Monday, July 28, 2008

Homless, Disabled and Female Equals Less Than

image I followed a link from Finally A Feminism 101 which led to this disgraceful cartoon. I am not going to link to the original site to prevent the creator of this trash from receiving any traffic from me.

This cartoon is problematic for a myriad of reasons.  Note that the female starts the conversation by citing a hatred of homeless people.  Why is it as a society we feel it is okay to devalue people based on their ability to consume?  Daily we walk by homeless people on the street, failing to make eye contact, or acknowledge them in any real, and meaningful manner.  We rush by them in large urban centres to return to our little cubicles of safety that we call homes.  The only reason she does not hate this woman is because she has a disability.  What we can see from this commentary is that unless one has a disability, homelessness is the fault of the individual and therefore, they are worthy of our derision.

The desire to blame the individual totally negates the exploitative capitalist economy that we are all slaving under. It is further an internalization of false class allegiance. The very concept of owning property is meant to keep a division between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.  When at the beginning of the month your landlord comes to collect her/his rent money recognize it for the predatory act that it is.  Shelter is a basic human need and the landlord capitalizes upon this need to enrich her/himself.  Despite the memories and or connections that may have been made in an abode, the inability to pay will quickly lead to an eviction, despite having paid years of rent. Over the course of a lifetime a renter will have paid the value of the property but because of a financial system wherein they are either disqualified from getting a mortgage, or having been offered a rate of interest that is nothing less than legal loan sharking, at the end of the day renters end up with zero value for their investment. The solution to this obvious inequality  is certainly not to blame those that are victimized by a system of exchange that is designed to exploit.

Upon hearing the life situation of this disabled woman the man refers to her as a slut...nice discipline word. imageHe has no  idea whether or not she had  children in a "legitimate" long term relationship.  The simple act of engaging in sex is enough for her to be characterized as a slut. Socially men may have sex freely with little fear of repercussions while virginity and chastity are promoted as the norm for the female.   Even when we are in relationships that have been sanctified by religion or the state (read:marriage) our ability to respond sexually is directly related to the ideas that we have been taught about sex.  To be sexually aggressive or act in pursuit of an orgasm is not feminine, good girl behaviour.

How does this female "ally" respond to the slut shaming stated by the man.."It's a little hard to close your legs if you don't have any"...Right because if the whore had legs to begin with she would know enough to follow the script and be sexually passive like the rest of the women on the planet.  Of course if you are disabled you are not sexual being. can only occur for you if you are being raped, it certainly isn't something that you would actively seek out.  These ideas are certainly hegemonic in our society.  We constantly frame a disabled individual as asexual as a way of dealing with out discomfort about their bodies and their needs.  We believe in a way that it elevates them because they are assumed not to need to participate in the "dirty act" for fulfillment.  Why should they want to have sex anyway it is not as if they are the equal of an able bodied person right?

In the final act of able bodied privilege the man realizes that he has the opportunity to violate her because she has no legs.  Here we can see an intersection between disability and gender.  Of course her body is available to be raped she does after all have a little thing called a vagina.  The idea that she is entitled to bodily integrity is something that he simply cannot grasp.  In fact her disability makes her even less entitled to live a life free of violence.

This cartoon is the perfect example of the ways in which class, ability and gender intersect in our society.  The more invisible a marginalized body becomes the greater the possibility that they will be subject to violence.  The current high level of anomie encourages us to minimize not only their lives but their essential human worth.  When I see images like this, I cannot stop myself from asking why certain bodies do no seem to the end I realize that a great deal has to do with fear.  Most realize exactly how precarious their living situation is and there is a fear of ending up on the streets, or in the case of disability, "catching" the disability.  We other what we do not want to become because to empathize would be to recognize our own vulnerability in this culture of injustice.  When we express our cultural power by exploiting or marginalizing others not only are we saying that they don't matter we are expressing a deep seated fear that we don't matter either.



Larry Geater said...

The group of people who should be most offended by this cartoon are men. This cartoon portrays men as if the only thing we are looking for in a partner is the inability to resist rape.

Renee said...

Of course your focus is male big the group of people that should be most offended are the disabled and the homeless but of course to recognize that you would need to look beyond your own frame of reference.

Larry Geater said...


The cartoon is offensive to every one with two brain cells to rub together. Now one looks good in it. I was just pointing out that the offended should not be limited to those you listed. Those you listed are the only ones who are shown in a sympathetic light because they are insulted without reason. It is the insulters who are shown in a less than favorable light.

tweedisgood said...

Hang on a minute: landlords are ipso facto predatory and getting rich? Tell that to my partner's late great grandmother who, thanks to rent controls, for several years spent more money keeping her tenants'properties in good repair than she got in rent... and they were then able to buy their freeholds from her for a song. Many of them were professional people with far, far greater incomes than hers.

Renee said...

Yes tweedisgood landlords are over all predatory creatures benefiting on someones need for shelter. The very reason the person you mentioned became a landlord was to gain profit right? They didn't do it out of the goodness of their heart and therefore the idea was to exploit and you expect me to feel sorry because they didn't earn a profit ...please!

zobabe73 said...

Larry, to list everyone who should be offended by such nonsense would need an entire separate post, which would be... well, a list, and thus not that interesting.
Exception was taken to your comment that the group that should be "most" offended are men. If you check out other feminist blogs, you'll see that "I blame the patriarchy" has a whole section entitled "Dear God, What About The Mens?" as a kind of tongue in cheek response to posts like yours.
What I glean from this post is most of the insults are in what's left unsaid. The assumption that it's okay to "hate homeless people." The assumption that disabilities are tantamount to exclusion from humanity as a whole. The assumption that, sans a disability, of course women should "keep their legs shut."
With all these assumptions thrown out every day, most "feminist", "womanist", "POC", and other generally civil rights focused bloggers tend to zero in on these pervasive assumptions, and don't waste too much time trying to protect white men's delicate sensibilities.
That said, if I were a man, I would most definitely also be offended by this portrayal.
Might I recommend: