I have an article in Lacuna human rights magazine today, about disabled partners, rejecting the idea that we’re ‘burdens’. Life that includes disabled people can be about partnership and adventure, I argue, whether those disabled people are friends, family or romantic partners. I look at the ableism behind the idea that disabled partners are burdens, and the effect this attitude has had in society for disabled people, partners, and carers more generally. Here’s a snippet:
A full life involves taking risks. Getting to know people who are different from you is not a saintly calling, but it can be an exciting part of life. Think of the many kinds of relationships you could miss out on if you don’t think disabled people’s lives are worth your time—fantastic friendships, fulfilling romantic relationships, rewarding life partnerships. I hope you’re lucky enough to discover that a life that includes disabled friends and potential romantic partners is an adventure, not a burden.
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[I am a long-time genre fiction/media fan. I’ve been reflecting on disability in genre fiction recently, especially in superhero stories. This is an extended version of part 2 of a series posted elsewhere. See note on my use of the term ‘ableism’ at the end.]
Image descriptions: Left: an image of Clifford DeVoe, a wheelchair-using villain from the TV series ‘The Flash’, with his wife. Right: DeVoe in his villain persona, The Thinker, who uses an oversized black floating chair.
So. We have another wheelchair-using villain on The Flash, and I’m getting bored. Where are my disabled heroes? Or even just my friendly disabled ‘Jitters’ barristas?
In part one of this series, I looked at one specific issue with the representation of Clifford DeVoe/’The Thinker’ in last week’s episode ‘Therefore I Am’ (The Flash 4×7) — his on-screen request to his wife to “let me die” in the face of becoming disabled).
But there are issues with disabled villains existing at all.
There are several ‘disabled villain’ archetypes in genre fiction. In each case, the image of disability communicated is a serious problem.
Continue reading “Ableism and ‘The Flash’: What’s Wrong With Disabled Villains in Genre Fiction… and Where Have All The Disabled Heroes Gone?”
[Content warning: Discussion of the ways disabled people’s experiences are invalidated and disbelieved in society. References to pain ignored by doctors. Brief description of a fictional person with suicidal ideation.]
Disabled readers. (And those with chronic illnesses, learning difficulties, and neurodivergences of all kinds.) Have you ever experienced any of the following?
- Having your experience of disability or chronic illness dismissed or ignored.
- Being treated like a child, or like you don’t/can’t know your own mind about something.
- Having your experience minimised – being told it’s ‘not really that bad’, or being told that something ‘happens to everyone’ when you explain a symptom of your impairment (“everyone has trouble communicating now and then!”)
- Being told that something that you know happened to you, didn’t happen, or that it didn’t happen in the way you remember it. This is sometimes called gaslighting. It can be subtle, as well direct.
- Being told you don’t look disabled/that you don’t seem neurodivergent/that you’re so much easier to ‘handle’ than other people with mental health problems… (“Not that I’m prejudiced of course but there’s this woman at work who just keeps talking about her condition – I think she does it for attention…”)
- Being repeatedly talked over, interrupted, encouraged not to speak, or otherwise actively not listened to. (Sometimes a whole environment or institution can encourage you not to speak, through the way it works.) This is silencing.
- Being told that something isn’t good for you and that you should avoid it, when it is something that you want to do. This could be infantalisation.
- Having inappropriate medical treatments regularly recommended, whether by lay people (“have you tried aloe vera?”), or by medical professionals who don’t take your opinion/experience into consideration.
- Being denied medical treatment that you need, or which would make your life much easier, because your experience of pain or illness is not believed.
All of these could be considered epistemic invalidation.
Silencing. Ignoring. Dismissing. Minimising. Gaslighting. Infantalising. And many more things that I haven’t covered above.
Epistemic invalidation is anything that invalidates your experience as a disabled person. Your first-hand, lived experience of disability/long-term illness/neurodiversity. Experience that you know is true, but that sometimes you can’t get others to believe is true.
Continue reading “Listen to Our Experience: On Epistemic Invalidation”
(There is an easy-read version of this post at the end.)
