Sometimes fortune cookies are right 😀
I don’t have children. Maybe I will someday. Or maybe I won’t. That’s not the point of this article.
Have you ever been in a class discussion about motherhood, and suddenly a classmate directly questions not only your capability to be a parent, but the physiological possibility of bearing a child? I have.
Has your ability to be a parent ever been questioned merely because you can’t see out of one eye, or because you use a chair, or because you live life with an illness, either mental or physical? I know many.
I think every woman experiences opinions with regard to both their capability as a mother, but also their practice in bearing their child. Judgements over breastfeeding, diet, choice of gender normativity, any of the above are commented on by relatives and strangers alike. But the process of judgement when one is disabled seems insidious and hurtful in another way.
It’s not just that people ask “do you think that’s wise?” when someone says they want to bear a child. It isn’t the perception that yuo’re incapable that hurts. It’s the notion that no matter where your disability lies – in my case, in my eyeballs- that your uterus is affected.
Our society is built on assumptions. The assumption that it’s okay to ask a disabled person if they can have sex. The assumption that we NEED to be told “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have a baby….” These assumptions are hardly acceptable.
The assumption that a disabled woman can’t have children is just as hurtful as the assumption that a woman who looks perfectly healthy can. Fertility shouldn’t be up for discussion. Neither should parenthood.
In my classroom, it was suggested that I couldn’t have a baby. In my classroom it was suggested that I wouldn’t be a good mother. The question was asked, and the entire classroom went silent, as though nobody could quite believe that the question had been asked, but at the same time, many people thought the exact same thing. The reality is, I’ve worked with children before. I have spent time and energy teaching autistic children not to eat rocks, I have spent time helping children learn how to play tag nicely. I am good with children.
But every time I say that I can babysit, or that I can nanny, or that I’d like to apply to run an afterschool program for kids, the look comes into the able bodied persons eyes, and you can hear the skepticism of “can you?
My father passed away when I was 8 years old, close to Christmas. I miss him. My father was a wonderful father and I am grateful that I had him in my life. When I was a child, fathers day was hurtful. It was a reminder that I didn’t have something other people had.
Today, I look at Father’s Day as a day to acknowledge the incredible parenting I have received. I have many fathers, or people who have been parents. Mother’s Day and Father’s day aren’t reserved for YOUR gender normative parent ideals.
Why am I writing this? I saw two tweets today, and it felt wrong to not at least acknowledge that they are out there in the world, and how HURTFUL these comments are, not just to the women they are targeted at, but to the proud children of single parents. One tweet read: “Instead of wishing happy father’s day to moms, and happy mom’s day to dads, can we just not? Everyone already has their own damn day.” and the second was a retweet: “If you’re a single mom, and you’ve decided Father’s Day is about you, you’re a self absorbed cunt. No wonder you’re single.”
I could break down the use of the word “cunt” by a man. I could break down the gender normative feelings that I see in these tweets. Or I could make it really simple.
Single moms don’t “decide” that fathers day is about them. It IS about them. It is about the parents who step into both roles. Fathers Day and Mothers Day are celebrations of the people who took on these parts in your lives, even when they weren’t biologically your parents. I have so many fathers. I have Greg, I have Thom, I have Jack, and yes – I have my MOM.
Being a single parent is not easy. It takes hard work, and from what I can tell, a hell of a lot of sacrifice to maintain a lifestyle for you and your child. Save your hate for someone who deserves it. Save your hate for someone who actually does something wrong.
All parents should be celebrated on these days. ALL OF THEM. I remember being bitter and angry about Father’s Day. I remember saying that I hated that it was a thing, and now I recognize that there’s more to it than just the word father. Maybe others should consider that too, and consider that the children of single parents will celebrate whatever holiday they choose, with pride and love.
I love the village that raised me.
Happy Father’s Day, Mom. Happy Father’s day, Dad. Happy Fathers Day, Village.
A discovery this past week has made me realize that we’ve got a regular feature here at Eliminating the Impossible. There are not one, not two, but THREE reality tv shows presently featuring disabled participants. To save you from having to actually watch the shows yourselves (or maybe you just having snark to add along with me) I’ll be commenting on the shows and whether or not they actually make some progress for the disabled as a public display, or if they insist on being exploitative.
We’ll begin with the show that started all this: Push Girls!
Two episodes have aired since my first critique and I have to say that the show has improved a little bit. There’s still an enormous amount of rhetoric which I’m immensely uncomfortable with, but on the whole, I think it’s gotten BETTER.
In Episode 2, we see Auti compete in an able bodied ballroom dance competition. It’s something we don’t see very often, disabled people competing with the able bodied. But it is just as much of a triumph as it is when she WINS the competition, we see all of the hard work and emotion that she puts into it. Her body gets pushed to its very limits, and I think this is a very important thing for the audience of this show to see – being disabled means you work twice as hard sometimes, to accomplish something which could have been done by an able bodied person in one fell swoop. Within the competition storyline, her dance partner says “I don’t just want it to be us doing cool stuff with your chair” which seems to be the most intelligent thing anyone has said during this series. He wanted to showcase her as a dancer, not showcase her as a woman in a chair. Exciting, no?
However, there’s an issue I have with the filming crew. We’re in the second episode, and it is the first time we’ve ever seen the ramps in Tiphany and Angela’s house. It is the first time we’ve seen much of an adaption to their surroundings, and I don’t understand why. Are we supposed to be unaware that they have a disability?
The biggest issues I have with the show still remain – The show is focused on their relationship problems (all of which are very real problems disabled people live with) Mia’s boyfriend says “Nobody ever sees themselves as the guy dating the girl in the chair” but follows it up with the fact that Mia is “awesome” so it’s OK.
