How white privilege made my disability claim easier

Now that the endless humiliating monkey-dance is over, I thought it’d be instructive to examine the ways in which my white privilege made it easier than it would have been for a PoC.

We can start with my name: it’s a very white name, in all. Caitlin and Emily are my given names (taken names? I chose them, after all), and my last name is not among those which read as stereotypically belonging to a PoC. Many studies have shown the effect of applying for things with white names as opposed to names which read as belonging to a PoC: here is a link to one such, and another here from CBS that mentions Caitlin as one of the stereotypically white names.

While filling in the form, I benefit from my white privilege in easier access to post-secondary education, which shows as a tick-box (and this one will come back to make a bigger difference later!). My dialect of English (and as a native speaker) is close to the “standard” dialect hereabouts; I don’t need to code-switch or switch languages to be able to communicate in that “standard” dialect.

My education and dialect and skin colour helped me when I got to the appeals process too, because the other white people who helped me at the legal aid office will almost certainly have had their implicit biases in my favour – I’m less likely to be seen as a potential fraudster, because white supremacy teaches us that white people are more honest and trustworthy.

When I had my hearing, the day started off well when I was asked about my education history, and discovered that the person hearing the appeal had the same degree and alma mater that I did – so we bonded a little over the news, chatting about the difficulties of translation and what foreign languages we spoke. Once again my dialect’s closeness with the “standard” left me in a good place, speaking comfortably in a register that said “I’m your peer” to the tribune and the two counsels in the room – all white.

All these things have contributed to making what was a seriously unpleasant process much more pleasant than it could have been if I didn’t have that white privilege. And they’re all easily invisible to us as white people, unless we choose to see them.

Learn to recognize the ways in which white privilege makes your life easier if you’re white, and you can start to resist white supremacy. To be silent in the face of white supremacy is to uphold white supremacy.

Supernatural Re-watch, S1E7: Hook Man

Seventh episode overall, from October 25, 2005.


We’re in East Iowa this time, at a sorority party on a university campus. Some painful dialogue between the prudish white girl and her fabulously sassy Black roommate later, PrudishGirl (per the trope, not my judgement; I like the way she sets boundaries) is making out lightly with her boyfriend when she stops to check caller ID, not taking Dad’s calls. I’m gonna call it here, pal, she is really not that into you. If she can get away with not taking even her father’s (the preacher, we’ll find out shortly) calls, but still stops to check who it is? This is Not A Good Sign.

She checks him when he tries to slip her top off her shoulder, and she frowns a bit (told you, letter boy!), then we get to see the shiny old hook of a cloaked figure outside the car. As LetterBoy persists in overstepping her clear boundaries, she stops him again, more firmly this time, only for the hellish noise to start – a metal sign being gouged by the hook. Encroaching screechy noises get worse and worse as the kids are more confused than scared. LetterBoy gets out (he’s not actually wearing a letter sweater, but you know the sort), and as the noise gets closer to PG a few moments later, he disappears suddenly.

She steels herself to get out eventually, and gets to see LetterBoy hanging upside down from the nearby bridge.

Cut to Sam and Dean together at a hot dog stand, talking “about a hundred miles from here”, where an invisible attacker is reported; frustrated at not finding Dad, they figure they’ll look into the job. Pretexting as frat brothers transferring in, they crash the frat for info and some no-homo from Dean (gah), locating the church where PG (Lori Sorenson) is attending her father’s memorial service for the dead boy. Blah blah live on in spirit, blah blah life everlasting, et c.

Sam starts puppy-dogging Lori, and the details he turns up makes the two of them think they may have the original Hook Man on their hands. To the Archives, boys, and don’t spare the atmosphere!

Sam turns up a preacher from 1862 who killed thirteen sex workers in one night over his rage about their illicit behaviour. The place? 9 Mile Road, the same place where the latest murder happened. His weapon? A silver hook, replacing a hand lost to an accident.

