Saturday, January 2, 2010

Drop It Like It’s Hot

Hello everyone, thanks for the great week of conversation.     I hope that everyone had a good holiday season with family and friends.   I must say that it was a great one for me, even though the words some assembly required really did give my poor unhusband some new grey hair.  

This Sunday at 8 pm EST the WomanistMusings podcast is back with Nona  Aronowitz author of girl drive.  The call in number is (347)346-9452 You can find the show page here..


Below you will find some of the great posts that I ran across in the last two weeks.  Please show these bloggers some love and check them out.  When you are done, don’t forget to drop it like it’s hot and leave your link behind in the comment section.

Blaming blame culture

What If Black Women Were White Women? (Things That Make You Go Hmm…)

Digital Scale

Courts-Martial for Pregnancy: Good Intention, Bad Implementation

“black fists”

Notes toward an elegy: In praise of food

Racism in Peru: locally produced TV presents Indigenous and Black Peruvians through Insulting Characters and promotes White supremacy.

Indigenous People and their Rights in Face of Climate Change

Carnival of Feminists,23/12/09: Tidings of Comfort and Joy

On Failing Girlhood: Thoughts on Gender and Disability

“Invictus”: From a Different Perspective 

Big Mama Drama

A Great Divide


Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year


To all of you are celebrating, I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.  I would like to take the time to thank everyone who participated on Womanist Musings either through commenting, guest posting, or participating in the radio show.  Your help is what makes this community awesome. 

Please consider this an open thread.   Feel free to chat about your resolutions, or even  past resolutions that you have been successful at or broken.  Tell us what you did to celebrate New Years or even let us know if like me, you were ankle deep in a great book.  See you in the comments.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Twitter Reacts To Rush Limbaugh’s Hospitalization

Last night I was about to head off to bed when someone tweeted that Limbaugh had been taken to the hospital with chest pains.  As macabre as it may sound, I simply had to stay awake long enough to find out if he departed this world. As I read the tweets, I could not help but notice the celebratory tone.  Limbaugh is no saint and I am a firm believer that Karma comes back to us all, but should anyone really wish the death of another human being?








Preying upon the biases that Rush has made public is hardly attacking him but an open wish for his death is something completely different.  How does this kind of commentary separate the left from the right?  If we actively take on their tactics, how can we possibly claim to have the moral high ground?











The expressions of sadness when it was learned that Rush Limbaugh had indeed lived were equally as disturbing.  How can anyone possibly be sad because someone did not die?  If we are working from the position that Limbaugh regularly devalues life, then to devalue his, is to support the idea that some bodies are worth more than others.














image image


There is not much that is redeemable about Limbaugh.  In fact, the issue really shouldn’t be about whether he lives or dies but what values we choose to uphold. It is hypocrisy to claim that we have respect for life and agency and then wish for the death of another.  How is this different from being upset that Limbaugh wished the failure of Obama?




I will continue to advocate to my very last breathe against everything that Rush Limbaugh stands for.   He is a vile man but my sense of right and wrong involves honouring all life.  Principles only mean something when we stand by them in the difficult times.  Something is either wrong all of the time or it is acceptable.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

GOP opponent claims front-runner Mark Kirk is gay in attack ad

image Oh dear what if Mark Kirk has teh gay?  Can he really be trusted in office if he is not heterosexual?   You would think that with all of the social growth that has taken place in the last few years, that we would have moved beyond the point where a candidates sexuality is cause to consider their fitness to lead.  Apparently for Andy Martin this continues to be highly relevant.

Andy Martin, once known as Anthony Martin-Trigona, who has run for numerous elective offices over the last three decades in Illinois, Florida and Connecticut, taped a commercial questioning whether Kirk is gay.

Martin’s source? Statements some conservative Republicans made on a radio show saying they have heard “rumors” that Kirk is gay.

“Illinois Republican leader Jack Roeser says there is a ‘solid rumor that Kirk is a homosexual,’ ” Martin says in the ad. “Roeser suggests that Kirk is part of a Republican Party homosexual club. Lake County Illinois Republican leader Ray True says Kirk has surrounded himself with homosexuals. Mark Kirk should tell Republican voters the truth.”

