Saturday, August 26, 2023

What Advocacy Takes and Why We Need to Do It Anyway (Story Gallery)

Assorted Notes and Advocacy Stories

Adjusting Harmful Narratives

Response of "this is all we can feasibly do". Often means a tokenized support of "the most I can posture without inconveniencing myself". Plus context of empowerments and disempowerment. 

Can also investigate the misuse of the "healthy boundaries" concept to also justify non-action in response to injustice, again because is self-inconvenient.

Sexual Harassment in US Woman's Soccer League

Morgan, winner of this year's NWSL Golden Boot award, played a role in uncovering abuses in the NWSL cited in the investigation released this week

I just knew that he needed to be held accountable one day and that it would happen one day, but it took years for that to happen. ... It's just sad that it took years and years of us forcing people's hand to remove him from his position of power.

Lisa Baird's email back: "We're doing what we can. We'll look into it. We'll get back to you." Nothing.

So when this article was finally released and there's a sigh of relief on our side and just utter shock from the rest of the soccer community -- we had already known everything. We tried to give the league a chance and time again to do the right thing. I wanted so deeply for Lisa Baird to just stand up and say, "I'm sorry. I didn't do enough. I didn't look into enough. I trusted our general counsel, Lisa Levine, too much. We were too understaffed. We didn't have enough people in the room to really make calculated decisions," but she didn't. She said she was shocked and disgusted, and that was surprising because that was a lie.

UK Upskirting Campaign

Upskirting: 7 lessons activist Gina Martin learned during her campaign to make it a criminal offense

People would often put me on the front of newspapers because I was a white woman who wanted to change the law, but I wonder if the narrative would’ve been different if I wasn’t who I was?

“I had to fit campaigning around my full-time job which has seen me working on it from 5am before work and sitting up until 4am"

Civil Rights Movement


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Performative Non-Commitment DEI Case Study - Boston University School of Public Health

Below is an early work-in-progress attempting to document examples of deeply performative and tokenistic non-effort from health institutes who publicly declared commitment to inclusivity, DEI work, and said they highly valued community engagement.

This is not meant to shame. This is meant to ask and advocate for accountability on those promises. The lived experience, all along, has only ever wanted to be respectfully included and listened to in an empowered manner. That should not be such a hard ask to accommodate. 

Boston University School of Public Health (BUSHP)

This report is a follow-up to our spring outreach efforts asking U.S. health research programs to make good on public promises to develop meaningful partnerships with health stakeholder communities, especially those with lived experience. The following letter was sent once a week for six consecutive weeks to BUSHP leadership and never responded to. 

Letter to Boston University Asking for Co-Empowered Peer Inclusion in Public Health Research and Support Efforts

What then, has BUSHP done thus far to support DEI commitments? Let's look at 

May 24th, 2022 BUSPH Dean's Letter - Public Commitment to Anti-Racism 

"In the years since George Floyd’s murder, our school has worked to build on our longstanding engagement with the link between racism and health. We have welcomed lawmakers to our community to discuss antiracism as health policy, our scholars have engaged with the BU Center for Antiracist Research to continue this conversation, and our students, faculty, staff, and alumni work each day to shape a world free of racism and the poor health it creates."

1.5 Years Later, Only Two Miniscule Examples of DEI Curriculum Reform Initiatives

As of Aug 2023, the only two reported curriculum reform actions have been an assigned short faculty self-evaluation exercise and a "book of the year" program where a single book is chosen and sent out to incoming (first year) Masters of Public Health students. It is unclear if it is assigned reading versus merely being suggested. Details on both programs listed below. 

Syllabus Assessment Tool And Process

This initiative aims to provide instructors with guidance on how to engage effectively with DEIJ in the classroom. The goal of this process is for instructors to do a self-evaluation that will allow them to identify areas of strength and areas that can be improved towards ensuring that all our teaching aligns with our DEIJ goals. This process is non-evaluative and is meant to help guide faculty to improve their own courses. 

The complete tool can be found here for reference and for help while drafting responses, but all assessments must be formally submitted here.

SPH Reads

SPH Reads is a school-wide reading program hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It aims to encourage critical thought and discussion among all members of the BUSPH community, and is centered on a carefully chosen, thought-provoking book.

