Blogging About Disability part two: A Firefly Community post

In the second part of this two-part post on Firefly Community, on the subject of blogging about disability, I talk about what we should take into consideration when choosing terminology to use when blogging about (another person’s) disability. 


Blogging About Disability part one: A Firefly Community post.

This is the first part of a two-part post on Firefly Community on the subject of blogging about disability. In this part I talk about the potential power bloggers have to effect social change:

The Opinionated Woman.

Hello. My name is Kerry, and I am …

an opinionated woman.

I forget my place and state my opinion publicly, even though a woman of my background *must* be too unintelligent/uneducated to form an opinion worth holding.

If anyone challenges my opinion I defend my position – instead of meekly backing down like a ‘nice’ girl and accepting that they must be right even when their objection is based, not on some flaw in my argument, but on some flaw in my character or background that automatically invalidates any opinion I have.

I am guilty of forgetting that some people have a greater right to state their opinion than I do, and this right is not necessarily based on knowledge or experience. I am guilty of forgetting that I must not answer back to those who are my ‘betters’ in this hierarchy, even when their opinions are baseless to the point of inanity, or may be offensive or harmful to others.

Sometimes I am rude enough to prove my point.

Hello. My name is Kerry, and I am a Nasty Woman.

Several times during the past week I have been told that I should not share my opinion, and I should not answer back; because I’m not intelligent enough, not educated enough, ‘don’t get out enough’, it’s ‘not nice’, it’s ‘aggressive’.  Now, when I share an opinion publicly I am aware that not everyone will agree with me, and I am prepared for some to tell me that I am wrong, but I would expect them to come up with some valid reasons why I am wrong, and to educate me in the error of my ways with solid argument. I do not expect to be ‘shut down’ simply by being told that I do not have the right to state my opinion. I do not expect to be told I show not openly disagree with those who state an opinion which may be offensive or harmful to others because ‘arguing causes upset’.

I might have been prepared to concede that during the election campaign, since I’m just a private individual, not a party activist engaging with the public, or an influential person with a huge social media following, it might have been better to keep my opinion to myself, but then an issue much closer to home came up, and once again I was told to shut up.

A visitor came to our house, someone very close to us. We were talking about a TV programme, and our visitor stated: ‘the girl was a Down’s’.

They’ve used this phrase before, and in the past I’ve tactfully suggested that the phrase ‘girl/boy/person with Down’s Syndrome’ would be better. I said this again, but instead of ignoring me as usual, our visitor snarled ‘It’s OK because I meant no offence.’ I tried explaining why the phrase is offensive, even when no offence is intended. I was told to shut up, in no uncertain terms, by a third party. I tried explaining that adults with Down’s Syndrome, who are perfectly capable of understanding the issue and stating their opinion, have expressed a wish not to be referred to in that way.

I don’t care what anybody else thinks,’ our visitor said, ‘it’s what I’ve always said.’ Then they pointed at Freddie and said: ‘He will always be a Down’s boy to me!’

How I bit back my instinctive response to this I do not know. It was reprimanded for ‘going totally over the top’, it was ‘political correctness gone mad’. When I pointed out that ‘political correctness’ is an issue of basic respect for other human beings, I was dismissed as being ridiculous. Apparently Disability civil rights isn’t even a thing.

Later, after our visitor had gone, and things had calmed down, it was conceded that I had been substantially correct in what I had said, but that I still should have kept my mouth shut and let it go. Why? Because I had caused a lot of unnecessary upset and hurt feelings. I hadn’t been ‘nice’. I went to bed wondering ‘what about my feelings which have been persistently ignored? Why are some people’s opinions and feelings given priority over others, even when they’re acknowledged to be in the wrong? 

I know — First World Problems. I should probably shut up about it.

But when all is said and done, I’m not sure I’m sorry that I’m a Nasty Woman. I think I would rather be nasty, and speak up when I think something is wrong, than be one of the ‘nice’ people who keeps quiet and meekly ‘lets it go’.


Shame on you, Sloppy Journalists …

Once again ignorance and sloppy journalism rears its ugly head. Mail Online journalist Ekin Karasin published an article ‘Village of the Damned’ in which she references Down’s Syndrome throughout. It is debatable whether more than one of the people pictures in the piece actually have Down’s, and if they do, they are not ‘suffering’ from it, but from neglect and ignorance. Every ‘fact’ this tabloid hack presents about Down’s is completely inaccurate, she also mistakenly conflates it with another, completely different condition which she refers to only by the derogatory descriptor ‘Kampung Idiot’. She has clearly done no research at all. The Press bears great responsibility, because the language they employ, and the emphases they place, shape the public perception of issues and events, including how we view, and react to, disabled people. Rarely do they live up to this responsibility, but by their use of negatively-nuanced language, and their tolerance of inaccuracy they perpetuate negative and damaging stereotypes of disability. That is why the work of my fellow bloggers is so important- we know the truth and we tell it. That is why I am asking you to read us, and share us widely: to give a voice to those the Press drown out with their ignorant blather, and to try to make the world a more accepting place for people like my son. Thank you.