Dad is unhappy about Lori going to her dorm to sleep, and fails to get her to change her mind. Inside the dorm, she finds scratches all around, and Taylor (the sassy Black roommate) fast asleep. Lori showers, while the boys check out 9 Mile Road and the bridge. We get introduced to the tequila shotties (the ones with the rock salt) – and the police staking out the spot. Oops.

Lori again, heading to bed, sees Taylor shift contentedly in her sleep. Cut to morning, Lori wakes to find the room all scratched up and Taylor slaughtered in her own bed. “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn the lights on?” is in the wall.

Boys leaving the police station crowing about getting off with a fine, they see 5-0 peeling out with lights and sirens. Following them, they find Lori’s dorm. Dean’s weird entitlement thing peeks out: he parks in the only place on the entire street where there is a fire hydrant. In an unlikely daylight break-in, they find the symbol confirming that it is the same preacher’s spirit. Dean’s got a parking ticket.

A party that night, Sam tells us he was a good scholar, not really a partier, and Dean is draping his 26-year-old eyes across every 18-year-old in the room in a totally not creepy way (hint: it really is kind of creepy, and gets only worse as the seasons go by and he gets older). Some lore Sam’s found makes them suspect Lori’s Dad, either summoning or haunted by a violent spirit. Sam watches Lori argue with her Dad, and Dean starts looking for the unmarked grave of the preacher. He finds the same symbol, by good luck, and starts doing what Winchesters do in cemeteries.

Back with Lori, Sam’s watching the house and Lori’s watching Sam, he puppy-dogs some more, they meet cute again. Dean burns the bones. Lori announces that the Reverend Daddy “Morality” Sorenson is having an affair with a married parishioner. And hug time with kisses. W00t for Sammy.

Dad says “Come in now,” and Lori’s all like, “Nuh-uh!” and he’s all “Uh-HUH!” and she’s like “Nuh-UH!” and then HOOK MAN HOOKS HIM AND DRAGS HIM INTO THE HOUSE WTF WE BURNT THE BONES!?!? Sammy saves him, and we cut to the hospital. Sam’s getting stink-eye and The Talk from 5-0, about how he keeps turning up when bad stuff happens.

Now that Dad’s in the clear, they turn their focus to the girl, maybe the spirit has latched on to her overdeveloped morality and is punishing people for her. And Sam reasons that if the hook wasn’t in the coffin, maybe the hook is the item carrying the spirit; eventually, they get to the part where the church had it melted down into new stuff. Time to burgle the church and the house.

Sam clears the house, and while Dean is stoking up in the basement of the church, they hear noises from upstairs. It’s Lori, come to pray for her father. Sam gets puppydogging, while Dean gets on with the fire. Hook Man shows up while Lori is blaming herself for the attacks, and long and short, it’s her necklace! A crucifix which was made from the melted hook. Dean chucks it into the fire, and Hook Man gets the hook.

With the necklace destroyed, the spirit goes too, and this one’s in the books. Sam walks away from Lori, looking glum – still bummed about Jess, he’s in no shape to start up with anyone new just yet.

Give it a few months (Provenance, S1E19). ;)


Dean really creeps me out in this one. John Shiban didn’t write that many episodes for the show, his first two being this one and the previous, Skin. He seems to like writing Dean as a creepy lech, rather than a hedonist. Looking back into his work, he wrote a bunch of X-Files episodes, most of which I didn’t like, so maybe I just don’t enjoy this dude’s work. He was also partly responsible for the execrable Torchwood: Miracle Day, which is not exactly a mark of favour, from me.

Also, the director on this one (as indeed is true of the director of Skin, last ep) is someone who never worked on the series again. Make of that what you will.

There’s a bit of lore in this one that quietly gets dropped, like the “Demons can only affect the weak and sinful” thing from Phantom Traveler: the boys smell a strong ozone stink in the dorm room, which I don’t recall ever happening again.

