Saturday, March 26, 2011

Those of us who are disabled.

My Classics in Feminist Theory class is one I chose from the slim pickings of available options to fulfill a graduation requirement so I can say I had a well rounded education at Hunter College Jail. The class is a ton of challenging reading that's mostly interesting thankfully. Basically we read lots of writing done by feminists on various topics, like race, societal and economic issues, the family, etc. 

Recently, we read an essay and I jotted down notes to study for Monday's midterm (here are two excerpts):

The typical stereotypical lens through which many of us view “disabled,” like say, a man or woman in a wheelchair isn’t simply that. In fact, feminists argue that society constructs women as ‘disabled’ because as Garland-Thomson argues in the essay, “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory” they are “defective departures from a valued standard” (6), the ‘standard’ being men. Garland-Thomson continues, “more recently, feminists theorists have argued that female embodiment is a disabling condition in sexist culture” (6). 

I want to first point out Garland-Thomson’s argument that women are presented like the handicapped or disabled (8). Because of how women are perceived emotionally and physically weak, they have long held a “disabling condition in sexist culture” (5). In fact, the philosopher Aristotle wrote that women have “improper forms,” which assumes that men are the ones with proper forms. Phrases like “she throws like a girl” or the act of men opening doors for women points to an assumed helplessness and idiocy because it paints women as incapable, and needing men to provide for, or take care of them.

{NOTE: I want to clear up that I don't agree with what some feminists paint as anti-woman. Eh, some women like male chivalry and that's alright in my opinion. I remember when I was first starting seeing Chris--the only serious-ish boy I ever saw--and we weren't exactly dating yet, but something was there and a couple times he got something to drink from the vending machine at school and didn't think to ask if I wanted anything. I even remember once he asked if I wanted a sip because he nor I had ever tried whatever it was he had gotten from the machine. I remember complaining to a girlfriend about it and certainly now (you live and learn!) I don't think I'd see a guy who wouldn't think to ask if I'd like something to drink, too. I suppose some feminists might think I'm silly or a gold digger or anti-woman, but I believe everything someone says or does gives us some clue into how kind or thoughtful of a person they will be to us. Ok, RANT OVER...tehehehe}

"A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these."--SOURCE

Lately, I've been thinking of 'disabled' beyond women to how fat people are seen as disabled in our society. And maybe some fat people--the ones who are more aggressively obese than I am?--are disabled, but that's only for them to say they are. Two things I've realized about disability is that: (a.) we often make the mistake of determining who is disabled, when they themselves might not think so. (b.) and then there is the assumption that people with disabilities can't live meaningful lives.
 "Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. 
Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives."  --SOURCE

I believe fat people are presented as disabled because of how I've seen us treated. From how one of my past professors, a Republican and Pulitzer prize winning journalist, --who wasn't thin, but wasn't fat--steered off whatever she was suppose to be teaching us, to talk politics and say that she wouldn't vote for Mike Huckabee because she wouldn't trust someone who couldn't control what he was putting in his mouth--to the numerous family members who told me I needed to lose weight when I was younger as if there was something wrong with me, scraping at my teenage self-esteem scabs.

I know lots of fat people who aren't lazy/aren't always eating/yaddayaddablahblah [insert stereotypical nonsense here]. I know lots of fat people who live meaningful lives--who are lovers, sisters, brothers, mothers, etc. I know myself.

What do you think? Do you think fat people are depicted as 'disabled'? Love hearing your thoughts always!



Christine said...

favorite phrase..aggressively obese.
IT seems very action oriented as opposed to having the fat simply imposed by overzealous food.
Disabled is a state of mind. And if some woman came up to me and told me I was disabled simply because I was a woman...I may go aggressively anti feminist on her @ss.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. shore up our strengths and make sure our weaknesses aren't a hindrance and stop looking for oppression under every rock. You'll be a lot happier.

Miss Erika said...

