Name the ableism in our recent election
Listen to this post:
No secrets here. I’m not in support of the white nationalism espoused by the people being picked to come into the next White House.
I’ve been listening to and reading a lot of arguments and speculations about why Hillary didn’t get elected. So far, every one from the left has rung true. And yet, I can’t get away from the fact that still, still, and still, no one is mentioning ableism as another reason she didn’t win.
By the by, I’m not talking about Trump mocking Serge when I say ableism. Many people think that’s the lowest Trump went. Give us some credit. If you think being mocked with flailing arms, a gnarly voice, and cries of, “I don’t remember” are the worst disability community faces, you need to do more research. If you think that Ann Coulter coming to Trump’s defense with her casual statement that he wasn’t mocking Serge but was just imitating a “standard R-word,” again, do more research. Of course it’s harmful to legitimize mocking and oppressing disabled people. But this is glorified playground bullying compared to the daily realities of disability community, especially poor, LGBTQ, and people of color who are D/deaf and/or disabled.
The ableism that I’m referring to is one that has conveniently disappeared from my inbox since the election. In months leading up to November 8th, I was flooded with mentions of the fact that clearly Hillary is too brain-damaged to be President. I recall this happening way back, when she first had a concussion. Please, in all seriousness, has anyone not had a concussion? Anyone? All these articles were floating around about her brain damage this, cognitive impairment that. When Trump mocked her for her apparent lack of stamina in the campaign, we labeled it misogyny, which it is. But this type of misogyny–finding women to be the weaker sex–is rooted in ableism. Is rooted in some false and damaging belief that the bodies of women are inferior to the bodies of men by default. The brains of women are inferior to the brains of men by default. All of the stuff that reinforces a biological binary is ableist at the exact same time it is racist, classist, trans-antagonistic, or misogynistic. This is perfectly mirrored in the ways that we just basically don’t care about actually disabled people. Jeff Sessions and his belief that educating children with disabilities is a thorn in his side and the sides of teachers.
I heard that she lost because the legacy of Bill’s adultery and obliviousness has never left her because she didn’t leave him. Sounds plausible. Discredit the woman for staying married to a cheating man knowing that if she’d left him, you’d discredit her for not being able to keep a family together. Standard double standards and misogyny. I agree this haunted her and hurt her campaign.
I also whole-heartedly agree that her campaign was irreparably damaged by how long it took her to own up to her former rhetoric around “super predators” and how she appeared openly disdainful of the Black Lives Matter organizers instead of embracing them, learning about their needs and demands, and building alliances with them to create a more just society. It’s not just damage to a campaign. This is class act garbage, and she should have used her white privilege in more productive ways to help communities of color in their work toward equity and dismantling white supremacy.
So yeah, we can go on with the reasons, and all the criticisms I’ve heard from left-wingers make sense.
But really and truly, it’s time to add to this discussion that the ways in which people used her one or two concussions to try to invalidate her abilities is ableist. If one or two concussions always made you unfit to do your job, well, most of the world would be out of a job. The fact is, most people with one concussion recover so well that there is no interference in their lives from it within a few weeks or months. I watched the campaign. I watched the debates. I saw a woman with self control, emotional regulation, fluent speech, ability to stay on topic, ability to wait her turn, good gross motor control, reactions that seemed to match the situation she was in and the demands she was under, eyes pointed in the same direction, no semi-paralysis, not getting extremely sleepy or losing her balance, and the list goes on of how not brain injury-impaired she was. I’m not saying I liked everything I heard. I’m saying that I’m beyond exhausted with people raining on her parade by using a non-existent disability to discredit her. And honestly, if she did have some concussion-related impairments, so what? We have reasonable accommodations allowed under the law, at least for now. My exhaustion runs even deeper by the barrage of messages I see from people who think they’re experts because they’re humans, saying that the problem with people with disabilities and jobs is that people with disabilities can’t work at jobs. [sigh]
Let me be clear: When you read or hear of any person on the planet who has a disability or who has sustained a brain injury, you know next to nothing about them, their situation, their limitations, or their capacities. You can’t really even directly assign all of a disabled person’s struggles or challenges to their disability. Me, I have plenty of challenges that have nothing to do with my brain injury impairments. Surprise! Some of those challenges relate to being a target of misogyny and anti-Semitism. Surprise!
I’m asking you to call it ableism when it is. Do not say, “That’s not racist. That’s just ableist.” Do not say, “That’s not misogyny. That’s just ableism.” Do not invalidate the other oppressions that are truly there. Add ableism to it when it’s there. Because when we don’t do that, we allow the continued arguments that some people are inferior by nature, and that it’s OK to give inferior people less than superior people. We allow people to gawk at us and say that my documentary about artists with brain injury disabilities won’t be of interest to non-brain-injured people because it doesn’t feature non-disabled people or that people with brain injuries don’t deserve a documentary because they don’t do anything. We have to call that out.
So in answer to someone who recently inquired whether I was still sad or whether I “was over it” yet: Yes, I’m still sad. No, I will not “get over it.” This shouldn’t even be a question.