03 April, 2009

Epic Privilege Fail

At first, I was unsure as to what I thought of this blog, in which a guy with (temporary!) underarm crutches takes photos of NYC subway riders who sit in the elderly/PWD seating instead of offering him a seat.

After reading this NY Times blog post on the site, however, I'm inclined to think that this is yet another mostly able-bodied person who claims the "social experiment" defense in order to take advantage of his own privilege, and to claim that he now somehow has insight into what it's like to live with a disability. Observe:

Wednesday morning, he was crossing 42nd Street after a long commute, accompanied by a reporter, when he was asked if he had learned any big lessons from the whole affair.

“Big lessons?” he said, pausing for a moment. “Honestly, no.”

After another moment’s thought, he added that the site and its reaction have given him a new appreciation for the lives of people with permanent disabilities.

“There’s these little struggles and battles going on every day,” he said. “You’d have to have a really good attitude to deal with it and have it not get to you.”

Yay, it's the PWDs as somehow brave and/or inspiring trope! My favorite. Also, note how being on crutches for some time apparently gives him super-special insight into what it's like to be a person with a (visible) disability! Never mind that dealing with a permanent health condition or disability is not just about getting (or not getting) a seat on the subway; there are other things that one must think about, plan around, and negotiate. Plus, there's that whole thing about disabilities that don't have any of the handy visual markers of disability that some able-bodied folks in our culture so strongly rely upon.

The comments to the article, predictably, are full of people who feel the need to share about how they, too, were once on crutches and experienced something similar, so they totally get how difficult it is to live with a physical disability.

This doesn't help.


ouyangdan said...


Hey, I recently had the experience of having to use crutches for a sprained ankle while I already have a debilitating invisible illness. What a joy to my body that was. Guess what, people still didn't offer me a seat.

I love how people seem to think that a tiny, non-permanent trial gives the insight to what it is like to live it permanently. I can do w/o the "Oh, how brave you are" crap.

Lindsay said...

Yes, nothing shows understanding like turning me and my life into your after-school special.