Girl With The Cane
Disabled, Too Stubborn for my Own Good, Too Opinionated to Stay Quiet
I too deeply object to the “no power” comment. By itself, this is ableist and objectionable.
Yes. It was just infuriating.
Always nice to see your comments. I enjoyed your blog post on this as well.
Sarah, you have expressed exactly what I was thinking. You have a new fan. Thank you for the well thought out post.
Thank you, Angela, for reading and commenting! I am honoured that the post spoke to you. 🙂
If politics is all it takes to rob me of my power, then I’m a very weak person.
Well, there are a lot of reasons why people don’t realize how powerful they are, and I don’t know that it’s weakness most of the time. But I get the sentiment behind your statement. Thanks for your comment. 🙂
Er… The President of the United States is among the most powerful and privileged positions in the free world. Streep did not take away Kovaleski’s power – she pointed out the power differential. There’s a difference.
It’s all very well saying “I am *not* powerless” as though that makes any kind of impact. It doesn’t. We live in a systemic hierarchy where you are routinely overlooked and discriminated against because of your disability. You do disabled people everywhere a disservice by claiming a fictional set of powers you do not have.
Disabled people are overlooked and discriminated against routinely – you’re right. But that doesn’t make us powerless to fight for and bring about significant social change, and any narrative, constructed on purpose or by accident, that paints us as such is truly what does us the disservice. It encourages disabled people to sit back and not fight for the things that are important because “there’s nothing I can do; I’m just a disabled person”.
Ableism is a civil rights issue. Think about how particularly the second paragraph of your comment your comment would sound if you put any other minority in there. Would you feel comfortable essentially telling them “The system is stacked against you. Stop pretending that you have the power to change anything, because you have no impact” then?
My personal power isn’t fictional. I’ve seen it in action. Maybe not in ways that have changed the way the world runs, but in ways that have positively affected the lives of other disabled people, and that have made non-disabled people examine their ideas about disabled people and their ideas about us and our capabilities, our place in society, and the challenges that we face. Yes, the world is unfriendly to disabled people, but I will *not* be painted as powerless to take charge of my own life in it as much as I can, or see my highly accomplished advocate friends and loved ones insisting on living the best lives that they can painted the same way.
Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great day!
“Yes, the world is unfriendly to disabled people, but I will *not* be painted as powerless to take charge of my own life in it as much as I can, or see my highly accomplished advocate friends and loved ones insisting on living the best lives that they can painted the same way.”
Great – that’s how we should live our lives. But also be cognisant that there are power structures at work that try to oppress us and that are succeeding in that aim. When you ask whether I would feel comfortable saying “the system is stacked against you” to any minority (or class of people) – I would, because it is. I would never say “stop pretending you have the power to change anything” though because we do.
But it is a fight. It is a struggle. It is not easy because there are some powerful people who will always try to stamp us down and belittle us – just as Donald Trump tried to do to Kovaleski. If we don’t call him on that, as Streep did – if we minimise the power inequality even (because we prefer to feel special and self-actualised and autonomous), then we minimise the damage a person in that position can do to all our civil rights, whether we’re disabled, gay, black or just a person without a job trying to make their way in the world.
You can be as sassy and defiant as you like, but it doesn’t help when they start taking away your rights – and that will be next.
I am aware of this. I’m also aware that I’m speaking from a very privileged position, because I’m not American – I’m watching all of this from Canada. I’m not going to be directly affected by what happens when Trump gets into power. It’s a very scary time for disabled Americans.
And that’s why I would have preferred (and now that my initial bag reaction to the paternalizing tone of Streep’s speech has faded, perhaps I need to write a follow-up to this post) that if she wanted to make a statement about disabled people in America, she’d have focused less on one moment in a campaign where disabled people and their advocates should have more insulted if we *weren’t* mocked (because that too would have marked us an untouchable class, as Trump mocked just about everyone else), she would have talked about those issues that have rightly got disabled Americans very frightened – the repeal of the ACA and Jeff Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General,being the two that have come up when he’s not even in power yet! Emily Ladau talks more about this here:
Please don’t think that I don’t see your point. It’s absolutely well-taken. Trump needs to be called out (and I’ve tried to do that in other posts in this blog, and I’ll continue to.) And I’m happy to have the advocacy of strong voices, disabled or non-disabled. I just ask that advocacy be effective, and that it doesn’t unintentionally put across messages that the community has to fight on top of the larger issues.
You are making me think about how to best express how I feel about this, and I thank you for that.