Monthly Archives: August 2010
Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, recommended to me by The Guy, my partner of several years now, whom I thought loved me, seemed innocuous enough. I thought it a simple fantasy series woven with a love story (“woven” here should read more like a nice cudgel to the head), which I was looking for. I thought it would be a nice epic fantasy, like Kushiel’s Dart, or something to sate my need for a good run of fantasy novels.
I however, didn’t heed Anna’s warning, when she asked me whywhyWHY would someone who loves me recommend a book series to me where a chicken is written in as EVIL personified (this is actually a simplification of the storyline, but it is true, nonetheless…), and as it turns out I think Anna may love me more. Who knows. Maybe I was hooked by the way the first two books ended with just the most convenient and precious heterocentric endings ever (there is one brief nod in the fourth book to homosexuality that seems it could be positive, but then it ends sadly, and seven books later there is no happy ending for this character).
The Sword of Truth series, however, does have many good qualities. It has several well written female characters whom I fell in love with, but, as I will write more about at my home blog, all seem to be written to be smitten with and to be in the service of the central protagonist, Richard Cypher/Rahl. They simply fall all over themselves to serve him, to love him, and to swear their lives to protect him with everything they have. Even if they were once evil or if they have tendencies to be evil (it’s just their way, you see, some women can’t help it), they somehow over come it because his presence is enough to ignite a spark to make them want to fight for their own lives him. I mean his cause.
But the Sword of Truth series isn’t just an innocent fantasy series. It isn’t even a series filled with tropes about women characters that I love that happens to beat me upside the head with forbidden romance and a love forbidden to procreate. It is a cautionary tale that warns of the evils of allowing communism to take over your life. This strange story of caring for your fellow man is bent into a monolithic monster of a machination that kills everything it touches. It simply asserts that you must live in misery for that is the only way that everyone can possibly meet the needs of every human evil, and makes the horrible and incorrect logical leap that religion is somehow tied to it, that this life is meaningless and that goodness can only be obtained in the hereafter. I can’t say I disagree with the atheistic themes, but really, a horse can only be beaten so many times before I glaze over and gloss over entire pages of exposition and soliloquy.
To be righteous in this world that Mr. Goodkind has created you must be willing and — key word alert here — able to fight for your own life and protect it with everything you have, up to and including killing those who would take it from you. With sword, with your bare hands, with magic if you are … gifted.
Yes, “gifted”. Being born with the ability to use and be touched by magic is considered a gift, which is not an uncommon theme in fantasy fiction and pop culture, but Goodkind takes it a step further, it seems to me. It is almost as though magic is another sense, an ability above and beyond that makes up for any other sense you may lack. Because if there is one thing that is all but lacking from this world that Mr. Goodkind has created, it is disability on the side of the bringers of good.
Even Adie, the “bone woman” (who oddly enough, having the speech pattern “I be” in the books*, is depicted as a non-white woman in the television series equivalent Legend of the Seeker even though that is now how she is described, but she is All Exotic! with Bones!), who had her vision stripped from her in her youth by a group of anti-magic zealots known as The Blood of the Fold by pouring bleach in her eyes, has learned to see. Her “gift” has enabled her to see. In fact, her vision, as is noted many times in the books, is often better than those who must rely on their ‘non-gifted’ vision.
I am going to drop the quotes from here on out, because it is getting tedious, and I think you get the point.
Adie never had to learn how to access the world around her. She never had to learn how to stumble around and feel with her other senses. She did, however, have to learn how to see with her magic, which made up for the vision which wasn’t there. This gave her the ability to be worthy, in the world that Goodkind created, to be able to fight for her life, and be allowed to live. People should just try harder, as Adie did. If you can’t get by in life, it is your own fault, and you are not contributing properly to the artwork that is the nobility of man!
You can understand why I was having a problem here.
Normally with pop-culture and fiction, there aren’t really absolutes, and I admit that there are multiple ways of interpreting things, but Goodkind has done a unique thing here: he has created a world of moral absolutes. This is right and this other things is wrong. What Richard Rahl (the protagonist) believes is right, and what he is against is wrong. There is clear good and evil, and the lines are rarely blurred. This use of a gift of magic allows people who otherwise have flaws to remain on the correct side of Richards moral compass. Richard, and Goodkind himself, could be described as Objectivists, which I think would clear up my frustrations. It should have set off alarms as soon as the philosophy lessons started to seep into my fantasy novel. Except OOPS! Mr. Goodkind says he is not a fantasy writer, merely a fiction writer he says (fuck you, fans!), so I have been wrong all along…
But Adie couldn’t be useful to the story, she couldn’t be the powerful and badass sorceress that she is depicted as being if she was indeed blind, amirite? Because if she was wasting all of her time trying to adapt to a world that was refusing to make accommodations for her she wouldn’t be able to fight for her individual life, or for Richard’s noble cause of laissez faire Capitalism freedom for all mankind (and I guess some of those womenfolk too).
