Blogging Against Disablism Day: A Round-up

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2010

Blogging Against Disablism Day (“disablism” is the UK equivalent of “ableism”) was started by Diary of Goldfish in 2006 to occur annually on May 1st and highlight online how disability discrimination is lived, discussed, and portrayed. Here’s a handful of some of the great posts that went up this weekend…

On Being a Disabled Blogger via The F-Word
Blogging with disabilities.

I’d like to highlight just how challenging it can be for disabled people to blog at all, never mind blog against disablism. Blogging is usually an add-on activity, something healthy, able-bodied people can do in addition to their day jobs, social lives and hobbies; for disabled people, simply living life can be difficult enough, and blogging about it is a challenge at best and impossible at worst. I hope this post will help to fight unintentional disablism in the blogosphere, which can result from a simple lack of understanding about disabled bloggers’ lives.

Oracle, Superheroine Extraordinaire at Never That Easy
Some thoughts on the Marvel character Barbara Gordon, who was the alias of Batgirl until a spinal cord injury. She’s now a computer hack known as Oracle.

A comic illustration of Oracle. She is a busty redhead holding a metal pipe in each hand. Whe is sitting in a desk and sitting in a wheelchair.

So there’s one double standard, in that Yes, I will grant that Batman probably could figure out a lot of ways to ‘cure’ her disability, or that Barbara herself would probably, in the way of all superknowledgable superheroines, be able to come up with a pretty good idea of how to accomplish such a feat. But that doesn’t mean she should be cured, or that she’s any less vital of a character because she hasn’t been cured. The discussions revolving around the idea of a cure are some of the most impassioned - people talk about how useless and ridiculous it is that Batgirl hasn’t been cured yet, invalidating Oracle completely: If Barbara can only fight crime/be worthwhile/be important when she is Batgirl, then Oracle is a wasted character, nothing more than a “girl in a chair.”.

Movement is Radical via Wheelchair Dancer
On Twitter, Artie, and “the ‘right’ kind of disabled mover.”

…More important to me, however, is the question of prejudice about what “counts” as dance movement. When we think only of the dancing, it turns out that there are no hard and fast borderlines between facilitated movement (as a therapeutic for someone who “can’t”) and a kind of partnering. Movement alone is not the decision-making point. Understanding partnering as a kind of facilitated movement and vice versa makes me want to rely on the notion of consent. Not on the movement as movement. And making that distinction reaffirms for me the importance of keeping dance workshops open.

Addressing Ableist Language via Feministe
Reflections on ableist language on feminist blogs and comment sections

These terms are a problem. They are terms that have been used to disparage people with mental illnesses for a very long time, to discredit them, to abuse them, and to protect those who abuse them. They are terms that are continually used in this way today. They are terms that, using their broadest definitions, could be used against me…They are terms that, used very narrowly, are still used against good friends, some of the greatest writers I know, and folks who, whatever and whoever else they are, are still people.

A Screenshot’s Worth a Thousand Words via FWD
On how Wikipedia ranks “Ableism” on its Talk Page

A screenshot of the Ableism Wikipedia page. One line reads This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.

Disabled people form around 20% of the population in Australia and the USA (and similar numbers in similar societies). One in five. Discrimination is huge, it is institutionalised, it is very often legal. Disabled people are some of the most vulnerable, the most underemployed, the most abused, the most excluded, the most neglected, the most murdered people in our cultures. “Low importance”? “Obscure piece of trivia”?

Disability and Birth Control (part 1 of 2) via Deeply Problematic
Notes on the intersection of reproductive rights, the Pill, and disability.

Birth control is and was often (though by no means always) constructed as an unambiguous win for women. It’s strongly, strongly associated with the birth of the second wave of the feminist movement. And hormonal birth control has been wonderful and liberating for women in the final balance. The fiftieth anniversary of hormonal birth control should be celebrated. Hormonal birth control is wonderful. But it is not unambiguously positive for women. It is not all of our liberation.

I’d also like to highlight these two great reads, which I came across via s.e. smith of This Ain’t Livin (and formerly of the Transcontinental Disability Choir), which weren’t posted specifically for BADD, but definitely worth reading.

Any Representation a Good Representation? via This Ain’t Livin
Glee has been awarded numerous awards for its representations despite its continuous problematic representations of people of color, people with disabilities, and queer characters.

What Glee shows viewers, mainly, is that people with disabilities are props. That people of colour are set dressing. That gay men are effeminate and floofy. That transphobic speech is totes ok; sure, people get that Sue Sylvester is supposed to be a bigot, but the problem is that some people don’t recognise it when she says bigoted things, whether they are racist, transphobic, sexist, ableist, classist…she’s hard to recognize as a satire for some folks because they don’t really understand what she’s saying.

And this interview with Larry N. Sapp of Abilities United Productions via Racebending, on representation for and by people with disabilities in film and media.

When I searched for movies that represented this new life as a paraplegic, I found nothing but stereotypes for those that featured a person with a disAbility. And if that wasn’t bad enough I also found that nearly every one of those movies were written, directed, and acted by people who have no idea what it is like to live as a paraplegic. I foolishly thought all I had to do was write a screenplay without stereotypes in character or plot and the entertainment world would finally be righted! But as I shopped that first screenplay around, producers who were initially interested by my pitch demanded changes that would add the stereotypical elements back into it before they would buy it.

See even more BADD posts at Diary of a Goldfish. What were you reading for BADD 2010? Share links and thoughts below.

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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