Ideas, Not Mandates

Two white 3-d stick figures shaking hands, each out of a laptop screen
So, first I read this blog post by Rob J. Quinn:

Rob J. Quinn, I’m Not Here To Inspire You - June 29, 2015

"But as I peruse Twitter and the blogs of people who specifically don the cap of advocate, I recently came across the term ableism. It’s apparently our version of racism, and to my surprise the term has been around for a while. And I wonder, as we tweet and write at the top of our lungs about the injustice that people with disabilities often face—the latest issue seemingly piggybacking off he Supreme Court ruling giving homosexuals the right to marry to discuss the “marriage penalty” some people with disabilities face in losing benefits due to a spouse’s income—how this post will be viewed."

"Am I being ableist against my own community for pining to be able-bodied? Am I rejecting my own identity?"

I started thinking about responding to this piece, mostly to reassure Rob and other fellow disabled people that we all have moments and days when we are sick of being disabled. And I’m not talking just about being sick of the inaccessibility and ableism that make us more disabled … though there is that … but also being sick of our own, actual physical or mental conditions.

Then, just a day later, I ran across a post on Tumblr, a reblog by Wheelchair Problems of a post by Fuckyoumyalgia:

"all of these are perfectly valid relationships to have w/ your disability. none of them are wrong or right or inherently healthy or unhealthy. they just are what they are. if you wanna improve your relationship w/ your disability that’s fine. if you don’t that’s fine too."

"the only thing that’s not fine is telling someone that their relationship w/ their own disability is wrong"


The thing is, it’s possible take some of the most commonly talked about tenets of “disability culture” as mandated beliefs or litmus tests. But really they are just ideas meant to break people out of far more common and truly self-destructive ideas people have about disability.

Too many disabled people think as Rob did about his disability, but all the time, not just for a moment or a day. Too many disabled people view accessibility as a special benefit and accommodation as some kind of favor. Too many disabled people internalize low expectations for themselves and spend their whole lives wishing they were normal.

That’s partly why disabled activists and Twitterers hammer on self-acceptance, double down on not wanting to be “cured”, and “call out” ableist language and “inspiration porn.” There are directions in disability thought that seem to be more productive and helpful for disabled people in the long run, and they mostly revolve around self-acceptance and asserting our rights. That doesn’t mean we are all obligated to feel proud, empowered, and bad-ass 24/7.

Because as the Tumblr post suggests, two other pillars of disability culture are personal choice and no longer allowing ourselves to be shamed. It is important to promote emerging progressive ideas about disability, if for no other reason than to make sure disabled people know there are many ways to think about their disabilities. But it will never do for us to tell each other that any of us are doing disability wrong.