Today is Autistic Pride Day, a day to celebrate autism, Asperger Syndrome and other similar neurodivergence, proposed 11 years ago by Aspies for Freedom.
Disability pride is a theme that is often overlooked by a society that cannot cope with the idea of disability as anything other than a tragedy. Into that environment come transformative approaches like #AutisticPrideDay. Modelled on queer pride, focused on acceptance and celebration (not ‘awareness’) of all who are neurodivergent in an autistic/Aspie direction, the day has inspired some great tweeting and blogging today.
The Silencing of Autistic People, and Amplifying Only Autistic Voices
Many autistic people have spoken of the double-bind where we are rarely listened to on the subjects of autism and neurodiversity. If we can use language, or would otherwise be medically referred to as ‘high functioning’, we are told our voices don’t count because we can’t speak for, or with, those who don’t use language. (As though anyone can speak for anything except their own experience. And as though the voices of non-autistic people who happen to know autistic people are therefore more important than the collective, diverse voices of other autistic and neurodivergent people.) Often, though, so-called ‘high functioning’ autistic people aren’t even listened to on our own behalf. Our voices are drowned out by would-be helpers – who often aren’t saying very helpful things about autism at all.
Continue reading “Autistic Pride Day and our Drowned-Out Voices”
The ‘fidget spinner’ fad may look like just another silly craze to you, but don’t be fooled: it shows up some incredible truths about normalcy, and the pathologising of things autistic people (and other disabled people) do…
Content warning: refers to the emotional and physical abuse of autistic people (in the form of ‘treatment’ that many are subjected to).
“This is important. Really important, so read this next sentence twice: Something that was considered entirely pathological and in dire need of correction when done by disabled people is now perfectly acceptable because it is being done by non-disabled people. This should make you stop and think, especially if you are someone who works with, educates, or researches people with diagnoses like autism.”
This post could also be called: Know what you’re letting yourself in for when you start an a campaign for disability access…
UCL and the Inaccessible Lecture Hall: The Story of a Week
I was delighted when I heard that Judith Butler was coming to speak at UCL. Professor Butler, a prominent feminist and gender theorist, is based in Berkeley, California. Like many disabled people facing travel barriers, I don’t get to go to international conferences to hear major academic speakers very often. This was on my doorstep.
On Monday, I realised that there was no disability access information on the ticket website for Thursday’s lecture. I politely emailed the UCL Classics department to ask how a wheelchair user would access this event.
On Tuesday, I got a brief reply. “I’m very sorry but the Logan Hall where the event is happening is not wheelchair accessible,” was the full text of their email.
Rather abrupt, for an admission of potentially-illegal exclusion and discrimination, don’t you think?
On Tuesday and into Wednesday, after some persuading by friends, I organised a letter protesting the inaccessibility of the lecture to wheelchair users. 66 academics and activists, disabled and non-disabled people, co-signed it.
Continue reading “Why We Have to Fight for Access to Theory: Judith Butler and the UCL Lecture”
Image description: Two people holding protest signs, one using a wheelchair, one standing. Their signs say ‘The Revolution is Wheelchair Accessible’.
So here we are. The post-Brexit, post-Trump, austerity society. Welcome to the future we never saw coming…
This is a deeply dangerous time for disabled people. Social care is being taken away from us, on a massive scale – the social care that used to allow us to work, or raise a family, or simply get out of bed. Benefits that we fought for, for years, are being cut – many of us losing our tiny, basic lifelines. The NHS is slowly being unfunded, meaning that disabled people (who often live in poverty) are increasingly being asked to meet the costs of our own health needs. If we can work, we are finding that Access to Work will no longer help us meet the extra costs we face in a disablist workplace. Hate crime is rising, leaving some of us scared to leave our homes. And disability discrimination legislation is still as toothless and useless as ever. Disabled people are among the poorest people in every society, including in the UK. The less of a welfare state we have, the worse our situation will become.1
We are seeing our opportunities shrinking. Many of us are facing deeply uncertain futures. And I mean uncertain on the level of ‘Will we ever be able to work again and even leave our houses again?’
And most non-disabled people have no idea that any of this is happening.
Continue reading “Disability Theory Belongs to Disabled People”