31 March, 2009

I Don't Know What to Call This

The singer Martha Wainwright has a song entitled "Bleeding All Over You" that begins with the following set of lyrics:

There are days
when the cage doesn't
seem to open very wide at all

I know it sounds negative, but some days, I can definitely relate. Maybe it's the fact that I pass fairly regularly as able-bodied--at least in public spaces--or maybe it's my failure at passing on my worst days that makes me relate. As much as I hate to rely upon the old trope of the person-with-disability as trapped by her own unruly body, it, like many tropes, has a sliver of truth to it.

When I am in public, I often fear that other people--more able-bodied people--can "spot" my disability. On a purely surface level, this makes no sense. Part of what makes passing such an interesting topic is the fact that, on some level, the individual who passes can hide something and look as if she or he is a part of another group, despite some (invisible) evidence that would suggest otherwise. I realize also that not everyone has the ability to pass--that passing, in itself, is a privilege. The ability to appear to be something that one is not (often as a member of a more privileged group) is not something that absolutely everyone has.

Today, I sat in a restaurant and ate a light lunch very, very slowly because my right hand was unable to hold the fork without considerable muscle pain in my tendons and wrist. This sort of thing happens rarely, but when it does, I get nervous. I become nervous because I think that my fellow diners, or students, or whomever, can pick up on my not-immediately-obvious physical difference(s) from something that is only slightly "off." Even using a term like "off" is problematic; it implies that there is something wrong, that the person who needs to take time to do some of the things that others may take for granted needs to be fixed, somehow; that, or she needs to "fix" herself (by minimizing/masking her pain or ability or dis-ability) so that she may fit in and continue to pass.

So, are my restrained grimaces due to pain--when I am in public spaces, that is-- restrained because I, deep down, want to continue passing? Is it because I would be embarrassed to show my pain around strangers? Is it out of rather ridiculous consideration(s) of the "comfort" level of strangers (ie: the social assumption that one should never make people uncomfortable, even if one is in pain)? Does a "stiff upper lip," so to speak, actually do anyone a favor? I'd argue that the whole "keep your pain to yourself" thing might arise from a very deep fear of individuals with disabilities, but that's probably best saved for another post.

27 March, 2009

Time and Energy, Or Lack Thereof

This amazing post and its follow-up by Anna at Trouble in China have got me thinking. [In the interest of full disclosure, my Shakesville post is in there as an example of the problematic nature of inclusiveness.]

Whenever I mention this blog in, say, a contributor's or artist's bio, I nearly always include the qualifier "sporadically updated." Regular readers will know that this is partially my style--the dash of self-deprecation--but it masks something else. Namely: I very rarely have the energy to write a whole blog post, to respond to comments, or, hell, to comment on other blogs with wit and insight. This does not mean that I do not exist. It only means that I, quite simply, don't always have the mental or physical energy to contribute to a medium that is, by and large, designed in favor of the non-disabled.

Before the inevitable questions of "why don't you just quit?" arise, I keep and have kept this space for a very specific reason: I cannot just give up. Certainly, there are better writers out there than me. There are better blogs. I have blog friends who are more articulate, more stylistically clever; some of these folks who blog more, or have more readers. Yet I know that the blogosphere is a bit wicked in that one is only as good as her or his last post (to use a worn cliche). Some of us can crank out quality posts nearly every day. Many of us cannot.

I often cannot keep up with a 'sphere in which other voices--more able voices--have the luxury of time and actual emotional/physical energy to blog. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to chalk this up to the blogosphere's--and to a lesser extent, the internet's--design as yet another space where able-bodied folks can "fit," and can be "productive" in terms of number and quality of posts. For all the talk of the internet as a utopia where one is free to not be embodied, the same old shit seems to keep coming up, along with the big ol' Cthuluphant in the room: that the world is designed for able-bodied (and preferably white, straight, middle-class, and male) individuals. Productivity, fitting in, responding quickly: These are things that non-able-bodied folks may not be able to do, whether because of issues of time, energy, ease of access, or many other factors. What happens when one cannot type because of searing pain in her hands, wrists, arms? What happens when one finds that he is too brain-fogged to write a post, much less comment on an existing post that many other people have already commented upon? When one is confined to bed because of nausea or all-over pain that forces her to lie for hours, staring at the ceiling, doing nothing because it's all too much? What happens is that much-needed voices are not part of the conversation. They are lost, but not because they are not there.

This is shameful. There is no other word for it.

Do I know where to begin in pursuit of a solution? No.

Does anyone? I am not sure. I would like to hope that someone does, but I remain unsure.

We're here. You just might not know it, yet.

18 March, 2009

Winnie Has a Question...

Also, in less cute and/or more angry-making news, check out Lauredhel's takedown of an atrocious interview with some psychiatrist who believes that people with CFS and related illnesses are hysterics, or something. I was not able to read the whole article without wanting to chuck my computer across the room. Basically, the article is yet another go-round of "if I can't see it, then it must not be there, and the person who says they have it is totally making it up." Positively infuriating. I dare anyone who believes that people with these conditions do not face very real social consequences to read the article and still hold that sort of belief.

It sounds really, fantastically bitter and mean of me to say, but I often wish that people like Simon Wessley would one day wake up and find that they have a chronic health condition that literally changes everything for them; perhaps such an event would make them think twice before they talk out of their asses under the guise of "expertise."

07 March, 2009

I Don't Get It.

This photo is from a Vanity Fair feature on "Comedy's New Legends." It is Seth Rogen, dressed as Frida Kahlo:

Could someone explain to me precisely if and/or why this image is supposed to be funny? Frida Kahlo's work is not exactly a barrel o'laughs, and if you look at the rest of the photo set, this image doesn't quite fit in with the other photos. I could see how it makes some sense given that the rest of the photos are of new "legends" dressed as those of yesteryear, but...I'm stuck, and unsure of what this image is trying to convey. Man dressed as woman = automatically hilarious? Frida Kahlo is/was manly? I have no idea.

Also, re the cover image: Is male nudity really so offensive to various delicate sensibilities that all of the "nude" guys on the cover have to wear bodysuits? I get that it's supposed to be a takeoff on VF's ridiculous Tom Ford cover, but there is something about the bodysuits that makes it, at least in my eyes, less satirical and more shaming, as Melissa/Shakes so eloquently puts it. That said, the thing that I do like about this image is Paul Rudd's exact aping of Tom Ford--he's got it down to a t.

04 March, 2009

I Am Out of Ideas Today

I posted this over at Cheese and Dog, but I'm going to post it here anyway. Click for big.