Tag Archives: pop culture

Recommended Reading for November 12

Private Practice Takes a Bold Stance against Decent Behaviour

There’s a new doctor at Naomi’s practice, Dr. Fife, a genetic engineer who uses a wheelchair who pressures Naomi into agreeing to select for an embryo for two patients with dwarfism to allow them to created a baby who also has dwarfism. Naomi is reluctant but agrees until she learns that these embryos will also give the future baby a 40% chance of developing some kind of cancer (which Lauredhel over on FWD points out, is the baseline cancer risk for the US population).

18th Down Under Feminist Carnival

This Carnival has an optional caring theme, thanks to Australian Carers’ Week (which was October 18 to October 24). The theme for this year was “Anyone, Anytime, Across Australia”, which I modified to “Anyone, Anytime” for the purposes of the DUFC.

Denmark Strips Away Right To Privacy from Blind Voters

On Wednesday I read that one of my blind friend’s in Utah just experience voting by himself for the first time thanks to his voting machine having built in text to speech. On that same day, I also read that the blind in Denmark not only don’t get to vote by themselves, they have to have a council member present when they’re voting. This rule was supposedly implemented to make sure that the sighted helper wasn’t pressuring the blind voter to vote in a particular way, but what it really does is just strip that voter of their right to privacy.

On being “Crazy”

Crazy is something altogether different. Crazy is delusion, psychosis, mania, schizophrenia. Insanity, in the depths of society’s psyche, is jabbering in tongues rocking back and forth in a padded room. It can’t be trusted. It is the serial killer, the mother who kills her children, the man who laughs while committing the most vile crimes – this is what “crazy” conjures up in the minds of the general public.

This terror, this nightmare looming in the dark places of our collective consciousness is harmful. Incredibly so. It means that people who are not neurotypical are stuck with the paradoxical choice of lying or being mistrusted. Perhaps more importantly, it makes us less likely to seek help when it is needed. It took me years to admit, even to myself, that my brain was fundamentally different than most. Because I didn’t want to be crazy.

In the news:
Vatican post office issues stamps with raised dots to honour inventor of Braille system

The Vatican post office says it has issued its first Braille stamps to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the French creator of the writing and reading system for the blind.

The stamps feature a portrait of Braille and his system’s raised dots that spell out Braille, Vatican City State and the price.

Don’t forget, we’re also doing some guest blogging at Bitch Magazine! Check out meloukhia’s introductory post about disability! (Yes, I do write up recommended reading in advance.)

The Invisible Disability

Moderatrix Note: Originally posted at random babble… on 15 September 2009.  At the time the movie was just out over the previous summer.

Because of the new movie that is out I am currently re-reading Jodi Piccoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.  I read it about five years ago, but I read that the screenwriter for the movie changed the ending (why do we do these things, Hollywood?  The movie ending sounds awful, but more on that after I see it), so I thought I would brush up so that my memory is fresh when I see the movie.

There is one character in the book, Campbell Alexander, who is a lawyer who agrees to take Anna’s (the central protagonist) case for medical emancipation from her parents, pro bono.  Alexander has a service dog that assists him.  The need for the dog becomes something of a running joke throughout the book, because everyone assumes that if he has a service dog he must be blind, which he is not.  He cracks a series of jokes, including “I have an iron lung, and the dog keeps away from magnets” to avoid directly answering any questions.  It isn’t until the end of the book that you find out why he actually needs the dog (but re-reading this I find that there are many fairly blatant clues to the acute reader), and no I will not tell you, just in case it happens to be omitted from the movie. I am a jerk like that.  =)  While Campbell Alexander’s situation provides a good many of moments to laugh in a book that is incredibly tear jerking, his situation is all too familiar.

See, the reason Alexander feels the need to crack jokes and be sarcastic is because his need for the dog, named Judge (…ha ha!  I C wut U did there!) is constantly questioned.  Every time he walks into a restaurant, a hospital, a public building and despite the fact that Judge is described as wearing a service dog’s harness he is told that dogs are not allowed.  When he mentions that Judge is a service dog the common response is “But you aren’t blind!”.  Campbell Alexander’s reason for needing a service dog isn’t obvious to the casual person on the street, but his need, his disability, is just as real in the world created in the book.  But were he a real live person living in the world today his disability would be met w/ the same types of skepticism.