The man has a history of bizarre behaviour and so it is easy to simply see this as just another ridiculous attention grab in a long line of stunts, however I don’t believe such an attack should be so readily discounted.  The GOP responded by saying:

“The Illinois Republican Party disavows the statements made today by Mr. Andrew Martin in his statewide radio advertisements. His statements today are consistent with his history of bizarre behavior and often times hate-filled speech which has no place in the Illinois Republican Party. Mr. Martin will no longer be recognized as a legitimate Republican candidate by the Illinois Republican Party.”

While it is certainly refreshing to see the Republican party on the right side of an issue for a change, the fact remains that its stance against things like repealing DADT, and same sex marriage are the very reason why Martin felt that it was appropriate to make these claims in the first place.  You cannot practice hatred on a daily basis and become enraged when someone decides to be overt about their homophobia, rather than the covert homophobia you practice.  No matter the tone of the argument, homophobia is homophobia.

What saddens me about this is that there are people who will change their vote specifically because of the allegation.  I have no knowledge of Kirk’s platform or even if the man is actually gay but his sexuality certainly should not be factored into a decision about whether or not he is fit to lead.  Without actually using the words, Martin is essentially alleging perversion and this is easily accomplished in a world where heterosexuality has been normalized.

Whether these attacks are true or not, they serve the propose of making it that much more difficult for a member of the GLBT community to run for elected office.  If they are not represented in government, it is all to easy for their concerns and or needs to be ignored.  It warns them, even before their first ad is run or the first campaign poster is hung, that they will be held to a completely different standard while their lives are run through the mud.  We make no such negative assumptions on a candidate who is heterosexual. 

Someone’s sexuality has no baring on how they will perform their job unless they work in the porn industry.  The fact that this continues to be relevant for conversation, speaks of a society that is deeply mired in homophobia.  When one considers that much of the ineptitude that has become commonplace for today’s politicians, what they decide to do with their genitals certainly has not been a factor.  Was it gay people that decided to lie the country into a war?  Was it gay people that ran up a soul crushing deficit because of delusions of grandeur?  Was it gay people that are actively fighting against the human right of health care?  Since there are not enough members of the government that are members of the GLBT community to constitute a majority, I daresay heterosexuals have a lot more to answer for, that is if we’re going to be in the business of naming names.

The “Precious of Corrections”


The above is a photo taken at Rikers island of Nadja Green.  Her photo had been snapped at work and then mailed to the New York Post.  She is now on modified duty and will face charges of of sleeping on the job and other security- and performance-related charges.  It is important to note that Green allegedly worked 96 hours of overtime in the month that the image was taken.

According to the Post:

A prison source described Green as "the Precious of Corrections," a reference to the movie about a teen from a dysfunctional family.

A source said Green had a difficult upbringing and is the mother of several children. The source said she worked 96 hours of overtime this month.

A union official said prison authorities should avoid a rush to judgment.

"Many correction officers are forced to work 70 to 80 hours of mandatory overtime," said Correction Officer Benevolent Association spokesman Michael Skelly.  (emphasis mine)

Obviously referring to her as “The Precious of Corrections” is an attempt to demean her.  I don’t know the circumstances behind this woman's personal life but if she has indeed had it hard, is that really a reason to shame her?  This world was not designed to give WOC a break and working class or poor WOC have an extremely difficult time. 

If she is indeed a single mother, the responsibility of raising several children on her own must be extremely difficult.  As the deficit rises, programs that were designed to act as a sort of social safety net are either increasingly underfunded or cancelled altogether.  The pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality does not take into consideration that some people don’t even have a boot.

Though at this time Ms.Green is being disciplined for falling asleep, there seems to be no indication that the state is assuming any responsibility for her actions.  Mr. Skelly stated that officers are forced to work 70 to 80 hours of mandatory overtime and if this is true, it can only be because of purposeful short staffing in an attempt to save money.  Just like many other corporations, the state is now forcing workers  to do the job of two people.  This saves them in benefits and pension. The bottom line is a situation like this is to save money and little consideration is given to what this kind of schedule does to the worker in question.

