Before That Moment

[TW for ableism.]

My primary job is in apartment management, and last week I was sent to a three-hour training on the Fair Housing Act. One of the most important aspects of the Act is something that rings familiar to most: "It is illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin."

The real estate lawyer giving the presentation used a variety of examples to show what was and wasn't against the law; for example, a property that disallows all pets refused to allow a disabled tenant to have a companion animal as recommended by a doctor. That's discrimination based on handicap, and the tenant was awarded thousands of dollars in reparations.

Interestingly, much of the discussion focused on ableism, including mental illness. Schizophrenia was mentioned, as was bipolar disorder. Throughout, the presenter was sensitive and used generally acceptable language when discussing these things.

Then, completely out of the blue, he used the term "crazy" to refer to something entirely unrelated to mental illness.

Before that moment, I knew that "crazy" is an inappropriate word to use, at least in the way most of society uses it: "It's crazy to try the black diamond slope if you've never been skiing before!" "You want to study advanced physics? Are you crazy?"

Something about the disingenuity of his use of the term really struck home for me. He was talking about how very wrong it is to discriminate against the disabled, and then in the same breath used language that encourages marginalization of the same population.

"Disabled people deserve to be treated equally with the able-bodied. You would have to be crazy not to."

Before that moment, I didn't quite get it. And then, it clicked. Instead of token, not-quite-getting-it outrage, I felt genuine outrage, and hurt, and simultaneously amazement at my realization.

I guess my feminism leveled up.

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