The Autobiography of Disabled Woman in Being a Cripple
Disability is a condition that causes an individual to have restrictions. There are many different types of disabilities. For example, there’s mental disability, physical disability, learning disability and socializing disability. People with disabilities have the same rights a-typical person would, but society has failed to recognize disability rights. In Nancy Mairs’ Waist High in the World and Simi Linton’s My Body Politic, both authors portray disability to the audience. Although the able body and disabled body may not always function the same, many people tend to discriminate against the disabled. Nancy Mairs was born July 23, 1943. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when she was only 28 years young. She is the author of, ‘On Being a Cripple,’ ‘Sex and the Gimpy Girl,’ and the memoir Waist High in the World. Mairs’ writing is a composition of her own life experiences as a disable woman. In her previous books, she talks about what she likes to be labeled as. ‘Cripple’ is her chosen word being she feels that if she were to be labeled as “disabled”, a whole different meaning to her condition is put into place. Many people attempt to hide their disability due to societal shaming, but Mairs is not ashamed of her disability. She wears her disability with pride and is thankful because if it wasn’t for her disability, she would have a different view of the world. She believes that she can achieve anything she wants as long as she sets her mind to it. Her perception on disability sets a tone of pettiness. But if you look closely at the reading, you will realize that she wants to rearrange the reader’s awareness on disability.
Mairs is characterized as a strong woman. Although she is disabled, her condition does not appear to barricade her or be an obstacle in her life. Mairs disability created her into a strong fearless woman. “For years after I began to have symptoms of MS, I used language to avoid owning them…I have schooled myself to speak of “my” hands, “my” eyes, thereby taking responsibilities of them”( 43). Mairs tries to explain how she dealt with her disability. From what it seems, depression played a main part in her life before she realized she should embrace her condition instead of being ashamed of it. Mairs depicts and explains to the audience the hardships that come along with being disabled in general but with being disabled with MS. Although she sheds light on the challenges, she makes emphasis that being disabled does not necessarily limit one or prevent one from the things they strive to do. You should never treat someone differently because of their disability. All human beings deserve the same respect that nondisabled people get. Every individual in this world to a certain extent, will be considered disabled at one point in their life. As humans, we tend to favor the able body. Not everyone’s disability is apparent before birth. In “freeing choices”, Nancy Mairs talks about whether children with disabilities have the right to live or die. Mairs says, “The phrase “right to die” is shorthand, of course, and seems considerably less reductive when spelled out: what is generally being called for by right-to-die advocates so the protection of one’s own death and to receive assistance from willing accomplices if necessary” (113). Mairs explains that she herself, has tried to die by suicide in the past and that anyone who is in favor of pro-ending a life due to being disabled, will be considered in favor and a part of murdering someone. In the chapter, “Young and Disabled”, Maris discusses what it is like to live as a disabled teen. She dwells on the hardships and the realities that accompany young disabled beings.
With being disabled, comes the fear of being judged and ridiculed by society. The unfortunate reality that we as a society have created, instills in the mind of the disabled to fear doing even the most simplistic thing in public due to the potential of being ridiculed and judged. In “young and disabled” she talks about what it is like to live being young but also disabled. Society has created disabled people to fear being judged. “Regardless of when their disabled lives began or what pattern they have followed, all the respondents confronted the same issues in the “cooperative human endeavor” known as life as did their nondisabled peers” (135). We live in a society where a person with a disability is usually belittled. They are known to be limited to what they can or can’t do. Many people with a disability are afraid to embrace it. Although it is not obvious whether a person will come out disabled or not, the ones that do and proceed with their lives don’t have an easy life – part being due to society. The minute a disabled person walks into a place with able being or nondisabled people, the disabled person typically gets flooded with pity and sorrow. Like Mairs memoir, Waist High in the World, Simi Linton’s memoir, “ My body politic” also represents disability through the eyes of a disabled person. Simi Linton is an American author born July 29, 1947. The study of disabilities is her focus.Thememoir,“ MyBodyPolitic”byS imiLintonintroducesherdisability.Lintondoesnot have the ability to use her legs, and has lost all function in her legs. Her husband, John was killed in the Vietnam war. Her best friend, Carol passed away first, then followed John who had been in a coma for quite some time. She explains that prior to the war, she and John had been planning to escape Canada to avoid the war draft. Their plan was to help those who had been drafted into the war without wanting to be, escape. Unfortunately, John ended up injuring his knee and no longer had the ability to execute his role in their initial plan. In the second chapter of the book, Linton talks about the realities of getting accustomed to the new life and world she was now facing post injury. She had to get used to wheelchairs and being cripple. She also discussed the renovations that took place in their home, the help they now needed and how drastically their lives had been changed.