Technology was predicted to reduce the workload for humans and instead we are working more hours than ever before and taking home even less money.  This is particularly true if one is a member of a marginalized group.  Being forced to work the hours that she did, plus having a heavy responsibility at home, means that Ms.Green carried a heavy burden.   This is the kind of weight that has routinely been placed on the backs of WOC and when we fail to carry it to the satisfaction of the ruling classes we are punished.  This super human effort is rarely to never expected of rich White men of privilege. 

If we truly valued people over capitol, such situations would never occur.  Despite the interdependency of human social structure, we are taught to see ourselves as individuals thus allowing the ruling elite to deny our communal culpability in situations like this.  A single mother should not be forced to work those kind of hours to support her children.  In fact, no one should be forced to put their body through that kind of stress to save a few dollars.  Before we point the finger and blame Ms.Green, perhaps we should consider the purposeful short staffing and who gains when a poor WOC is forced to work more than her body can physically endure?  Ms. Green and her children certainly did not benefit.

H/T Rippa @ The Intersection of Madness and Reality

Now PeTA Loves Black Women


Above is PeTA’s new advertisement featuring Tyra, Oprah, Carrrie Underwood and the every fabulous Michelle Obama.  For once, all the women in a PeTA advertisement are clothed.  Look carefully folks, it might be some time to come before we see women with clothes on associated with PeTA again. 

My issue with this photo is very simple:  PeTA has a history of using sexism and racism to promote its cause and it is disgusting that when they can find uses for WOC that they paste their faces to a cheap ad, quickly forgetting the various times when they have devalued us.  I have not forgotten the fat shaming thrown at Aretha Franklin, nor the time they thought it would be cute to dress up as the KKK.

Nothing that PeTA has done has shown respect for women or POC and to use their images now because it suits their purposes is just more insulting behaviour.  You cannot have it both ways PeTA.  You don’t get to embrace us when it suits your purposes and then use racism and sexism to attack and shame us. The one lesson that PeTA has yet to learn, is that the ends don’t always justify the means.   A simple glance through their previous campaigns makes this more than obvious.

I do not see this advertisement as a sign that PeTA has turned over a new leaf.  They have yet to offer any apologies for their previous offensive behaviour and have in fact gone out of their way to justify the hatred that they have engaged in. All this ad seems to be is yet more appropriation of women's bodies. Yes, all of the four of them have declared  themselves to be fur free but I do not recall The first lady, Oprah or Tyra endorsing PeTA.   Simply stating that they do not wear fur should not give PeTA the right to take their images and attach them to their agenda.  I don’t wear fur nor do I endorse the wearing of fur but it would a cold day in hell before I would support PeTA in anything.

Wednesday What’s Up?


It’s officially hump day.  After today the worst of the work week is hopefully over.   Please consider this your open thread to chat about whatever you would like.  Are you reading anything interesting?  I’m reading the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter  novels.  Have you seen a good movie or play? Feel free to chat about your holidays or your upcoming plans for New Years Eve.  Let it all hang out and I will see you in comments. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kate Gosselin: You Can’t Be A Mommy and be Controversial

image This year saw the end  of “Jon and Kate Plus 8”.  After announcing their impending divorce, the antics of Jon to remain relevant made it impossible to do the show .   I am certainly sceptical that his new found concern had to do with child exploitation, when he had no problem benefitting from his reality television stardom for years.  If I were to give out an award for douche of the year, it would go to Jon Gosselin.

With eight children to feed and a heavy mortgage to pay, Kate has been searching for opportunities to earn a living.  Though she is a nurse be trade, that salary would not be sufficient to support eight kids.  Some may say that this is because the children have become used to a high standard of living, but in reality let’s just face facts shall we, raising children is expensive.  Even without the fancy trips and presents that the show enabled, the simple fact of feeding and clothing all of these mouths is exorbitant.  I know this because my two little guys always seem to have one foot in the kitchen.

According to MSNBC, Kate was offered the opportunity to participate in a new show called “Momlogic TV”

A talk show set to showcase Kate Gosselin’s gift for gab won’t feature the newly divorced reality TV mom after all. According to Radar Online, execs behind “Momlogic TV” decided Gosselin is simply too controversial for a co-host spot.

In September, Gosselin, along with author Lee Woodruff, host Rene Syler and Food Network’s Paula Deen, filmed a pilot episode of a talk show with a very “View”-like group dynamic.