Even though it is becoming more common to be diagnosed with what were previously thought to not be real conditions the idea of an Invisible Disability is still foreign to most people.  People living with conditions such as Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sarcoidosis, any number of non-neurotypical disorders, or Lupus, just to name a few, go through chunks of their lives never showing visible signs of the often constant and frequently overwhelming pain that sometimes limits their lives.  I know that when I am on the subway in Seoul I am given odd looks if I use a seat that is left open for PWDs, even though my joints and legs hurt so much that standing brings tears to my eyes, because no one can see my pain or know my need.

It is easy to assume looking at a person that they are completely able-bodied.  TAB has become the norm to society at large, and in order to be anything outside of the default you have to display physical signs of your difference.  That is what our society today demands.  A wheelchair.  A handicapped parking plate.  A cane or seeing-eye dog.  The lack of these markers can mean the difference between accessibility with independence, and limitation.  My need for accessibility isn’t obvious unless I point it out, but it is real.  It’s the reason I have to ask if the single’s lodging on a base has elevators or insist on staying in the main building which does.  It’s the reason that some people get angry when limited access forces them off of their scooter, in great pain, while standers by watch and assume that the person is faking in the first place.

The presumption that a disability must come with a big obvious sign so that other people can identify them is part of the problem to making the world outside our homes accessible to everyone.  It isn’t the job of PWDs to make their conditions obvious to you or to explain themselves to the AB-TAB crowd, but it should be the responsibility of the public and society to make sure that PWDs can access the rest of the world, which is a step, for many, to independent living.

Recommended Reading for October 29

Sexy with a Disability:

It’s not like there are many role models out there in the media. The disabled are rarely portrayed as sexy. Brave, yes. Melancholy, sure. Angry about their lot, check. Objects of concern and pity (stop calling me “special”!). But sexy? No. The hot babe who gets the guy isn’t limping toward him, gnarled fingers grasping his strong shoulders as they kiss. And if she is in a wheelchair, it is only temporary.

Ally Issues: Feeling Useless:

At the same time, I have this nasty prickly little feeling inside me which tells me, “what right do you have to write about this issue? You’re perfectly able-bodied. You’re so able-bodied you’ve been holding write-ins at the Paperchase Cafe for years. It’s not like you’ve ever done anything to be a good ally to people with disabilities.”

The horrible thing is that the voice is right.

I’m wondering though, if it would be worse if I let the voice hold me back. That I have to wonder is, I think, pretty bad. Able-bodied people can talk about disability issues, and do, all the time. I’ll probably fuck up at some point, but that happens, right?

A piece of ableist language I could really do without

It’s that dreaded question, upon meeting: So, what do you do for a living?

It hurts. And what’s worse, people often don’t stop there; they keep on asking. ‘Oh, you don’t work? Why not? So are you on the dole then? Are you looking for work? But how do you afford to live? A pension? What are you on a pension for?”

Honestly, sometimes I just want to tattoo it on my forehead: “Hi, I’m Cinnamon Girl, and I’m insane. Thanks for the tax dollars!”

You see, I have a psychiatric disorder, and receive a disability support pension as a result. I don’t work to make my living. I also don’t want to disclose to every last person I meet that I have a mental illness. But, with that loaded innocent question, that’s pretty much what I’m forced to do.

Bones and Invisible Disability:

To be clear, Brennan’s Asperger’s is never directly mentioned by her co-workers. Her social awkwardness, typical of the syndrome, is frequently the punchline of jokes or leads to the repetition of one of Brennan’s favorite phrases, “I don’t know what that means.” However in interviews, Emily Deschanel, the talented actress who plays Brennan, often states that her character does have a mild form of Asperger’s.

The lack of awareness Brennan’s co-workers show about her Asperger’s, leads me to believe it could be considered an invisible disability. At first glance, Brennan appears “normal” and the only way her co-workers would know about her Asperger’s is if she tells them and then proceeds to advocate for her unique needs. In fact, she has made steps towards self-advocation already, at one point last season asking her psychologist, Dr. Lance Sweets, to help her understand social cues and to read facial expressions.