I can speak with some authority on this matter as both of my parents are disabled (my mother physically, my father mentally). Obese people are absolutely treated as if they were disabled - people gawk at them, wonder how they move through their daily lives, get irritated when they have to interact with them, and judge even their slightest difficulty (even things fit people would have trouble with) as being due to their obesity.

Alexia @ Dimple Snatcher said...

I completely agree with you, Miz Erika :)
Except you said what I wanted to say with such eloquence. Are you trying to show me up, huh?
Ha. Loved the photos you posted on your blog!

Alexia @ Dimple Snatcher said...

hahahah, Chris, I always use the work 'aggressive' awkwardly. Ha.

Christine said...

actually I thought the word aggressive was great! It gives power back, and I am all for that.

Alexia @ Dimple Snatcher said...

really? huh :)

Alexia @ Dimple Snatcher said...

And Chris I love what you said about "stop looking for oppression under every rock." That's why I have churn out what doesn't apply to me in the feminist texts I read for the class.

paulawannacracker said...

Enjoyed reading this post and all the comments. Should fat people be labeled "disable"? It comes down to the indiviudal person. I have a friend who weighs at last 270 lbs. She is super active (up at 5 a.m. to bed at 11, watches no tv and is go-go-go all day. I certainly don't associate the word "disable" with my friend who is over weight.

I find the word "disabled" a tad offensive. Perhaps challenged is a more appropriate word. Not because of "political correctness" but because it comes down to a persons "will" and how they live their lives regardless of their size.

I may be off subject here, but I've come across students who are very intelligent but lack social skils. Honestly, they bury their selves in books. I've certainly considered them to be "socially disabled."

I too love Chris' "stop looking for oppression under every rock." Wish I would have thought of that... maybe I'm just "writing disabled."

Great post Alexia.

Alexia @ Dimple Snatcher said...

Thanks, Paula! I agree: the word "challenged" is a much kinder term.

Miss Erika said...

Hahah, sorry Alexia, I can't help it. I'm a good writer, but get me in person and I just blabber. I bet you can at least talk in real life haha.

I don't think anybody should labeling obese people as disabled, I was just saying they are certainly treated that way. A disability is something you cannot change (unless it's a physical one and you have millions of dollars for the latest medical fix-you-up technology). The wonderful thing about obesity is that you CAN change it. Genetic predisposition is not fate. I'm predisposed to be an alcoholic with a passive aggressive streak, but I don't abuse tasty beverages and as for the passive aggressive thing...well, I'm working on it. Unfortunately, I think obese people feel so trapped by their circumstances that they think they have no control whatsoever, or even worse, begin to treat *themselves* as if they were disabled.

Miss Erika said...

And obviously that doesn't apply to all obese people. Look at how many of the blogs we read where seriously obese women made astouding changes in their everyday lives. It just seems like the majority of obese people I interact with have no hope to change. I remember one time in the ice cream parlor at which I worked during high school a very, very obese woman came in with her husband and kids. She asked me for recommendations, and I pointed out some tasty flavors and then pointed to our frozen yogurt and said, "People like that because it's fat free, if you're into that kind of thing". She scoffed and said "Fat free? Honey, look at me. Give me two scoops of the cookie dough in a waffle cone".

jayme @ Losing Half My Weight said...

other people have responded to the 'disabled' question and have said what i would, so i'm going to leave that aside.

however, it does sort of make me angry when feminists (and i'm a feminist, so....) use the 'hold the door open because you're considered weak' thing. it's not because i like men to be chivalrous. IT'S JUST GOOD MANNERS! i hold the door open for people - for men, women, children, whoever is coming in behind me. nothing shows an incapacity to treat others with respect quicker than walking in the door before someone else and letting it slam in their face. it's not about gender or perceived 'oppression' in my opinion. but i can see their point when it comes to car doors, i guess. that is a bit ridiculous. :o)

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear your thoughts!