Sources on-set were said to be pleased with Gosselin’s performance at the time of taping but have since had a change of heart.

Say what you want about Kate, but this is nothing more than the disciplining of motherhood once again.  How many times have women been shamed, or blocked from opportunities because we don’t fit the constructed image of what society considers to be ideal?  Real moms are always patient and kind.  Real moms never break a sweat and know how to keep a home spot less at all times.  In short, real moms are perfect right?

Real moms cannot possibly be controversial because our little minds should be filled with nappies, clipping coupons, and the latest healthy recipe.  Kate dared to not be perfect in front of the world while raising her 8 children and this is her crime.  Just like any other identity that women take on, motherhood is highly disciplined by patriarchy. The rules and boundaries keep changing to keep us forever searching for the acceptance that we will never occur.

If the issue was Kate’s performance, her rejection would be acceptable but to say that she is not fit to be on a show about motherhood because she is too controversial is ridiculous.  When do men become to controversial to air their opinions on television? Nope, only women are precluded from speaking when they are deemed to be to independent.  Only women are routinely silenced.  In this instance, motherhood is only the mechanism behind the silencing to cause us to ignore the inherent sexism behind such claims.

Kate’s brother recently claimed that she was more interested in her career than her children.  Of course such a charge labelled at a woman is a terrible thing because good mothers are expected sacrifice everything for their children.  No personal ambition is allowed to exist the moment that umbilical cord is cut yet the generations that men spent being detached while they pursued their careers is something we continually refer to as the golden years or the good times. Yes, this mythical past when the flannel suit father was a workaholic and spent his free time in front of the television is the paradigm of good family life.

Kate is far from perfect but since none of us are, wagging our finger and wallowing her faults is nothing more than an exercise in sexism.  She has eight mouths to feed and an ex-husband that is more interested in reliving his teenage years than worrying about supporting his kids.  Despite the B class celebrity status, designer clothing and new look, Kate is a single mother.  Instead of twisting our fingers and repeatedly whining what about the children (whom by the way we have no real interest in supporting), how about we take a stand and decide that this mother shaming has to stop.  Embracing motherhood is not something that we should reserve as cash boom for hallmark on Mothers Day, it should involve supporting women who try to negotiate this complicated identity in a world that long ago decided that women are second class citizens.

The History of Slavery in America

There are many revisionists who have claimed that Blacks residing in North America should be grateful that our families were enslaved.  Apparently, we live with so much privilege now, that we should be grateful to our White benefactors.  The legacy of slavery is evil.  Slavery can never be understood as a good. I post the following videos for those who continue to deny the evil that was inflicted upon my people.



Tune In Tuesday: Time of your Life - Greenday

This morning my bff LMH called to tell me that a man that I had worked with for years was found dead in his home.  Unfortunately, not many bothered to express any form of sadness.  You see, Sheldon was neurologically atypical.  He had the habit of repeating the same stories and then laughing way too loud.  He also twitched repeatedly.   He was often subject to disableism.  In truth, the man did not have a mean bone in his entire body and from what I could tell, he really enjoyed life.  He always had a smile on his face despite the negative that was thrown at him everyday because people did not have the decency to display a few moments of patience.  From Sheldon I learned that no matter how tolerant we tell ourselves that we are about difference, when it comes to disability, we see it as inconvenience ( note: I met Sheldon years before becoming disabled). For far too many, Sheldon was seen as an inconvenience simply because he was neurologically atypical and now as he lays dead, these same people can barely offer any condolences.  It breaks my heart really.   He was a person and he mattered. Today, I shall think of some of the ridiculous stories that he told me and his sweet smile..  Sheldon, I will remember you and your ability to smile in the face of such naked intolerance.

I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life

Another turning point;
a fork stuck in the road.
Time grabs you by the wrist;
directs you where to go.
So make the best of this test
and don't ask why.
It's not a question
but a lesson learned in time.
It's something unpredictable
but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.
So take the photographs
and still frames in your mind.
Hang it on a shelf
In good health and good time.
Tattoos of memories
and dead skin on trial.
For what it's worth,
it was worth all the while.
It's something unpredictable
but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.
(music break)
It's something unpredictable
but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.
It's something unpredictable
but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

A Spark of Wisdom: How much do we let tactics harm our principles?


