21 responses to “Hipster Ableism”

  1. lauren

    I have not read the books, but the ableism in Glee is one of the things that makes it hard to enjoy.
    Sue, in particular, is a very beloved character with the fans. They enjoy (and I am ashamed to say that I sometimes fall for this as well) her outrageous behaviour. It’s hipstr-ism at its best: We don’t actually believe any of the horrible things she is saying! She is the bad guy (why is there no gender-neutral word for this? Because bad woman sounds wrong). We know she is wrong for saying these things! The show is making fun of prejudiced people by showing how crazy she is! (I am intentionally leaving in the ableist expression here)The writers clearly want us to see how wrong her views are…but yes, we love her for saying them, for not caring about being PC or any of that stuff. It is so refreshingly honest!

    If only being PC, being dishonest is keeping people from constantly spoutin ableist and otherwise prejudiced language, than that right there proves how far we have left to go.

    Also, to get back to a previous thread: I really wonder if they would feel as comfortable making all those ableist “he’s a prop”-jokes about Artie if he was played by an actor who actually uses a wheelchair.

  2. nuri

    I love Glee (choir nerd, can’t help it), but I can’t watch it without cringing. Course, I also TA’ed in a high school and I couldn’t get through a day without cringing either.

    Type of humor I could do without, seriously. Because it’s not even laughing at a situations, it’s just making fun of people, and often to their faces.
    .-= nuri´s last blog ..Rukus says Feminist like it’s some sort of dirty word =-.

  3. Monica

    I, too, have been having some issues with Glee– I think we’re being shown that Sue is in the wrong with her comments, because she’s set up so clearly as an antagonist within the first episodes; but it’s never directly addressed, and there are other issues with her characterization as a single fortysomething woman who has prioritized her career over other areas of her life.

    I haven’t read the books, so I can’t speak to them, but I’m much less likely to purchase them now. (I still may borrow one or both from a friend or the library to see how I feel about them, personally.)

    But I’ve encountered hipster -ism near-daily in the past few weeks–my friend has a new boyfriend and his friends (and him, to a certain extent) subscribe to it quite a bit. He said at one point, “It’s funny, because I don’t believe it,” and I said, “I don’t see how it can be funny when there are people to believe it.” It leads back to Melissa McEwan’s Terrible Bargain– swallow shit, or ruin the afternoon? It’s a no-win situation.

    But it is WONDERFUL to have someone dissect it so thoroughly and cogently.

  4. calixti

    I always get a bit confused when people talk about how they LOVE Sue, or how her character is SO hilarious. I wince constantly at the things she says, because they’re thing I’ve heard people say and mean on a fairly regular basis. ‘Yes we cane’ just isn’t amusing when you’ve heard people you grew up around–your parents, or friends of your parents–viciously argue to bring caning back.

    The trouble with how Artie is treated started early in the first episode–did anyone else notice how he’s the only ‘main’ member of Glee who didn’t have their audition featured? And I cringed when Rachel said she needed a male lead who could ‘keep up’ with her. And of course, he started being used as a prop in that episode and has been in every episode (I think) since.

    His Very Special Episode is coming up. I predict it’ll be an ableist mess.

  5. calixti

    I look forward to reading it. I’m not very good at analysing television shows until I’ve watched them a few times, so I haven’t been doing reviews of Glee, but I always enjoy yours and Anna’s. :3

  6. KatieT

    Thanks for explaining why I cringe so violently whenever anyone praises “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”.

    I think the hipster whatever-ism irony also implies that “those people, the ones that are ableist, racist etc.” are a whole separate group from the hipsters that find this stuff funny. There is a denial that these young, liberal, educated hip white folks can be sexist etc. They voted for Obama! It is just another way to deny and ignore the fact that ableism is everywhere are to chalk up our experiences as p.c. whining. They are once again centering their experiences over ours.

    Also, the only way this stuff doesn’t touch a nerve is if you don’t have to experience it on a daily basis. Which. They. (For the most part) Don’t.
    .-= KatieT´s last blog ..Because I Can’t Sleep =-.

  7. yep

    I haven’t seen Glee, but I was really excited about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Then I read them. While we can take the guy off the hook for ageism (that bit was written by Jane Austen and was to highlight the age difference b/t the characters, not to imply that 27-y-o women are too old to be loved), I was so upset by the blatant racism, sexism and ableism in both of them. The op covered the othering of non-Europeans and the use of disability as both a joke and a punishment, but one of the other things that really bothered me about those books was another aspect of the Lydia/Wickham story that he changed from the original. Instead of Lydia running away w/Wickham, he kidnaps and rapes her. The implication is that she goes willingly, but he still calls it rape, and her family is ashamed of it. So when she is punished with her husband’s disability, the author is being ableist and slut shaming and blaming rape survivors all in one go.

  8. MK

    At first I was really frustrated by the treatment of Tina (Asian girl), Kurt (gay boy), Mercedes (Black girl), and Artie. At this point they’ve done some work to fill out Kurt and Mercedes’ characters, but nothing for Tina and Artie. Every. Single. Time. someone just grabs Artie’s wheelchair and pushes him around, I cringe. And it happens several times an episode. They never ask before touching his wheelchair, never give any indication that he might not want to constantly be physically pushed around by the other characters. I am dreading next week’s episode. At first I thought Will would ask the members of Glee to spend a day, possibly as much as a week, in a wheelchair but apparently he just asks them to perform in a wheelchair. -sigh- Gosh, I’m sure they’ll learn some Really Important lessons from that!

    @calixti I was so confused the first episode when he didn’t get an audition scene! But now that I’ve seen all the episodes since, it makes perfect sense; they don’t treat him as a character, but a prop.