The only time that her magical eyesight didn’t work was when she was faced with a woman, Jennsen, who was born without even a spark of the gift, called a “pristinely ungifted” person. She can not be touched by or interact with magic. Turns out, that Jennsen is Richard’s half sister, and her being ungifted is the bi-product of Richard’s gift. There can be only one! She has to be ungifted so that he can be gifted. It is very complicated, and there is an entire race of people on whom Adie’s magical eyesight doesn’t work! And Jennsen had to help Richard rally them up, because they were blind (oh the tropes and ableist language abound!) to evil, and their pacifist asses wouldn’t raise a finger to fight for their artwork of individual self interest.
I was just frustrated beyond all belief.
So if you want a nice stew of -ism and fuckery passed off as philosophy and disguised with characters that you will certainly love, I recommend Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. All eleven (soon to be twelve!) books of it!
EDIT: 01 Sept: I forgot a couple of links when I finished this post. Apologies!
In the winter of 2009, when Kiran was 5, his parents were told that he had preschool depression, sometimes referred to as “early-onset depression.” He was entered into a research study at the Early Emotional Development Program at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, which tracks the diagnosis of preschool depression and the treatment of children like Kiran. “It was painful,” Elizabeth says, “but also a relief to have professionals confirm that, yes, he has had a depressive episode. It’s real.”
Social psychologist and bioethicist Asch says that a lack of familiarity may be one reason for professionals’ biases toward people with disabilities. “Very few professionals know people with disabilities as peers,” says Asch, who teaches at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass. “Their only contact with people with disabilities is in a crisis situation, where the professional is [called on for help]. So the notion among some professionals is that people with disabilities always need help and can never give help or nurturance to another human being or provide a child with security or protection.”
This is not a story about “taxpayers’ money” – most disabled people who have local authority-funded care plans are only allowed to spend these on basic services such as help with washing and dressing. What it is really about is moral outrage over an isolated case, which is also a smokescreen for much more disturbing attitudes towards disabled people’s lives.
“With race, sexual orientation and disability, you are talking people’s core identity — things that are unchangeable,” she said. “What do we get out of making fun of things that people cannot change, other than degrading them and making them feel they are not part of society.”
The Band-Aid-like patches, coated with microscopic needles, generally don’t hurt. Moreover, they may actually work better at delivering vaccines and some medications, according to recent research.
A reader wrote in to ‘Since you asked…’ on Salon last month about her 90 year old mother; I’m going to summarise her letter, because it’s a bit long. The letter writer’s mother has some health conditions and is living independently with a little bit of assistance from the family, but has recently been diagnosed with a new medical issue. A specialist wants the mother to undergo some testing to learn more, and the mother wants to decline because it would be invasive and uncomfortable. Letter writer supports her mother’s choice and doesn’t want to pressure her into getting tests she does not want, but her brother, who lives far away and doesn’t spend much time with his mother, doesn’t. The letter writer asks ‘am I doing the right thing?’
This is a problem that comes up quite frequently. There’s an idea that people deserve autonomy…up to a certain point, and then the people around them should make decisions for them. There’s also an idea that people who are capable of making decisions for themselves should be pressured if the people around them think they are the ‘wrong’ decisions. Reading between the lines of the letter, it’s clear to me that the mother is making an informed choice and she has solid reasons for it. In my opinion, her daughter is doing the right thing: She’s respecting the choices her mother wants to make for her medical care.
Dear Concerned Daughter,
Yes, I think you are doing the right thing. Your mom has the right to make her own decisions.
There may be room for compromise. It would be nice to know more about what this new serious condition is. It may be that in two or three weeks, or a couple of months, things will change. But your mother has the right to decide how much poking and prodding from doctors she will endure.
What do you say to your brother? Well, I would say two things. I would say, Let’s just wait and see; maybe she will change her mind, and maybe the situation will become clearer. And I would also say, Why don’t you come here now and spend some time with her?
She doesn’t have forever. This opportunity to be with her will not return. Now is the best time there is. He should come and spend some time with her. That’s what I would say to him.