This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

This is something I have been thinking of for some time as an activist, a progressive and general all round loud, angry, rambly person.

And there's something I've been recently musing on is how much do we, as activists (and that most CERTAINLY includes the large activist/advocacy groups and movements) think more about tactics than we do principles? In particular - how many times do we cede arguments, compromise and give ground in order to win victories?

Part of this was prompted by some thoughts I had while listening to the Womanistmusings radio, what struck me then, as was discussed then and as I discussed with Renee was how much ground the pro-choice movement had ceded to the anti-choice movement. The pro-choice movement seemed to be following the anti-choice rhetoric that abortion is inherently bad - just adding that it is sometimes necessary and unfortunate and better than the alternatives.

And I wondered how much damage had been caused by ceding that ground? How much damage had been caused by the pro-choice movement ACCEPTING abortion as a bad thing - maybe a necessary thing - but still bad.

And more, what did that mean for the people? Like Ms. Villar how many women were/are still shamed for having an abortion - especially multiple abortions - even by the pro-choice movement? How many have bought the 'abortion is bad'  rhetoric from the anti-choicers - OR how many are condemning her because she will be used as a weapon against the pro-choice movement. How many will take those tactical considerations over and above the woman herself?

When I first wrote this I continued to use the pro/anti choice movements as examples. But I'm not comfortable with that. I a man and fiercely pro-choice - but abortion MUST be a woman's issue. I don't think it's my place or any man's place to criticise the pro-choice movement except in very narrow circumstances. So, I've re-written it from a gay rights perspective because I'm more secure on my knowledge, experience and standing to comment.

And I see the same thing. Tactics used at the expense of actual people. At its most extreme it is obvious and grossly inexcusable - in the GBLT movement I think this is best showcased in the depressing times when we have been shamefully willing to throw the T under the bus. WE can all see how grossly wrong that is, how destructive and how truly vile.

I've seen gay rights movements and organisations tell me I should be patient, tell me we have to compromise. I'm pretty hostile to that idea. I want all the rights, privileges and respect that straight people enjoy. They want me to not exist. Where's the middle ground here? Where's the compromise? Do I get some rights? Maybe second class citizen rather than third class? Can I be consider almost human? Allowed to exist so long as I don't upset the straight people? Do tell me where we should 'compromise' here.

I see us ceding ground, settling for half measures, allowing exceptions and exemptions and acting like it's reasonable. A big example is various hate crimes and equality legislations - in the UK we're battling over a gross exemption for religious groups. Hate is hate - why are we calling it acceptable because it's backed by dogma? Why have we ceded that ground? Why have we accepted that hatred is REASONABLE because it comes from the clergy?

But there are more subtle ways as well, ways I realise I have practiced as well.

Whenever there is a crime (ESPECIALLY a sex crime) committed by homosexuals, I'm furious because I know it will hurt us. I know it will reflect on us. I know we will be judged by it - and so I judge them more harshly than I would if they were straight.

I remember when a report came out that new HIV infections among gay men were still high and I was angry. Not angry, as I usually am about the waste and the horror of AIDS, but angry at those men. Angry because I knew this statistic would be used against us, angry because I knew the anti-gay forces would use it against us. My first reaction completely overlooked the real people here and was concerned entirely about tactics and how the haters would see it. I looked at people's suffering - MY people's suffering - through the lens of those who hate us.

I have friends who have multiple casual lovers. And, horrifically, I find myself disapproving. Not because I disapprove of 'promiscuity' (I have never seen why monogamy is inherently moral so long as no deception is involved) but because I know it's the stereotype. Gay men are promiscuous, gay men have sex with any man around them. This is one of the weapons used against us, one of the attacks the haters love to use.

But what am I doing? I am judging, even policing (albeit only mentally) my fellows based on values I DON'T EVEN SHARE. For the sake of tactics, I am giving ground, accepting a frame that I disagree with. How much damage does that do? What cost will we pay to win - and will we have won if we keep paying these prices?

And then I look at the flip side. In particular I look at this map on wiki:


And I consider that it was only in 1967 that homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK. It was only in 2003 that homosexuality was decriminalised throughout the US. And I consider the list we draw up every time we plan a holiday. The list of countries where we run the risk of severe persecution (legal or otherwise) if we don't go closeted. It's not a short list. It's a frightening list.

