All the fuss around the paralympics, which I have only been half watching as I have no interest in sport of any persuasion, has made me think about he representation of invisible disability. Reading Latentexistence’s excellent post entitled ‘why the paralympics tell us nothing about most sick or disabled people’ has also spurred things on too.
The Paralympics – The Help Effect?
I also feel a bit nauseous from the whole ‘ohh aren’t disabled people wonderful!’ shtick from people who think that everything is now fine for people with disabilities and long term illness because a few exceptionally talented people are exceptionally talented at what is, to my non sporty mind, just a really fancy and expensive school sports day. Most of us however remain as boringly average and unremarkable as the vast majority of people without disabilities. People with disabilities can be mediocre too! Personally it’s possibly the one thing I do excel at. As if the Atos logo everywhere didn’t make me want to projectile vomit enough now we have hordes of people who have no idea what it’s like to live with a disability or chronic health issues go all patronising by telling us we’re ‘inspirational’. I dunno, it seems a lot of the Paralympic hype is a lot of able bodied folk feeling better about themselves as they ‘just see the sport not the disability’ or whatever and having a big love in at being all non discriminatory and wonderful and telling people with disabilities that things will be great from now on ‘cos they’ve realised some people with disabilities can run fast and they’re totally like ‘normal’ people too. Call it ‘the Help effect‘ if you will. White people solved racism now able bodied people are solving ableism/disablism!
Scrounging Scum Redux
Meanwhile, the press is still full of the usual guff about ‘scroungers’ and benefits, ATOS still exist and are being their usual inhuman selves endangering peoples lives and livelihoods, the tories still exist, disability hate crime still exists, bazillions of mediocre non athletic people with disabilities who’d just like to get on with life without having to fight for every tiny scrap of everything we get and not be either sainted for being some sort of ‘inspiration’ for just doing what we have to do and/or being an evil scrounger for doing what we have to do. Many of us are told we don’t have ‘real’ disabilities because we ‘look fine’. We even have the ‘overcoming depression to be an amazing winner ‘ trope in the media reaction to Victorian Pendleton’s admission of her past problems. The fact she was helped by a therapist swiftly provided for her by British Cycling is skimmed over whilst the rest of us grow cobwebs waiting for anything even resembling therapy on the NHS. Amazing recoveries and achieving against the odds are not the norm, framing these extraordinary achievements as ‘proof’ that many people with disabilities could really do everything if they just tried harder and we’re just lazy or seeing ourselves as ‘victims’ if we want any help to enable us to even attempt to live a half decent life, this rhetoric is disingenuous and dangerous, as skwalker1964 points out.
A return to normal telly
Also, I don’t like sport, some of it’s occasionally mildly interesting, but really I have no interest at all whether it be Olympic or Paralympic sport. I resent the fact I should somehow view these people as ‘inspirational wonders’, yes they are brilliant and have done a brilliant job winning things but it’s still sport, something I have no interest in either taking part in or watching so it just doesn’t really inspire me much. I viewed being able to get out of PE lessons when I started to get ill as one of the few (if the only) plus side to the whole thing. Quite frankly I’m glad we have normal telly back now. Normal telly that has ooo fuck all people with disabilities shown in a positive light unless they have some big amazing triumph over adversity story arc and become some sort of human lump of amazeballs and climb Everest whilst solving global hunger and becoming the first person to find the secrets of the universe by racing round CERN in a wheelchair and colliding with a Higgs . Or are a dangerous nutter going on a rampage. gah. But hey some people with disabilities can swim/run/wheel/throw things/hit things/whatever really well so it’s all fine!
Edit: I have closed comments for the time being ad I have said all I can on the issues raised, which have been very triggering for me. I’m not willing to sacrifice my health for the blog. I shall hopefully post a follow up when I feel stronger but right now I need some time out.