Tag Archives: social attitudes

Recommended Reading for July 6, 2010

jadelennox (DW): How to fight ableism: some easy steps

So I thought it might be valuable to gather together some ways in which able-bodied people can do something about ableism in the world. Then, next time a person is feeling frustrated about ableism, and is thinking about doing some signal boosting of, say, some crappy thing the writers did on the latest episode of Glee, maybe that individual would have the option of committing to spending the same amount of time doing some more concrete fighting of ableism. Not that I’m critiquing the kind of signal boosting that a lot of us do on the blogosphere! But I’m assuming some people would find utility in hearing about other things they could do that might be useful.

Venus Speaks: Between the Lines

Today I realized something: How my disabilities shape the words I do, and more often don’t, say.

For instance: Whenever anyone uses the word “crippled”, I spot it from a mile away. Context doesn’t matter – it could be in anything – a novel, a newspaper article, a headline. “Recession cripples the American economy”, or “The onslaught cripples the meager defenses” or simply “crippling blow”.

Lauren McGuire at Sociological Images: On Disability and the Public Service Announcement [accessibility warning: embedded content lacks transcripts]

Disability-related PSAs cover a wide range of topics, but generally there are three main categories that the message falls into: how people with disabilities are viewed/treated by society, their value in the job market and society, and what their lives are like. Although these are pretty straightforward messages, there is a great deal of variety in the ways in which these basic messages are presented.

Michael Le at Racialicious: An Open Letter to Racebending.com Detractors

It’s easy to draw comparisons between the Airbender casting and an English actor playing an Irish one, or a Spanish actor playing an Italian actor. But it’s not really the same, and the reason is that Hollywood and media don’t consider whether an actor is Irish or Spanish or English. They think of that actor as “white.” The same is not true of actors who are Asian or Latino, who have to fight over the few roles specifically written for those ethnicities. And a lot of times, even when a role is steeped in Asian culture, even when a role is based on real-life individuals of Asian descent, those roles still go to white actors.

Garland Grey at Tiger Beatdown: CRAWLING OUT OF BED: Internalized Ableism and Privilege

In the two years since I have learned things about my own body. I have learned that once my knees start wobbling, GAME OVER. There is no powering through. There is no mystical internal light of determination that I can draw on – if I keep going my body will fail me. This has been a humiliating lesson to learn. But I can still walk. I can still exercise within limits and these limits expand the more I push them. I have also learned how much privilege I carry. I don’t have chronic insomnia like other members of my family. I’ve never lost a job because of being hospitalized, like my friends with Fibromyalgia. If I’m spending time with someone, and I don’t want to have to go into the whole story I can take an anti-inflammatory and ignore the pain, or blame it on fatigue.

A conversation

Recently, I was on the commuter train home. I happened to be reading Susan Schweik’s book Ugly Laws: Disability in Public for a research paper. Two middle-aged women sat down opposite me, and one inquired as to what book I was reading.

Me: It’s a book about 20th-century ugly laws in the U.S.

Woman #1: What’re those?

Me: Oh, they were regulations that prevented people with visible disabilities from panhandling in public, but more generally, they also kept people with disabilities out of the public eye.

Woman #2: Wow, that is so interesting! Are you in school?

Me: Yes, I’m reading this for a grad school paper.

Woman #1: You’re lucky you’re in grad school! The great thing about being in school is that you get to learn about things you might otherwise never learn about.

Me: Yeah, I suppose so.

Woman #1: And…why are you interested in that topic?

Me: I’m interested in feminist theory and disability, and how those things intersect with race, gender and class, and other stuff. That’s the short version, anyway.

Woman #1 [After a long pause]: Of course, I didn’t mean to imply that you are disabled or have a deformity

Me: Uh, okay. [Pause] You can’t see it, but I do have chronic pain.

And the conversation sort of stopped after that. For some reason, I suspect that this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Quoted: Audre Lorde

The supposition that one [group] needs the other’s acquiescence in order to exist prevents both from moving together as self-defined persons toward a common goal. This kind of action is a prevalent error among oppressed peoples. It is based upon the false notion that there is only a limited and particular amount of freedom that must be divided up between us, with the largest and juiciest pieces of liberty going as spoils to the victor or the stronger. So instead of joining together to fight for more, we quarrel between ourselves for a larger slice of the one pie.

— “Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving” (1978), in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (The Crossing Press, 1984)

Open Letter to the Mainstream News Media

Dear Reporter,

Hi, how are you? I am fine.

Okay, that’s a lie. I am not fine.

There’s a certain type of “news” article that drives me up the wall. The “feel good” story about how the poor pathetic cripple, whose life was horrible and bad, has now been SAVED! by something miraculous, by which we mean “something that would be common place if we lived in a world that wasn’t full of disability fail and discrimination” and also “something done by non-disabled people so we can all talk about how Good and Kind they are to the pathetic disabled person”.

Here’s an example: Legally Blind Man Gets First Job

Debbie and Russell Ward spent a whole evening crying in silence when they were told their four-year-old son would never see again.

Fifteen years later, their tears were ones of joy when they saw the look on Bobby’s face as he was told he had landed his first job.

The shy but proud 19-year-old worked his first shift at the new Supa IGA yesterday morning, where he will work in the produce section.

The article [do read the whole thing] describes how Bobby has multiple certifications that would make him qualified for a variety of jobs, but everyone should be Very! Happy! because look! The poor blind boy has a job. Isn’t it so awesome of the “new Supa IGA which opened yesterday morning” get this free publicity – I mean, give this nice young man a job?

The whole article is structured in such a condescending way, too. I mean, all due respect to Bobby’s parents – I still get teary whenever it hits me again that Don may never get his voice back [1. Side effect of the OMG! Cancer surgery. They removed his thyroid, and hurt his vocal cords. They may come back, but every day it seems less likely.], so I totally get the grieving period and how it can be a total blow to find out your life has been drastically changed – the article focuses a lot of attention on their grief, how their life was affected, and what they thought about everything.

Notice, please, that there’s not a single quote from Bobby himself. Just the Nice Sighted People who work so hard for him.

Look, Reporters: I get it. You want to tell a story that makes everyone feel good, and really digging into why Bobby couldn’t get a job he had qualifications for because of his disability wouldn’t really make anyone feel good at all. Prejudice rarely does.

But these sorts of stories fuel people’s pity. “Oh, how sad it must be to be blind! A world of darkness, of dependency, of not being able to drive a car! WOE. I’m so glad I’m not one of THEM. And I don’t know how I’d cope if my child were one of them. Oh, Bobby’s parents are so brave! And that nice man who gave him a job! So Nice!”

You can do better than this, really. I’ve seen you do better than this.

Do better, okay?

Hugs & Kisses,