Dealing with disability is fine – it’s the phonecalls that shit me!

Peopel who don’t know you gasp and think life must be unbearably dificult, draining, and emotionally tough when you have a child with a disability – but to be honest, it’s the endless phonecalls, wrangling and organisation that can shit me to tears. Picking up Miz M from childcare yesterday, where she beamed delightedly and kicked her little legs and waved her arms, that was lovely. Trying to help her eat slices of mango was sticky but, hey, just fine. Making the fourth phonecall to the same organisation to try to organise for her mobility device to be fixed, on the other hand, brought a hot flush of frustration to my face and tears of irritation to my eyes. Put on hold while the woman I needed to speak to was on another call, after which the original unhelpful phone-answerer got back to me and said oh, she’s left now, and won’t be back till tomorrow. This, at 9 am.

Recommended Reading for October 28

Join Marlee Matlin in Demanding Captioning of Online Video Content

Academy-Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin has been using her Twitter account to actively lobby for captioning of all the digital video content that is flooding onto the Web. The issue has rightfully hit a boiling point for the deaf community because Netflix and other services are now streaming video online without captions.

The National Association of the Deaf sent a letter to Netflix Oct. 5 complaining about the lack of captioning for “The Wizard of Oz,” which was available for download free at the Netflix Web site as a promotion.

Matlin points out the irony of a recent video about the Helen Keller statue unveiling at the U.S. Capitol on the CNN Web site that has no captions!

Related: How to add Subtitles and Translations to your Vids, Captioning Sucks!.

Ableism in 30 Rock [Includes an embedded video from HULU that is not available outside of the US]:

A lot of feminists love 30 Rock. As they should: it’s a funny show, and a rarity for television – a women-fueled enterprise with a two main female characters, written and conceived of by a woman. That is Cool, full stop. And 30 Rock has many deft explorations of the many facets of being a white, middle-class, straight, woman with able privilege. But persons with disabilities don’t fare quite as well.

30 Rock trades on ableism on an almost episodic basis. The show’s disrespect towards folks with disabilites, particularly those with visible disabilities, is constant and unrelenting from side gags to b-plots to regular characters. 30 Rock constantly places bodies with able privilege in a position of supremacy above bodies with visible disabilities through humiliation and devaluation. Its abuse of persons with disabilities in the name of comedy goes beyond the casual ableist language like “lame” or “retarded”. Such language is unfortunately ubiquitous to even shows that have been critical of ableism (eg, The Office has critiqued ableism through Michael Scott’s typical obliviousness on a couple of occasions, but, as in life, “lame” and occasionally “retarded” is still a consistent presence) but 30 Rock’s ableism is constant, humiliating, and dehumanizing.

An Example of an Article about FSD [FSD = Female Sexual Disfunction]

I’m still not fully understanding the claim that FSD is profitable. If that’s the case, why is it so difficult for me, someone who falls into the pain category, to find a doctor who is equipped to handle me? My experience is that often, my first line of defense doctors get tired of seeing me after I don’t respond to conventional treatments. I think right now my local gyno probably never wants to see me again.

The article goes on to talk about hysteria. For the most part I don’t find this section of the article to be inherently problematic. Except for the part about “pelvic congestion,” being in quotes, since it is mentioned as a real thing in Heal Pelvic Pain (p. 16)

Identifing:

But the real reason it followed me and stayed there in the back of my mind was the times I thought, “Wait. That’s me.” And then my guilt complexes came in full-force, telling me no, you can’t call yourself that, that’s for people with real problems, any problem you have is just in your head. And maybe most of them are in my head, but well, it doesn’t make them any less real. It doesn’t make it any less hard to me to function or to try and figure out how to fit into society. It doesn’t make my very concrete limitations disappear.

In the news:

Clem7 Tunnel Labeled a death trap for the disabled [Australia]:

BRISBANE’S Clem7 tunnel could be a death trap for the aged and infirm, a disability group has warned.

Queensland’s Spinal Injuries Association said the 4.8km-long tunnel’s emergency exits were too far apart and too narrow for people with mobility problems to escape an underground disaster.

