Alright so I promised Part Two would come the day after Part One. I do apologize, but feel free to blame my neck. She’s a cruel mistress that I’m desperate to bound and gag and certainly not for any kinky kicks. Next time I’ll start with the beer and my weeks long neck flare up will be swirling down the drain *read previous post*
So here we are at the concluding part of my Ableism piece. Last you read was the definition of ableism and how it impacts disabled peoples’ lives in everyday discrimination and invisibility up to larger institutional oppression. I also began the discussion of the stereotypes that disabled people face and the two in particular that are personally enraging for myself: paternalism and desexualization, fetishization, and victimization of disabled women. In Part Two I’ll be delving into the later three. Buckle up readers, it’s going to be a furious ride.
Women=Sex. Right? Isn’t that what we’re told everyday through a variety of ways? Well not all women equal sex. If you’re a disabled woman then some make the assumption that you’re not up for the task. If you are physically able to have sex then you probably won’t be any good at it because of any limitations you suffer from. Women are devalued to the worth of our sex abilities, but as disabled women we lose all value because we are seen as unable to sexually perform well if at all.
I was on a bad date-shocked as I’m sure you all are-a few months ago and after a brief description of my knee surgeries the gentleman had the audacity to ask if I still had my “mojo.” Yes folks, my “mojo.” Not only was he enough of a cretin to think it was his right to ask this question, and on a first date no less, but we apparently time warped into the 1970s when a word like “mojo” was used. I was so taken aback by this that I wasn’t able to form a pithy come back and instead sort of sputtered a “yes” and changed the subject. Despite my attempt to move onto another topic he kept at it. He then went on about how he needed to have sex often and he just wanted to make sure I was up to fulfilling his needs. Yes, you read correctly, his needs. I soon said it was time to call it a night. During our goodbyes he invited me to his place and after being shut down flat he then repeatedly invited himself to my place. He went home to play with his “mojo” solo.
After my first knee surgery I was stuck at home for quite some time. I spent the first month primarily fading in and out of consciousness with brief moments of lucidity to painfully hobble to the bathroom, have a bite or two of food, and pop more pain pills. Around week 6 I was finally able to hold my head up on my own while still taking my all meds. As you can imagine it wasn’t long before I was pretty stir crazy. I had sparked an online conversation with someone and once I had the green light from my surgeon to go out and I felt ok enough to take a cab somewhere we made a date.
Upon telling my mom about the good news, leaving my place being the first and the date being the second, she instantly told me to be extra careful with a bit of an ominous tone to her thickly Okie accented voice. This wasn’t something she had said to me in a long time. At this point in my life she’s usually more of the vain of a plain ol’ “Be careful. Love you” than a somber warning. I followed up a flip response and asked her what the deal was. She replied that I was especially vulnerable because of my knee surgery and that he had a better chance of hurting me if he wanted to. Of course this didn’t need saying. As a woman I am aware of my vulnerability to rape and sexual attacks, and as a woman with disability said vulnerability increases greatly. There are many who would take advantage of this. Coincidentally, it was after my first knee surgery that my PTSD flared up and I began having nightmares every night again. If any woman didn’t need a reminder of her vulnerability it’s this one.
The women’s vulnerability issue of ableism feeds directly into rape culture. Anytime a woman is seen in a compromising situation society deems it appropriate for her to be taken advantage of. She’s not attacked, she’s not raped, she’s simply getting what she wanted, deserved, and asked for by being vulnerable. The promotional posters for the wretchedly misogynistic movie I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is a glorious example of ableism meeting rape culture. The posters had the tag line “Strippers Won’t Tolerate Disrespect (Yeah Right). Blind Girls Never See You Coming.” I’m going to save my comments about the stripper sentence for another time and focus solely on the blind girls remark. Let me start by saying “WOW!” These posters might as well have had a picture of a blind woman holding a sign saying “Rape me; I’m easy prey.” This is both fetishizing and victimizing.
Rape culture defines women as less than human and nothing more than a victim responsible for her own demise. Ableism defines disabled people as less than human and childlike due to their illnesses or low mobility. Through the meeting of ableism and rape culture we disabled women are seen as nothing more than easier prey than the average woman. We’re easier to attack and based on the ableistic and misogynistic notions of our culture people would not believe that sex was possible and as a result rape would not possible. Our government, schools, media, and residents cannot even decide on what rape is or if and when it’s possible for able bodied women even when it is clearly videoed, Facebooked, Tweeted, and texted in front of their faces. Even in the aftermath of such vividly clear wrong doing our media displays empathy for rapists rather than the woman who was attacked as we saw in the aftermath of the Steubenville case. If our ableistic society believes that disabled people can’t have sex and our society can’t decide on what rape of a woman is then this clearly leaves disabled women in a highly vulnerable place.
Another notion that we disabled women battle is the societal belief that no one would rape us because we’re undesirable. If we are believed when we bravely and publicly tell of our ordeals then we are met with the twisted idea that we lowly disabled women should be happy that someone cared enough to rape us because we are less worthy than an able bodied woman. The thought of being less desirable than what society deems as a so called normal woman is quite often a disgusting form of double misogyny and fat phobia that fat women face when they’ve been raped. The idea that anyone would rape a fat woman is so far fetched because culture has deemed her unattractive because she’s fat that no one believes she was raped. In the off chance she is believed then there is the sentiment that she should simply be happy someone did find her decent enough to rape. It is as if she won the big prize of a pity rape. “Dear Diary, I was finally raped today. I feel so much better about myself!”
Desexualization, fetishization, and victimization of disabled women are all part of a larger system of ableism and sexism that form together with misogyny to perfectly fall into line with America’s rape culture. Throw a dash of paternalism into the above mix and you have the perfect recipe for ableism stew. The most infuriating aspect of ableism for me is the literal and figurative invisibility from the world, including other disabled people and my so called leftist, feminist, bi, etc family. I don’t appear disabled, but I am. I cannot, we cannot, be pushed aside into disabled ghettos and forgotten. If one suffers then we all suffer. I’m suffering and I know that I’m not the only one. This is a fight for the many, not merely the few.
I’ve attempted to write with both the clarity and ferocity that these issues deserve. I’ve also attempted to channel my own personal pain and the resulting rage into two constructive posts that hopefully have given my readers further insight into the issues of ablesism and how it crosses paths with other -isms and oppressions. Obviously there are a great many more facets to ableism and the multiple forms of oppression that the many 1 out of 5 disabled people in America face everyday. I strongly encourage you to educate yourself on these issues in a respectful manner that is empowering to those of us who have disability. Now get off your ass, learn more about the issues, the policies (today Obama’s budget called for $400 mil cut to Social Security. SS pays disability!), and begin advocating!