There is a lot of revolting ableism in alternative parenting spaces. There are people around the edges of my life, in my social circles, members of my parenting communities – who creep me out. There are peaceful parenting writers and unschooling parents; people interested in wellness and those identifying as “Natural”. There are parents who don’t use physical punishment, those who ‘do their research’, and many with all the theories about kids and food and toys and parenting. I get goosebumps when I am near them or when I read their names online. I feel sick thinking about their long histories of ableist comments and their thinly veiled hatred (do they convince themselves it isn’t there? Hate is a strong word, according to them). These people believe themselves to be “woke” and “progressive”. But there is perhaps nothing more boring or more common than hating disabled people – it isn’t new, being woke, or being progressive. It is just taking an old idea and putting some flowery theories onto it, with pretty, privileged smiles. Throwing disabled people under the bus to make a point is not new and it is not awesome.
Do you think you are progressive because you believe in toxins rather than bad luck? That is the same thing! That is the same base belief that disabled people shouldn’t exist, and that we ruin the ‘perfect’ way the human population could or should be.
Do you think you are a badass critical thinker because you believe that Big Pharma is creating epidemics of disabled people? That is the same hate! A rose by any other name. You think Big Pharma did it – others may not think that but they probably hate disabled people just as much as you (Their theories of hate aren’t as radical as yours, of course. They aren’t as smart as you.)
Do you think you are alternative and health conscious when you support people who state that they think disabled people are better off dead or prevented from existing at all? You are not ‘alternative’, and I doubt you care about the health of disabled people (wanting disabled people not to exist any more is not a ‘health’ thing, it is a jerk thing).
Do you think it is enlightened to hang onto every word of the non-disabled white men who have theories about what is ‘causing’ neurodivergence (and conveniently have the ‘cure’ or ‘prevention’ too, which is tied in to how they make their money), but not to listen to actual disabled people? That is almost the definition of bigotry and discrimination.
Do you think you are being kind because you listen sympathetically to the parents “at their wit’s end”, whining and martyring themselves because their child is such a burden and an inherent tragedy? Do you think you have a big heart because you tut tut while they disrespect their child and maybe go on to abuse (or kill) them too? Do you feel righteously angry at my poor timing when I point out the patterns that lead to violence for disabled people? You are participating in the toxic culture that leads to disabled children being abused and killed at rates so high I cannot find the right language to discuss this. And no, I am not stomping on the feelings of caregivers – I am prioritising the safety of disabled children over the entitlement of their caregivers. Sweeping such horrific abuse of disabled children aside for your own agenda is not admirable.
Do you feel that I am “missing the bigger picture” and being “divisive” when I bring up the inconvenient reality that most of the time our abusers are also our parents? Does this ruin your preferred narrative of the poor, burdened, saintly parent, fighting against the world with their damaged child by their side?
Do you believe in a life of ‘non violence’? Do you know that hating disabled people and thinking that we shouldn’t exist as we are, is violence in itself? Yes, you read that right. If your non violence is just for show and only for when it is popular or exciting or accepted in your circles, then it’s fake. If you cringe at my words that point out ableism and try to convince yourself that this is the ‘real’ violence, check yourself. Why is my want that disabled people have safe and respected lives, threatening to you?
It makes me deeply uneasy when I remember that these smiling people live among me, writing and speaking such glittery words of respect for children. Their hatred and bigotry bubbles up constantly though, in their everyday and unquestioned language and beliefs. I wonder if they know how terrifying it is being a disabled person among them. Do they know how much mental preparation it takes for me to be in spaces that they are also in? Do they know that I miss things because they will be there? Do they know I am so sick of hearing hatred that I limit my community experiences so that I don’t have to hear it any more? Do they know how I fear speaking my truth among them, knowing that the most vile comments of ableism will follow? Do they know how I work up the courage to say anything, preparing for the onslaught of offensive and horrible things they then undoubtedly say? Do they know that their “superior” knowledge is not new to me at all; but that I already rejected it in favour of non ableism? Do they know that this knowledge is irrelevant to human rights anyway? Do they hear themselves using “Science” and “logic” to try and deny people human rights and safety? Do they know how fucking awful it is trying to prove to people who don’t even apologise for thinking you shouldn’t exist and that you should just shut up; that you deserve respect and to live a good and safe life?
Do they know how I worry that their ableism is going to come down onto my perfect, disabled children – like a dark cloud on their wonderful lives that are so full of self love? Do they notice that I see how they look at, and treat, my family? Do they realise I can feel the way they dismiss my words and explain away the things I say, with their own skewed biases? Do they assume my words irrelevent because I am disabled and hence not worth listening to, too disabled to be taken seriously (or not disabled enough perhaps?). Do they know how their lens of the world is clouded? Can they imagine how it would be if they saw the beauty and tried love and acceptance instead of fear and hate?
Do they realise they are not woke at all?