It’s not right to force people to undergo medical procedures they don’t want to undergo. As long as people can understand the risks, they are free to refuse. (emphasis mine)
His response makes a number of key points. The most important is stated right at the top, which is critical. I like that he also notes that declining testing now doesn’t spell the end of the road or close any doors; if the mother later decides she does want testing or wants to explore options, she can. And while he notes ‘maybe she will change her mind,’ he does not suggest that she should be pressured and forced into doing so. Overall, the letter emphasises respect for the mother’s autonomy, which is a rare thing to see when it comes to talking about how people interact with older adults.
And I think the advice about what to say to the brother is very sound. Reading the original letter, I wondered if the brother was pressuring for more testing because he feels bad about not being more directly involved and believes that testing will buy his mother more time. It is very difficult to be living in a distant location while an older family member is not doing well; it can create feelings of frustration and helplessness and guilt, because you want to be more involved but you are unable to be.
If he can make arrangements to do so, making a visit to spend some time with his mother might be a good idea, not least because he will have an opportunity to interact with her and see that she is making an informed choice about her medical care. That might not be an option for him; we don’t know the circumstances, but the brother needs to separate out his feelings in this case, because his mother deserves autonomy, and should be supported in her decisionmaking.
Disclaimer: None of the jobs in these round-ups are endorsed by anyone at FWD. We can’t answer any questions about them.
The Perkins Institute for the Blind has a list of job opportunities. The ones that specifically came to my attention were Director, Perkins International Program and Director of International Resource Development.
MDAC is searching for a Legal Officer to develop cases for submission to domestic courts, the European Court of Human Rights and other human rights mechanisms. The Legal Officer will work in close collaboration with the legal as well as policy and advocacy staff, liaise with lawyers and NGOs, carry out legal research and draft cases under the guidance of the Litigation Director. The post is based at the MDAC headquarters in Budapest, Hungary.
Essential qualifications and experience include a university degree in law from a Member State of the Council of Europe and minimum two years of work experience conducting human rights litigation or advising and advocating on behalf of clients regarding issues related to disability or human rights.
The ideal candidate must have excellent legal English language skills and the highest commitment to MDAC’s mission, vision and organisational values. More Information.
Deadline is September 3, 2010.
There is an immediate opening for a full-time position of Latin America Regional Officer for the Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.) project.
D.R.P.I. is a collaborative project working to establish a holistic and sustainable global system to monitor the human rights of people with disabilities. D.R.P.I.’s International Coordination Centre is based at York University in Toronto, Canada. In collaboration with Red Latinoamericana de Organizaciones No Gubernatmentales de Personas con Discapacidad y sus Familias (R.I.A.D.I.S.) and its Argentina member organization, Disability Rights Network (R.E.D.I.), D.R.P.I. is establishing a Regional Centre for Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Latin America Regional Officer will work from the Buenos Aires office, Monday to Friday, 10am-6pm.
The D.R.P.I. project is guided by the principle that people with all types of disabilities and their representative organizations should be actively involved in all aspects of disability rights monitoring. D.R.P.I. adopts a holistic approach to monitoring disability rights, focusing on three inter-related areas: individual experiences (gathering information about the personal experiences of people with disabilities), systems (assessing laws, policies and programs impacting the rights of people with disabilities) and societal attitudes (examining the coverage and depiction of disability in the media). Further information may be found on the project website at http://www.yorku.ca/drpi/.
Dr. Bengt Lindqvist (UN Special Rapporteur on Disability 1994-2002) and Dr. Marcia Rioux, Professor, School of Health Policy and Management, M.A. and Ph.D. (Critical Disability Studies), York University co-direct the project.
The position will involve working under the direction of D.R.P.I.’s Co-Directors and with the co-supervision of R.E.D.I. to:
* Collaboration with the D.R.P.I. Coordinator and other researchers
* Coordinate a regional disability rights monitoring training including the logistics of organizing the venue; participant travel, board and lodging; printing of materials, etc.;
* Plan and supervise disability rights monitoring projects;
* Liaise with D.R.P.I. project personnel and partners;
* Seek funding opportunities for disability rights monitoring activities;
* Assist national and local organizations of people with disabilities to apply for and secure funding;
* Offer support to disability rights monitoring activities taking place in Latin America;
* Develop and foster partnerships between and among disability rights and human rights organizations in Latin America;
* Assist with the preparation of reports to funding bodies and international and regional human rights monitoring mechanisms;
* Raise awareness of disability rights monitoring activities taking place in Latin America (by, for example, coordinating media campaigns, writing content for the D.R.P.I. website and list serv, attending and presenting at relevant meetings, etc.)