  9. EAMD

    Capital-F Fantastic piece, and I think KatieT hit the nail on the head. Too many people treat the deconstruction of -isms as a discrete action with a definite endpoint, as though there is a point in one’s life where we can say, “I’m not racist, I’m not misogynist, I’m not ableist.” The discrete action can be something as simple as voting for Obama, which some manage to conceptualize as their complete rejection of all things -istic. Thanks for taking this phenomenon to task.

  10. Nomie

    yep @8, that sounds like the author not only missed the point but didn’t bother reading the original book in the first place. Ye gods.

    And Meloukhia, thank you for this post. It touches on a lot of stuff I’ve noticed lately but phrases it much better than I could ever do.
    .-= Nomie´s last blog ..public transit =-.

  11. Matthew Smith

    I think every kind of -ism has become cool recently, as well as jokes about rape. The Guardian in London did a feature on this type of “comedy” back in July (I blogged this response).

    The past couple of weeks, one well-known “comic” whose stock in trade includes rape jokes got into trouble when he told a joke in front of an audience in Margate, a rundown beach resort in east Kent: “say what you like about those servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re going to have a f***ing good Paralympic team in 2012”. Anyway, there has been a lot of sanctimonious guff spoken about this incident in the popular press, with some people demanding that his career should be over just like that, and it’s mostly from people who haven’t complained about his jokes up until now. (He was interviewed for yesterday’s Guardian; here’s the result.)

  12. gudbuytjane

    Great post, and definitely something I’ve been railing at for some time. It always frustrates me when people frame their -isms as transgressive comedy, when it is anything but. It is the most conservative, least-challenging form of humour there is.

  13. JoSelle

    I find that 99.99 percent of TV is a mess of racism, sexism, ablism, LGBT-hate and particularly sanism/psychophobia and therefore virtually unwatchable. The fact that most shows I’ve discovered are dreadfully scripted, mechanically structured and only passably acted doesn’t help, either. So I have not watched nor do I intend to watch Glee (though I do like a few of the songs I’ve heard). Still, I find these posts excellent and highly informative, particularly since I can read synopses of the episodes or ask my Glee-watching friends to fill me in.

  14. JoB

    I’ve not watched Glee, and I don’t particularly intend to, but I have read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and was terribly disappointed when what started as amusing went downhill so fast.

    But I do have a thought about hipster-ism… more an internal niggling doubt. Because I don’t like that humour at all. But here’s a situation; I’m with a group of my friends, and somehow the lighthearted conversation turns towards race. And there is an opening for someone to make a racist comment that everyone will find funny. I know it is coming. I know that after it is said I will tell the person off and talk about respectful language and everyone will go “Yes, yes, we get it, we didn’t mean it, we’re sorry,” and it will be dismissed as Jo banging on about respectful language again and it won’t make much impact.

    If I make the racist comment myself (and I have done this once, and I doubt myself over whether it was the best thing to do) there is an audible gasp. The conversation stops. Because they know how important respectful language is to me, when I say it it is not glossed over, it is not funny, it is commented on and the conversation can continue respectfully.

    Of course this wouldn’t work if it was done often, and nor would I be at all happy with myself if it was done often. I would also not be likely to make the same approach with ablism, (perhaps hypocritically) because it’s an issue I’m a lot more sensitive about.

    Though this was an old post, it’s the first I’ve come across which addresses this idea much at all… I’m still trying to figure out if my approach is an acceptable one by which to spark conversations or if I, too, am just perpetuating.

  15. Madeline

    I am interested in whether or not you see humor as a means to resist or refute oppressive stereotypes within “oppressed” populations. This is a discussion I’ve had with some classmates/co-workers/comrades-in-arms. For instance, does the use of racial stereotypes in the Chappelle Show classify as racist when they are performed by a Black man, for a Black audience? Or does a disabled girl calling herself “cripple” among a group of friends count as ableism? Is it homophobic for queer folk to call each other fag? Do these things reflect an adoption of oppressive stereotypes among oppressed groups (psychological oppression)? Or can these be seen as a mode of resistance? I think that taking stereotypes away from the majority and refashioning them to be either ironic or images of empowerment qualifies as resistance. I suppose the question arises whether these images, when fed back to the majority, then confront or affirm the stereotypes in their minds. I know this is not exactly the topic of this blog post, but I would be interested in what you had to say on this topic. I only just found your blog, and was just having a poke around and found this post. Anyway…

  16. Romie

    Thank you for this. It’s something I run into a lot more often than I should, and it’s good to see it set out so clearly and specifically. Thank you.

  17. Octal

    Drive-by comment (although I’m here quite late, I see)… I agree, and I am heartily sick of the phrase “politically correct”/”pc”, because I swear 99% of the time it’s used, the person using it is using it as shorthand for “Waaaaaaaah, but I WANT to be able to say shitty, hurtful things without getting called on it! Why should I have to actually consider my language or actions? Other people don’t matter; I shouldn’t have to hear about how my words or actions affect them! Stop oppressing me :(” etc. “Political correctness run amok” = “being the least bit considerate is haaaaaaard”. “I’m so un-PC!” = “look what a shithead I am, isn’t it funny”.

  18. Catherine

    This is an awesome post, thank you so much. All these thoughts and concerns have been floating around in my head for years, but I just didn’t know how to explain why I found hipster -isms so offensive.

  19. Christina

    Thank you for making me more aware of this. It is the type of thing I would not notice without being sensitized. Even having been on the receiving end of this type of behavior once or twice (chauvinist who pretended he was joking) I still did not notice the many forms that it can take.