As a result of increased traffic in recent months, we’ve seen an increase in the volume of comments we’ve received. While we’re incredibly grateful that people are taking the time to read our posts and to engage our thoughts and experiences, it’s now time to begin framing a robust comments policy to ensure that the comments we publish are consistent with our goals for the site and for the community that has begun to coalesce around it.
Here’s the basic contention:
This space is a space where disabled and chronically ill students and academics – primarily PhD, but not limited to this – are invited to post their experiences, stories and thoughts arising from the conjunction of being disabled or chronically ill and navigating the demands of academic life. This is not an easy thing to do, especially since many students may have experienced years of discrimination and marginalization from individuals and institutions, and can be especially difficult when someone’s experiences involve multiple and intersecting oppressions.
Consequently, this space needs to be as safe a space as we can muster for our original posters and the community that supports them. While this community includes non-disabled academics – and we are very pleased that they are willing to listen, to learn, and to join us in challenging and dismantling pervasive institutional dis/ableism – there are too few spaces online or offline that offer a safe space for frank discussion between disabled and chronically ill scholars without the sting of dis/ableist (or other) microaggressions or over prejudice.
In short, we’d like this to be a place where we can say, especially to disabled and chronically ill folk:
Do read the comments.
With this in mind, we will not be posting comments that:
- Offer medical advice. As we’ve said elsewhere, disabled and chronically ill folks experience a lot of people trying to helpfully fix their conditions by offering medical solutions that might improve their health. We work from the presumption that it’s not a person’s health that needs to change, but the institutional structures that facilitate achievement of academic qualifications and career progression whatever that person’s health or disability status. Here are some examples of comments that we’ve been unable to post on this basis:
- Undermine, devalue or otherwise dehumanize the poster or other commenters on the blog. This extends to cover any sexist, racist, dis/ableist, classist, cissexist, or heterosexist comments including overt expressions of prejudice or subtle forms of micro-aggression. This includes any comments that seek to flatly deny the experiences offered by the original poster. Here’s looking at you, abled.
Here’s a recent example of an overtly sexist comment we won’t be posting:
- Include words or phrases that could plausibly be considered slurs to members of oppressed groups. Particularly common culprits are words like “crazy”, “idiot”, “stupid”, “insane” which are considered by many disabled folk to be dis/ableist slurs. If your comment is otherwise good, we may edit out the offending word. If we do this, please don’t complain about censorship and instead check your own language use. This can be hard, and we’ve got this wrong in the past. But we’re trying, and we’d appreciate you trying too.
- Perpetrate or perpetuate “inspiration porn” responses to disability. We are all strong, and brave, and inspiring, whether or not we are disabled. Or we’re not. But we’re not those things because we’re disabled and chronically ill, and we’re really tired of hearing that we are.
- However well-intended, offer facile injunctions to “be strong” or, conversely, to “give up fighting” academia. The system is broken. It’s really hard. Strength, resilience, persistence, determination, and gritted teeth are qualities that are demanded of disabled and chronically ill folk trying to get through academia, and elsewhere. But this sort of advice doesn’t continue the conversation, and constitutes a kind of non-advice that’s rarely helpful for anyone.
We welcome comments that:
- Offer solidarity to original posters by sharing similar experiences to support the collective recognition that even though #academicableism can be an incredibly isolating experience, more often than not there are others out there who’ve experienced similar.
- Offer advice where requested by the original poster. Sometimes we like advice. Sometimes we don’t know what to do, or who to talk to, and we need your help. But please reserve your advice for instances in which it is requested.
- Charitably offer critical analysis, argument or other discussion to develop the arguments offered by original posters, where appropriate.
This comments policy is subject to continual review and revision, and we’ll let you know when this happens. We haven’t got all the answers, there is nothing quite like us on the internet, so we’re having to work it out as we go.
We welcome constructive feedback and suggestions from the community to help us figure this out, especially links to existing comments policies on other blogs that might provide a useful model or other insights.