On Sunday morning, The Mighty published a story from one of our contributors entitled “Introducing: Meltdown Bingo,” which made light of the meltdowns many autistic people experience on a daily basis. It was written by a mother on the spectrum about her child on the spectrum. She shared a part of her private life with the online world and meant no harm. The post has since been removed. That’s something we don’t do often. I want to explain this decision.
Basically, we messed up and hurt the exact community we aim to serve.
Our goal on The Mighty is to give people a platform to share their stories. It’s a simple objective that’s proven challenging for everyone on our staff because we host thousands of perspectives and opinions, from both disabled and able-bodied writers. We don’t expect everyone to agree on every post. In fact, we like when our contributors’ stories start important, respectful conversations. What we don’t want is to cause harm. Here is where I missed the mark when deciding to publish this submission.
That’s on me. I personally apologize to anyone we hurt with this post. It was not our intention, but we need to take responsibility for our actions. Our community called us on this post almost immediately. Thank you.
This isn’t the first time The Mighty has been rightfully accused of ableism.
And to deny that we’ve been ableist would be, well, ableist.
I’m able-bodied. I’ve grown up in a world designed for able-bodied and “typical” people. In my journalism training, I was taught not to write words like “disabled” or “autistic.” It wasn’t until I edited a post from a potential contributor named Tonia (you can read her blog here) that I realized how truly ableist my thinking was. Tonia respectfully called me out for changing “disabled” to “person with disabilities” in her submission, therefore telling her how to identify herself. That’s not our job as editors; our job is to help you tell your stories. Because Tonia spoke out, The Mighty made a positive shift. I don’t think I ever thanked her for that virtual (and necessary) slap in the face.
After we ran “Meltdown Bingo,” another Mighty contributor asked me this: Who is this helping?
When I realized I couldn’t answer her properly, we made the call to remove the post. While there’s room to find humor when facing challenges, when the attempt at humor ends up not being funny, we cross into offensive territory. That’s hurtful. That doesn’t help anyone. That’s not our purpose. We missed the mark. We’ve run posts in the past that people did not agree with, but in this case, I felt we actually caused harm. This is why the post came down.
What we are thankful for is a community that lets us know when we don’t get it right. When a small team of people are editing submissions from thousands of writers, all with different perspectives and opinions, we rely on you to tell us when we’ve done wrong.
If you don’t see your voice represented on The Mighty, send us a post. Tell us when we’ve generalized your experiences. Give us and others a new point of view to learn from. Share your story.
We have a growing platform, one I’m proud of. I’m asking you all to use us.
In an attempt to get better, I’d like to ask you three questions that will help our team. If you have the time, please send me your thoughts at email@example.com. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions, too. Here’s what we want to know:
What improvements do you want to see made on The Mighty?
Which websites and writers are covering this space the right way?
What are we doing right? If we know this, we can do more of it.
Please know this: We’re listening, we’re going to learn from our mistakes, and we want more than ever to get this right.
Update: If you’re interested in having a conversation with us, head here.