Ableism

The following article by Autistic Hoya was included in today’s Psychopathic Times. It is very politically correct but I decided to reblog it because it discusses concepts like psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder in interesting ways. Some people I know would do well to read this. NOTE: I will be adding emphasis to certain passages. I made some sentences RED for emphasis. I particularly like the point about professionals labeling people who don’t submit to their authority as suffering from “antisocial personality disorder.” I have long held that these concepts support the mainstream values of society. Resistance is a form of “mental illness.”


Vigil 2013.png
“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.” — Arundhati Roy

24 September 2013

Psychopathy: Racism and Ableism from the Medical-Industrial Complex

Trigger warning/Content: Disability-related slurs and other ableist language, mention of rape, racism, and ableism.

Edit: In the original post, I neglected to ntion the connections between Antisocial Prsonality Disorder and Cnduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Dsorder, nd structural racism, sxism, and ableism. typos b/c eited from pphone.

Psychopathy: Racism and Ableism from the Medical-Industrial Complex

When we commit to examining our language and our ideas and deconstructing the ableism we find in them, we must make a full commitment, no partial or half-hearted commitments allowed. When we stop using “autistic” and “retarded” as insults, when we realize the urgent need to stop scapegoating mass murder and rape on “mental illness” and “emotional instability,” when we learn to stop referring to our political opponents as “blind,” “deaf,” or “crippled” in their ideologies, we must also critically re-examine our use of the psychopathy label.

This constructed term of art does not in fact refer to an accepted diagnostic label in psychiatry or psychology. In the recently-replaced DSM-IV (the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the closest label was “Antisocial Personality Disorder,” a diagnosis that still exists in the current DSM-5. The DSM-5 also contains the newly created diagnosis of Conduct Disorder. The diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder and Conduct Disorder come perhaps the closest to the lay definition for psychopathy that is usually intended when the term is invoked.

The lay definition for psychopathy typically goes like this:
Someone who has little or no empathy for other people and no real control over their behavior.

Psychopathy is usually invoked when referring to either

  1. violent people, such as murderers, serial killers, school shooters, terrorists, or rapists, either by the mass media or by legal professionals, including prosecuting and defense attorneys, judges, sentencing advocates, probation and parole officers, and corrections officers and prison guards
  2. other disabled people, such as autistics, people with mental health or psychiatric disabilities, or learning disabilities (though usually when a person in this group has been accused of or formally charged with a crime)
  3. members of oppressive classes, such as wealthy people, cisgender men, or abled people, and especially when the member of the oppressive class is in a position of political power in addition to apolitical structural power

Yet, as noted before, psychopathy is not even a medical or psychiatric diagnosis. It doesn’t exist in the DSM-IV nor does it exist in the DSM-5, and as much as I hate lending any further credence to the medical-industrial complex’s state-sanctioned and socially-approved authority, this is important to recognize. Even the medical-industrial complex does not officially recognize psychopathy as a diagnosis. 

On the other hand, Antisocial Personality Disorder is recognized as a psychiatric diagnosis by the medical establishment. And who are the people typically diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder? They are overwhelmingly poor students of color who frequently have other disabilities. Antisocial Personality Disorder, the diagnostic category that comes closest to approximating the lay definition of “psychopathy,” is a tool for criminalizing poverty, blackness and brownness, and disability. It is the diagnostic label to legitimize non-compliance as a mental health problem.

Refusal to take psychiatric medications? Non-compliant. Doing poorly in math class? Non-compliant. Stimming in public? Non-compliant.

If you are non-compliant, you are anti-social. You are mentally ill. You have Antisocial Personality Disorder. You are a psychopath.

The language of pathology, of mental illness, of disease, of disability, has long been used to reinforce existing structural oppressions like racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, binarism, cissexism, and ableism. I spoke at UC Berkeley this past Friday on the need to recognize and move beyond ableist metaphor. Ableist metaphor is all-pervasive in public discourse, in academia, in grassroots organizing, in progressive and radical movements as well as in conservative, neoliberal, and nationalist movements. Ableist metaphor draws on the language of disability to characterize, to denigrate, to attack, to rhetoricize, to politicize — and it does so based on the presumption that deviation from typical thought, movement, emotional processing, communication, bodily/mental functioning, learning, remembering, sensing is evidence of defect, deficiency, disorder, and ultimately, moral failure. And if this is so, then it is certainly justifiable to refer to one’s political opponents as blind or deaf to progressive ideas, or to refer to structures like capitalism or anarchy as social diseases, or to refer to violence visited either by individuals or oppressive systems as evidence of psychopathy.

To use psychopathy as the lens through which one views systemic or individual violence — the violence of capitalism or patriarchy, for example, or the violence of a single serial killer or rapist — is to reinforce the structural power of the medical-industrial complex, and to do so at the expense of disabled people, poor people, and people of color who have been victimized by the labels of non-compliant, anti-social, and psychopathic.

To defend the use of this term as medically accurate is to imply that you have knowledge that an individual has been medically assessed as and diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder or Conduct Disorder, which in itself, cedes control and power to the psychiatric establishment and the medical-industrial complex. It presumes personal medical knowledge, it reinforces the creative fictions of these diagnostic labels, and it enables the systems of violence that use the language of disability to pathologize and ultimately, to dehumanize.

Be precise in your language, and say that oppressive structures are violent and manipulative. Say that those who abuse their structural positions of power act with reckless disregard for other human beings. Say that they are callous and unabashedly wielding the power that comes with their privilege.

But don’t call them psychopaths.

I’ve experienced enough ableism in my life to last me several lifetimes. I don’t need fellow radicals feeding into ableism.

2 thoughts on “Ableism

  1. I am reminded of R.D. Laing’s opinion that too much of psychiatric treatment and therapy makes the mistake of treating as an individual malfunction a problem more appropriately addressed by social and political action.

    As for non-compliance, which is more mad for someone who has suffered abuse by authority figures, to meekly and automatically submit and comply with every demand, or to resist and demand that the supposed authority and healer prove they are worthy of trust?

    Liked by 1 person

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