Recommended Reading for October 30

#Antidev: Some thoughts on disability “devotees”

The issue of disability devotees — and let’s call a spade a spade here: they’re fetishists — divides the disability community at every level, from academia to, well, Facebook. It’s something women with visible disabilities encounter regularly. And I believe that, while the extremists are relatively rare, the growing acceptance of “devotees” online will trickle down into the broader social constructs around disability.

It’s widely believed that people with disabilities are viewed (in contemporary Western culture, at least) as “asexual.” The truth is more complex. We certainly do not fit the airbrushed-cover-of-Vogue ideal of beauty that is shoved down our throats. But then again, neither do all but a few supermodels on the planet; we don’t consider 99.99% of women as asexual, though. So here’s a key point: differentiating beauty (or physical attractiveness) from sexuality. To be sure, sex can be different and require a bit of creativity and patience, but most women with physical disabilities (at least, the ones I know!) have pretty normal sex lives. Nevertheless, because we can fall so far outside the norm of what is considered attractive, we (like all women) tend to conflate general beauty with sexual attractiveness, making us easy targets for people calling themselves “disability devotees” — sexual fetishists who objectify women with disabilities and reduce them to the sum of their (disabled) parts. Many women with disabilities entertain such advances, or even encourage them; when you’ve lived in a society rife with ableism it can be easy to believe that your disability defines you (and as a woman, that your sexuality defines you), and fetishists play right into that mindset.

Personal Situation

Now that I know all these things about my father I can‘t stop thinking about it (especially the new info in addition to the terrible tirade from him the day before). I don’t want to live with him anymore, but I don’t really have any other options. I need constant care and there’s no one else in my family who is able to take care of me. I know everyone says this, but he truly does love me and wouldn’t be able to take care of me like this if he didn’t. Out of everyone in my life he’s given above and beyond anyone else when it comes to my caretaking – he’s here full time and any one else is less than once a month. But I can’t stand to be around him anymore. I have so much anger. I’m angry how he treated my mother, and indirectly caused her to hurt me. But I’m angry at my mother for directly hurting me. I’m angry at my father for having such an anger problem that we had to be afraid of it. I wish I was healthy so I could just move away, but my disability is so severe that I really can’t do anything for myself and need the constant care. I don’t want to go to some nursing home – I’ve heard too many stories about that to trust it.

One time in the past when he exploded emotionally, I called a nearby shelter because it was having such an emotional impact on me. I told them about my physical situation and they said that they were not handicap accessible and referred me to another shelter. Neither shelter would be able to care for me in the way that I need it. I just don’t want to be alone in this world – it‘s not just emotional, I need a someone to physically protect me because I am that fragile. It sucks that my family sucks, but they’re all I’ve got right now and they’ve helped me in a lot of other ways.

In the news:

Via email from Ira G.: Minds Interrupted: Stories of Lives Affected by Mental Illness:

The three will be among eight Baltimoreans who will discuss the ways in which mental illness has wreaked havoc with their lives in a program called “Minds Interrupted.”

Participants wrote and edited their intimate, sometimes funny, often harrowing tales at a recent workshop that included tips on performance skills. Tickets will be sold to the show, which is being held at Center Stage, and which was modeled on the popular Stoop Storytelling series in which nonactors tell seven-minute-long anecdotes about their own lives.

The hybrid nature of “Minds Interrupted” can be perplexing: Is the evening a high-minded attempt to publicize a vexing and misunderstood social problem, or is it entertainment? And can the two categories successfully be mixed?

Five benchmarks for social assistance [Canada]

The next bold move the government must make is to stick to its guns on a comprehensive review of Ontario’s broken social assistance system.

The commitment to review Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program – made in the province’s poverty reduction strategy last December – has been agonizingly slow to get off the ground.

With the first anniversary of the strategy quickly approaching, more and more Ontarians are being forced to deplete their savings and join Ontario’s swelling welfare rolls.

As the province moves to more effectively employ resources to meet people’s needs and promote economic recovery, we can no longer afford to wait.

Student beaten to death in his Sac State Dorm Room

Scott Hawkins had Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, “that made him very obsessive about his favorite things,” his father said. He especially enjoyed studying ancient European and Middle Eastern history and was hoping he could graduate with a minor in one of those areas, his father said.

