The Inspirational Cripple

25 05 2012

There are a number of characteristics, accomplishments or committments that can make a person an inspiration to others. Legitimate activists (the non self aggrandizing kind) can be inspirational to others. The same can be said for almost any profession that doesn’t have it’s roots in something evil. Finding inspiration in a person for their dedication or work is not a problem. What is a problem, however, is inspirationalizing (I’m making it a word) a person who faces an oppression for simply existing with their oppression(s). 

The inspirationalizing of oppressed people is not limited to any one marginalization, but what I’m becoming fed up with is being the Inspirational Cripple(tm). Having a visible disability means that I am fair game for able bodied people to comment on my abilities, activities, movement, and overall existence. Being the Inspirational Cripple, I am expected to graciously accept the false praise given by able bodied people, and if I don’t, I risk losing assistance when and if I need it. 

This often becomes more mentally taxing than attempting to navigate a world that is not accepting of bodies like mine. The fear of disability (which is at the core of inspirationalizing people with disabilities) is pushed on me no matter what I do. Walking to the library? Inspiring! Avoiding a puddle? Worthy of a Lifetime movie! Leaving the house? SO MUCH COURAGE OMGZ. And on, and on and on. 

I am reminded of my marginalization constantly just in the ways I attempt to navigate and perform daily tasks. When I hear that my performing these daily tasks is inspiring to an able bodied person, I am further reinded of my status as Other. I am reminded of how little is expected of me as a result of able bodied people’s failure to understand disability and illness, I am constantly filled with doubt that I *really* belong in college, or if I *really* earned that grade, or if I am awarded something based on merit and skills or based on pity and fear of disability. This stress of being inspirationalized is more than I can deal with some days. 

Forcing fear of disability and general ableism onto a person with disabilities by making them your Inspirational Cripple does not make a person with disabilities feel any beter about their struggle, their experiences or how they are forced to navigate the world. It is stressful, it is harmful and primarily, it is othering. The only function of the Inspirational Cripple is to further other and marginalize people with disabilities. 


Ableism and Punk on the Eve of Fest Weekend

27 10 2011

All the cool punx~*~ know, this weekend is Fest 10 and I’m finally getting to pop my Fest cherry. I’ve been looking forward to this since I got my pass over the summer and I have barely been able to think about anything else the past couple of weeks (As the Germans would say, ich bin stoked). But behind all the giddiness is a nagging reminder that I’m going to be at a punk festival with visible and invisible disabilities.

This is not the first show I’m going to ever, but I stopped going to shows a few years ago (the last show I was at was Gaslight Anthem/Murder by Death/The Loved Ones/Broadway Calls in Philly in 09, and nothing since) and while distance played a factor, sure. But primarily, I was fed up with (and at times, frightened by) the amount of ableism in the punk scene. I’m not the first person to write about the various isms in the community (30 seconds on google will point you to people who have written on it more extensively and eloquently than I have) and the response they get is almost always the same: a few messages of support, followed by everyone else trying to prove how not (whatever ism) they are, how “it’s just punk, man” or it escalates to threats of violence. It’s at the point where it’s completely expected.

Since the community is comprised of mostly cis white able bodied men, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am sick of it. I don’t want to avoid going to shows because hardcore bros and pop-punk Nice Guys(tm) tend to be ableist as fuck. I don’t want to worry about accessibility issues, or wonder what response I’ll get when I wallk into a venue with an assistive device. I know posting this puts a target on my back, and I’m sure I’ll get at least one “YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO START SHIT!” but fuck that noise. I want to see bands I love, discover some new ones, and have good times with lovely people this weekend. Am I allowed to do it all while being disabled?

“But We’re Not All Bad!” Is the Wrong Answer

25 05 2011

This might be my most favourite derailing tactic (and by favourite, I mean most facepalm-y) of all time. The old “we aren’t all like that!” trope, guaranteed to derail a discussion in 140 characters or less. If you are privileged enough to have never experienced this (if you haven’t already done it yourself) I’ll give you an example. Adjust the situation for the oppressed/oppressor relationship of your choosing:

Trans woman: Wow, I really wish cis LGB people would quit directly playing a direct hand in my erasure, denial of services/basic humanity and the often fatal harm of me and women like me. That would be great if all that would stop.

And on, and on, and on, and on, and on it goes. More derails follow, the discussion goes to shit and the oppressor often ends up getting consoled instead of the marginalized person being attacked (also known as white women’s tears) and the attempt for a meaningful discussion or call-out is abandoned at that time. All of this because of a six word sentence that has no validity in any of these discussions whatsoever.

Far too many discussions that need to happen do not, because there is always at least one privileged champ who comes in and fucks everything up with this tactic. It is not the way that one in a position of privilege should be reacting when a marginalized person speaks their truths. When a person of colour is talking about their frustrations with harmful things white people tend to do, the correct response isn’t “I don’t do that!/We aren’t all that bad!” The reaction of a person who is truly socially conscious should be to listen and learn. Only after listening and learning (not demanding someone be your Mystical Minority Teacher(TNM)) can you begin to maybe do something about this problem. Not throw a temper tantrum about how all white people aren’t in the Klan, but ask yourself “What can I do to reject my privilege, help end the systemic and oppressive problem the group I belong to has a history of doing, and how can I work to uplift marginalized people?”

