"Fuck cars," and foregrounding marginalized voices

Published on 2024-01-05

Is saying "fuck cars" ableist?

Before I get into this, I want to answer the question directly: yes, "fuck cars" is ableist, but there's a lot more to be said than that.

Today we're talking about ✨discourse✨.

This is entirely prompted by a post I saw on the fediverse a few weeks ago, that I've been thinking a lot about since. I'd link it if I could remember it; if I find it again I'll come back here and update this post.

A lot of people were upset hearing this, of course, because "fuck cars" is supposed to be one of those unambiguously good things you believe, and this mean disabled person was problematizing it for them.

The problem with a phrase like "fuck cars" ultimately boils down to one of nuance. "Fuck cars," if we're to take it to mean "we need to get rid of cars," or "we need to ban cars," or something else to that effect, is a pretty unnuanced statement. Most people who recite it don't really seem to have a plan for what that'd look like, and how it'd accommodate people who actually, truly do rely on cars for reasons beyond "I like driving because it makes me feel like a manly man."

The reality is that if we were to get rid of cars completely in many of the highly car-centric hubs across the shit hole that is colonial North America, a lot of people would be hung out to dry. You can't just say "fuck cars," you basically also have to say "completely re-engineer all of the city planning across the continent done over the past four hundred years." The former doesn't really suggest the latter on its own.

That being said, I think most reasonable people who say things like "fuck cars" would also love to re-engineer all the city planning across the continent to build more pro-human urban environments. That's kind of what the whole New Urbanism movement is, of which "fuck cars" is a part of.

So yeah, that's the argument against "fuck cars" being ableist: it's a slogan promoting a single aspect of a larger movement, and to treat it in isolation is wrong.

But the thing is, that argument assumes New Urbanism consistently keeps all marginalized groups in mind all the time. It often doesn't! Lots of New Urbanist folks know little to nothing about disability!

It is basically a matter of fact that if you're not incorporating disabled people's needs into every part of the design process for your new urbanist utopia, you are not going to design a city that meets the needs of all its people. So, when we reduce the scope of our thinking to, say, "fuck cars," there are some people whose needs remain in the foreground, and others who don't.

This matter of whose needs are foregrounded and whose are resigned to the background, that is a conscious decision we make. We choose to marginalize voices. That's what makes "fuck cars" ableist.

Admittedly, having said all this, I don't think I'm going to stop saying "fuck cars," because I think there's a ton of other reasons why it's a useful phrase to have in your Toolkit of Things to Say. Ultimately, I think that it does fit squarely into a larger movement that is much better suited to accommodate the needs of disabled people than the Car Regime we live under today (one question often left unanswered when calling "fuck cars" ableist is "what about disabled people who can't afford cars?", for example). But I mean, I don't rely on mobility aids to get around town, so when people who do tell me what they need I'm much more inclined to take them at their word than to try and sneakily side-step their needs with some bullshit argument about urban planning.

I think at the very least, being aware of how these things can be implicitly ableist is important to keep those voices at the forefront of the discussion where they belong. You will not build a safe future for marginalized people if you keep them at the margins of your worldview.

So, in that sense, both "fuck cars" and "saying fuck cars is ableist" as independent statements are really useful for directing the public consciousness towards a more pro-human model of living.

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