Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hey Lady GaGa, Wheelchairs are Not Your Fun Accessory


Do my eyes deceive me, or is that Lady GaGa wheeling herself on stage in Australia?  Come on little monsters, deny that this isn't disableist as all hell.  For more images of the her appropriation check here.  Quite honestly I am sick and tired of celebrities thinking that this is avant garde. It's bad enough that with the exception of a few cases (see Marlee Matlin or RJ Mitte for eg) that disabled people are often played by the able bodied.   All the better for the miracle cure so that they can suddenly walk or see again.

For GaGa, a wheelchair can just be some fun toy because she doesn't need it to function as her legs.  When her show is over, she can put on her ridiculous hobbling heels and strut, (that is if she doesn't wipe out) to her next gig.  She will not have to go two or three extra blocks because there are no curb cuts for her to cross.  She will not have to wave her arms frantically to get attention because a business owner has decided that they couldn't be bothered to install an automatic door opener.  And finally, she won't get glares or accusations of faking when she stands up, because as an able bodied person, she functions as a gatekeeper to those of us who are disabled and therefore understood as "other."

But gee what am I getting all upset about.  GaGa is just doing her performance and hey isn't life supposed to imitate art (or is that the other way around?)  The point is, that she is only oppressing and marginalizing disabled people so why should it matter anyway?  And that folks, is how easy it is to minimize what she did.  The problem with criticizing people like Lady GaGa is that she has reached iconic standards and this means that fan poodles ignore or justify hateful/hurtful actions.This is not a problem unique to GaGa's little monsters because it is a reoccurring phenomenon with those that we have given hero status.  

No matter who the individual is, they can and will fail because none of us is born outside of discourse.  Over time we may learn to challenge our privileges, but even that is a lifetime journey.  What GaGa did was without disableist, and no matter how many times she advocates on behalf of the GLBT community for justice and equality, she is just as prone to failure on other isms.  Due to the fact that all isms are interconnected, this means that she has failed some of the very same people that she claims to advocate on behalf of, because I am quite sure that there are disabled GLBT people who saw her little wheelchair performance and were not amused.  You cannot truly be a leftist because you advocate for justice for one group of marginalized people.  Justice and equality means challenging your privileges not perpetuating them when it is convenient or can be seen as edgy.