* Maintain accurate accounts of funding and provide periodic reports to D.R.P.I.,
* Other tasks, as required by the D.R.P.I. Co-Directors or their designate.
1. Experience in project administration and management, organizing events and writing funding proposals;
2. Experience contributing to effective communication strategies including newsletters, reports, websites, etc;
3. Excellent oral and written communication skills in Spanish;
4. Able to communicate in English effectively.
5. Understanding of human rights and of disability as a human rights issue; and
6. Willing to travel.
1. A university degree in the area of law, social sciences or other related discipline.
2. Personal experience of disability and/or working with people with disabilities.
3. Fluency in Portuguese is a strong asset.
4. Pan-Latin American working experience.
Compensation will be commensurate with the qualifications and experience of the successful candidate.
Please note that it will not be possible to cover the cost of the successful candidate’s moving and/or relocation expenses.
We encourage applications from persons with disabilities, women, ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups.
Applications will be accepted until September 5, 2010.
Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and their résumé to Dr. Marcia Rioux at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate “APPLICATION – LATIN AMERICA REGIONAL OFFICER” in the subject line of the email.
For further information about this posting, please contact:
Dr. Marcia Rioux
Disability Rights Promotion International (D.R.P.I.)
York University, 4700 Keele St., Suite 5021,TEL Building, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada
telephone: +1 416 736 2100 extension 22112
Astrid, of Astrid’s Journal, has agreed after much consideration to host the September edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, and we at FWD/Forward are enthusiastic to support that decision!
Astrid has chosen the theme “Identity”:
Think of it as broadly as you want. Posts relating to transforming identities, are of course especially welcome, as they honor both themes. Just a reminder that, even though this is a disability blog carnival, we honor intersectionality, so racial, ethnic, gender, sexual and any other type of identities also count, as long as the post is somewhat relevant to disability.
Comments can be submitted preferably here or else at the Disability Studies, Temple U. blog. The deadline for submissions will be Tuesday night, September 21 – Tuesday night your time, so don’t worry about my living in Europe. I hope to post the carnival on Friday, September 24 – whenever it suits me, my time.
We hope you will consider submitting something for the Carnival. Remember, the theme is a way to get you started, and we hope that you will interpret it to how it applies to your own situation, keeping the general spirit of intersectionality in mind.
Again, thanks to Astrid for taking this on, because without volunteers, there would be no Carnival!
Be sure, if you haven’t already, to check out the August edition of The Disability Carnival at Brilliant Mind, Broken Body, hosted by Kali.
Signal Boost: The August Edition of The Disability Blog Carnival is Up at Brilliant Mind, Broken Body
Reader Astrid informs me that The Disability Blog Carnival is up and on the go for August at Brilliant Mind, Broken Body, courtesy of Kali.
This Month’s theme is “distance”:
I think distance is an interesting concept because we use the same word to mean so many different things – the space between ideas, the space between here and there, the space between you and me, the space between us and them, the space passage of time creates, the difference between where we started and where we have gotten to, the space between understanding and not. Intentional spaces, ideological spaces, physical spaces, metaphorical spaces. It’s a word that I think sometimes encompasses much of the disability experience, because there always seem to be more distances we have to deal with.
Please swing on over to Brilliant Mind, Broken Body and give Kali some love, some support, some kudos, and maybe an Internet Tradition for the hard work.
I consider myself to be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, at least in the way that the term is commonly defined in the United States. Hesitant as I am to list all of my “liberal” qualifications, let’s just get some things out of the way: I am unapologetically feminist, pro-LGBQTIA rights, and am actively working to be anti-racist (which is an ongoing process). I am against capital punishment, as well as the current prison system. U.S.-ian imperial, cultural and economic hegemony across the globe does not sit well with me, and I am of the opinion that it should be actively dismantled. There are also other classically “liberal” opinions that I hold which would take entirely too much space to list here.
My own political stance is a huge part of the reason why ableism from people who are ostensibly my “allies” feels like such a giant thorn in my side. Because it seems that no matter how much we may align politically on the surface, some liberals seem to be incapable of viewing me — and other people with disabilities — as fully human, and treating us accordingly.
