Category Archives: ableism

thoughts on the politics of independence

“the community is not great for anyone until it is great for everyone.”        –WIDU motto
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Filed under ableism, abolishing medical and charity models of thinking, API-A, community, disability, i love my people, race, woc

one last post on tropic thunder

I’ve been thinking a lot about the strategies the disability community has used in responding to the movie Tropic Thunder. I wanted to wait until the initial media coverage passed so this conversation could be held more internally and not distract from the message we were putting out there.

The amazing Jess Hoffman from Makeshift magazine was recently a guest blogger at Feministe (h/t to Sudy) and has been writing a lot about capitalism and feminism. In part of Jess’ last post, she built on the words of Sister Lorde, Moraga, Anzaldua, and others to talk about why intersectionality was needed in feminist communities. Jess pointed out that this intersectional analysis created by radical women of color has often been misinterpreted and stolen by feminists to say something along the lines of “because *some* women have multiple identities, we need to address their experience” instead of “all systems of power are linked and a multiple-issue analysis is the only way to defeat oppression”.

Excerpt:

So it’s not just that some individual people experience multiple forms of oppression, or even that all people have some kind of personal relationship with all systems of oppression… but also that the systems of power themselves—racism, economic hierarchy, sexism, heteronormativity, ableism, etc.—are working together.

Included in our activism against ableism and the use of the r-word in Tropic Thunder have been statements from disability organizations and disability activists along the lines of “People can’t say n*gger, w*tback, or other racial oppressive words but they can still say r*tard!”, “Disability is the last frontier!”, “When making Tropic Thunder, Dreamworks brought in African American consultants to make sure the movie wasn’t offensive—where were the disability consultants?”

Though I think I know what this feeling is based on—the frusteration of ableism not being addressed as oppression in activist communities and mainstream society—I believe this short-term strategy or sentiment absolutely cannot be a part of our activism. Not only does this strategy alienate disabled people who have multiple identities but it does nothing to address oppression. When we say these kinds of things, it says that we believe racism, heterosexism, sexism, etc are personal conflicts that happens between people (and that we’ve overcome!), not institutions in which our soicety is based upon. It ignores families being ripped apart by ICE raids, trans women of color being killed everyday, and the ever-growing prison industrial complex.

One leader in the disability community rightfully pointed out the need to stick with the issue of the r-word and not swamping it with 17 other disability issues. I agreed with him, afterall, our society and movement have a history of silencing people with intellectual disabilities. But still, why weren’t the other connections made? How come we chose not to talk about all of the other horrible imagery (particularly against Asian-Pacific Islander folks)? Some responses I’ve seen to this question have been that it is more strategic. Is it really strategic in the long run and if we decide that it is— strategic for who?

I believe our activism has to be bigger than our own oppression but if you want, let’s talk about strategies for our movement. I believe it IS strategic to talk about other systems of oppressions—how else can we expect to have the system of oppression we face as disabled people recognized? How can we even go into social justice work uwilling to talk about the privileges we have?

This can’t be done in a superficial, let’s-high-five-Dr.-King way. What good is our activism, anyways, if it’s based on the backs of others?

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Filed under ableism, activism, API-A, community, disability, feminism, homophobia/heterosexism, organizing

tropic thunder actions

Check out the Justice for All blog for media coverage on Tropic Thunder protests and sign the petition!

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tropic thunder

Q:
What do you get when you put
blackface,
sizeism,
old racist jokes,
glorification of war
and outright ableism together?

A: Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder is a big-budget film to be released next week. The synopsis on the promotional website describes the film as

“an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the most expensive war film. After ballooning costs force the studio to cancel the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast into the jungles of Southeast Asia, where they encounter real bad guys.”

In the movie, Ben Stiller plays an actor who is upset for not winning an award for his [wretched, offensive] portrayal of a man with developmental disabilities in a movie titled Simple Jack. Robert Downey Jr. plays a white man in blackface. Jack Black plays another actor, one who wore a body suit and starred in a picture called The Fatties.

It upsets me when I hear people let things go in the name of humor. Movies, television, and all forms of media play a huge role in how people perceive things, even when the themes are less obvious. Two weeks ago, Angie Zapata, a young trans woman of color, was murdered (and called “it”) just for being a trans woman. Only a few months before Angie’s death, Dorothy Dixon, a disabled woman, was abused, beaten, and murdered in Illinois. The New Jersey 4 are still in jail for defending themselves against a homophobic attacker (in which the media called them things like a “wolf pack of lesbians”). There are so many more that we’ve lost. We cannot afford to let movies rooted— or quietly lined— in mischaracterization and dehumanization pass by. If it was just comedy, it wouldn’t cost us so much.

