It being disabled has been an exhausting summer. It seems to be in the news every day. Just a few weeks later, Lizzo’s capable slur, and then Beyoncé’s capable slur — the exact same slur. The model’s prosthetic leg was cut from the celebratory ‘Beach Corpse’ ad. Vicious bullying of deaf Love Island contestant Tasha Ghouri on social media and villas.
Some understatements are more subtle, woven so seamlessly into the structure of the work around them that they can and probably would be interpreted to me by sane people as pretty good, actually. But it was disappointing to see the final episode of ‘Derry Girls’ – hailed as a ‘victory’ by critics – Using disabled actors as shorthand for parties, it’s not as cool as it originally appeared. The Oscar-winning film “The Epilogue,” while well-meaning, centers on an able-bodied person’s struggle to overcome the enormous hurdles of having a disabled family. In her medieval fable Lapvona, Ottessa Moshfegh, often an incredible and fearless writer, exploits her characters’ disabilities—their “claw hands,” “disproportionate disproportion,” ” Deformity” – as a way of evoking weirdness and discomfort. It is a long-standing literary tradition for able-bodied writers to lazily turn to disabilities for horror, but perhaps we should move on.
Of course, none of those involved in these unfortunate events would admit to having the tiniest of abilities. All of them will almost certainly argue that they don’t have competent bones in their bodies. Many times, an apology takes the form of “I’m sorry if you were offended.” Lizzo and Beyoncé listened to the criticism and changed their lyrics, hoping to learn from their experience. But whether intentional or not, it’s still painful when you’re in the recipient. What’s especially incomprehensible is the lack of scrutiny at every level of the entertainment industry: commissioned editors, producers, publishers, and critics handily wave their hands while raving about the artists.
Disability activists shouldn’t point this out every time. As Audre Lorde wrote in 1984, “the oppressed still have a responsibility to teach the oppressors of their mistakes . For too long, we let these things slip. As a form of self-protection, we train ourselves to laugh off inappropriate or frivolous comments as “just a joke.” Even if it feels like a terrible weight is weighing on you inside, pointing out that something is making you miserable can feel like it spoils the fun of others, like you are overly sensitive and find offense where there is no offense.
But enough. We need allies to really care, change their minds, and try to see things the way we can. We need the way they change things from within – stop intolerance from creeping into their work in the first place, not retroactively modify things before it’s too late. In short, what we need is empathy — not empathy or being held up, but being seen as a well-rounded person with potentially hurtful feelings.
The portrayal of disability has seen positive changes in the past year: Rose Ayling-Ellis’ Strictly Come Dancing win, a truly heartwarming moment; BBC two dramas Then Barbara Met Alan, about a group of disabled people A touching story from home; Arthur Hughes, who suffers from radial dysplasia, becomes the first disabled actor to play Richard III for RSC (though the privilege of playing a distressed child murderer may not be on the to-do list for most disabled people the first place). We need more of an accidental choice of disabled actors, whose disability is not a defining characteristic of a character, or even mentioned at all – like Daniel Monks in Jamie Lloyd’s recent Seagull production . What we need is not another disabled-only dance or theater group, but fusion: after all, we live in the same world, not two separate worlds.
Over the past few years, it feels like issues like race, gender, sexuality, and body size have finally started to change dramatically. But a lot of times, it feels like the disability is being left behind. Time and time again, diversity can only be viewed in terms of race or gender. Body positivity is mostly related to weight. Unlike Black Lives Matter or the Women’s March, mass protests against communities with disabilities have created many logistical difficulties, especially with COVID-19 rates still so high and many vulnerable people protected, we The pain is often not felt. With more and more people affected by chronic diseases and extended sick leave after Covid, it is surprising that this discussion has not gained more attention. But if your progressive worldview doesn’t include disability, it’s not intersecting. Now that people are belatedly starting to “work” on racism, they may want to add disability to their list as well.
Ableism is ubiquitous and inseparable from our society and our language: deformed, disfigured, crippled, handicapped, lame – these are objectively negative terms that conjure up something Weird, avoid at all costs. Disabilityism in popular culture is just the tip of the iceberg: Day in and day out, people with disabilities have to deal with a cost of living crisis, a shortage of caregivers, discrimination at work, inadequate healthcare, delayed disability benefits, being perceived by those who think the pandemic is over, and More. We need major changes to start fighting back millennia of prejudice. This won’t happen overnight. But if change doesn’t start small, bigger things will never follow.