist views of ‘the perfect childhood’) that you will prevent your child’s access to their culture for it.
I won’t nod while you tell me you ‘know people with disabilities’ and expect that this means you have a right to be ableist (I don’t give a fuck how many disabled people you know).
I won’t sit there sipping my coffee while you tell me you work with families and disability, and while you think this means you are entitled to spout hateful rhetoric and be a murder apologist. Please, fuck off and stop thinking you know more than disabled people about disability.
I won’t let it pass when you tell me I am not qualified to speak about autism because I am “high functioning” and have “no idea” about “severe autism”. Seriously, there is too much wrong with all that to fit into one sentence.
I won’t affirm your comments when you say my kids seem ‘better’ (better from what?!).
I will not ‘agree to disagree’ when your ‘opinions’ are involved in silencing and oppressing me.
I will not be quiet while you make the world more unsafe for my children and I.
I am losing friends, certainly I am losing many of them. But these people didn’t feel like friends, not really.
If I have to ignore that feeling of being creeped out to be friends with you, I am glad you are not around me anymore. If I have to prove to you why I deserve to live free from harm, I am glad to no longer have you there demanding I explain myself to you. If I have to look past your harmful, incessant, belief that I am a poisoned version of a person- I am happy you are gone. If I had gotten used to your constant whining before that your disabled child is ruining your life; it is beautiful silence that I enjoy now.
You felt yourself so progressive with your talks of feminism or ‘peace for all!’ (for white, middle class, abled women of course) and marriage equality; but you were so hugely ableist (Carers need more support so they don’t kill their disabled kids! Disabled women should be able to be sterilised because some people just shouldn’t have children!). I didn’t want to hear that hateful rubbish while you back patted and self-awarded cookies.
If being your friend meant feeling unsafe, creeped out, and disrespected – friend, begone. I won’t ignore your ableism.
For my friends who value me and my kids enough to think about their ableism – thank you. You are so different from the Proud Ableists. So different! You aren’t perfect (who is?!) and I don’t expect you to be. I see you learning and changing. I notice that while you used to say I was amazing for loving my children, now you see my children as the beauties they are – for all children are wonderful! I notice that while you used to share about ‘Awareness’ and amplify carer voices on social media, now you share disabled voices instead. I feel comfortable with you and I know my children are respected and not seen through a lens of pathology. I love you and you make my life better.