When I look at that I have a sudden urge for victories - an urge to push forwards because there is such a long way to go. Because there are places where our lives are worth little and some where they are worth nothing. I feel the urge to push forwards to fight desperately because there were nations in the western world that kept anti-homosexuality law on the books only SIX years ago.

I can see the need to fight desperately, to do what you can to move forwards - because we haven't moved far enough forward to risk a movement BACKWARDS.

But if we forget the people - forget ourselves - in order to win the battle then have we really won? Are we winning the battle, but losing the war?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Yes Disableism and Fat Hatred Do Go Hand in Hand

I should have known when I read the title of this post “My Fat Spouse” that somewhere along the line I would be offended.  It seems that a man is concerned with his wife's health due to her weight, after all we have all be taught that fat is a no no.   His concern should be for his physical fitness and not for her weight.  There certainly aren’t skinny people running around with high cholesterol or any other health problems right?  Nope, only the lazy food addicted fatties.  To be fair, he was careful to state that he did not want to shame her about her size and so I will give him credit because the usual approach is to make someone feel undesirable because of weight.   The kind of tolerance he displayed certainly did not continue on in the comment section.  I give you exhibit A:

I was at Walmart recently, being the Christmas season and all it's busier than usual, and I can't tell you how many motorized scooters carrying obese persons blocked my way in aisles and main thruways. I rarely see a slim person in need of a scooter (although it does happen). Seeing that always give me impetus to stay on a healthy path. For your wife, the will and desire to lose weight will have to come from within, but if you love her you will encourage her to get healthy. Do not ignore the 'elephant in the room'! (No pun intended - it's getting tired anyway)

image Well, heaven forbid people on scooters actually taking up any kind of space.  It is not at though we have a right exist or gasp even interact with the public.  I suppose we should take the example of Quasimodo and find a bell tower to hold up in until the world decides we are fit to be seen.  How dare we force ourselves into the narrow shopping aisles that merchants have created in order to store more product.  The over crowding couldn’t possibly be the fault of the store owner, when there are people on scooters to blame. 

One of the most pervasive misunderstandings of those of us that use mobility scooters, is that we are so fat and lazy, that we simply just don’t want to walk around.  The scooter is not seen as a manifestation of a debilitating illness, nope it’s just some ketchy new toy to enable a sedentary lifestyle.  Unlike the universal riddle of which came first the chicken or the egg, it is most certain that illness predated the use of a scooter.  If there was even the smallest understanding of the abuse that one must deal with facing the world in a scooter, the idea that it is a choice would be understood as ridiculous.

If one is in need of a scooter, it  is because their mobility is impaired in someway.  For an able bodied person walking around a Walmart is an easy task, however; for someone with fibromyalgia or a host of other conditions, it might easily be the equivalent of running a marathon.  Why should anyone exert that kind of effort to pick up a cartoon of eggs or a shirt made with slave labour?  Ooops, I forget that the “supercrip mythology” demands that people with disabilities must struggle everyday to ensure that the able bodied never feel any discomfort.

I have said this repeatedly but apparently it is something that I am going to have to say for the rest of my life: fat is not a disability, it is however at times a manifestation of a disability.  I am tired of the advice that if I lost weight, that somehow magically I would be able to party all night long.  If it were as simple as that, I would have long ago had my stomach stapled to bring about an end to the constant pain that I live with.  Today, I am wrapped in my electric blanket with no plans to move other than using the bathroom.  This is not because I find daytime television unusually interesting, it is because the pain prevents me from considering any other activity. If rolling over causes pain, how much pain do you figure going for a jog around the neighbourhood would cause?  It is not a matter of getting more fit, it is a matter that I have THREE CHRONIC CONDITIONS.

The people that speak about scooter users as just being to lazy to walk anger me in the worst way.  They speak from a position of privilege and complete and utter ignorance.  If everything that they did in their life caused them pain, then and only then, would they ever truly understand but that is not enough to stop many from sitting in judgement of me as I try to negotiate my life.  What they see is fatness and because that is viewed as a sin in our overly obsessed body conscious world, cause and effect never enters their minds.  Somehow they have determined that I must have brought this upon myself. Well I have news for you, I didn’t kick dogs in a former life, abuse children, or daily consume a tub of chocolate ice cream; I simply had the misfortune to develop extremely painful medical conditions.