The Hook Man becomes one of the iconic monsters of the series, parodied later in the Supernatural convention episode. I’m not sure why it does so little for me, but I’ve just never really enjoyed it much. I think it’s the strong focus on the purity-police morality of the episode, a thing which never fails to annoy me for its appalling effect on women and girls (ahem, Mr. Duggar to the white courtesy phone, Mr. Duggar). Not that I expect the show to deal with those effects, it wouldn’t fit, but it makes a poor contrast with Dean’s objectifying behaviour in this episode.

Also, there’s that metal-scratching, which is my nails-on-a-blackboard sound.


Next up is one I have mixed feelings about, Bugs.

(cue guitars and credits)

S1E7: Hook Man: 2.5 Pentacles

Just 2.5 Pentacles on this one, and I’ll admit some of it’s petty: the scratchy-metal noise from the teaser really (excuse the pun) grates on me, and makes it hard to watch, or at least listen to. Picayune, I know, but hey, it’s my blog. I could also do without the implicit slut-shaming in Taylor’s death (made explicit when Sam dismisses her as “a party girl”), but that’s just background misogyny for most of the cultures I’m aware of.


Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: Still at zero! Wait til we get to demon-possession, this number will go up quickly then.

Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: All of them but Lori The Good Girl. *eyebrow*

Marginalized (named) body survival rate: Lori and Taylor make up the lot this week, and it’s one for two: 50%.

Objectification by Dean: All OVER the place. “Sorority girls”, creeping on nine-year-younger girls at the party (he’s 26, they’re frosh), checking out the librarian’s ass. Shiban gave us a script with Dean at his most dudebro.

Misogynist slurs: Explicitly, almost none. Which is surprising, given the dudebro-turned-to-11 nature of the episode.

Aliases used by the boys: None. They cover as frat brothers from Ohio once.

Hint o’ maple: Couldn’t find any today! Small cast again, and mostly imports.

Hearing update

Huzzah, it went very well. I’ll just give a small anecdote to illustrate: after the hearing, the person playing devil’s advocate (arguing against my appeal; opposing counsel, effectively) asked to hug me. I’ve got to think my nominally adversarial hearing went well when the tribunal hearer was in tears a few times, and opposing counsel wanted to be comforting when we were done.

Should get a reply in a month or so. I’ll take any and all warm thoughts or other supportive gestures you feel like offering,

The (duh-duh-DUHHHHHH) hearing

…it’s tomorrow. 13h EDT (GMT -5), I get in front of a one-person tribunal (do I address them as “Tribune”?) to hear my appeal of the decision that I’m not disabled. My lawyer is cautiously optimistic, depending on whom we draw in the lottery of tribunes. She thinks we shouldn’t have had to get this far.

The hard part is going to be overcoming my tendency to understate things. But we’ve warned the lawyer about that, so if she’s prepared, hopefully it’ll be alright. And Her Ex-Cellency will be there to be supportive, and she can slip me the Eyebrow of Doom if I’m minimising.

If performing the bureaucracy hoop-jumping to get disability is the Monkey Dance, ths is the Monkey Dance Iron Dancer Super Challenge Round: 1 hour to talk someone into making my life liveable.

The up side, if I’m turned down, I can apply again the very next day. My doctor would probably kill me, because it’d mean she’d have to do all the damn forms again, but it could happen. Let us hope it is not necessary.

On another note, Fuck. Cancer. Susan, we hardly knew ya, beautiful.

Re-watch update

I should be posting Hook Man tomorrow; I did most of it yesterday, but my partner needed to re-watch the Harry Potter films today for a project she’s working on, so I will finish up tomorrow morning. I’ve also worked ahead on some of the fringe stuff for the next three shows, and there are some really good ones coming before we roll into mythos territory. Next after Hook Man is Bugs, one of my least favourite of the first season. But then we get Home, Asylum, and Scarecrow, before Faith leads us into the execrable Route 666.

