Thursday, February 4, 2010

"But I don't see disableism very often"

A couple of months ago I tried talking to my best friend about why I find "Glee" ableist, which turned into a conversation about disableism in society. My best friend is a sociology major who always seems better at me at noticing failure around -isms. So I was shocked when she said she rarely sees disableism. Honestly, it really hurt--I see ableism every day. But what I had to remind myself is that ableism, just like sexism, racism, and any other type of -ism, can be easy to not see if you have that type of privilege (i.e. you are a TAB, etc.)

So here is a list of some of the places I see ableism. Because next time, I want to have a better answer than a look of shock and hurt. (This obviously isn't a list of all types of disableism, just a few of the things I experience frequently in my day-to-day life.)

I see ableism:

in the year it took me to make myself go to the Office of Accommodations at my university. And the fact it took me another year to actually start using my accommodations. I grew up in a society that told me that I had to be some stereotype of strong and using these accommodations was weak and bad. (Society was wrong.)

in what I call "the look of terror" so many people give me when they find out things about my health. Among other things, I strongly believe that if our society was more accepting about talking about disabilities, people wouldn't feel so bad or have so much pity when they find out about my health.

in the people, even friends, who treat me like a child. I am mature and very intelligent--being in pain does not decrease my age.

in friends who don't invite me to things because of my health. Seriously, being disabled should not mean you get to make my decisions for me. How exactly do you know what is better for me. Why do you get to decide whether I should do something that causes me pain.

in the campus that causes me pain. My campus, like most college campuses, is lit by florescent lights. Can you say ow! Sometimes I feel like a prisoner in my own room because it's one of the very few places not lit by florescent lights. Last semester I got so sick of being in my room that I took naps in my best friends room. Also, the chairs they have here hurt my back.

the fact that spell check is telling me, both here and in Microsoft word, that disableism and ableism aren't words.

in people's discomfort in talking about disability and health. It makes many people incredibly uncomfortable! I think that many health and disability-related conversations are considered taboo in our society, and they don't know how to react when you break it.

the invasive questions people ask. Just because I have told you I am in constant pain and we have talked for five minutes, does not mean that the next time I see you you can ask me my pain level. "How is your migraine today" is not the new substitute, for "Hi. What's up," especially if I barely know you.

the looks I get when people find out how many or what medications. And the assumptions people make about the type of person I must be if I have these meds.

in the lack of portrayals of disability around me. Where are the disabled models? Where are the positive portrayals of disability on television? (This could be a dissertation there is so much fail going on in this category, but I'm going to keep the list short.)


  1. Ha, I loved this.

    Especially hurting on Microsoft lol, they get me down a lot :P

    But yes, I feel every ounce of your pain. I managed to finish a degree but I did the last two years from home for some of the very same reasons.

    Also, it hasn't done my a ton of good as I haven't been able to hold down any job other than a brief retail stint before I get sick.


    There is my rant of the day for you.

    I obviously get too excited when you post things!

  2. Yes! to the invasive questions people ask. Even if I DO know someone well, I do not want them to say to me, "Do you have a migraine today?" instead of, "Hello, how are you?" I get that a lot, with some friends more than others.

    I also get, "Do you have a migraine today?" a lot when they really mean, "What do you think about going to the store/going ice skating/playing video games?" Sigh.

  3. "Yeah" to pretty much everything you said.

    How about, for a response to "Do you have a migraine today?" as an opener, something like, "Yeah. Do you have your period today?"

    Or, "No, have you pooped yet today?"

    Too subtle?

    (I get "How are you feeling?" "Do you have a migraine/are you in pain/etc.?" but especially, "OMG, it's so great you can talk today! I love to hear your voice!" etc., as openers. I have been tempted, but not yet had the ovaries to say, "Does that mean you hate to hear me when I'm nonverbal?")

    But aside from answering the phone, living in my cocoon of being in bed almost full-time and therefore usually only exposed to people who know me well, and mainly using the internet just to interact with other disabled people, I had forgotten what it was like to experience the "social ableism" aspects of the "big wide world" of a lot of what you discuss above.

    I am used to all the various ableisms if I go to the doctor or hospital or wherever, but now that I've branching out into the general online "dog world" (not just people with service dogs) and have also started a blog, I'm surprised and a little confused by all the comments about how strong, brave, tragic, etc., my life is. Haven't figured out yet how to answer, but having you enumerate the problems is helpful.

    Thank you!


  4. You can't win for loosing on the medication front. I have a neurological movement disorder and I opted to forego medication due to the drugs' side effects and the fact that the partial reduction in my symptoms did little in the way of actually improving my quality of life. The way many people treat me once they learn that I am not taking medications... They assume that because I'm not undergoing a certain brand of medical treatment my disability somehow isn't real or that I want to or like to be disabled.

    On that note: Ableism is where I feel the need to justify my decision to not seek pharmacological treatment of my disability in a pseudoanonymous reply to someone else's blog.

  5. @simplesavvy It's nice to know I'm not alone, not that I wish migraines on anyone.

    @Aftergadget: Haha, love your idea for a response. Now I just have to work up the courage to use it... :) Yeah, I still haven't figured out how to respond to the "you're so brave" type of comments.... Let me know if you figure it out?

    @the Untoward Lady: Thank you for that. And on that note, sometimes when i choose not to take my pills, I feel guilty for that. So thank you for also reminding me that I have the right not to take my pills when I don't want to.

  6. @aftergadget: I have debilitating PMDD, and the few people I've told regularly greet me by asking whether I'm having my period. I think I'm going to adopt your idea and start asking them if they've pooped yet. Beautiful.