10 responses to “Disability is not your analogy”

  1. almandite

    Oh goodness!

    I still vividly remember every time someone has heard me go off about disability rights or neurodiversity, and their only response is “I agree! Everyone is disabled in their own way!”


    It happens far too often, and I don’t know how to correct them without sounding rude or self-obsessed but…really? Disability is not just some random quirk! You don’t get to trivialize my disability by taking away my unique experience and making it as common as dirt.


  2. Michelle

    I don’t see an analogy, I see a word that has multiple definitions. In this context, disability means a restriction. A crippling disability would be a restriction that causes a weakness.

    An analogy would be like: The historical censorship of discussion about sex has left us like a deaf person without hands to sign with.

  3. MW

    I just had a similar experience when reading a book by Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. I was enjoying and considering the Buddhist perspective on upheaval in one’s life until I came to a certain section.

    In that section, Chodron compared people who weren’t living mindfully to people who are blind and deaf in a field full of wildflowers and birdsong [or something very similar].

    She actually had the ignorance to use disabilities as a metaphor for ignorance and inattention! Maybe this is more a case of people having negative associations with disability in general, but, anyway, I wanted to throw the book across the room too. Also it was tainted after that, and I couldn’t take it seriously any more, which is too bad because some of the things it said could have been beneficial.

  4. Jo


    I mean, how difficult (ahem) would it have been for the author to use the word “inability”, which seems to be what was actually *meant*.

    Word selection + PC FAIL.

  5. lauren

    Exactly. Unable, inability, having difficulties, made it hard for… there are so many ways to express what she wanted to say without using disability as a metaphor in a way that bought into all the tired stereotypes about disability being a bad thing, something to “overcome”, etc.

    But then, that wouldn’t have allowed the author to tap into all those negative emotions so many people associate with disability. Which is of course much more important than being a decent human who doesn’t appropriate others peoples experiences.

  6. mightydoll

    That’s hardly the most problematic thing about that book, honestly.

    Which is not to minimize where you find it problematic, simply to state my opinion that that book is rife with problems.

  7. Jadey

    Re: the book. I actually just picked that book up from the library and began reading through it yesterday on the strength of many recommendations from sex-positive and poly perspectives. I’ve seen some cool stuff in it, but I’m nowhere near page 223 and I’ve been reading gingerly since running across the “men, women, and trans*folk!” trope early on. I’m going to keep going, but I’m trying to keep all my backpacks unpacked right in front of me as I do.

    Re: “disability as metaphor” in general. This kind of TAB-appropriation and poorly-conceptualized, ablist/-centric kind of analogizing also props up the harmful beliefs we (speaking as someone who is currently abled) have about disability and people with disabilities in the first place. I mean, we’re talking about the same metaphors and analogies every damned time – disability as a shorthand for deviance from the ablist conception of normalcy. (As an aside, I know someone doing his PhD on representations of disability in the work of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, who were themselves disabled, I think. I confess to being poorly read in the modern classics, but I got the gist as being studying disability in literature from the perspectives of disabled authors themselves. Seems like a nifty idea!)

    Ugh, ugh, okay, and reading Hardy’s comments on the cross-post make me want to throw the damned book against a wall. Back to the library it goes – I have half a dozen other books I want to read right now, and I no longer have any time for this one written by the same person who’s throwing around that pain-in-the-ass “but you’re killing our vocabularies! those precious WORDS!” argument. It’s a language, not a holy relic.

  8. Clay

    Echoing almandite here, About 10 years ago, after I got my Dx, I tried to tell a friend about Asperger’s, and when I had finished, he said, “Well, everybody’s got something.” In a way, I could see he was trying to be kind, and saying that he wasn’t being judgmental, but that response was unsatisfying, as though he hadn’t really understood anything. And in fact, he didn’t.