All incoming (first year) MPH students and core-course faculty are encouraged to read the selected book and will be provided with copies. Returning students, non-core curriculum faculty, and staff are encouraged to read the book. Throughout the year, beginning with Orientation, there will be opportunities to gather and talk about the issues presented in the book through lectures, seminars, and small discussion groups involving all members of the SPH community.

Community Suggested Reform Actions

This section is a work in progress and is a collaborative effort with dozens of lived experience communities representing thousands of currently marginalized peer voices. 

•  Hiring of lived experience approved curriculum assessment experts with authoritative control over course content themes, suggested readings, and assessment procedures to ensure compliance

•  Mandatory DEI professional development trainings led by lived experience approved trainers

•  Hiring of community approved lived experience course instructors 

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Sunday, August 13, 2023

Responsibility Hypocrisy 101

 Notes on a common dynamic I see...

Person A harms Person B. Person A says "hey person B, it's your responsibility to manage your reactions!"

Person B harms Person A: Person A says "hey person B, you have a responsibility for how your actions impact others!"

So which is it? Two directly opposing accountability systems being employed, leaving Person A never at fault and Person B always at fault.

What's a better way. I don't know what exactly we owe each other and that's a complex question humans have been trying to answer for over 4,000 years. I do think we can work from the edges (fix the worst systems), and the form of hypocrisy above is something I see employed almost everywhere. Complete shielding of "never my fault, always something or someone else's".

A related variant is the arrogance of "I take on only the fault I decide, using my value system alone and no-one else's". Why their value system alone? Why is their's automatically correct? Doesn't seem like a very just form of conflict resolution. And the common straw-man reply of "so I have no say at all, is that what you're asking of me" is not what's being said here either.

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This article brought to you by the currently unfunded Peer Voices Network.

Please consider donating to support this work. I am disabled, financially struggling, and am forced by existing social structures into producing content like this for free. I hope those with means and privilege will eventually shift priorities toward increased support for lived experience content generation and expertise sharing. Donations are never required and always appreciated.


I am also available for consultation work, curriculum development, trainings, etc.. I enjoy partnering with organizations on development of more accurate understandings of social reality.


I can be reached by email at peervoicesnetwork@gmail.com

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Photo by GDM on Unsplash

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

My Critiques of van der Kolk's Bestseller The Body Keeps Score

I have severe chronic emotional distress and trauma. When society wants to learn about that condition, one of the top resources they turn to is a book written by Bessel van der Kolk called The Body Keeps Score. It's spent over 248 weeks (almost five full years) on the NY Times Bestseller List.

It was written without the consent or input of myself and my peers. And it's dead wrong about a dozen different aspects of the painful condition I live with and van der Kolk doesn't. To be clear, Bessel had his own deeply hard life growing up in the Dutch famine surrounded by Holocaust survivors. That doesn't make him an expert on my life, yet that's the authority he claims and is celebrated for.

He wrote about me, without me. I'm here to correct the record. Here's three things van der Kolk gets fundamentally wrong about my emotional distress.

1) Too Much Emphasis on Past Trauma

Most of the modern trauma model is centered on an assumption of "it happened to you in the past and you're safe now". That's certainly true of some situations. But, for example, what about current domestic abuse victims? What about those experiencing ongoing racism every single day? What about the trauma of not past, but very current and present poverty?

That doesn't discount the existing work, nor the existence of a "trauma then, safe now" subset of mental health community needs. But the omission of current emotional distress from current, present stressors is glaring omission. And omission becomes a form of denial and oppression itself. When aspects of a full conversations are always and constantly excluded, it starts to sound like they don't exist at all. They aren't validated. They aren't helped. At worst, it leads to a climate where such experiences can be called non-existent. If they're not present in the top-ranked book on the subject, are you sure it's a real thing?

This is a problem. 

2) Too Much Emphasis on Individual-Focused Healing

Dovetailing in with point #1, van der Kolk is squarely centered is a vast overemphasis on "self journey of healing". Yes, that self journey might involve "treatment" help. But is squarely centered in the so-called medical model, which assumes that the person is the problem and that it's the person that needs to be fixed.

