My friend on twitter posted a link to this article discussing the absolute fail of the popular US tv show Glee. Now, I’ve posted before about the immense horrible in Glee with regards to disableism but here’s a fresh new take and an awesome amount of intersectionality and disability stuff in Bitch Magazine. †
Yep. There. I said it.
Later this week I will pontificate deeply and hard…ly. Today though, I wanted to share some sassy hotness. Courtesy of the internet and my friend sparkymonster, I was introduced to this amazing picture:
You guys, you don’t even know. What was described to me was an amazingly saucy woman wearing a divine black dress, jaunty hat and slammin’ silver jewelry posing with a white cane. Presumably that is her cane, used to assist in mobility because she is visually impaired/low-vision or blind. Wait, what?
Yes. This fabulously fashionable, clearly divine woman modeling her sass and pizzazz is most notably visually impaired or blind. Why is this important to point out? Why can’t I just appreciate her fierceness as fierceness and move on? Because…it’s so rare to see a visibly PWD in any media given any type of posturing that would assuage from inspirational tear-jerking that to see this makes my little heart pitter patter.
Rock on, fierce people with disabilities. Rock on.
I love Jane Eyre. There, i said it. I read Pride and Prejudice too, and I LOVED it. Sometimes I want white gloves and a tea set. I dream about pretty umbrellas and dainty dresses and proper shoes with tips on the end that lace up my legs.
Sometimes I want a tea cozy.
So, cough….. sometimes I’m fierce with a side of lace.
And that’s where this deliciously heretic remastering of Polite Society comes in. If you replace Proper Lady with Proper Disabled Person it actually applies to this blog!
Jane Austin\’s Fight Club
I was walking across a fairly busy station this afternoon when a stranger starts yelling at me. I only knew it was me she was referring to after she stopped me to ask her question more directly. “HEY IS THAT YOUR FRIEND?” she asked apropos of nothing. First the man in front of me stopped, looked around and continued on his way. Then someone else stopped, turned to her to say something. They all thought she was talking to them but no, no I and my biffle were what got her talkin’ on a hot and muggy afternoon.
I get this question a lot. Why, just today I got it five times – hers being the fourth. People ask if my guide dog is my best friend, friend, buddy, partner – never do they ask if he’s my guide or service animal or life saver. Never do they acknowledge the reality of a woman and a harnessed creature, never do they treat me or him like professionals. Never are we afforded privacy or respect. Instead, they see a cutesy puppy and a girl. For I am always honey, sweetie, miss or girl – never ma’am or ms. And never is the question asked without that sickeningly sweet addition of “he’s so adorable.” I just want to vomit.
How does one even begin to discuss depression? Do I lay claim to it as mine, as if it were a possession I acquired with the curbside bookshelf and freecycle air conditioner? Do I call it sickness, a phase, craziness in my brain? Is it mine at all, or is it something that flits in and out of the lives of humanoids, a honey bee sapping the sweet out of the day? It films my view and all I can do is curl up in a ball, inverted on myself and drained of desire and intent. Depression refuses to be ignored, worked away, set aside or pretended. It consumes. It stimmies.
I spend most of my traveling hours on a train or bus scrambling not to get stepped on. Sometimes this means I get to sit on a seat squished between people while my dog hides beneath, sometimes this means I sit on a nice privately isolated seat with enough foot space for D to curl up all comfy cozy. D loves to find empty seats, especially loves to find empty spaces for his body to hide. I don’t blame him, if I were foot-level with hordes of metro Bostonians I would want to hide under a rock too.
Sometimes it’s because I have this winning personality and fabulous charm that I acquire a seat on the transit system of my choice. Seeing me grappling a pole and straddling a labrador, someone will look up, shake the dust from their shoulders and say ‘do you want to sit down?” Once I said yes and the lady inquiring just went back to her reading. I thought it was insidiously cute. Once I said no and some guy forcibly put me in his seat. That didn’t last long, and neither did his er, grip.
I saw the above sign on a train window and thought about the implications. Rather than saying “this seat is intended for people with disabilities or the elderly” (problematic as that is) it said to offer up this seat if it’s needed. If it’s needed. How’s that get defined? Who gets to define that? How quaint that the sticker is intended to direct able-bodied people to do the ‘right’ thing whatever that may be, if they think it’s merited or warranted in a given situation.
Not that this is a new concept, people with a certain amount of privilege having the authority to decide when a person without a certain amount of privilege has access to things and services. But to be faced with it on such a visceral level, a directive on a train I’m riding, is to remind me of where I am and how little agency I’m afforded by this able-bodied world. It reminds me how often living can feel like fighting. Fighting for the right to define myself, my identify and my needs without interpretation and renegotiation by others.
It ain’t easy to redirect this fighting energy into positivity. It’s hard to re-imagine that people are kind and good and well-meaning. But sometimes they’re not; sometimes they’re patronizing and in need of a pat on the back, a good deed for the day and you are going to be it. And that’s where inserting our identities and autonomy (and right to choose our need) comes in to place. And that’s when I want to strip all those crap directive signs off the windows and walls I see them on.
More like….this seat is for folks who say they want to sit in it. Stop defining and identifying bodies for others. Self determination much?
I was reading my friends page on Facebook today and someone amazing called today “interdependence day.” I really liked not only the mash-up of independence, but also the cavalier notion that we are in fact as independent as we are interdependent on each other. As activists say, we are not free until all we are free. It’s true. So while platitudes of gratefulness are repeated across social networking sites and bbq grill feasting tables, I am reminded of the differences in how we experience freedom and how it shows in the differences in the people around me.
I thought about that, about how my liberations are separate and yet equal, how I am not free until all of me is free. So I share with you a poem I wrote a few years ago, inspired in part by Audre Lorde – a warrior poet who too wanted all of her to be free.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex
and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.
- Audre Lorde, from "Who Said It Was Simple"
A flame burning on pyre or alter
somewhat shifty - an unwelcome breeze
lit by another hand, another body
reclaimed in a few brief moments
now a testament to what it means
or the very art of survival
punching in and then out
the echo elevating itself above
obliteration or reincarnation
another matchbook, a wick not trimmed
another isolated liberation