Mia seems to have most of the issues I’m interesting in discussing. Her mother is not a picture perfect disabled mom – and I begin to question whether anyone is ever going to show us disabled parenting done right. So frequently in fiction (or in nonfiction) the parents of a disabled child reject them, or act as though they should just get over it. This is the case until Mia’s mom comes to LA, meets the Wheelie Beauty Squad, and declares them “inspiring”. Five point word right there! She also comments on the fact that most people don’t
Furthermore, their friend Chelsea seems to be OBSESSED with image. She says “They showed me that you can be beautiful in a wheelchair” during a scene where they try on high heels. Glamorizing the life of a woman in a wheelchair is hard to do, but this show seems to have done it. Mia’s mom even says it at the end of the third episode “I was amazing by how glamorous they were.” But there’s so much to life that isn’t glamorous.
Onto our next disability, in Masterchef!
What I thought was interesting is that they did exactly what I hoped they would do in this show. They equalized the playing field. There have been no ridiculous “Chop this many onions for an hour” challenges. Just cooking. And they gave Christine an aide so that she would be able to find things in the pantry. it is fascinating to see a woman with a cane just wandering after the rest of the cooks, charging into the pantry. She’s cooked some pretty delicious food, and while her last dish was “Sub Par” according to Gordon, it seems like she’s doing OK. I love that there has been NO blind snark shown between the contestants. I’m glad to see we’re not feeding off that drama.
And Finally: The Glee Project
Like Masterchef, we’re actually seeing the adaptions that are necessary to even the playing field for Mario, our blind singer and dancer! In the first episode, Mario teaches Zach Woodlee, the choreographer how to use the white cane, and see see him learning dance moves through physically being moved!
In episode two, we see him using sheet music in braille (which is awesome!) I love that they’re giving him such an opportunity, and that it seems totally fair and balanced.
So, The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender was this month. I went. I worked a lot. It was amazing! Legends told me their life stories, I danced until 4am two nights in a row, I developed a routine I’m absurdly excited about, I got to spend a lot of time with my mom and MARINKA THE QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS DID MY MAKEUP.
I’ve started the process of editing photos. While I do that I realize just how much respect I have for the women of the burlesque world. Of the acts which I saw that weekend, there were several which stood out in my mind as pieces that changed me, just a little bit.
I was so inspired by the women I saw perform, by the Legends who told me their stories, and the people I call my friends.
it was also really lovely to see my friends be honored for the work they do, and merely to see the people I love dancing for our community.
I’d like to share one photo from my adventure – it’s presently unedited, but will be updated later. I like to call this one Ophelia on Fire.
This week is Burlesque Week here at Eliminating the Impossible. For those of you unaware of my professional and academic and famillial activities, I’m a relatively active member of the burlesque community. In the last few weeks (especially with Burlesque Hall of Fame having occurred) we’ve had a lot of time as a community to discuss the things which bother us most.
Today, I’m going to discuss the current debate around racism, stemming from Dita Von Teese’s act during her Strip Strip Hooray! tour. In the act, she is a woman in an Opium Den.
Here are some links to get you started on the why of this article, because what I’m not going to do, is talk about what does or doesn’t make a racist act:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8T2DXjSUtQ – video pieces of the act itself
Now, the dialogue here covers what I wanted to say about the racism, but I’d like to make an observation about the dialogue itself.
In the burlesque world, we do a lot of things which could make our audiences uncomfortable. I have seen acts where performers shoot up heroin, I have seen acts where performers have sex with garbage cans. I’ve recently heard of a “burqualesque” act dealing with the notion of honour killings. I’ve seen a performer stab herself in the vagina during an act (it was a stage knife, thankfully). We see a lot of things in burlesque designed to provoke dialogue, designed to provoke controversy. The only way for this kind of performance to be successful, however, is to encourage audience members and community members alike to dialogue with the artist. The problem, is that when such a successful performer does something which rankles many a community member, they need to step down from their pedestal and interact with the artistic community they come from.
When it comes down to it, this is what needs to happen every time we make a choice as a burlesque performer – perhaps it isn’t the comfortable thing to do – but I’ve done it multiple times, and each conversation I’ve had with an artist whose work has made me uncomfortable has usually been a positive dialogue on both sides.
Sure, you might not agree that Dita’s act was racist – but I think it is reasonable to assume that for any individual who does find it offensive, they should be able to interact in a positive dialogue about race – a dialogue which strengthens our community, not one which creates fractiousness within our walls.
Ten years ago I attended a study abroad program for teenagers at Oxford University. Ten years ago I got my first white cane.
I decided after much thought that it didn’t seem to be such a smart idea to go by myself to a foreign country without some kind of adaptive aid, and while I had never seen myself as blind before, I recognized that there was the possibility that I was very much blind.
Perhaps not as blind as you expect someone with a white cane to be, but blind enough to really need it.
My grandmother took me to the community services for the blind building in Seattle, WA and I had my first orientation and mobility class. I’ve had several since, and I’m really due for a refresher. But during that session, I learned that the cane was a tool. I learned how to use it to get down stairs (one of the best things I have ever learned) and I learned that I could hold my head high while I walked down a street and could look at the people & buildings rather than the sidewalk beneath my feet. Suddenly, skyscrapers were fascinating to me.
My cane has gotten me many places, it has given me the freedom to travel by myself, the freedom to live in the city of my choosing, and the freedom to go out and date. I’d never have been able to do many of those things had the cane not been an option for me.
There are drawbacks, sure. People assume I’m faking because I have some sight (remember, a relatively small percentage of blind people are totally blind.) I’ve had people try to take it from me, I’ve had people use it as a bad pickup line, but the consensus is, the cane is good, and I’m glad to have it.