So, when there was a big conflict at a site called The Mighty I didn't jump right into the mix right away. I did read about it before the stories started getting to ripe with emotion, and facts got too bent out of shape. Though, I was never able to read the actual article that set off the whole controversy, I do know that the author is autistic. If I recall, she was even new to blogging, but I may be mistaken there. In any event, that was what I knew about the situation that escalated into hashtags, and open letters, the whole 9 yards.
As the day wore on more people tweeted, and more people blogged. Mobs of people gathered to express their outrage at this author, and at this article. At first, I read that no one cares if she's autistic, too, she shouldn't have written what what she did, and The Mighty should never have published it. Then, people demanded an apology, which was given by The Mighty I don't think most accepted it. I think it was sincere, but it was beside the point to me.
In my opinion the whole campaign was justified, but left of center.
Let me explain why.
First of all, I feel like the anger, and resentment had it's place, but it was not this new blogger's doing. I felt like she really bore the brunt of what The Mighty had coming to them for awhile. Maybe she wrote something that was taken the wrong way, or her sense of humor was not expressed well. It's not exactly unheard of for autistics to have that problem, and to nail her to the wall like that, I felt was too much. To know a person has a disorder, or condition, or whatever term you prefer to call it, and not give them any benefit of the doubt is wrong. Some of the memes, and writings I saw about her were downright hateful, and that is not okay. Autstic people make social mistakes. She was never even given an opportunity to apologize, or make anything right before angry activists wanted her head.
What really confused me was why this article over any other? I have read articles on The Mighty that have made my jaw drop. Some have made me audibly gasp in shock over just how ableist they are. So many, in fact that I don't follow them. I can't. It's not just the awful articles, but the comments underneath. Truly awful.
How does that seem to occur so often, though? If The Mighty is truly about integrity, then how do so many articles get published that rub those in the disability community the wrong way? Have you ever wondered why so many of the published articles seem so shiny, and full of inspiration?
Let me tell you.
It's because if you are a "contributor" (that's what they call people that write for them) The Mighty will send you a monthly email with several topics to write about. They like to call them challenges. They look like this: (copied, and pasted straight from my email.)
1. What’s one secret or truth you wish you could tell others about your experience with disability, disease or illness?
2. Tell us about a moment of kindness that moved you as someone living with a disability, disease or illness. Did someone show you compassion or patience when you really needed it?
3. Write a letter to the parents of a child with your disability, disease or illness. What do you wish they knew or better understood? What words of advice would you offer based on your own experiences?
While on the surface there doesn't seem to be anything all that bad about that, right? Well, hold on, actually there is.
The reason I get the email is because The Mighty has published one of my pieces after I was asked by one of their editors if they could. They approached me, and it was an entry that I had already written, so I didn't see the harm in it. Then, I get the monthly email that contains some ideas for material they're looking for. That didn't sit well with me. It felt like an assignment. Yes, an assignment that was totally optional, but no pay was coming my way by the end of the day one way or another.
But, the questions. They made me uncomfortable. I have put off writing about this particular part, because I can't really put my finger on why. The questions by, and large is what is generating the content, and it makes me feel.... just wrong. I feel like I'm being used. I feel like because we live in a social media driven society where people want their feels on the quick I'm being asked to expose my deepest, most vulnerable parts of who I am, and condense it into a short, positive article that leaves people going "awww." when they're done reading it.
The article I submitted? It was not positive. It was very personal. It was long. It got almost no attention on their site. It's not likely due to my writing, because it has done quite well on my blog. It was that odd, dark little piece that no one wanted to read on The Mighty when they could get their fuzzy on somewhere else.
The Mighty wants to know what they can do to be better. Their whole platform has to shift, and I don't know if they'd be willing to do that, because they're going to risk losing a lot of readers. Real life, and real stories aren't so superficial.I don't know what will happen in the coming days. If anything will change within that site, or not. Maybe, everyone will forget about it next week. Maybe, you'll all want my head on a stick by tomorrow for this. Change needs to happen, and I hope it does.
P.S. If the blogger that wrote that article is reading this, let me extend my apologies to you. I'm sorry. I do think the anger was misdirected.