Dave Hingsburger is one of my favourite disability bloggers. I find that he just has this way this words that says exactly what needs to be said. This is one of his most recent posts, Loathing Words, which I asked permission for to be reblogged.
Piles and piles of words.
So many of the things I've been reading recently, about disability, have
infuriated me. There are words that appear over and over again. Words
that appear benign. Words that appear to be about something BIG, about
something GRAND, about something IMPORTANT. Words that assume what I
want, as a person with a disability, what we want as people with
disabilities. Words crafted by others, that pretend to be about us,
about our needs, but are only, really, about the sense they get about
being gifted in the presence of what they see to be our deficits. Its is
only really a fool that could say, "There but for the grace of God go
I," and not understand what it says and what it means. There are words
that feel good in the mouth of the privileged but burn in the ears of
Words like: Empower.
I hate this word. I see it all the time. I've written about it before
and I will do again, but for now let me rant. Who the hell wants, ever,
to be empowered by another? Who the hell wants to be seen as so weak and
so passive that they wait for the benevolent help of one's 'betters'
for the 'gift' of power? We can only, of course, empower ourselves. We
can only, of course, embrace the power we've always had and begin to use
it. We can only, of course, raise ourselves. No one can do these things
for us. No one can do these things for another. The word 'empower' -
where it bothers me most, is when I see it used by those within systems.
Systems that have routinely disempowered, routinely disengaged,
routinely disregarded those with disabilities. Those they SAY they
SERVE. It's a word used without irony, which is, itself, ironic. They
first rob of power and then give tiny pieces of it back and call it
'empowerment'. It's like a thief stealing from someone a dollar and then
giving a quarter back in an effort to 're-enrich' the victim. Right.
I call Bullshit.
Words like: Tolerance
I do not wish to be tolerated. I do not wish to be the 'one' tolerated
by the 'many'. I do not wish anyone making the supreme effort to
tolerate the mere fact of my presence. I do not wish to be the fart in
the elevator that everyone pretends is not there. Existing with the
understanding and tolerance of another, existing with the gift of
someone's making an exception, someone's making an effort ... as if my
existence here, in this place, is not a right but a privilege granted by
another. Those who tolerate get to tut tut the tolerated. Those who
tolerate get to roll their eyes and glance conspiratorially at the other
tolerators at the antics of the tolerated. Those who tolerate get to
determine what is acceptable and what is 'just to much my dear'.
I call Bullshit.
Words like: Kindness
Let me dissuade you of an idea. I do not want your kindness because I do
not wish your pity. And let's be honest, kindness most often grows as a
weed around the wellspring of pity. Grabbing a door for a pregnant
woman who is struggling with parcels to get in is not KINDNESS, for
God's sake, it's CIVILITY. We have become a society who wants kindness
credited to their humanity card for simple acts of civility. While I do
not wish kindness, certainly not more or less kindness than offered to
any other, I do wish for civility. I do wish for behaviour that
considers me as a person and my needs in the moment. Just as I wish to
consider the needs of you as a person and your needs in the moment.
Civility is not kindness. Civility is increasingly rare but that does
not make it's occurrence exceptional or it's practitioner kind.
I call Bullshit.
Words like: Blindness
Saying to someone with a disability that 'I just can't see disability'
or 'when I see you I don't see your disability' or 'I only see
abilities', and this is the worst of course, 'I'm just blind to
disability.' Oh, freaking, please. PLEASE. No one is 'blind' to my
disability and furthermore I DON'T WANT YOU TO BE BECAUSE I'M NOT
ASHAMED OF IT. I don't see how you think I should be flattered or, God
Forbid, think you are magnificent, because you don't see what is plainly
there. I am disabled. Get that. I am freaking disabled. I am in a
freaking, fracking, wheelchair. See it? It's the thing under my fat
ass!! Don't try to get me to 'play pretend' that my disability doesn't
exist to you or to the world. Don't get me to give in to your desire to
play 'dress up reality' and feel that you have RAISED ME OUT OF
DISABILITY AND INTO EQUALITY. No, don't. Just don't. I am disabled. I
don't like the idea of being verbally euthanized by words like
'challenged' or 'special' or 'exceptional'. I don't like being taken out
of language and I don't like being taken out of my wheelchair and into
fantasy-land. I live here, in reality, and I FREAKING LIKE IT HERE. I do
not wish to move into your world where you pretend I don't have a
disability and I pretend that you are a saint.
I call, double Bullshit.
Hey, here's a word I'd like to hear a little more often: Respect.
Why don't we try that for a little while? Why don't we empower ourselves
though kindness and tolerance towards a disability blindness so that we
can ... oh, sorry the word respect doesn't fit in that sentence.
Respect Difference. Respect Diversity. Respect Disability. Respect
engenders respect. None of the other words have that capacity. None of
the other words have within it a deep need for mutual change. None of
the other words call us out into real interaction and real comradeship
in the real world. Respect knocks at the door of social change. I'm
guessing that's why kindness, and tolerance, and 'blindness' and
empowerment never answer.
I love some.
I fear others.
I loathe these.