Welcome to FWD retrospective week! We’ve taking a look back at some of our favourite posts on a variety of themes over the next week.
Bitch: I Promise You Haven’t Heard This One Before (or, the one where Anna completely loses it and goes hard-core bitter, oh my gosh)
Once, not all that long ago, there was a dramatic story to be told! And that dramatic story needed a villain. And not just any villain, but a truly evil, twisted villain, somehow marked as the villain. And since, as we all know, all listeners and viewers of all stories are normal – just like you and me! (I know you must be normal, because these stories always assume the listener is non-disabled, and we all know that disabled people aren’t normal, right?) – the best way to mark our villain is to make him one of those scary cripple-types. In fact, if we can give him, say, a hunched back, or some nasty facial scars, or a withered arm, or even – oh, here’s a great idea, let’s make him all wheelchair bound! – then everyone will know, just by looking at him, that our villain is evil in some way. And bitter about being crippled, because we all know people are bitter abut being crippled. In fact, let’s make our awesome crippled villain bent on the destruction of normal people (just like you and me!) because of how bitter he about being all crippled and stuff. Awesome. This story is totally original, and I will now make millions of dollars!
Bitch: We’re Not Looking For Pity: The Trouble with Poster Children (Laura, I miss you.) [Note: This post discusses Autism Speaks]
Instead, these campaigns reinforce the idea, as presented by Jerry Lewis himself, that people with disabilities are “half a person”, that they shouldn’t have a voice in their own campaigns – that they can’t have a voice that’s louder than “thank you for your nice support” That people with disabilities should be grateful for what they’re given, because otherwise their lives would continue to be pitiable and pathetic. That people with disabilities are all children, because having a disability is a death sentence.
The Guardian: No Glee for disabled people
Shows that choose to depict disability are often praised for it, under the argument that any representation is a good representation, while the criticisms of disability rights activists are ignored. Even as we say that television shows are providing very harmful representations of disability, these shows are winning awards for their handling of disability.
When we are allowed to have sex in pop culture, it usually takes the form of a character with mental illness having sex because of the mental illness. I get this with Brenda Chenowith in Six Feet Under, where it’s suggested that she seeks out casual sex not because she’s an independent woman and she wants to, but because she’s desperately trying to fill some sort of hole in her life. I see this with other disabled and sexual characters as well; they’re not having sex in uncomplicated ways, because they want to or it’s fun or they are in long term relationships with people they love, but rather because they are mentally ill.
The thing about website accessibility is that the onus is often put on the people who need accommodations, instead of the people creating the site. That very word, ‘accommodations,’ makes it sound like one is the recipient of a huge favour; ‘we’re accommodating you.’ We need to break out of this mindset.
this ain’t livin': Psychiatrisation: A Great Way To Silence Troublesome Women
With the advent of psychiatry came an entirely new array of methods for oppressing women. Instead of keeping such women confined in the back rooms of the home, they could be sent to institutions! Women who engaged in ‘socially undesirable’ activity like lobbying for the right to vote, having children while single, being poor, and refusing to comply with orders from men could be handily dumped into institutions and left there.
In Lilith Fair’s super-woman-power-goddess universe, women with disabilities are left out, thereby not exactly contributing to LF’s supposed standing as a music festival For All Women. If you are leaving women with disabilities out, you are leaving some women out of your musical utopia. Certainly, accessibility policies will vary from venue to venue, but because LF is so huge and is of such note, I believe its coordinators have a responsibility to reach out to people who have, traditionally, been ignored, left out and/or forgotten about by major music festivals — and that group includes people — women — with disabilities.
Ham.blog (note: old Blogspot location, at which comments are off): Imbroglio a Go-Go
For some of us, “suffering” is part of the messy reality of life; when you have chronic pain (as I do), that’s just the way it is sometimes. I cannot choose how, when or where my pain will affect me, and “suffering” is often part of the experience of living with pain, chronic illness or disability. And you cannot separate that suffering and that pain from the legacies of ableism, privilege and exclusion that continue to affect how people with disabilities are treated by many non-disabled people. As I’ve said before, dealing with my own physical pain is often easier than dealing with peoples’ opinions, attitudes and preconceived notions about my pain or about people with disabilities as a whole. But those things still affect and reinforce each other regardless.
Bitch magazine’s Social Commentary blog: Disability archetypes: Supercrip
Unfortunately for some PWDs, Supercrip is a specter; he or she is a ghostly reminder of what we will never be—but, as some like to remind us, we should remember that Supercrips do “amazing” things, so why can’t we? Here’s why: Most people—disabled or not—cannot run marathons, or play sports at a non-amateur level, or [like Christopher Reeve has done] make advocating for stem-cell research into a full-time, publicity-garnering, and paying gig. However, some folks do not seem to realize this, and may deem it perfectly acceptable to dredge up the zombie-body of Supercrip, along with the magical, mythic Level Playing Field that supports her or him—and, by extension (and according to the non-marginalized) other people who have traditionally been marginalized.
Bitch magazine’s Social Commentary blog: Disability Chic? (Temporary) Disability in Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi”
The representation here lasts for less than a minute. Her temporarily-disabled status has also been caused by someone else: at the beginning of the clip, she is pushed off of a ledge by her partner as paparazzi photograph the two together, and she exacts her revenge at the clip’s end by poisoning him (while wearing a very confusing outfit that seems to take its inspiration from the Bee Girl in that Blind Melon video, Mickey Mouse, and Bjork). Are we supposed to pity her, since her disability has stemmed from her intimate partner’s actions? Should viewers side with one of the sensational newspaper headlines–“LADY NO MORE GAGA”–that appears right before the music begins, implying that she just isn’t as fabulous as she was before her dis-ablement?
The Don’t DIS My ABILITY Blog: It’s Your Fault!
The thing is, people with a disability need accommodations. Accommodations aren’t optional extras, they aren’t something we can give up if we try a bit harder. Neither are we out to get all the money/spots/benefits at the expense of the rest of the population. We’re not just using the designated seating on the bus to annoy those who have to stand – and the accusatory glances are enough to wear one right down, let me tell you.
The Don’t DIS My ABILITY Blog: There’s Respect, and Then There’s Respect:
I’ve been thinking about how “respect” for people with disabilities is often framed in negative and condescending terms. We’re only worthy of respect insofar as we play the inspirational martyr. We can be respected for struggling through what are supposedly inevitably hopeless, helpless lives. But we can’t be respected for fighting back against the systemic barriers keeping us down, or questioning our care.
Feministe: Fighting Ableism Fights Sexual Assault [trigger warning]
Thinking about all of this can leave me feeling rather powerless and hopeless. But then I remember that if the increased vulnerability of women with disabilities comes from the interlocking forces of sexism and ableism, all I have to do to combat this is continue fighting those forces wherever I encounter them. Even if not directly connected to social violence, fighting ableism helps undermine the messages which make women with disabilities more vulnerable.
Bitch magazine: What is Ableism and Why Should You Care?
Similarly, there is a plethora of words which rely on a shared assumption that to be disabled is inherently bad, inherently less than a person without a disability, inherently unworthy of attention, consideration, or care.