Why do women have smaller feet than men…?
I’m not really a person that enjoys controversy. However, when something I stand up for and believe in is used in a demeaning way, I need to vent my thoughts.
You may or may not know my family/home situation. I very luckily live in a nice house with both my parents and my two sisters, one of whom is adopted and one of whom is disabled. The latter is 22 and has mild autism and learning difficulties. You may have seen her around and not realise she has a disability as she looks ‘normal’ (I use this word begrudgingly). But not all disabilities are physical. In the grand scale of things she is not severely disabled, she is in fact very lucky compared to others. But this hasn’t stopped people bullying her, making fun of her, taking advantage of her, even being kicked on the way home from school on the bus.
There’s a few reasons I’m telling you this. Firstly I was made aware of a ‘meme’ (bet the people who make these things couldn’t tell you where this word originated, but that’s another rant for another day). This meme in question is a picture of a girl with Down syndrome, who can’t be more than 5 years old, and the caption ‘I can count to potato’. If that description just amused you, I urge you to leave this page and (in the nicest way possible) go and shove a large vegetable up your rectum, as I don’t care for your time or opinion.
I, like others, find the majority of memes amusing. I’m not easily offended, I like jokes, even ones about myself, blondes and (all 1 million variations) of ones about women and kitchens. But here I see a difference, because I, blondes and women can all stand up for ourselves and ‘get’ the joke. Disabled people cannot defend themselves, they can’t change who they are, the way they look or how they act, and neither should they anyway. I have been told ‘if they want to be treated equally, they should be able to be used for comedy purposes’. The truth is disabled people are NOT treated as equals to you or I at present, so I absolutely disagree with comedy being used as a means to attain this equality!
Some may be blissfully unaware of being the butt of your jokes and amusement, but the majority find them cruel and hurtful. I think ‘ableism’ as its known (discrimination against disabled people) should be not tolerated on a par with racism and homophobia. You may not have anyone within your family/friendship group with disabilities, but I can assure you that even if the affected person is not hurt by your ‘jokes’, we as family/friends most certainly are. If you have siblings, you know how you’d defend them against anything. I feel like I have to fight for my sister, and therefore all people with disabilities. I’m not going to seek out every single person and argue it out why they shouldn’t be using these innocent people for their amusement – trust me I’ve tried, it doesn’t work and they’re not worth the time and effort. What I am going to do, and what I’m hoping to achieve by this, is making as many people aware as possible that your simple reposting of a meme or whispered comment to your friend about ‘the weirdo on the bus’ can be very hurtful. How about instead, giving that meme a ‘thumbs down’ and smiling at ‘that weirdo on the bus’? My sister leads a happy life riding around on her bike, going to college, and listening to Westlife! This may not sound like your cup of tea, but it is her’s so let her be.
The second issue this week was the C4 programme ‘The Undateables’. For those of you who didn’t watch, it was a show about disabled people trying to find dates. It included people with Tourette’s, with Asperger’s, with Cerebral Palsy etc. I am in favour of making people aware of the problems these people face in their lives, however the title ‘Undateables’ was completely inappropriate. I mean, jeez I was 18 before having aserious boyfriend, surely that makes me pretty much undateable? Just another example of subtle ableism by C4, and not so subtle ableism was evident on Twitter with sickening comments I’d rather not repeat. One of my best friends has Cerebral Palsy and she has had more boyfriends than me, so why should she log on to Twitter to see comments like that? She may have physical disabilities but mentally, she’s the same as you and me. I’m sure we’ve all being made fun of, I know I have. And it sucks.
Life is too short and too precious to be made a mockery of. It’s 2012 for goodness sake, let’s get rid of racism, let’s get rid of homophobia and let’s get rid of ableism. I’m sure we’d all love to get rid of poverty and suffering as well, but this is more complex and takes a lot of money.
Ridding the world of racism, homophobia and ableism takes only kindness.