Hair Update

Well, since my last post, both I and Her Ex-Cellency* have been working on brushing out my hair. There were four notable mats forming: one on each side, one on the top, and one down by my neck. So far we’ve gotten through the neck one completely, and the right side and top side are nearly done. The left side (I’m right-handed) is the hardest, because it’s physically the most difficult for me to brush that side. But even it’s coming along somewhat, and my ponytail is back to reaching my bra strap again – loose hair gets closer to my waist. If we keep on at the rate we’ve been going, I should be able to have fully brushable dark green hair within a couple of months. I’ve been working my way down the spectrum, started with purple (very popular), did blue (popular, but not as much as my “natural purple”), now green is up.

Had an interesting seed of an idea this morning, about a game combining deck-building with worker-placement mechanics to simulate elections. I dunno if it’s viable, but it’s going in my file of game ideas, and I always like getting more ideas.

There is your totally fascinating hair update. I’m writing about it as much to make myself get over the whole shame thing as anything else..

I’m actually thinking I might be able to get back to Supernatural soon, been dragging through the 10th season, subsisting on the occasional gem, but thinking the show looks tired and kinda out of material. Still, there’s plenty of meat left to look at in my re-watch, and we’re almost out of the doldrums of the strictly monster-of-the-week-ness of the first part of S1.

* My ex-partner, with whom I still have a close relationship; we were together for eleven years, and raised three kids together (two of them her bio kids, one foster daughter). We broke up nine years ago, but still talk daily.

Writing about Depression

I’ve always admired people who can write about depression, because for me, depression means not writing. Writing is my life, I love writing, my old Livejournal (which is private, if you’re a friend ask me personally for access) I used to average about Pi posts per day. I’d write fiction, hell, my standup comedy routine had me reading my own structured poetry (sonnets a particular speciality), and even writing one during the show using words chosen by the audience. I love writing. And depression as it is for me, that I love it means I haven’t been doing it. Anhedonia, thy name is Cait’s depression. Painting has also gone by the wayside. Only gaming has survived, so far.

And yet here, a perfectly cromulent place to write, where access is as easy as picking up my tablet, if I want (I don’t, I won’t be posting from it until i can get a bluetooth keyboard to use with it, it’s just too tiring and slow to try and type with a touchscreen one-handed)…I can’t seem to get a regular thing going.

This is all despite the fact that my new meds have seen me much more effective in many ways. I’ve been getting some housecleaning done, allowing for my body by doing it in small stages over time. I’ve designed an entire new game, and I’m over the hump of the boring stuff needed to make a prototype, now I just need Craig to help me physically make it and we can get playtesting. That’s kind of amazing, and given the history of the other games we’ve roughed out in notes over the years, which have always foundered on my inability to get that boring stuff done – to wade past pain and ADD and depression so I can push the boat out and get some damn fishing in so I don’t starve – I got over that hump this time.

I’ve (and this is hard to admit) been working on my hair, even. See, I’ve got long hair, and it’s Medusic. That is, it writhes and tangles like a live thing – the single way to make it not get too tangled is to braid it. Then only within the braid’s strands will be tangles. And over the last several months as my depression got worse through the winter, I’ve gotten rather badly sloppy about brushing it. In short, it’s matted in a few places, and I’ve been slowly, slowly, working on brushing it out. It’s painful and difficult, because it necessarily involves my arms up over my head, so I can only do it for ten minutes or so before needing an hour to recover.