Patricia Bauer, a disability rights blogger who has been following the movie, wrote that disability organizations will be meeting with Dreamworks this Wednesday. Be prepared to take action.

Under the cut, you’ll find a R-rated preview and a dialogue between two of the characters that will show you why this is unacceptable. [trigger warning— many violent scenes, language, and all-out offensive stereotyping]

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Filed under ableism, activism, disability, intersections, organizing, violence

FRIDA and Illinois Activists Protest Violence Against Disabled Women

from The Telegraph (Alton, IL local news paper):

ALTON – They caused quite a scene marching down East Broadway early Saturday afternoon.

Some were on foot, in wheelchairs, in vehicles or on motorcycles, with police cars at the front and back of the line. They proudly displayed signs and chanted as they journeyed up the hills of Sering Avenue.

“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” they yelled.

People along the way stood at their front doors to watch the commotion, while others peeked out of windows. Motorists honked in support and others pulled off to the side of the road to watch.

The group of nearly 30 people had gathered to honor 29-year-old Dorothy Latrice Dixon, who died from her injuries after being shot with a pellet gun, beaten and scalded over several weeks’ time. She died in January. Dixon, who had moved to Alton from Quincy, Ill., was six months pregnant and developmentally disabled.

Six people, including two minors, face nine counts each in Madison County Circuit Court in Dixon’s death. One of the people facing charges was Dixon’s caregiver, who also had the authority to cash Dixon’s disability checks. Authorities believe money sparked the abuse.

Dixon suffered her injuries inside her home at 2957 Hillcrest Ave., where she lived with five of the six people responsible for her injuries. A May 14 Madison County coroner’s jury ruled the deaths of Dixon and her unborn son as homicides. Dixon also had a 1-year-old son, who was placed in protective custody with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She was unmarried. Continue reading

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thoughts on alex barton and the way we organize

Recently, a young boy by the name of Alex Barton participated in an experiment on democracy.

Sounds harmless, right?

Way off. Wendy Portillo, Alex’s teacher, allowed his classmates to go around and tell him all the things they did not like about him. After the class told him he was “disgusting” and “annoying”, the teacher allowed them to vote him out of the class. After a 14 to 2 vote, he spent the day inside the nurse’s office.

Alex is five years old and in kindergarten. He is currently going through a process to see if he has Aspergers syndrome, a disability on the autism spectrum. Since being kicked out of his classroom, Alex’s personality has changed, he says he feels “sad,” and he is seen telling himself over and over “I’m not special, I’m not special.” Florida authorities have said that effects do not meet the standards for emotional child abuse.

At the end of this entry are ways you can tell Florida schools you think all people have the right to an education and to be treated with respect.

One aspect that really bothers me about this case is our strategy for addressing ableism (or not addressing it). There has been a HUGE outcry from the autistic rights community. Although I have not even begun to dip into all of the blog posts written on this case— it’s now estimated that 50 people have already blogged about this!—I am surprised at the way we as a community and as individuals frame this issue. Much of the outrage has come in the form of the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or, so they’ll do unto you when the tables are turned), which Lastcrazyhorn writes about. We’ve all talked about how NO ONE—aspie or not— should have to go through this trauma. Though this is all very, very obviously true, I’m left wondering why we can’t name what happened ableist. Instead we have to say that no one deserves this treatment, you wouldn’t want this, we’re contributors, and give other explanations. It’s like the word ableism has no power. Continue reading

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Filed under ableism, abolishing medical and charity models of thinking, activism, community, disability

Here They Come!: the 37th edition of the Disability Blog Carnival

The words carnival and disability together brings many images to mind. Images of freakshows, disability being manipulated, and all kinds of hard times for disabled people are thought of. Here we are though, in 2008, reclaiming and recycling these words together to mean something new. This disability blog carnival, the 37th one of its kind, focuses on the celebration of disability culture, struggle, people, history and identity. Put your party hats on— we’re ready to get started!

“I think it was perhaps the most important thing that happened to me. It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me, humiliated me, all those things at once. I’ve never gotten over it, and I am aware of the force and power of it.”
—Dorethea Lange on disability

ThinkFreestyle tells us why disability culture is important to her as a disabled Latina while honoring a friend who traveled alongside her in her journey to community. Solitaire Miles shares with us both a beautiful self-portrait and her difficult experience as a disabled person in the entertainment industry. Wheelchair Dancer writes beautifully about how identity is part practice, part culture while Big Noise taps into collective power through pride. Astrid dissects disability culture and asks whether people can rightfully have a disability identity when being excluded from the disability community.
Bladyblog bravely ponders his disability identity and talks about living on the margins of queer and disability identity groups. Fibrofog does a wonderful job also on this topic and talks about how we can not have a single-issue system of justice and expect change.

