Gimplecapped and other normal things
Listen to this post:
PC language. Sigh. For those of you who haven’t yet asked me, I do not like PC language. Even the term bothers me because it has “correct” in it.
We’re talking about people and communities, cultures and histories, oppression and identity. Please don’t say there is any one way to be, do, or have those things “correctly.”
I work to be respectful in my language and honor what and whom I’m talking about. When it comes to myself, I regularly remark about my “crippled brain” and “the holes in my brain that your name fell into, so I can’t remember it today.” And that’s OK because I’m talking about myself. If I know those terms will hurt someone, I avoid them as possible. This being a blog, it’s open to everyone. I’m only being true to myself and my preference for identity-first language, for a social and embodied model of disability, and for the idea that disability is a normal part of natural human variation and experience.
For a little more on why some disabled people don’t appreciate PC and person-first language, check out this TOOST Radio show I did with Lawrence Carter-Long of the Disabilities Network and National Council on Disability, Nikki Zimmerman of The Out of Step Tool, and Ashley Bernard of The “M” Word.
And while we’re on the topic of “normal,” you’ve got to check out a couple of fabulous disability community takes on normalness.
1. Sore Thumb Group in Los Angeles currently has a Kickstarter campaign to fund their production of a performance called “Gimplecapped.” I love port manteaus, and this is more than a port manteau. It’s a triple whammy hidden in a port manteau’s clothing. You cannot escape the history of oppression of disabled people with a word like “gimplecapped.” What’s more, you cannot escape comedy when you’re with the hilarious Regan Linton and Laura Alsum.
From their Kickstarter: “GIMPLECAPPED: A JOURNEY OF ‘INSPIRATION’ is an original show comprised of comedic, heartfelt, and irreverent vignettes about what it is to be ‘different,’ with a particular slant toward telling tales about being a gimp/cripple/handicapped/wheelchair-user/person with a disability. Or just as someone who is outside of the ‘norm’…which is all of us, right?”
So there you go. If we’re basically all outside the “norm,” then it’s only normal to be not normal.
Check them out. Donate. I know they already made their minimum. But the minimum goal is just that: a minimum. No one posts the full amount they really need to do their project AND earn enough money to eat. They’re performing this piece in June in L.A.!
2. Disability Fieldnotes. If you would like to read poignant thoughts about “normal” and disability without all of the irreverent humor, please check out this blog post from May 12, 2014 called “More Than Just ‘Typical’.” The blog is kept by Liz Lewis, an anthropologist and sibling of a disabled person.
Here she tells a story of some people correcting her language when she describes her family life with a sister with disabilities as normal. After all, that was the only family life she knew. It was normal for her. But they wanted her to say “typical.” See, that’s the politically correct term we’re supposed to use now for nondisabled people. No amount of vocabulary change can mask all the oppression and discrimination that still exist in our society. Vocabulary requirements leave out the flexible, spectrumy nature of disability experience. Vocabulary can’t repair the inequities faced by someone labeled as “atypical” and the privilege automatically given to someone who is or appears or passes as “typical.” (And it still means “normal,” if you ask me.) Respectful, compassionate language is always beneficial. But “typical” to describe non-disabled doesn’t automatically convey respect and compassion to everyone universally. That’s Liz’s point.
From her post: “While words have power, there is a very real danger in thinking they alone can set us free….I would not use it describe a person (e.g., I would never say that I’m the ‘normal’ child in the family – that’s just silly), but I firmly believe that it has its place. The term conveys something beyond disability politics and people-first language.”
Don’t forget to donate to the Sore Thumb Group, laugh at their jokes, and find out why people in the disability community use the terminology we do use before correcting us about how we view and describe our own lives! We’re all going to experience and reflect on it differently, and that’s great. That’s actually normal.