If I didn’t have to perform femininity in order to have people not misgender me, I’d just cut it all off and start again. But I do. So I’m brushing, and washing, and brushing, and washing, and lathering conditioner in like you wouldn’t believe, but it’s all about the brushing. I wish there were a way to get help, but I don’t know of any such opportunity. :/

Wow…the shame on this runs deep. Since you’re reading this, I got over that enough to hit Publish, so yay me. But just thinking about mentioning it publicly feels so shameful that I’m weeping like a child writing this para. Can’t actually see. Stupid. But there it is. Intellectually, i know it’s not my fault. It’s depression, the big double D, depressive disorder and disthymic disorder both, and it’s the end of winter (and it fucking snowed yesterday…no…no more snow now, please?), but it’s very hard to get that fact to penetrate my feelings, in whatever weird brain chemistry is going on.

Sorry for the rambler, folks, sometimes it’s just what I need to get out. Trying to love writing again.

The Excitement Tariff

I’m using “tariff” rather than “tax” here, because taxes tend to do things, in my world, and thus I’m loath to hate on them.

What I’m talking about is a subtle part of my disability experience: that doing exciting things, even when sitting still, can be intensely wearying.

The last two nights (Saturday and Sunday), I’ve been at a friend’s place, sitting on very pretty dining room chairs that are more or less stools from the point of view of “is this a supportive chair?” Each time for about three hours and well-medicated, but at the end of each, I’ve been really sore – like, spasms hitting 8 out of 10 on the unhappy-face scale sore – and it’s carried over into the next day.

Tonight, my friends want to play Heists on GTA Online, which is something I find exciting. Mind, I’ll be sitting in my comfortable chair, well-supported, with a heating pad on my back as needed, and I can get up and move around if I need to. Ideal conditions, so it shouldn’t be too strenuous, you’d think. But you’d think incorrectly. Because it’s exciting. And excitement makes us tense our bodies.

Three hours of alternately tensing various parts of me for several minutes, and trying desperately to relax in the few moments’ downtime between missions? That’s hard on my body.

Even in optimum conditions, the excitement tariff cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend doing things I like. Now cycle back round to the depression, where getting myself interested in doing the things I like has been one of the main challenges, and you can begin to see another aspect of the ways in which my mental and physical disabilities interact so that each is made worse by the other. Not only is it a blow against dualism, but also against treating mental disabilities as “less than” physical disabilities. When someone makes a joke about how being sad making them eligible for disability, help us out by reminding them of the difference between “being sad” and “being in depression”.

Pranks and Rape Culture

The “posting regularly” thing. I’m trying. :)

Today, I want to talk about pranks. I hate them. I hate pranks, prank shows, April Fools, and any other setup where the goal is to humiliate another human without their consent. I get enough humiliation in my life, every time some kid in the bank says, “Mommy, why’s that man wearing a skirt?” (granted, this doesn’t happen like it used to, but it still burns). What I don’t need is extra doses from people who consider themselves my friends.

Specifically, though, what I wanted to discuss was the idea that pranks are a crucial supporting element for rape culture. There’s an innate requirement that one “be a good sport” about being humiliated, and a stronger one on those looking on that they find it funny, and (crucially) that they don’t intervene when a “prank” is being played, because doing so would be being a “spoilsport”. This is a way of reinforcing people’s tendency to be bystanders in the face of cruelty, helping to train us even as small children in how to maintain the rape culture. It also allows us to write off as “pranks” what might otherwise be seen as something dangerous or frightening to another person, training us to question our own judgement in what we see around us: is that guy really attacking that woman, or is it just a “prank”? Was that really racist bullying I just saw, or just youthful hijinks?

It would surprise me not the least little bit to find that people who enjoy playing pranks on others are also people who have a hard time with the concept of consent in other realms. To be “successful”, a prankster cannot seek consent ahead of time, but must hope for the bystanders to keep their noses out of other people’s business while they violate someone’s consent. The excuses made afterwards are similar to those of rapists: I thought they wanted it, nobody spoke up to object, everyone does it.

I don’t think it takes a diagram to show how this kind of behaviour leads to people unwilling to step in when they see someone being bullied or assaulted. We already have a social imperative, perhaps a necessary one in a tightly-packed society such as ours has become, to try not to stick our noses into things that aren’t about us.