Saturday, May 03, 2008

Blogging Against Disablism Day (ish), 2008: Getting Personal

I just can't.

I've tried. I so wanted to. I spent a large amount of Thursday - Blogging Against Disablism Day - making a truly inspirational effort. And then the same yesterday. But I can't. Somewhat ironically, since it's me (and it's BADD), I am currently completely unable to be political about disablism.

I'm a political blogger. And BADD is something of a political event for net-bound disabled writers. So I tried. I wrote about privacy and choice and other very worthy things. And then I saw that it was dull, and I could not be arsed. Sometimes, dealing with disability - and disablism - on a daily basis can mean ending up being too bloody tired to be a cause. Today I just want to be a person – and a ranty one, at that. Recently it feels like it's all fashionable to pretend I’m not a person, and that’s ticking me off. Sometimes it’s others who do the pretending. And sometimes, it’s ‘us’. That's a current cause of some irritation, too.

When you deny me choice, you don't allow me to be a person. You took away that chair without asking because you saw a wheelchair. You opened that door without asking because you assumed I couldn't manage it. You keep making me cups of tea without asking because you think I can't carry them. The chair looked comfy and I wanted to sit in it, but you chose for me. I was fine with the door until you got in the way of it, but you chose for me. I like my tea the way I make it, but you chose for me. You see the mobility aids. But I am a person.

When you get inappropriate with the questions, you don't allow me to be a person. You encountered a pair of crutches, a visible manifestation of an illness, and you decided that its visibility made me public property. I was trying to be professional; you constructed me as vulnerable. You see an illness. But I am a person.

When you think it's all about appearances, you don't allow me to be a person. You actually thought it was acceptable to *loom* over me giving me evil looks as I got out of my car, because you thought I didn’t look disabled enough to be entitled to that blue badge parking space. You *loomed* all the way until I got my crutches out. Then you realised that your impairment was in fact less obvious than mine, so you kindly left me alone. You see hierarchies and my place in them. But I am a person.

When you try to fit me into a little campaign box, you don’t allow me to be a person. You read political statements into everything from my choice of crutches over wheelchair (sometimes they’re just easier to use) to my willingness to accept treatment (it's only physiotherapy - it doesn’t mean I hate myself and want to start a small-scale eugenics project). No one’s more keen on empowering language than me, but just occasionally I’d quite like to refer to my ‘disability’ without getting corrected. On account of how sometimes it makes more grammatical sense. Not because I’m a traitor to a cause. I’m not a cause, so stop seeing one. I am a person.

And when you decide I'm *just like you* because we share a diagnosis or a symptom or a bus route, you don't allow me to be a person. You thought that I would - should - feel the same way about my condition or my crip-dom as you do; that I should try the (*ahem*) miracle cures that you're so taken with; that your experience of disability is the only experience. And when I didn't take you up on that, you thought - said - that I was mad, bad or selfish. You saw a circumstance that you thought you knew all about. But I am a person.

Tomorrow I expect I'll be political again (and maybe a bit calmer). But today, this is what disablism's all about. The failure of others to see me as a person. Our failure to see each other as people. It’s so ingrained in society that trying to do anything about it is really quite a big undertaking. So why are we doing it to each other, too?

“The personal is political” - Carol Hanisch, 1970