While I must duly note here that I still love and support all those who are different from me, I absolutely loathe awareness months. I have always chipped in in the past when the awareness issue had to deal with something I had to deal with in my life – family, friend, self. But that stops now. For two paradoxical reasons.
First, awareness months are not enough and awareness campaigns don’t work. I am an adult autist and this is autism awareness month. I wear my awareness shirts and NO ONE notices. Except people with that condition or status who do not need reminders, doctors and members of the police forces/TSA. And they treat me WORSE. Because they don’t know what autism is or means. So they tend to treat me as if I were retarded, crazy, or dangerous….in the most cloyingly, politically correct ways possible. And the months are not even exclusive. This is also
Animal Cruelty Prevention Month
Arab-American Month (United States)
Autism Awareness Month (Canada & United States)
Confederate History Month (United States)
Earth Month (Canada & United States)
Financial Literacy Month
Jazz Appreciation Month
Mathematics Awareness Month
Month of the Young Child
Month of the Military Child
National 9-1-1 Education Month
National Child Abuse Prevention Month
National Poetry Month
National Volunteer Month
Parkinson’s Awareness Month
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month
Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month
National Lawn Care Month
Alcohol Awareness Month
National Donate Life Month
National Facial Protection Month
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Month
National Minority Health Month
Occupational Therapy Month
National Sarcoidosis Awareness Month
STI Awareness Month
Sports Eye Safety Awareness Month
Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month
National Public Health Week (first full week of April)
Minority Cancer Awareness Week (second full week of April)
National Infertility Awareness Week (last full week of April)
Every Kid Healthy Week (last full week of April)
World Immunization Week (last week of April)
National Infant Immunization Week (generally last week of April)
Air Quality Awareness Week (last week of April)
If we wanted Awareness campaigns to actually work – they’d be exclusive, they’d be genuinely educational, they’d be at least a YEAR long and they would involve actual events in EVERY media and every forum open to the public and on the scale of Taylor Swift concerts or the Superbowl.
And secondly, the other reason I can’t support these campaigns in good faith anymore is even simpler, they tend to have the WRONG emphasis. They tend to suggest that people with these disorders or issues are somehow special and that they are more deserving than the norm and that lends itself to abuses ON BOTH SIDES.
As an autist who was not “autistic enough” despite three independent diagnoses and my membership on two research boards and was thus removed from more than one autism rally, and as a gay male who was not “gay enough” and was thus bullied at another rally I really have to protest this “better than thou, more than thou” attitude among the communities themselves. YES, we are all different from the mainstream but there are levels and degrees of differentness and the whole point of these awareness things is to promote differentness and to create acceptance of people based on what we have in common -that we are all living, breathing, thinking and feeling beings – not to create even further factions in the community.
And labels are always bad. People are NOT things and labeling them tends to render them such.
Even if it is a “qualitatively good” label (no such thing) like “patient” which allows the medical establishment to make people files and dehumanize treatment or worse yet generalize it as if all autists, all people with MS, and all people with cancer are the same and will benefit from the same treatment or “victim” which allows the people in power to rob the injured person of respect or humanity and allows things like rape culture to continue or even “invalid” which equals literally translates to “not valid” which allows “healthy” people to look down upon and ill treat those who are different from themselves.
Even the LGBTQIA or the racial or religious labels are stupid and dangerous as they allow such bullshit as HB2 or Jim Crow laws or acts terrorizing innocent Muslims to exist since we – NOTE THE WE, all humans, all one – are outside the “norm” and thus subject to different rules. So idea that labels are ever helpful is something I can’t let pass.
My issue here is that these are STILL arbitrary labels. Even ones like sexist, bigot, murderer and rapist. Who assigns these labels and in what context really really matters.
I have encountered feminists who bloody hate me despite who I am because I do not feel that just having a uterus makes one special (or having a penis either). I am also aware of the data on abuse towards men. By women. And I’m aware of the serial bombers who blew up abortion clinics with a good deal of success because they – all three of them – were women and thus were capable of getting into clinics with greater ease due to their dick free status.
And a murderer is not a murderer unless proven so in a court of law. Same for a rapist. Innocent until proven guilty. Unlike the typically American (sadly) way of doing things. Even bad people should not be labeled as the labels are misleading and often cumbersome. I read an entire book by a psychologist who deals with career felons and who said that he hated labels as they were dangerous. Take the case he gave of his interviews with a “RAPIST/MURDERER” and a “MURDER/RAPIST'”. Yes that makes a difference. The first man was a rapist who killed his victims after the fact to hide the crime…and who did not always kill his victims. The power conquest of rape was enough. The second man killed his victims before he raped them. For him the thrill came with death. So the first man was far less dangerous to his keepers and could be held in minimum security and the second man had to be chained to a wall at all times. As the psychologist pointed out – he had to learn what these file labels meant and life would have been far simpler if someone had just told him that individual prisoner a was dangerous and individual prisoner b was not. He went on to say that this labeling also made it difficult for him to consider treatment approaches as he went in with all kinds of misconceptions about what the labels meant as he had not encountered them before and they were specific, biased, and cliquish.
And all labels, this serious or the far more innocuous ones, share these traits.
That’s why I object to them.
Even “bigot” is dangerous as prejudice against the prejudiced is still prejudice. And by isolating them, labeling them, and making them other we are tacitly giving up our rights and our ability to educate them and aid them in actually constructive ways not by awareness month propaganda but by getting to know them on a one on one basis and thus relating to them as people so that they can get to know us and learn about us even as we might learn about them.
Alexander the Great conquered and kept the Persian people not by treating them as other but by learning about them and by using their traits to add to his whole.
The lesson here should be that people are people are people and any judgments made should be made only on a case by case basis and only if the person is demonstrably a hazard to themselves or others. Period.