Mental Illness is Not a Joke
I’m good with being insulted (especially when I couldn’t care less about the person insulting me). I’d much rather an opponent call a spade a spade than engage in intellectual dishonesty and insipid sophistry. You want to call me a ‘bitch’ or a ‘cunt’ be my guest. I’ve been called worse by better. Have at it. Then maybe we can get down to discussing ideas.
That being said, I’ve been noticing a theme in the way women are insulted in our communities, attacked and vilified that I want to call out. This may be happening to men (and other genders) too, but I’ve specifically seen it with myself and other women and it’s pretty foul. I’d been meaning to write something about it for awhile now, but it kept getting pushed to the back burner and honestly I forgot until yesterday when, in the midst of internet bickering, an otherwise educated woman did the same thing. What you may ask? I’m talking about using the threat or attack that I (or whomever they happen to be talking about) is “mentally ill” because we happen to disagree on an issue.
I might also point out that social justice advocates on the left and people of otherwise fair integrity on the right seem to have zero problems with this behavior. Folks, I’ve done pastoral counseling for twenty five years and I’ve counseled people who struggle with ferocious bravery with mental illness every day of their lives, who accomplish amazing things against devastating odds, and who suffer quite often in silent agony because of bad brain chemistry. It’s not ok to reduce that to an insult. In fact, it’s really, really foul.
Firstly, it stigmatizes and plays off the stigma of being mentally ill. People with mental illness already fight an uphill battle every day because of the social stigma they face. That stigma, in the words of one of my clients, can be soul-crushing.
Secondly, it’s incredibly dishonest. If you’re not a mental health professional you are misusing medical terminology. And if you are a mental health professional but haven’t done in-person intake on the object of your derision, then you’re committing an ethical violation (Jill, I’m talking to you).
Thirdly, let’s look at exactly what you’re attempting to do: you have a woman with whose opinion you disagree so to discredit not the opinion but the woman herself, you’re calling her [hysterical? Overly emotional? Unbalanced? Illogical?] mentally ill. Because you don’t have the courage to use a real insult, nor the intellectual acumen to handle having someone voice a different opinion with which you must then engage, you would rather piss on a whole group of people with an unseen illness. How brave of you (and yes, I’m being sarcastic).
I first noticed this behavior in Heathenry, when those of us who espoused more mystical or experiential devotion would run up against those who would rather see the religion stripped of those things. A certain type of Heathen would run up against incredibly intense religious experience outside of the realm of their quotidian lives and (whether because they honestly though this or in order to bat it away and demonize it) would refer to whomever was expressing that as “insane” or “mentally ill.” (Go check out my Odin video on youtube for a perfect example or just take a meandering walk through the archives of asatrulore. The latter is a pretty filthy place though. Gird yourselves). This isn’t new, mind you. I’ve read accounts of in-fighting between different Christian denominations in the second, third, and fourth centuries that point to exactly the same thing: accusations of either mental illness or sexual immorality against one’s opponents in religious discourse (we see that second one too, quite a bit). At first I only saw this in Heathenry but then I started seeing it in the anti-polytheist camp as well.
This is not ok. It is not ok to take the suffering of an incredibly vulnerable group of people and use that to score an insult. If you just can’t stand it and an insult is needed (I get that) have the courage to step up and call your opponent a cunt instead. It’s so much more preferable than this.