Many will protest, “But I can’t be ableist! I’m progressive/liberal!” But here’s the thing: You can be liberal and also behave in an ableist manner, even without knowing it. It is indeed possible — even with the best of intentions.
Ableism is there when a liberal makes “jokes” about a condition or conditions that ou does not have, such as Restless Leg Syndrome. Or OCD. Or depression. Or schizophrenia. Or chronic fatigue syndrome. Or mental disabilities. Often, these “harmless” jokes are made at the direct expense of people with disabilities or health conditions — both physical and mental. Ableism is there when someone insinuates that diet changes (EAT ORGANIC!!11) and exercise (What? You mean you DON’T work out every day?!) are the solution to all bodily problems, including disabilities, mental health issues, and chronic health conditions. It’s there when someone calls those on the opposite side of the political spectrum “insane.”
It’s most definitely been there when “liberals” with whom I once got along decided that my illness — and the physical and energy limitations that come with my having a chronic illness — no longer suited them and their needs, and so they were free to do things like make unsolicited comments about my illness or how I manage it, or sigh and roll their eyes if I needed to slow down or take a break. Or, worse, tell me that although they have “sympathy” for my health issues, granting me access or even basic accommodations so that I could participate in an activity to the best of my ability just “wouldn’t be fair” to other (abled) group members. For these liberals, everyone deserves respect and opportunity — so it follows that disabled people absolutely deserve to participate in society! Until, of course, accommodations for PWDs conflict with the desired pacing or focus of the liberals in question — or until the PWD no longer conforms to the “angelic” and/or “in need of uplift by the kind liberals” image. Yet often, these same liberals still insist that they can’t be ableist — they’re so progressive!
This is precisely what makes liberal ableism so insidious, and so often hard to bring up (much like hipster ableism and, to some extent, hipster racism and liberal sexism, as well as liberal racism, though I do not wish to conflate all of these as the exact same type[s] of oppression) precisely because so much energy is dedicated to brushing off any discussion of ableism in liberal circles with some claim to liberal or progressive “cred.” Instead of deflecting and immediately whining, “But I’m not like that! I’m liberal!” many of these folks might do well to take a step back and consider how they themselves are contributing to so much of the offal that PWDs face daily with their actions and words.
This week’s livechat with Prudence featured a question that seems to crop up endlessly, like, pretty much whenever a person with a disabled parking placard pulls up to a parking space and gets out of ou car:
Q. Parking Lot Etiquette: I live in an apartment that overlooks the building’s handicapped parking spots. I have noticed one young woman, who has a blue permit, using one of the three spots every day, as if it is her own. The problem is, when she gets out of her car, she has no visible handicap. I would also add that other residents have to pay for their own spot, and she drives a late model Audi, so I don’t think she’s too poor to pay herself. I suppose she may have some handicap that isn’t visible, but is that what the spaces near the door are really intended for? I notified the manager, who I don’t think is going to do anything, and will probably leave it at that. But am I crazy for letting this bother me? Signed, Auto Fixated.
Oh my stars, y’all! She’s, like, totally not disabled! ’cause she drives an Audi!
Prudence delivered the goods:
A: There have been interesting studies that show society actually functions better when certain people are willing to take on the role of unofficial police. Shaming the able-bodied who take handicapped parking spaces is a favorite outlet for these enforcers. However, the danger for such people is that they end up being unpleasant busybodies or worse. I have heard from many seemingly able-bodied people who have mild MS, say, but are constantly getting reamed out by “do-gooders” when they take a handicapped parking space. The woman you’re seeing has a permit, and you don’t know what might actually be wrong with her. She doesn’t appear to be preventing anyone who needs the space from filling it. So get over your fixation and find something that really needs fixing.
So, here’s the dealio, parking police: stop it.
No, really, that’s about all I have to say. A person with a disabled placard or plates owes no obligation to you. Is not required to specify and explain, in detail, the nature of ou disabilities. Period. Placards get assigned to people who need them1, and plenty of people who don’t have, ah, ‘visible handicaps’ do in fact need to take advantage of disabled parking spots. It’s nice that Prudence provided an example of a disability that might be nonevident, but still require the use of disabled parking, but, honestly? She didn’t need to. Because the takeaway lesson is that where people with disabilities park, and their disabilities, is not your business.
Yes, even if they are driving nice cars.
Additionally, if you do not need disabled parking because you are not disabled? Please stop using our damn parking already. Yes, even if it’s just for a minute. Yes, even if you were totally planning to move if someone needed it.
- And thanks to weird policies, some people who need them can’t get them. ↩