High and Mighty – Shaming as a Teaching Tool
A recent article published by The Mighty has caused a negative reaction within the disability community.
While I didn’t catch the article that caused the commotion, I did read the editorial reply: “Why We Removed a Story.”
“The Mighty published a story from one of our contributors entitled “Introducing: Meltdown Bingo,” which made light of the meltdowns many autistic people experience on a daily basis. It was written by a mother on the spectrum about her child on the spectrum.” [emphasis mine]
Apparently the article offended some and the editor decided to take it down. Okay. Probably a good call.
Since then, disability activists have taken to Twitter, using the hashtag #crippingthemighty to express their distaste of the site in general. It’s really amazing to watch people come together in grassroots advocacy.
Lots of comments have been made about “inspiration porn,” favoring parents’ perspectives over those of the people actually living with disabilities and paying contributors for their stories.
Some of the discussion has been helpful in terms of explaining ableism to people who may not understand and exposing topics that need to be discussed.
Unfortunately, there’s also a portion of the discussion that focuses more on shaming people than creating positive change.
For instance, many comments focused on what terms should be used: a person who has autism, an autistic person, on the spectrum, or Autistic. The problem comes when people try to generalize their own preferences onto the entire community and then shame people when they use something else. To date, there is no consensus as to right or wrong – that I know of – other than allowing the person to choose how he/she is described.
The part that upsets me is the attack on “mommy bloggers.” Okay, I get the assertion that parents don’t have the right to speak FOR their kids. True! My son has his own voice and whenever he chooses to use it, I listen and whenever I write something about him, I ask his permission. In The Mighty case, the writer of the article explained that her son was involved in the writing:
That is completely untrue. As stated several times, he contributed, pre-read, and sanctioned the post. That truth doesn’t fit what people are determined to twist this into to fit the bigger (and extremely important) discussion that has been sparked. On one hand, I completely understand it, on the other, I am horrified and mortified that it is being kicked off at me and my son’s expense.
I am human. I am an Autistic human. I made a mistake that I am very remorseful for. Please, please remember that. Please remember that I am an actual person when (general) you go around the Internet behind your keyboards making blog posts, and petitions about how horrible of a person I am. How I don’t deserve to have children. How I would probably kill my child. How I am lying about being Autistic. How I don’t deserve to exist. I am completely shattered by this experience for so many reasons.
I am sorry.
So who gets to say that the article shouldn’t have been written – or published?
Who gets to say that parents should not be allowed to tell their own truth?
The Mighty is being criticized for publishing pieces written by parents for multiple reasons, here are three:
1. Parents writing about their children without permission
If you want to do better by Autistic people, talk to us, not our parents. And if an article that you come across is from a parent, autistic or not….they do not have the right to talk about their child’s private struggles and experiences and make it about them.
2. Parent stories dehumanize their children
I often find parents of kids with disabilities to be the worst offenders. They have little respect for adults with the same disability at their own children have, which is commonly espoused in what they write on this site.
3. Parents don’t make good authors
So, for point 1: everyone complaining about that is making an assumption. Point 2: if a parent writes anything except light and sunshine, they are considered to be “dehumanizing their child.” Point 3: Excuse me?!
As a community who fights generalizations and stereotypes on a daily basis, there’s some serious over-simplification going on here.
Some parents do write WITH their children or at least with their approval. How about we ask before we jump to conclusions? For the younger ones, maybe that could be an issue, but as long as they are writing about their perspective, what they go through as a parent, I’m sorry, that’s their truth and they are allowed to tell it. I’m thoroughly confused how the same people who condemn “inspiration porn” for always showing happy moments to make others feel good about themselves, are the ones saying that parents don’t have a right to share difficult parenting moments because it reflects badly on the whole community or may offend someone. Yes, we need to be careful about “over-sharing” and telling stories that might embarrass our children – but there are ways to educate parents about the difference that don’t involve calling their humanity and parenting skills into question.
Many parents share their stories as a way to reach out to others. Part of the importance of sites like The Mighty is the community building and the sense of belonging it inspires. Narratives are a powerful way of connecting to others. I for one, would much rather have people connect and get support than try to face temporary difficulties with permanent solutions….
The third one is just plain wrong. I know several “mommy bloggers” who are fantastic writers. As a matter of fact, lots of authors have blogs to support and promote their books. There are places where talented people with disabilities, and their parents for that matter, can be paid for their work. Perhaps The Mighty does not need to be one of them. Perhaps, this one site can remain more of an open platform for non-professional writers – people who just need their voice to be heard.
Yes, there should be more stories written by persons with disabilities, but how many are actually submitted to The Mighty? I’ve seen some published, but without the numbers behind how many are submitted, who can say that the editors “prefer” parent stories?
Don’t get me wrong – the issues brought up by the activists using the hashtag are valid and important.
But, the editors at The Mighty have apologized, removed the post in question, and asked for input on how to move forward.
I can only hope that the conversation changes from, shaming to educating.