If you hang around my corner of the interwebs, you hear about ableism a LOT.
And it’s for good reason—because nearly everywhere else on the interwebs completely ignores ableism.
But lately, I’ve noticed a lot of perfectionist views on ableism.
There are a lot of people who hold pride in being not-ableist, and they believe they are doing anti-ableism right…
And everyone who does the tiniest of microaggression is an ableist jerk who needs to instantly be corrected, often harshly.
And I’m not going to lie, I don’t blame them.
It is wrong to be ableist, even if accidentally. And it isn’t a bad thing to call out and correct ableism when you see it.
That being said… We need to rethink the expectation of perfection when it comes to ableism, so that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
We Need to Talk About Ableism & Perfection
If we haven’t met yet, hey friend, I’m Kaylene.
I’m an Autistic mom of 6 neurodivergent kids, parent coach, and creator of Embracing Autism and Autism Journey Collective.
I help parents of Autistic children accommodate their child, balance their family lives, and change society for their Autistic child and all Autistics.
If you’re tired of the conflicting information out there about how you should parent your Autistic child, I’m here to help.
Now that we’ve met, let’s dive into what exactly ableism is (because trust me, you didn’t learn this at school).
What is Ableism
Ableism is essentially the discriminatory actions or attitudes toward disabled people.
This can also include actions or attitudes that highlight abled people as preferred or even the default, while seeing disabled people as “other” or “broken”.
When a disabled person is ableist, it is often referred to as “internalized ableism” and it happens when disabled people internalize the lessons from our ableist society and believe them as true.
Because unfortunately, ableism is absolutely everywhere in our society.
(Related: The Ridiculously Simple Way to Know If Something is Ableist)
Online you will see references to ableist language, ableist societal expectations, or ableist belief systems.
Disabled advocates and allies to the disabled community will often call out ableism and educate on why something is ableist.
And while it can feel embarassing to have our own ableism pointed out, there’s a really important reason that it’s happening.
We Expect Perfection With Ableism
There are certain topics where even a little bit wrong makes a big negative impact.
- Being just a little sexist is wrong.
- Being just a little homophobic is wrong.
- Being just a little racist is wrong.
- Being just a little transphobic is wrong.
Doing something that harms a marginalized community, even if it’s only a little bit and even if you didn’t realize the harm, is wrong.
So this post isn’t going to say that advocates and allies should let microaggressions slide. We shouldn’t.
The only way our society becomes less ableist is for advocates and allies to point out ableism when we see it and educate about it.
(Related: What Happens When Parents Listen to Autistic Adults)
That being said, when we expect perfection from the get-go, we can miss the progress that’s being made.
Beyond that, it can lead people to feel like there is no point in trying because they will always get it wrong.
Perfection With Ableism is Impossible
The fact is, it is impossible to be perfectly anti-ableist all the time.
We all have ableist beliefs and ideas engrained in us because of our ableist and capitalist society, and it takes time to recognize and tear down those beliefs.
So what would happen if instead of expecting perfection, we expected continual growth?
What if we celebrated progress, and helped people find their next step toward becoming anti-ableist and an ally?
(Related: Stop Telling Me You’re Not Ableist and Start Doing This Instead)
If our goal is to create an anti-ableist society, I believe that educating people about ableism is the key.
Not shaming them for not already knowing how to do it.
Now, this takes way more energy and way more spoons… And I don’t blame a single disabled advocate who doesn’t have the time, energy, or patience, or plain doesn’t want to educate in this way.
Disabled people do not owe our time, emotional labor, or energy to educating ableist people.
- But if you are an advocate who is seeking to educate…
- If you are an ally who wants to take the burden off disabled people…
- If you have the spoons to navigate these murky waters…
I encourage you to look for progress and growth when it comes to ableism, not perfection.
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