Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Disabled Body

As I wrote yesterday, Womanist Musings, is a womanist blog, and therefore; the subjects that appear here are generally speaking from a womanist perspective.  What I have noticed is that despite my attempt to cover a broad range of subjects to make the blog as intersectional as possible, the posts written about disability routinely receive the least comments.  My writing style does not change from post to post and each piece that I dedicate myself to writing, is filled with the same passion.  The issue cannot be with me, but with the readers of this blog.

I know that many people come to Womanist Musings expecting a critique involving race.  In fact, when I am not being mislabelled a Black feminist, this blog is also routinely called an anti-racist blog.   I am a Black woman and therefore, race will always play a significant role in my life, but my disability also impacts how others view me and the treatment that I receive.

Disableism is not viewed by many as seriously as racism, though its effects can be just as devastating.  When you have disabled women being raped and impregnated by their caregivers, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, an inability to enter a store to buy a fucking stick of gum, I fail to see how this cannot be taken as a serious issue.  Perhaps people don’t think it is sexay enough to make headline news, but for those of us on the receiving end of diseablism, it is painful in ways that I cannot even describe to you.

As much as I love the spring because it means an end to my winter hibernation, I simply loathe the next round of articles regarding the threat that scooter users are to pedestrians. Apparently, we are all hopped up on drugs, using our mobility devices unsafely, or we take up way too much space and people have places to go. There is always a reason why the differently abled are seen as an inconvenience.

I get angry when I try to enter a store, only to find out that the automatic doors don’t work, or that the aisle way is so narrow that I cannot navigate well enough to shop.

I get angry when people think that they have the right to touch me, because clearly my scooter indicates to the world that I don’t have the right to bodily integrity.

I get angry when I see that disabled characters are most often played by able bodied people.  Of course there aren’t any disabled actors looking to make a living right.

I get angry when disability is always famed as dark or evil (think Darth Vader).  I have special hate for the fact that a miracle cure or revolutionary surgery is always found so that the differently bodied character can be whole and happy again.

I get angry when I say something is disableist, and an able bodied person says we will just have to agree to disagree.  No we won’t agree to disagree, you are being an ableist jerk and what you said was offensive.  Simply because it is common practice to use someone’s body as a descriptor, does not make it right.  Why is it that a marginalized group’s right to decide what is and is not offensive, ends when you want to use words like lame, or refer to right wing talking heads like Limbaugh as crazy?

My disabled body took me a very long time to own.  For the longest time I pretended that nothing had changed.  I avoided buying a mobility scooter because I knew that it would mark me as “other”.  I didn’t want to take on yet another identity that is socially marginalized.  Even now I push myself when I should not: writing when I am in pain or depressed, standing when I need to sit, and forcing wakefulness when my body needs rest.  I know how the super crip mythology works, and I know that my body is a target because of the way the world is organized and not because of a personal failing -- and yet, the desire to be invisible haunts me, because invisible means that I belong; that I am just like everyone else.

I don’t think people realize the energy and strength of will that it takes to get through the average day.  I am routinely exhausted and running on fumes, and yet when I write about disability, the number of comments seem to infer that it is better that I keep this struggle to myself. The few that do comment always say I am sorry that you are going through this Renee, but the last thing I want or need is your pity.  Pity is something that is often thrown at differently abled bodies, and while some mean it with a good heart, to often it stands as yet another example of how unworthy we are.  What I want is not your pity, but your commitment to change.  I want the same level of commitment that every other post on this blog gets.

I am just going to flat out ask, why is it that the posts on disability are not getting the recognition that they deserve?  The posts on disability are treated as hands off and the majority of the comments are written by people who are themselves differently abled.  I find this interesting because people don’t seem to need a specific social marginalization to comment on posts about racism, sexuality, gender or class -- but when it comes to disability there is a resounding silence.  If you think that this is not another form of “othering,” you are sadly mistaken.  Refusing to engage with an ism, because you don’t know much about it is just another sign of your privilege.  If you are routinely leaving the go to comments that requires little to no thought, that is again another sign of your privilege.  Not commenting, not interacting says to me that this issue, which has completely changed my life is not considered worth the bandwidth and the time it took me to write it.  Let’s see what you have to say this time.