I’ll be the first to say, I’m one of those people who has a wicked sense of humor. I tend to deal with my life with a sense of humor. I find laughing preferable to crying. Crying hasn’t done much for me, I’m not one of those people who feels better afterwards.
I say this, because I think at times humor can have a grey area; there’s a time in place for everything. My aim is never to offend, if anything I always hope that somehow my sense of humor will help those around me. Occasionally, my self deprecation might put others at ease. If I hurt someone, I always do my best to apologize for so.
So when it comes to jokes dealing with disability, often more than not I don’t particularly find them amusing. Especially when the humor is at expense of the disenfranchised. I’ll say this much, sometimes there is humor there, it’s usually from someone who themselves are disabled. This happens because many are like myself, and use comic relief to deal.
But when it comes from an abled bodied persons (I’m using abled-bodied here as a catchall. Those with mental illness/invisible illness are indeed still included into what I consider as disabled.) With zero experience of living this life, it’s just not very funny. I don’t think it’s funny to joke about elevators being broken, forcing people to use the stairs. Why?
Because if you are abled-bodied and have the ability to use the stairs, you are very fortunate, Me and others like myself? We are shit out of luck if this happens. Which happens quite often. Living in Boston, it’s terrifying how inaccessible this city is. It’s always terrible when a place is inaccessible, but for a major city it’s somehow more pathetic. Remember, this is a city that very recently had a protest able installing street ramps. Because it would somehow remove our historical value. The “historical” excuse has run it’s course. Time to upgrade.
But back to the previous; I’m always upset when people think it’s funny when elevators break down, or as many places have taken to making a deal about using the stairs rather than elevator. (ironically, at a hospital often enough.)
Recently I engaged in a post addressing this. It was a picture of a wheelchair user, at a elevator that was urging people to take the stairs rather than the stairs. (irony!) Sponsored by a big insurance company. (Which routinely denies disabled folks the things they need to stay “active”.) And these people will always to deflect to the whole “People are getting fat, lazy and need go to work it off! And if that’s the price we pay for getting people fit, well so be it!”
I’m sure plenty of people and the person still thinks this is funny. I’m sure many would agree. (On a side note, am always disappointed in folks who engaged against all kind of other -isms choose to willfully ignore ableism. Even when a disabled person openly shares their experience.)
The best part, often these people who make these big assumptions and jokes run to their friends for validation in their bias. (Because obviously the abled bodied folks will agree with them.) To me is somewhat cowardice. If you’re going to talk about something, discuss it with people who live this everyday. It will not kill you to see other viewpoints and challenge your beliefs. As uncomfortable as it may be. And god forbid, you learn something… the horror!
But, back to this the argument of the general population, is perhaps valid to some extent. I think health is important. I feel if you can take the stairs and be active, please do! If you have the means and access to healthier food options, be my guest! As long as you realize these are often luxuries and you are very fortunate if you have this ability. Staying healthy as one can be is always in the best interest.
(Health being relative and subjective.)
And here’s where I get all honest and personal on you all: I used to be pretty active. I did dance/gymnastics/fencing. Until my condition took away a lot of my mobility. In general, I still struggle with anger and sadness of what my illness took away. I struggle with fat/body shame. I fall into the false dichotomy that if I only did everything right, I would be healthy! I would be that 90 twig thing, blissfully floating through the air. (Despite that I was at my unhealthiest at this time. With no kidney function and everything else. And then again a few years ago, malnourished.) I am not immune to such things, all this comes from a nasty insecure place. I make a mental note about it and do my best to work on this. it’s important to self reflect on your misgivings.
It also comes from internal ableism- if _________ then I wouldn’t be sick. This is in all fairness bullshit. I was born this way, my kidneys failed. I have shitty genetics, to add insult to injury. (pun.) This is what it is. So, rather than dwell, I’d rather do what I can to do what’s my best interest. Isn’t that the healthy thing to do?
But back to my original point (Brain fog and ADD seems to be taking over tonight!) Consider this before you make jokes that affect disabled folks:
Are you a wheelchair user/have limited mobility due to disability. (Especially the former)?
If so, do you realize how difficult it is to navigate around? Do you realize if a elevator is broken, how screwed you’d be?
Imagine all the things you do, all the places you go. Now combine that with disability.
Imagine the location you live, your house. Is it accessible? How would you live if you had to use a wheelchair.
Imagine your friends no longer hanging out with you, because you are not “fun”. Or getting tired of having to wait for you to catch up, tired of you being sick all the time.
The last, imagine what would happen if tomorrow you ended up living with chronic pain and your mobility was taken away. Reflect on how your life would change.
All in all, I don’t think it’s really funny. perhaps because I just don’t think my struggles are funny or a laughing matter. I don’t think it’s funny how hard it was for us to find accessible housing. How often I’m refused a seat in disabled seating on the T or it just being unavailable. I don’t find the humor in being denied things I need to survive. My body is being a target for half-assed attempt at humor.
This is a first part of this, I would like to come to back to this topic. But not tonight. It’s late and past my granny bedtime.
I’ll leave this,
I do think people who think ableism is funny are sad and pathetic people. I will never understand lacking basic empathy skills. To be so narcissistic, you can’t stop and imagine what life may be like for another human being struggling.
I would not wish this life on my worst enemy. I truly hope those people never have to go through such hardship to understand where I am coming from.
But all this reminds me:
I’m a resilient bad ass motherfucker. I have had to relearn basics. Walking/talking/holding things. I’ve had to face who I am and rethink/rebuild myself more times I could count. I wake up every single morning in pain, I continue to live and do my best. I refuse to give up, refuse to shut up and accept the status quo.
I have burned and remerged. And I will do it over and over again, Because that’s life. To constantly keep going and improving who you are as human being. If that’s not a sign of health…