I’m reading Helen Merrick’s The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms. This pullquote in it, from Clare Hemmings, struck me as being very relevant to the work we do on FWD/Forward and on our other blogs:
Feminist emotion … is central to the feminist stories we tell, and the way that we tell them … as a result, an account of ways of telling feminist stories needs to be attentive to the affective as well as technical ways in which our stories about the recent feminist past work. It hurts because it matters…
 ObDisclosure: I have met Helen in meatspace, and call her “friend”; I bought the book retail and there are no inducements of any kind involved in me blogging about it.
Question Time is a series in which we open up the floor to you, commenters. We invite you to share as you feel comfortable.
What’s your favourite disability-related quote? It can be about a particular experience of being disabled, something you keep being reminded of in life, a saying that gets you through tough times, given by a famous disabled person or a little obscure, anything along those lines.
Everything healed up
but in a very strange way
when it was very obvious
that something was very wrong with my face
said one or more of the following:
It’s the Lord’s will.
Just learn to live with it.
It’s all in your imagination.
Don’t be so self-centered.
Shut up and do your homework.
Other people are worse off than you.
[Full text available in the 2004 anthology Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories, edited by Bob Guter and John R. Kilacky.]
[I promise that I am so close to being done all this reading that there will soon be less quotation-posts, but I keep finding all these lovely words, and I’m very fond of them.]
Reminders of the immediate relevance of history to contemporary issues of disability confront us daily. In but the latest example, as we write these words [in 2001], the United States Supreme Court has accepted appeals from several states which claim that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in imposing the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] on the states. Congress lacked evidence to prove that state governments had engaged in a historical pattern of discrimination against persons with disabilities, this argument claims in part; without evidence of state discrimination, the general government overran its jurisdiction. The essays gathered here indicate that evidence of discrimination against disabled people reaches well beyond our living recollection. Until we can document the past with the evidence and rigor that solid historical research necessitates, the absence of disability from our written history, its suppression in our formal collective memory, jeopardizes the current quest of Americans with disabilities for full citizenship. This history matters, and not in the abstract.
– Paul K. Longmore & Lauri Umansky, The New Disability History: American Perspectives, pg 14. Sadly, there is no limited preview of this book on Google Books, but Why I Burned By Book and other essays on disability, by Longmore, does have limited preview, and I love that book to pieces, especially the last essay.
Obviously I have quoted this for truth because I’m an historian and I’m often questioned on why I consider the history I do to be both political and activist in nature. And, this is (in part) why.
When the disabled body and the handicapped self are inscribed as deficient and dependent, disabled people are aligned with other social groups perceived as needing supervision, assistance, and guardianship. The idea of autonomy and independence, central to most psychological definitions of healthy adult selfhood, is premised on the presumption of physical independence, of a self that embodied its own freedom in its very movements. In the absence of such bodily autonomy there is little basis for assuming any other forms of autonomy; hence disabled people who have limited independence of movement are also often subject to limited independence of decision-making and self-governance. Disability rights activists point to several important areas where the ideas of bodily-based autonomy have infringed on the basic civil rights of disabled people, including the right to make one’s own decisions about sexuality and reproduction, the right to equal access to education and employment, and the right to vote.
– Mary Klages, Woeful Afflictions: Disability and Sentimentality in Victorian America, 1999, pg 3.
Limited Preview of Woeful Afflictions is available on Google Books.
It seems difficult for nondisabled people to write about disability without reflexively imagining what disabled people are missing or how difficult their lives must be. Rod Michalko, a sociologist who is blind, writes that sighted people typically conceive of “blindness in terms of ‘lack’-lack of sight. But this conception does not really help us understand what blindness itself is. It does not generate any curiosity about what blind people ‘see,’ since it defines reality in terms of the physical sense of sight …. Sighted people seldom question these preconceptions.” Stephen Kuusisto, a blind writer, tells of the expressions of pity he encounters so often on the street: “I want to take strangers by the hand and tell them there is no abyss.” Similarly, deaf people are relentlessly depicted in popular film as pining away their days regretting their inability to enjoy music (usually classical music, which one would think from these movies has a central place in most American households).
– Douglas Baynton, Review: Laura Bridgman and the History of Disability, Source: Reviews in American History, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 227-235.