Quotation: “Disability & Sentimentality”

When the disabled body and the handicapped self are inscribed as deficient and dependent, disabled people are aligned with other social groups perceived as needing supervision, assistance, and guardianship. The idea of autonomy and independence, central to most psychological definitions of healthy adult selfhood, is premised on the presumption of physical independence, of a self that embodied its own freedom in its very movements. In the absence of such bodily autonomy there is little basis for assuming any other forms of autonomy; hence disabled people who have limited independence of movement are also often subject to limited independence of decision-making and self-governance. Disability rights activists point to several important areas where the ideas of bodily-based autonomy have infringed on the basic civil rights of disabled people, including the right to make one’s own decisions about sexuality and reproduction, the right to equal access to education and employment, and the right to vote.

– Mary Klages, Woeful Afflictions: Disability and Sentimentality in Victorian America, 1999, pg 3.

Limited Preview of Woeful Afflictions is available on Google Books.

9 thoughts on “Quotation: “Disability & Sentimentality”

  1. There’s more to being independent in our culture than just physical independence.

    A person in a wheelchair who has a job and can drive is more independent than me with my “invisible” disability who has never worked and doesn’t have a license.

    I hate the “independence” markers – shooting out of the house at 18, driving at 16, and lord knows what else. Oh, in America, starting college *right after* high school. I waited a year and so many hoops to get my rightful scholarships (high GPA, high ACT) and mys sister used to rub it in a lot – “You’re supposed to be a Junior.” “Oh, so-and-so was in your class. He’s a Senior, like you’re supposed to be.”

  2. I was actually really surprised that independence markers are also different in different countries. In Canada & North America, getting out of the parental household as soon as possible makes you an “adult”, and going back to live with your parents is seen as a bad, dependence-related thing (See the IRS’s deciding that a single mom living with her parents means her two kids are not her dependents, but her parents’ dependents). So, I put my foot in my mouth countless times in Australia, because that’s not how things are done there. Most of my friends who were around my age did still live at home with their parents.

    Om nom nom shoes are tasty.

  3. @Kaitlyn: Oh, yes, yes, YES on the driving thing. This has been one of my pet peeves for the longest while now.

    There are so many jobs where I could do everything in the job description except drive between job sites. And even if that’s not part of the job description, it still often mentions “must have a driving license and clean driving record.” Not to mention that, with the way that the bus routes are around here, if the job weren’t on the bus route that I live on, I’d have to get up before the crack of dawn and make a transfer just to get to the office at a reasonable hour.

  4. Oh, yeah, and also, there are some parts of town that just plain aren’t on the bus route, and aren’t easily walkable from it either. And of course, job descriptions generally fail to mention such things as, say, where in town the office is located, so I’d know whether I’d be able to even get there.

    I actually did a blog post about barriers to getting a job a couple Disability Blog Carnivals ago, in case anyone forgot about it or wants to read it again.

  5. I’m continually amazed at how many places I call do not know which buses stop on their street.

    GAH. YES. I’ve contacted several local businesses to ask how to most easily get there by bus, and many of them have honestly had no idea.

  6. I just read an interview “article” or list, one of the things that pops up on my yahoo page that I look at if I’m bored.

    It was a list of questions not to ask at an interview.

    One of them was about buses – “you should know how to get there” and don’t ask if they cover your health problems, besides it’ll take a year at most places for them to cover your pre-existing conditions.

    Many of the informal little job help articles on “mainstream” sites are very much stuck in a TAB mindset (and probably others as well.)

  7. @Kaitlyn: Oh, gah. I’ve seen *so many* articles about job interviews giving the ‘helpful’ advice to leave one’s mobile phone in the car when going in to the interview. No advice, of course, on what those of us who didn’t get to the job site by car should do with our phones, particularly if we’ll be using them to find out whether the bus is running on time afterwards.

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