[trigger warning: ableism] I’ve started to realize that any intelligence judgment is inherently ableist…
…and possibly classist, and usually racist and/or sexist. “Intelligence” as a concept has been determined by privileged, nondisabled upper class hetero white men. The entire canon of psychology and mental illness literature is 99% people like that.
When a person uses words that judge intelligence like idiot, stupid, dumb, etc., it is about a very specific type of “intelligence”; that is, the socially accepted kind. There’s no room for people who experience the world differently, such as autistic people or people with PTSD.
An example: Sometimes I hang out with some people who like to play board games. There are occasional moments when I just totally blank and forget some rule for my turn. It’s a combination of PTSD and depression causing some cognitive dissonance, so I need a moment to “catch my breath” and think. But because my type of intelligence or processing the world is generally not accepted, I’m rushed into going ahead and playing— which means I usually end up making a mistake and looking a fool.
I know people with Fibro and other chronic issues which create problems like sensory overload or “brain fog”…and these people are incredibly intelligent. It’s just that the society around them does not have space for the different ways in which they approach the world.
There’s also some long histories and traditions of lack-of-intelligence-or-“sense” being prescribed on People of Color, women, and non-heterosexual and non-binary people. It is all there— if you’re not white and hetero, you or people before you have probably been called “crazy”. And it’s not like it is just simple name-calling; a lot of people have been tortured, maimed, and killed for being different. If you are into social justice of any kind, you should be concerned about how intelligence and mental disorder are prescribed to discredit and hurt minority peoples.
So yeah. I’ve begun to question it any time I see intelligence judgements (especially in politics, those happen ALL of the time with democrats and republicans). Because ignorance is not mental illness. Bigotry and hate is not mental illness. People doing what you don’t like is not mental illness either. And some of us aren’t even ill, we’re just different.
This! I grew up with ADD, and I still suffer from it! I don’t really like going into all of the details because it’s very painful for me, but having a learning disability has made my life very difficult! I am perfectly capable of comprehending things, but I often have a block when it comes to executing things. I need to pause for much longer and I like thinking things through thoroughly. However, it led to a lot of misunderstanding, both of my mental illness and of my capabilities, and thoughtless actions on the part of many, many teachers. (Some of which were quite mentally abusive toward me as a child.) I was told by one of them that I was stupid and that pain has remained with me my entire life.
I became obsessed with proving them wrong, and by middle school and high school I was in the advanced and AP courses, rather than resource as I had been in grade school. I still struggled through my classes, though.
It became such an obsession with me that I was terrified of losing that ‘intelligence’. I was terrified of making a single mistake. Of screwing everything up and inciting the hate of my instructors. It got to the point that, because of my anxiety, I couldn’t complete my work at all because I was afraid I’d mess up. (Though there were a number of other factors in my educational struggles, too - extreme shyness and inability to work in group projects being one of them.) To add to the matter, at sixteen, I dealt with two deaths in my family, as well as some surgeries that kept me out of school for almost a year, and I fell into a really deep depression!
I narrowly graduated, only due to my position as an editor and columnist on my student paper, and I struggled for a really long time in trying to identify where I stood in terms of intelligence.
It was only about the time that I turned twenty that I became more comfortable with who I was. I know I’m different and it is perfectly okay to be different! ‘Intelligence’ is, as stated above, a construct created by privileged people, and it is impossible to ‘measure’ it.
To go on, though, thinking in a way that deviates from the norm should not be such a scary thing. IT IS OKAY. and I wish more people - especially those in positions of power - would recognize and acknowledge it as such.