Mr Mayo argues there are no design rules for tunnels but believes this infrastructure should follow the Australian Building Code which mandates emergency exits at every 60m in buildings.

Yes, it DOES make a difference

(Cross-posted at three rivers fog.)

I wrote this yesterday in an extreme fog and do not have the spoons to rework and polish it. Apologies for the brainspill, but these days it’s the only option I have.

***

For background, see Ouyang Dan’s post on the problematic aspects of the TV show House. Don’t tell me that people realize this is fictional. Don’t tell me that people know how to maintain that separation. Some do. Many don’t. And they’re everywhere. At the bottom of the totem pole… and in positions of power over the very people they are prejudiced against.

***

I was called back to work two weeks ago. I work at a government office that provides certain assistance programs. (Once you go to work for one government agency, you realize there are a whole lot more of them than you ever thought before.) I really don’t want to go into it any more specifically than that.

It’s been very rough on me. Last winter, work was physically draining. I basically have two whole hours every day that I am awake and not at work, preparing for work, or traveling to and from work, and semi-conscious. Not only am I so physically exhausted that I go to bed three hours after work ends, I am so physically exhausted that my brain just cannot be pushed any further. I have trouble comprehending the blogs and news sites I normally read; writing is usually out of the question. Of course, we won’t even talk about anything more physical than that — even preparing a boxed dinner for myself is too difficult. My apartment is even more a mess than usual, because I don’t have the energy to pick up the clothes that I shed as soon as I get the front door shut, the mail and personal items that trail after me from the couch to the bedroom…

Unfortunately, so far this year, it hasn’t just been physically draining. I’ve been dealing with a sudden onset of severe migraines, and not the type of migraines I’ve had since childhood and have an intimate knowledge of — these are more classic migraines, the nausea, the aura and vision distortion, the intense pain and pressure behind the eyes… The pain is not as overwhelming as my normal migraines (where a twitch of the toe makes me want to scream or cry or at least moan, but the movement and force of emitting any noise at all would hurt even worse, so I just curl up and remain frozen in misery), but the experience is just as miserable because it block’s my brain’s ability to function, even to process the smallest of information. I’ve been having trouble writing six-digit numbers on the top of each application. And normally I work faster than the worker next to me, but the past two weeks she’s been cranking out work three times faster than me.

It’s frustrating. I’ve been doing everything in my capacity to do to fight these headaches off. Everything. And no, I don’t want any helpful suggestions. But regardless, even with all the desperate measures I have been taking, they persist.

On top of it all, my endometriosis has decided to flare up at the same time. So I get double nausea, extreme abdominal cramps, persistent pelvic pain and other symptoms.

I’ve been in a lot of pain.

I take a lot of medications. For pain. I take medications that have no effect on people who do not have a specific type of pain disorder. And I take medications that people who are not in pain popularly take to get high. (I do not, for the record, take anything to get high myself.) And I put up with a lot of shit to continue taking one of few medications that works and that enables me to work.

(I guess I could give it up and therefore be putting up with less shit. But then I’d, you know, not be able to work. And for so long as I have the option to be able to work, I’m taking it. Because I may not even have that option forever. Situations change, bodies change, and bodies change how they react to medications over time. I’m doing what is necessary for myself and my family at this point in our lives.)

So, at work today.

I sit on the far side of the first floor of our building, along with all the other people working in my particular program, the people working on another program, and a couple stray general clerks across from all of us. The other program’s supervisor and one of the other program’s workers (OPS/OPW hereafter) were talking about a certain case, a woman who was being denied medication and needed help obtaining it. This was before lunch, it was a general talk in a work context, that is how to get the problem solved.

My husband and I went home for lunch, as we do regularly, given that we live less than five minutes from our workplace. It takes half the lunch period but it is worth the spoons because it makes the workday so much more bearable — two four-hour chunks rather than one long nine-hour one. We sit around, watch The People’s Court reruns, eat our lunch and laugh at the cats who get in silly, hyper, meddling moods around that time.

I returned from lunch, feeling a lot better having had a break from the fluorescent lighting and ambient noise of the HVAC system. And a few minutes after I got back, sitting next to the OPS scanning documents into the computer system, OPW wandered back over and began talking again about the client from before.

