I first started using "Masked" instead of "Blind" when I worked on a scientific study where some blind people were participants. Blind is both a medical term and an identity category, and therefore it means a lot of things already; "masked" is more respectful and we used it in place of "double blind study" for example. This was before I got into disability politics, maybe around 2005.
Then I met jesse_the_k
who convinced me to stop using "blind" as a metaphor entirely.
Here is some background reading:Kestrell: What Good writers Still Get Wrong about Blind People
Kate Nepveu, panel writeup: I'm not your metaphor: Explaining Oppression with Analogies
Jesse the K: I'm not Colorblind, I'm Totally Blind!
Jesse says: "Blindness doesn't endow one with greater spiritual insight nor better hearing than sighted people..."
This is key. The whole idea of a "blind" study is that it makes a scientist less biased. But it's the built in ignorance of the drug or intervention being used that makes the scientist less biased. It's a way to build safety into a study. It has nothing do with sight in particular: it has to do with knowledge, and sequestering knowledge. In the case of reviewing, it's the ignorance of who the author is, etc.
The stereotype of blindness, of blind people, being perpetuated here is that they are purer, less biased, more forgiving of flaws, better judges of data and of character. They can't be, you know, just people. Once again, disabled people aren't given the benefit of being full human beings, of having full moral character.
"Masked" is preferable because it is a separate term that evokes temporarily putting on and taking off of a mask, for the purpose of doing a study or review. A mask could cover up your identity, make you seem like someone else, or no one at all: it gives the idea of being anonymous. For reviewing in particular, this metaphor works very well: what if the manuscript was submitted by Anonymous? A person in a mask. It's not that the reviewer is "blind"--a stereotype of someone pure and unbiased, it's that the submitter is wearing a mask.
Your thoughts here are welcome.
This post brought to you by recent SF/F calls for "blind reviews" (blech).