This blog post has been inspired by an article in the Sunday Times of 20 November by Dominic Lawson titled ‘Only a Gunman Brings Respect to the Disabled’. This title is a reference to Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was shot earlier this year. I read the article with double interest because Dominic Lawson knows what he is talking about as he has a son with Down’s Syndrome.
Gabrielle Gifford was shot through the head and was not expected to die but she has pulled through. Diane Sawyer, the very well known host at ABC, interviewed Gabrielle about her ordeal. It was the reaction by the public and the media to the interview that shows the alarming two-tier prejudice that exists against people born disabled.
Gabrielle is seen as a winner, someone who is being heroic in struggling to overcome her disability. People in everyday life who become disabled either through an accident or illness are often seen as brave too in coping with the change in their lives. But, nobody says the same of those who were born with a disability.
The two-tier prejudice comes from the fact that this group has to deal with a prejudicial concept of them being disabled and unable; and an expectation from them to do far more than they can physically or mentally possibly do.
Hate crime is on the rise. There are things we don’t all witness like the disabled people who are insulted on public transport for being in the way or not moving fast enough when entering or exiting. Then there are the public spectacles of celebrities, Ricky Gervais, who used the word ‘mong’ to describle people with Down’s Syndrome.
When the blogger, Nicola Clark, criticised Ricky Gervais for this she received a barrage of insults instead of support. What sort of society do we have where people think that the use of offensive language, especially to describe those who are vulnerable, is a sign of humour? Nicola Clark was asked to ‘chill out’ and to leave free speech alone. I thought our forefathers fought the ideals of free speech on the understanding that it was to be used to increase the wellbeing of all.
Dominic Lawson said: ‘…hope that the public can now extend their engagement with Gabrielle Gifford into an appreciation of the humanity of those who have been born disabled’.
The image of Mary Wollstonecraft was today beamed onto the Houses of Parliament in London to publicise efforts to erect a statute to her memory. I was thrilled that a feminist had been given the honour of having her memory showcased on one of our most popular British landmarks.
That makes Mary officially a part of our British History, thereby a recognition that feminism has been woven into our fabric of the past. It lends more meaning to the feminist term ‘her story’.
I pay homage to Mary because her view of mothers being important because they educate children is a tenet that is central to my mothering. Mothers have so much that they can teach and pass on to their children but society disempowers mothers by marginalising the work of mothering. That which does not produce a profit is disregarded.
Contrasting Pictures Of Anger and Serenity
My first thought when I read that line was that Gloria Steinem can afford to get angry. She is famous and well respected. She can get away with it. The rest of us have to negotiate and advocate for our women’s rights. In other words in the typical female way of apologising before demanding.
As an Asian woman, a further complication, I was taught that it was unladylike to be angry or, indeed, exhibit any other emotion other than demure obedience. Anger? That was the reserved right of the men we disobeyed or unruly children.
So how we do up the ante on demanding equality? Will anger work? On second thoughts, I think collective anger which manifests itself through activism will work. The women in Tahrir Square were angry. The women in Liberia who campaigned for years for peace were angry. The feminists who burned their bras were angry. Anger, therefore, does work.
Let’s all get angry.
It never ceases to amaze me just how much is blamed on women or done in our name when we do not want nor need whatever deed we are being burdened with. Gloria Steinem says that women are both the victims and the false excuse for keeping guns (because men use the excuse of protecting women as a reason for having a gun).
So women are both recipients and contributors to violence. I have a sense of deja vu. Hasn’t that train of thought been used before to justify rape and violence against women?
Facebook has finally taken down the page on rape but not before a number of men had a field day indulging in their evil fantasies. Social Networking is the domain of misogny now, taking the reach of misogy to new levels. By leaving the page up for as long as Facebook did the company ‘normalised’ violence against women. How safe are women on the internet then?
A woman was raped because her ex-boyfriend posted details of her online falsely alleging that she had a fantasy of being violated. Quite often I see comments left on women’s sites too that threaten rape. Cyber rape is a growing phenomenon.