The medication? Oxycontin. Her doctor has been prescribing it to her for over 15 years.

And the conversation? Went like this. (As typed soon after in an email to my husband, as close as I could get to what they actually said, given how stunned and hurt I was while it was happening.)

OPW: do you watch house?
OPS: no not really
OPW: well he has some sort of leg injury, but he takes that other one, what is it? vicodin
OPS: uh huh
OPW: and they sent him to rehab, and he just had to find something to occupy his mind so he wouldn’t think about it
OPS: yeah they get addicted so easy
OPW: and now they put him on regular pain killers and he’s doing just fine
OPS: yeah a lot of the time tylenol or advil works just as well, people just want the high
OPW: exactly, and their doctors prescribe it to them and they hand it out to family members…

And the conversation went on like this for a couple minutes, with the two of them walking back and forth fetching printed documents, attending to the scanning etc.

I just… I’m not terribly private about my condition. I don’t bring it up, but if it’s relevant I talk about it. I do try to avoid telling my coworkers that I take narcotic medications (as opposed to just “medications”) but I have gone over it specifically with HR as it can be a security issue in some agencies.

I was sitting right there. OPW sits on the other side of me, and had to walk around me to get to where OPS was at the scanner. I was sitting right there.

They were talking about me.

They weren’t thinking of me, of course. They’d never make that connection. I’m young and thin and pretty enough. They know I work hard. Most of my office loves the hell out of me.

But if I had spoken up — rather than sitting there holding my breath trying not to cry — how would that opinion change? Would they start seeing me as lazy, as slacking off? Would they whisper about me every time I went to the water fountain for a drink? What was I taking? What was I doing with it? Would they start taking certain behaviors as symptomatic of addiction? If I passed too well one day, appearing to be just fine (to them; I am good at covering up my pain) — would they take that as evidence that I couldn’t actually be in pain and couldn’t really need that medication? And if I didn’t pass well one day — especially these days, when I’ve been stopped more than one time as someone remarks on how deathly pale I am and asks if I’m OK and tells me to take a break — would they see that resulting, not from my pain, but from the supposed addiction?

They were talking about me. They didn’t even know it. But I am that person on that medication. Pushing through the pain to keep working.

The difference is, Dr. House is a character.

I’m real.

And that woman. These were the attitudes of the people who were helping her resolve an issue. As much as I wish otherwise, workers do have some degree of latitude in deciding how they are going to approach a case, and can apply the law in different ways for different people, even if it appears pretty strict on paper.

I am that woman.

I have been there. I am there. I have to deal with unsympathetic figures in obtaining my treatment. Doctors, nurses, office staff, pharmacists, insurance reps, welfare reps, other reps. I have issues I have to call to have resolved. I have that person on the other line who’s promising me on the one hand to resolve the issue — but on the other hand …? How can I ever know?

I don’t know what was going on in this woman’s life. I don’t know if she’s dependent (there is a difference). I don’t know if she would be better off on another course of therapy. Or whether she’s tried all those other courses and they’ve given her awful side effects or they’re contraindicated given her particular condition or they’re unavailable to her due to income or access. I don’t know.

Maybe she’s abusing. Maybe she’s handing it out on the street corner.

Maybe she’s just like me. Just one person trying to power through this world as best she can. And this is the best way she’s found to do it.

Recommended Reading for October 13, 2009

In the blogs:

The Ashley Treatment Yet Again:

I read as much as I can and try to keep abreast of any new developments. I do this because I remain deeply troubled by the larger implications of the Ashley Treatment, now referred to as growth attenuation by doctors. The change from the simple and easy to google Ashley Treatment to growth attenuation is not a matter of semantics. To me, this is a way for those that have relentlessly pushed this so-called treatment as a viable option to avoid publicity. Frankly, given the hysterical reaction by the mainstream media to the Ashley Treatment I cannot blame them too much. Nothing good came from the media’s pack mentality when the story broke in 2007. The doctors that advocated for the Ashley Treatment came across as arrogant and stuck their proverbial foot in their mouths multiple times. Disability activists were unable to articulate why the Ashley Treatment was so dangerous and were quickly type cast as stereotypically angry. Utterly lost in the furor was any nuanced discussion. Sadly, not much has changed and I remain distressed because I have just finished reading an article scheduled to appear in the American Journal of Bioethics entitled “Ashley Revisited: A Response to Critics” by Douglas Diekema and Norman Fost.

