Saturday, November 21, 2015

How NOT To Write About Phobias

Fear, a character from the movie "Inside Out." Image source.
So I came across this article: One Felinophobe Describes Life With One of the Rarest Phobias In the World. It features some quotes from a Reddit AMA ("ask me anything") from 3 years ago, where a user named panicbreakfast talks about what it's like having ailurophobia (also known as felinophobia- fear of cats).

Plus a bunch of images of cats.

Umm... does anyone see anything wrong here?

You have an article about ailurophobia- a real psychological condition in which a person may experience distress in the following situations (according to wikipedia): "hearing purring, seeing a cat in real life, imagining the possibility of a cat touching or rubbing against one, the thought of meeting a cat in the dark, seeing the staring eyes of a cat (cats have the tendency to stare at passers-by) cats in pictures and on television, and cat-like toys and cat-like fur." And your article is accompanied by several photos of cats.

What the hell.

Are you serious?

Society just wants to gawk at people with phobias. Whoever put this article together doesn't care about people with ailurophobia at all. Actually, the text itself is pretty good- quotes from a person who actually has the condition, information about possible causes from a doctor who has studied phobias- presented in a fairly factual way, without that "wow look how completely WEIRD these people are" tone. This leads me to believe that the writer did not choose the images for this article. So I don't blame the writer- the writer did a good job. Somebody else really screwed this article up, though, by adding the cat photos.

It's an article about a phobia of cats, set up in such a way that people who actually HAVE a phobia of cats would experience distress even looking at the web page. (Or at least, some proportion would be. Others experience distress when there's a real cat but don't mind a picture.)

I mean, is it not obvious how completely wrong this is? I don't even know what to say, it's just so completely wrong. It's like you wrote an article that said "Did you know that some people are bothered by swear words? Fuck them." No, it's worse than that. Having a phobia is way worse than being "bothered" by something.

But this is how phobias are treated in popular culture. People just want to gawk at it. Wow, so weird, how could someone be afraid of that? Let's laugh at them! Click here to read a list called "Top 10 Weirdest Phobias" then point and laugh and share it with your friends!

An article about cat phobia, and somehow someone thinks "What images can we add to make this article more interesting? How about some cats? And let's write captions about how they're totally plotting something evil!" Yeah! Haha, cats are evil! Look at the way they stare! LOLOLOLOL!

Are you serious. You really think having a phobia of cats is at all similar to the way people joke about how their cats are always scheming and making trouble?

But that's the status of phobias in our society. And it is not okay.


Related posts about my experiences having phobias:
About My Phobia (this post has a cat picture, FYI)
Phobiettes And That Time I Panicked (this post has a cat picture too)
"Homophobia" is an Ableist Term. Stop Using It.

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