We often claim empathy or in some cases pity for those that are sick but in truth such understanding is conditional.  If I were to tell each and every person my medical history for the last year (and it is a huge file) then and only then could they hope to have a small glimmer of what these conditions do to a body.  Perhaps, if I walked around with a sign explaining that I have firbo and sarcoidosis and what it does to a body, people might stop giving me evil looks while I try to live my life.  You see, if a person is understood to be in the least bit complicit in their illness, we suddenly lose all sympathy and understanding and though obesity is not something to be ashamed of, we have long ago decided that it is a metaphor for much that is bad about modern life. 

I am a fat, differently abled, Black woman.  I use a scooter to get around and sometimes my life involves an extreme amount of pain.  Why in world anyone would believe for a moment, that this is something that I would willingly choose continues to mystify me.  I have made many decisions in my life but I promise you, never did I actively decide to gain a ton of weight and ride around on a scooter because it looked like fun.  There are a lot pain free ways to get a thrill in this life and this certainly is not one of them.  So I guess the long and short of it is, don’t judge what you don’t know, or understand.  Able bodied status is temporary for us all and tomorrow you could find yourself  on the other end of the stares and rude commentary that you were more than willing to give out to others. 

Greetings, Handshakes, Smiles and Disability

image The holiday season means that we are in closer contact with family and acquaintances.  Hugs and handshakes are exchanged as we say Merry Christmas, or Happy New Year.  Before becoming disabled, though the process of hugging people I was not overly familiar with was something I disliked, I was able to tolerate it.   Since fibromyalgia and sarcoidosis have entered my life, a hug or a handshake costs me a lot.  There are days when it is extremely painful to cuddle my children and to be expected to endure this to give a greeting to someone who means very little to me is  ridiculous.

For some people, the handshake is a sign of virility and therefore they latch on and squeeze as though their very lives depended on it.   That kind of handshake is all about presenting an image to the person you are interacting with and the pain that it causes is something that is often laughed at.  One man shook my hand at Destructions Christmas pageant and he literally caused me to cry out, bringing tears to my eyes.  He of course apologized but not before smiling at his manly strength. The pain  is debilitating; my hands will ache for hours afterwards, thus limiting my ability to do other things.

I finally decided that I am no longer willing to risk pain and simply informed people that I don’t shake hands or asked them not to touch me.  At some point, self preservation has to be the priority.   This is a very simple request and yet the amount of eye rolling and questions that it raised is ridiculous.   It seems that to avoid that fact that some people feel rejected, I am expected to tolerate pain.  Their fee fees matter more than the hours of pain that my body is going to experience if they touch me in the wrong place, or in a manner that is painful. 

I further resent that a medical history is expected to reject a hug or a handshake.  Why must I provide a reason and why isn’t a simple no satisfactory?  No one is entitled to access to my body on demand regardless of the fact that it is  the holiday season.  I should not be expected to repeatedly give the details of my personal life simply because I don’t want someone to touch me.  Pointing out that I may be holding my child's hand or the unhusband’s is also not your business.  My children and my spouse live with me daily and they intimately know my hot zones.  They also know to ask before embracing me and understand that no does not mean that I don’t want to touch them but that I cannot do so without experiencing pain.  If a small child can understand this very simple thing, why is it so difficult for an adult?….oops silly me how could I forget EGO?

In the future, I intend to smile and wave but reject hugs and handshakes.  I don’t care about the feelings that are hurt because my physical health is worth something to me.  I will not be providing a note from my doctor or detailing my medical history for the last five years.  Any assumptions that are made, are just that, assumptions.  If people chose to learn about the various reasons why someone cannot hug or handshake, an explanation would not be necessary each and every time.  I am not going to enable your ignorance about disability by informing you about something that you have casually chosen to ignore. Finally, because I believe I have the right of any other person to physical autonomy my no will be forceful and direct.   My body, my rules and if all else fails, my cane up your ass will be a not so nice deterrent.