The book completely fails to co-diagnosing medical hypotheses alongside external social issues (the so-called social model) and point at least some causality and remedies at external factors. Instead, the entirety of modern conceptualization of trauma is explained as a solely and only medical issue.

This isn't to say there's no place for the medical model. But it's been swung much too far into a deeply oppressive, "don't blame society ever" mentality that at best, sometimes offers healing. And, at worst, is deeply victim-blaming and even directly abusive.

A useful story of a social model is Jane Goodman's work in Detroit during the auto collapse (can learn more in the 10 minute discussion here, 5 min to 16 min mark). There was widespread depression and rather than offer brain hacks, DBT, EMDR, pills, etc., she correctly assessed the problem was that there were no jobs. And she herself took the initiative to contact local community colleges and start up job retraining programs. She diagnosed a social structure root cause, and developed a social structure treatment.

Semi-famously, van der Kolk's former work partner Judith Herman directly critiqued him on this, and he ignored her.

3) Lack of Respect for the Hard Problem of Consciousness

What is this odd sounding phrase? Coined by David Chalmers, the Hard Problem of Consciousness is a shorthand way to say that science has zero, none whatsoever, established consensus mechanism for how neural activity gives rise to higher-level cognitive functionality including emotions, personality, etc.

Saying "no mechanism", to be clear, does not mean "doesn't exist". I hate to discuss this in neurodiversity forums of all places, because a lynchpin of the ND movement is "our brains are wired that way". We can observe a thing, trust that our observations and the mountains of evidence of "hey, this is how how my mind seems to operate" are accurate while still lacking mechanistic explanation of exactly why it's happening. It's also fine to have theories. But, reports like below keep coming out all the time. The Duke article itself fails to acknowledge the hard problem of consciousness, but it does show the folly of extending neuroscience "findings" too far...


Another excellent read of the limits of mechanistic science when it comes to matters of the mind is this piece...



Concluding Thoughts

It is true that, for some, The Body Keeps Score has been a life-saving book. It is also true that while helping push trauma into the mainstream, it pushed some deeply harmful conceptualization of what trauma is and isn't along with the arguable positives.
 
I still don't have a foundational read to send you to for a respectful, non-oppressive view of trauma emotional distress. One that tries to keep the usefulness of existing tools. One that works to not invalidate and to protect success stories, however they came about. But also to build an understand that accounts for the rampant colonial ableism, sanism, racism, and sexism in modern psychology, behavioral science, and psychiatry. One that accounts for the bias of a Western neoliberal view on "health" on "functionality". One that understands and shows the nuances of science as a tool to a depth modern academics rarely seem to demonstrate skillfulness in operating with.

That book, I fear, hasn't quite been written yet. Bits and pieces exists, most certainly. This won't be built from scratch. But, for me at least, I can report that book that correctly explains me as I'd want to be explained hasn't been written yet. Even though hundreds of books that explain me in hurtful, bigoted, and erroneous ways certainly have. And it's those texts who's standards I'm held to. It's those books that failed attempts at help are based on. It's those books that are used to judge me in deeply oppressive ways.

I've asked for help in writing an accurate new set of texts, since it doesn't currently exist. And places like Harvard and the Trauma Research Foundation and Boston University keep refusing to help support my community in writing those text.

Note, for example, the polite letter for inclusion and support ignored by Boston University School of Public Health this spring.

I'm happy to help write this book. But I need funding. I need communal support. I need at least some parts of this world to not openly hate me, call me a danger, or call me delusional while attempting to do so.

Those rejecting experiences have been happening for 6+ years. And it is those experiences, and not my original issues, that have led to the worst mental health of my life. These are experiences that have been ignored and denied directly because people read books like The Body Keeps Score while the book that's about me, as I'd choose to be seen, doesn't yet exist. 

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This article brought to you by the currently unfunded Peer Voices Network.

Please consider donating to support this work. I am disabled, financially struggling, and am forced by existing social structures into producing content like this for free. I hope those with means and privilege will eventually shift priorities toward increased support for lived experience content generation and expertise sharing. Donations are never required and always appreciated.


I am also available for consultation work, curriculum development, trainings, etc.. I enjoy partnering with organizations on development of more accurate understandings of social reality.


I can be reached by email at peervoicesnetwork@gmail.com

* * *