The one in the role of the oppressor has no business to “prove” that their group is “not all bad” to a marginalized person. The fact of the matter is, these problems that are spoken of are systemic within the entire communities of privilege. It is not something that occurs only in fringe/extremist/super duper hateful circles within those communities of privilege, it is everywhere within the community. The goal should not be to to prove to any marginalized person that you aren’t all bad (attempting to deny the lived experiences of any marginalized person is fucked up in and of itself.) The goal needs to be to end the systemic oppression of marginalized people that requires these discussions happen in the first place.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Keep Ableism Alive

30 10 2010

Everyone has been anticipating Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. Discussions of false equivalences between left and right extremes have been a major talking point, but something that few outside the PWD community have talked about is the disgusting ableism surrounding this event.

Labeling conservatives as “crazy” or “insane” is an old liberal favourite. This was the entire basis of Jon Stewart’s part of the rally–that people who he disagrees with, or people who are passionate are mentally ill and we need to get rid of those silly crazy people.

This is an old tactic that is used in almost every arena to try and discredit someone they disagree with. An idea or person is labeled as crazy and they are almost automatically dismissed. When used this way, it is ableist and harms people with mental disabilities. “Crazy” and “Insane” are words used to describe people with mental disabilities. When someone uses these words in a negative context, to describe a person or idea they disagree with, to put someone down, or to try and make some political point, it is ableist and it harms people with mental disabilities.

Whether or not Stewart and Colbert intended to harm anyone isn’t the point here. Intent doesn’t matter when exercising an -ism, it hurts all the same.

Voting and Privilege

26 10 2010

Voting is largely inaccessible. Trans women and men, people with disabilities, people of colour, people living in poverty and people living in rural areas often are unable to vote because of the myriad barriers blocking access. This is a reason why there is so often low turnout among these groups (among other factors). This post, however, is not directed at people who are blocked from voting.

This post is for everyone who can vote.

If you have the privilege of access to voting, it is absolutely imperative that you vote consciously next Tuesday. It is important to research the positions that your candidates hold. Study voting records, speeches, debates, endorsements, whatever you can get your hands on and educate yourself before voting. It’s also necessary to recognise what great privilege you have with your access to voting. This is something that cannot be taken lightly and must be carefully thought about before exercising.

And what do you need to do after you’ve recognised your privilege of voting access? You can either use your privilege to uplift the people you oppress or you can ignore it and continue to harm (directly or indirectly) the most vulnerable people in our country. You can choose to vote for the candidates that are endorsed by marginalized people, candidates that truly seek to uplift oppressed people and make this country a better place for all of us. Or, you can choose to vote in your best interests. For tax cuts that will harm the poorest in our nation, hateful candidates who seek to exterminate trans women and men, candidates who are pro-corporations, candidates that, if elected, will “send a message to the Obama administration,” candidates who want to continue to harm the most vulnarable.

Or you can choose to sit at home on election day, throw your privilege around in the faces of those of us who don’t have voting access and tell us that voting doesn’t matter anyway, man.

I’m going to vote consciously next Tuesday. Will you?

You Aren’t A Grammar Nazi, You’re an Asshole

17 09 2010

A lot of people like to claim the title of “Grammar Nazi” and if you are over the age of 16, you need to stop.

I’m not even going to discuss how horrible and harmful it is to just throw around the Nazi label as if it means nothing, but instead I’m going to focus and the ableism behind the people who tout themselves as such.

As I’ve mentioned here numerous times, I’m legally blind. And, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I make a lot of typos. A whole lot. Keeping in line with my post from Wednesday, people like to make assumptions on my intelligence, or my laziness based on how many typos they see. “I judge you based on your spelling.” is something I’ve seen a lot of my facebook friends like. These are the kinds of people who, in an argument will notice one spelling error and jump on the person for it instead of having a valid argument. For people with visual disabilities or dyslexia, this is something we hate. We spend an incredible amount of time going over status updates, blog posts, papers or just general assignments to weed out the errors, and trust me when I say that it is literally impossible to catch them all. It has nothing to do with intellect or competence, it is about disability.

People with disabilities especially people nwith learning disabilities) are constantly made to feel as if we are intellectually lesser than the able bodied community. Calling out spelling errors and justifying it with “Oh, I’m just a total grammar nazi” only reinforces the ableist stereotype that brings direct harm to us.

You Can’t See My Pain

15 09 2010

You can’t see me taking the elevator to go up one flight because my ankles hurt., or my depth perception is bad, or because I forgot my cane today. Instead, you see a fat person who is just being lazy.

You don’t see me skipping school because it hurts too much to move. You see someone who just doesn’t wanna do her schoolwork.

You don’t see me using my laptop to take notes in class because I can’t hold a pen for very long. You see someone who wants to screw around on Facebook.

You don’t see me not fulfilling gym or science requirements because schools don’t know how to make classes adaptive to my visual or physical needs. You just see someone who doesn’t want to exercise or put any work in.

You don’t see my fat being a result of a decade of steroid use. You see someone who eats junk food all the time and doesn’t exercise.

You don’t see me not acknowledging your wave or smile from across the room because I can’t see it. You see someone who is rude.

You don’t see me getting turned down at every job interview because employers can’t stop staring at my thick glasses. You see someone who just wants to sit at home collecting government money.

You don’t see me not talking about disability in class because I’m fraid of being silenced again. You see someone who doesn’t care about the assignment.

You don’t see me taking the bus to go six blocks because it’s damp and my joints hurt. You see someone who simply doesn’t want to move.

I have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and I am legally blind as a result of Uvietis. And unless you see me using an assistive device, you cannot see these things. You can’t see my pain or my struggle, so you choose to make assumptions based on how I look instead. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.