I often rant here about the stigma of mental illness. I get very upset, because it affects my daily life. It doesn't always feel like I am treated as an equal no matter how nice to me people are. Even if the people in my daily life are good to me, I hear horror stories about how the cops treat the mentally ill or hear the media saying something negative about us. A few weeks ago I was upset about feminism. In academia it is harder to be taken seriously as a female. The same level of work is graded differently for women and men, even by female teachers. There are simply higher expectations for women and if we cannot meet or exceed them, then academia is not meant for us. It is seen as a distraction from our true purpose: child rearing. When you are disabled like I am and can't really meet those standards and don't really want kids it is exhausting to try and keep up. Women know we are expected to do certain things and if we cannot do them we are outcasted or labeled rebels. I grew up in a dysfunctional house, so I never really learned how to be a good housewife. I could learn it on my own, but it is hard to learn new things as an adult. Eventually it starts a fight in every relationship I have had. Being different is not okay. Now since I am a single mentally ill female I have fallen into poverty. People look down on you and it is hard to get out. I get paid less than my male counterparts, though they are so poor too the difference is negligible. I can't afford rent in my home town, but it is also quite expensive to live here. I live with Mom who is also poor. We barely get by every month. I'm trying to work with a disability that is highly sensitive to stress. I have schizoaffective disorder, meaning I have depression with psychosis, which means when I get depressed there is no medication I can take for it. So those are my three social disadvantages. Some might argue being a white female is an advantage. Yes I have had the opportunity to marry a rich white man. But hearts don't love that way. From my perspective being objectified is not an advantage, so the fact we can bring a man to his knees when we are young is not an advantage, even if it is that's temporary at best. Being disabled and having that disability be a mental illness is a double disadvantage. We have the stigma of mental illness, then the reality of being disabled. Being poor is quite similar, people are nasty to you, plus you are poor and can't do much in a capitalist society. Most of us have this disadvantage and the numbers are growing. All of these share one trait they are differences from those in power. Today those in power are straight, cis, rich, white, healthy, men. So we have new disadvantages I haven't discussed. LGBT is a disadvantage I know little about, but hear about often. It includes the disadvantage of being anything outside your assigned gender roles. I lived in a black neighborhood for a while. Teenagers were constantly being harassed and talked down to by the police at the bus station. I see news reports all the time about innocent people getting beat up by the police. This isn't just a black eye, I mean beat up to the point they might have died. The pictures are always gory and the victims have PTSD. The cops are almost never held accountable even if the innocent victim does die. This has been happening for years, in a "free" "post racial" country. I'm upset, because for one I have empathy for them and secondly I am in a disadvantage group that is just as dehumanized (the mentally ill). Now those are the main disadvantages you might argue being something like an introvert is a disadvantage or being a nerd in a high school locker room, but these are the examples that seem to get the most press. Certainly being a punk or a goth might be a disadvantage. It isn't a disadvantage in the same way as the other ones I listed and the disadvantage disappears when you leave that subculture. Another disadvantage that really belongs to the disability or mental illness category is addiction, including alcoholism. If you include that as a disadvantage a good section of the population is disadvantaged, only they are in denial about it. Disadvantages affect our lives many ways. It can affect whether or not you get a job, a promotion or how well you are paid. It can affect how police interact with you, including the outcome of whether you end up with a hand shake and no charges or in prison beaten up for the same crime. It can affect your daily life whether you are heard in conversation, get to relax, or feel loved for who you are as a person. It can affect where you go in life whether you go to college, become working class, or collect disability. It can affect how you a treated by those around you, not for your actions, but simply for what your social disadvantage is.
So I can treat others as equals despite differences. I can be a little more understanding, knowing men can have a few of these disadvantages or ones I may have forgotten. We can realize even those without disadvantages suffer and might still have empathy for us. We can work on educating people so everyone is treated as an equal. We can realize those in power want to stay in power, so whatever efforts we make to be equal they will fight. Instead of fighting each other for being different we can unite and realize we are all a little different and accept each other. It sounds idealistic, but if the average person treated the average person a little better it would make a difference.
I end with how I have been treated by cops. I was in the hospital and I begged the security guard to hold my hand. I wasn't in reality, but my illness was frightening at that moment. I begged her for like twenty minutes, so finally she did. They asked me where I wanted to go when I was frightened by my neighbors coming to get me. None were even the slightest bit rude to me. I have even been rude to them at times, because I wasn't in reality, yet they remained professional and did their job. I actually have a positive experience with police and trust them. I even called them to tell them how good of a job they did handling the situation. So not every situation with the cops and the mentally ill is bad. Most of the time I imagine people have a similar experience to my own.