The Ableism after UMD Delta Gamma’s Ableism

In case you haven’t heard the news about an email that circulated among the University of Maryland chapter of Delta Gamma, let me give you a roundup of links about it.

The Most Deranged Sorority Girl Email You Will Ever Read (Gawker)

Delta Gamma Sorority Girl Email From University of Maryland is Insane and Amazing (Huffington Post)

Being ‘Sweet and Nice’ is Driving the DG Sorority Sisters at Maryland to Madness (The Atlantic Wire)

UMD Delta Gammas “LITERALLY” Lay Down the Law in Psychotic Email (Guest of a Guest)

Should we even dwell on the vile email? From the assumption of compulsory heterosexuality (“I would rather have 40 girls that are fun, talk to boys, and not fucking awkward than 80 that are fucking faggots”) to the seemingly thoughtless albeism (“Are you people fucking retarded? That’s not a rhetorical question, I LITERALLY want you to email me back telling me if you’re mentally slow so I can make sure you don’t go to anymore night time events”), it might actually be best if we don’t try to unpack the email at all. What is there to say?

But let’s pause to notice the titles of the links above, from some of the most popular sites that reported on the email.

See a pattern?

Even when we do our best to take down the vile spew, we resort to ableism. And here it appears as an implicit eschewing of mental disability. This is partly because – as David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder have told us – disability is often a prosthetic that gets grafted on in other domains. In many ways, it’s built into the way we talk. “That article,” you could imagine a friend saying, “could not have been lamer.”

In this case, it seems to be even worse that the authors made no effort to engage with mental disability. At a time when gun legislation across the country is often crudely equating mental illness with the potential for violence, don’t we have an obligation to be a bit more sophisticated in how we think about things like “mental well being,” as Gawker so poorly put it?

Maybe we can imagine for a second what it would actually mean to take mental disability seriously here. What if a sorority sister at UMD really did – “LITERALLY” – reply to the email, admitting that she was diagnosed with a learning disability when she was young, that she has registered with the disability services office, but is still afraid of admitting that she could be labeled as “disabled”? And what if the author of the email truly is “psychotic,” feels completely overwhelmed by the stresses and challenges of daily college life, and is coping with a waxing sense that her mind is touched with fire?

What then?

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