What Kind of Troll am I?:

If you are a reader of blogs about autism, you have seen your share of comments denouncing the views of self advocates around the web. Sometimes they are personal attacks on autistic people. Many rehash the same tired “Not Really Autistic” meme or promote urban myths about the causes of autism. Most feed pervasive stereotypes of one sort or another. Still others are so vile I won’t describe them even obliquely.

Most readers of this blog tend to be civil and capable of using reason to make their points. However, if you are someone who enjoys being abusive toward autistic self advocates and those who support their goals, you just might be wondering…What kind of troll am I? Here is a survey so scientifically valid, it is sure to be linked from AoA ASAP.

Pride & Prejudice:

Then, when I was 27, I was diagnosed with a mental illness. The doctor said to me (in effect), “You have a deeply flawed mind. It’s screwed up and you’ll have to take this medicine that slows your thinking and makes you forget everything. Learn to write it down.” Talk about a slap in the face. I ripped my clothes and dumped ashes on my head and whined long and loud to God about it. “Why me? Oh Woe Poor Poor Pitiful Me!” Then He said to me (in effect) “Deal with it. It’s what you are.” So I realized that I had no right to be proud of my mind anymore. It was kind of a release, because pride is a heavy burden, even when you’re used to bearing it. All of a sudden, I *wasn’t* better than everyone else, and it became easier to be patient and kind. Which turned into something kind of nice.

Freaks, Hercules and the Hydra [long]

Much has been written about the ambiguous nature of disabled people’s exploitation and/or free-willed participation in circuses in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and there are intersections with race and colonialism, among other things (some of which i touched on in this old post), and the film “Freaks” reflects that ambiguity, both from “within-story” and “external” perspectives – most of its cast were “real” circus performers, some of whom had already had long and celebrated careers before starring in it, and many scenes show the “freaks” performing parts of their acts, both in-context in the story and, more problematically, in other scenes that could be regarded as gratuitous (for example, the “Armless Wonder” drinking wine with her feet, or the completely limbless Prince Randian lighting a cigarette using only his tongue). Opinion has been divided over whether the film itself was an act of exploitation of its disabled performers – who were, as reported here, viciously excluded and discriminated against at the MGM studios – as well as whether its climatic scene represents a reversion to negative tropes of disabled people as monstrous and villainous, or a subversion of that trope (however IMO there is considerably more going on there – see below).

Breathtaking to behold: talking back to dismissal:

One of my biggest interests is the study of how oppression plays out, and how it is resisted, among communities that most people would consider minorities. (Note: Minority in amount of power, not in amount of numbers. So yes, women count.) Not some sort of study of victimhood the way some people would paint it, but rather how people resist becoming victims.

It is breathtaking to behold communities where enough people have worked out the way things work, that when they are hit with the usual forms of sexism, racism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., they are ready for it. They have answers to the usual bothersome questions and comments designed to disempower them. Even if the people attacking them don’t understand those answers, they at least are told a lot of the same things by a lot of people.

In the news:
Go, read this! It thrills me to no end.

CDC and disabled patients: ‘We’ll work on this together’ [US]

For many women, the inability to stay still prevents them from seeking regular breast cancer screening.

But a health education program is gearing up to encourage woman with physical disabilities to seek medical attention and get regular screenings.

“Women with disabilities are getting screened at a less regular rate because there are so many barriers with going to the doctor,” Egensteiner said.

The medical equipment used to perform mammograms also can prove a barrier for women with physical limitations.

Can you collect employee medical info to combat H1N1? [US] [Note: ADA = Americans with Disabilities Act]

Employer groups have been asking the Centers for Disease Control for guidance on whether privacy rules prevent HR from surveying employees about medical info designed to control the spread of swine flu. The CDC has responded, including an approved form for requesting certain types of info.

The CDC has issued a document – “ADA-Compliant Employer Preparedness For the H1N1 Flu Virus.”