One of the most common critiques that I get is that, while people agree with me about the social construction of impairment to an extent, that pain isn’t socially constructed. This is something that has also come up in a few of my classes lately so I thought I would sit down and take the time to articulate my thoughts a bit better on this point.
I want to start by saying that I have a lot of pain a lot of the time. For me, most of the time, the question is not if I am in pain, it is how much pain I am in. It is one of the primary reasons that I don’t post more on this blog, the other being the aforementioned school (all I do is write!). Interestingly, these days, my pain isn’t as overwhelming most of the time as it used to be, which also means that I actually write less because I can do things like go out and go to school.
I also want to be clear that my saying that disability is socially constructed is not the same thing as saying that there are no material consequences attached to being classified as disabled. Similarly, while I frequently argue that gender and race are socially constructed, this statement does not erase the very real consequences of sexism, patriarchy, racism and white supremacy on the lives of women, trans people and racialized people.
I will add to this more soon, but basically it is a combination of years of research on, organizing around and thinking about disability.
Soon, there will be a plain language guide to make it even more accessible, although it is written in a pretty accessible way. And, because there are copy editors at Fernwood, even my spelling is good.
To pick up a copy go to your independent book store or pick it up online
I have been incredibly frustrated for a while about the trite, lazy attacks on Rob Ford because he is fat. There are so many good reasons to attack Rob Ford: his austerity measures, his fucked up neo-liberal ideology, his attacks on marginalized communities (p.s. this does not include cyclists), his jerk of a brother, his love of the rich and hatred of the poor, his despicable calls to make Toronto refugee free, his love of cops, his anti-unionism or his overall threat to the few good things that we have in this city (parks, libraries, daycare, graffiti, public housing, youth programs and lunch programs, etc.); rather, I am writing it about his body. That people focus on his body really pisses me off.
A recent Huffington Post article "Why Rob Ford's Weight Is a Political Issue" by Ben Johnson argues that Ford's size is relevant to critiques of his politics. In this post, I argue that this position is sizist, disablist and dangerous.
I used to use the term "ablism" to describe oppression against people who are labeled as disabled and/or the idea that disabled people are not as good as to non-disabled people. Within the past year or so, however, I have begun using the word "disablism" instead. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the primary one is the fact that ableism implies that this oppression is somehow related to ability – which it is not. Disability is a social category and its label is imposed on certain groups of people because of their perceived characteristics as un(der)productive.