Baraka describes her disability as a second husband, someone who takes energy from her, while Wheelie Catholic tells us what she doesn’t miss about her pre-quad body. Paula and Tokah both talk about how disability identity sometimes clashes with the other parts of them (and both come up with really cool terms—Paula “cripeleptic” and Tokah “the chippy martyr”). Kay at The Gimp Parade writes about the complicated all-encompassing [inclusive] nature of the disability community. Ettina talks about disability identity as the differences between you and nondisabled people, not labels. Ettina also covers intellectual and developmental disability stereotypes and how her life fits into them. Estee, at the Joy of Autism blog, also talks about difference and how it is not a deficiency [something lacking]. Shiloh also writes about disability being a part of her and even includes an acrostic poem!

Cheryl tells us what life is like when society tells you are lacking in culture or community and makes her own definitions of disability (hint: creativity! Being resourceful!). Terri tells us what she wants— pride, respect, group accountability for ableism, and acceptance. (Check out her list for more.) Mik Danger, one of my favorite bloggers, tells us why people should ally with the disability community and how movements feed each other. Dark Angel radically defies stereotypes with her beautiful queer, blind, pagan, goth self. Matt speculates why people with disabilities are often excluded from houses of worship. Shiva and Trinity and both talk about the politics of passing [hiding your identity] in a very personal way. Trin says “I wasn’t passing. I was telling myself I passed because I couldn’t stomach the idea that maybe I didn’t, that maybe my disability was something that really did affect how people saw me and thought of me and interacted with me.” Shiva says: ”The problem with “passing” and “stealth”, when it comes to liberation movements, is that it’s essentially an individualistic way of seeking one’s own safety, freedom or place in society by moving out of an oppressed or marginalized group, which inevitably compromises one’s ability to fight for the rights of that whole group”.

Pitt Rehab tells us that, with his spinal cord injury, some days he does not feel disabled while other days his life screams disability. Lauredhel tells us how disability impacts day-to-day routines, like going to the doctor. After some seizures and TIAs, Elizabeth McClung writes in with an emotionally raw post and a letter to herself reminding her who she is. Annaham shares with us a self-portrait where she has needles poking every part of her body but still has her fist raised. David shares his painful experience of hearing a disability slur in a safe space. Perennial Sam shares her first blog post ever with us, one that describes the nature of her mental health disability. Yanub, author of Yet Another Never Updated blog (lol), also writes about the nature of her disability and her journey with it. Amandaw tells us of the way she reluctantly [slowly, unsurely] uses the word “Disabled” and her reasons for it. gives us a Hymes asks us a series of questions around how she is treated as a person with a psychiatric disability.

Elizabeth explains why it isn’t autism that she wants cured but rather neurotypicality [the idea that everyone has to think, behave, and communicate in the same way]. Pocochina writes about her struggle with accepting disability and figuring out if she is a part of the community. Zan at Butterfly Cauldron writes about the need for grieving over the changes in one’s body and life because of disability. Verlidaine talks about the “why you” stare when she calls out ableism. Athena and Ivan talk about the ups and downs of disability or autistic pride and the need to sometimes be guarded about disclosing [letting people know] their disability.

Three new websites were shared with us during this carnival: Endeavor Freedom, a networking site for disability activists and everyday people, Feminist Mental Health UK, a group blog focused on mental health issues, and Hows Your News, a fun media site about a group of disabled people making their mark on pop culture!

Julia also shared a fierce poem inspired by Frida Kahlo. Though I was not able to access it because I don’t have an Endeavor Freedom password (yet!), it is Comment #33 on this thread.


Whew! Quite a carnival! If you haven’t had time to post yet, feel free to keep sending your posts this way and add to the dialogue!

A special thank-you goes to Penny who, from my 5 second internet research, has been working on the carnival since September 2006. Many props and thanks also go to the 40 bloggers who put a lot of thought into their posts and submitted them and/or were found out (grin) by Penny at the Disability Studies Temple Univ. blog.

The next blog carnival will be at Ryn Tales on the 22nd so be sure to visit over there and find out more.

Again, please feel free to keep submitting!

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Filed under ableism, abolishing medical and charity models of thinking, community, disability, i love my people, identity, internal change, intersections, links, Uncategorized, writing/poetry