“He could go on and on about the history of Rome or the reasons that the Greek empire did this or that,” Gerald Hawkins said.

The attack was reported just before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday when one of the dorm’s resident assistants called police after hearing a loud disturbance coming from one of the suites.

9 Comments

  1. On the story about the student at Sac State killing another student… I’m not sure I understand why they felt it necessary to mention that the victim was autistic. It almost feels like they’re suggesting this is a hate crime, though they fail to say as much. As though (and this makes me sick) it’s Hawkins’ fault and his Aspergers drove his roommate to kill him. Did anyone else read this this way? I know other people with Aspergers who’ve been teased and attacked and this is rather upsetting to me.

  2. It does seem unnecessary that his Asperger’s is included in the story, but it adds to the “human interest” of the story. I don’t mean that in a good way – more in the “if it bleeds, it leads” way. People are murdered every day, but when there is an additional detail that makes it more tragic or lurid or what-have-you, it gets covered.

    (Really, I don’t hate the media. Just mistrustful of it. My husband works in media relations for the military, and has literally chased news crews away from funerals that they were specifically *not* invited to.)

  3. I should say that it seems unnecessary to include that he has Asperger’s *assuming that it had nothing to do with his killing.* Of course, if it’s found to be a contributing factor to the motive, then it’s relevant to the story, and it would clearly be a hate crime.

    I’ve been clear as mud today.

  4. As though (and this makes me sick) it’s Hawkins’ fault and his Aspergers drove his roommate to kill him. Did anyone else read this this way?

    It’s definitely been interpreted that way in the comments. Along with, you know, some really awful stuff being said about mental illnesses.

    …I do not recommend reading the comments. *whimper*

  5. As though (and this makes me sick) it’s Hawkins’ fault and his Aspergers drove his roommate to kill him. Did anyone else read this this way?

    It’s absolutely a valid reading. It follows the same pattern as other ‘just snapped’ murder articles — I’m reminded of news articles written about trans people (especially trans women) who are murdered by men who’ve raped or had sex with them. The trans identity of the victim often gets a lot of column space in those articles, much the same way the victim’s autism did here.

    I’m also reminded of some things Amanda of Ballastexistenz has said about caretakers who kill.

    And I agree, these should be classed as hate crimes. Especially the ones where the murderers portray themselves as merciful.

  6. I actually sent in that link – I read it at work via Google News, and didnt have time to read it closely. I thought it WAS being reported as a hate crime. If it isn’t, well, have a few heapings of WTF courtesy amandaw. Seriously.

    Kaz & kaninchenzero make some important points though. k0, I wouldn’t necessarily have thought about that connection, but yes, it is funny how these things always end up so prominent in stories about certain types of people, isn’t it?

  7. Don’t read the comments indeed. Unfortunately, I often have a hard time stopping myself from that. Just…ugh. Always wonderful to hear that the people who lived with me in college and found me weird and disturbing could have murdered me and received sympathy and justifications from others. The ways in which these situations are used to promote segregated educational environments are also quite unbelievable and infuriating.

    Also, the comments about this sad situation are ableist in more than one way. There’s ableism directed towards the victim, the identified disabled person. But the comments describing the perpetrator as “psychotic” and whatnot are also ableist. It’s really a very insidious method of inscribing prejudices against people with psychiatric disabilities: anyone who commits a violent crime is mentally ill by definition, therefore we will further stigmatize and marginalize anyone we classify as mentally ill. Because we all know that “normal” people couldn’t possibly commit violent crimes.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..On Passing and Not Existing =-.

  8. I’ve more than once heard the media suggest that a murder victim was somehow less deserving because they had mental health or impairment. One of the worst was a few years ago on, I think, Crimewatch on BBC 1, where a mentally ill man managed to annoy some thug on a London bus by talking to himself. When he tried to leave the bus after being threatened, the thug blocked his path and stabbed him to death. The Crimewatch presenter said something like “he was no angel, was he …” before describing his mental illness.

    On other occasions when someone commits a crime, their conditions are considered fair game (OCD and Aspergers in two recent occasions, both involving murders) even though they are shared with thousands of people who aren’t criminals.

  9. Sorry, I’ve been so busy, I hadn’t seen this discussion.

    I read the article as implying that he had been murdered because of his autism. However, I read a lot of stories about people being murdered for having a disability.