The most significant change being the category and label she would now be a part of. At the age of 27, Linton eventually moved in with her mother and again her world completely shifted and changed. She no longer had the privacy she was once privileged to have and had a cloud of pity surrounding her. She ended up moving to New York, where she was much more comfortable and believed she could lead a better life as a disabled woman. Linton further discussed the difficulties she faced opening up about her disability and telling her story. “She learns, in this story, to “absorb disability,” to pilot a new and interest- ing body and uncover a fresh perspective on her life. This perspective is not one of loss but of wonder, a discovery of her body’s pleasures, hungers, surprises, hurts, strengths, limits, and uses, a new discovery of a body we characteristically think of as disabled” (Garland -Thomson 119 ). The acceptance of a disability in many occasions is a complex concept for many to grasp – just like it was for Linton and Mairs. Her peers and environment allowed her to accept and move towards security within herself and her new reality. During the time period discussed in the text, the Disability Rights Movement was being recognized. This made it easier to find support groups and have resources allocated towards people with a disability. For Linton this was a big help and essentially a break through. She was surrounding herself with others who were faced with similar challenges and from this experience and expression she soon was able to feel comfortable in her own skin once again. As Linton explains, “ I have become a disabled woman over time. I certainly would have rejected such a title in the beginning…. It took many people to bring me into the fold. To help me move toward disability…. My advancement was due to other disabled people….This new cadre of disabled people has come out of those special rooms set aside just for us. Casting off our drab institutional garb, we now do garments tailored for work and play, love and sport. Indeed, as an indicator of our new social standing, the high-toned among us even appear in television commercials wearing such finery. While many of us have obvious disabilities— we wield that white cane or ride that wheelchair or limp that limp—we don’t all necessarily, as I didn’t in my early years, ally with the group. And all the others, those whose characteristics are more easily masked, come to the surface even more gradually, determining how, when, and to whom to declare their member- ship’ (Garland -Thomson 119 ). With any trauma comes the hardships of finding a career or getting back on track. For Linton, she expressed the feeling of losing track of her disability and having no opportunities being pointed in her direction career wise. It was frustrating and demeaning. But eventually an opportunity found its way towards her. May 1990, she saw an announcement about the SDS annual conference in California and went straight for it. She also discusses how to overcome and deal with sexual harassment. “The term sexual harassment was not widely used at that time, and even if it had been, this incident spoke to a different power relationship, a different set of rules. An authority that gave him license to touch me”.
In 1984, Linton began to look into teaching positions. She was presented an offer to teach a course on sexuality within a school. She decided to take on this opportunity and proceeded with accepting the position. She was very well welcomed. She described him to be respectful and very welcoming until he decided to take things to the next level and disrespect her. He disrespected her by putting his hands on her and touching her inner thigh. “Given the possibility that I might want to teach the course and the peculiarity of the situation, I did not blurt out, “Take your hands off me.” Of course, I like to think I would do that now.” For Linton, going through that situation made her second guess herself. She thought about how any one could be put in a similar situation that she was sadly faced with, especially young teens which ultimately led her to continue considering the position. She beleived she would have been doing something good, brining awareness to sexuality and providing sex educuation so that situaitons like the one she faced could be limited or all together be avoided. But, the next day she decided to decline the offer. She further explains how sexual harassment was not a topic of relevance and how it had different rules revolving around it then it does now. This was her motive to teach the topic but understandably did not due to the situation she was confronted with. “Linton’s is a story not about tragedy, pity, and suffer- ing but about a “robust and excitable” young woman’s transition from “the walking world” into the unfamiliar world of disability” (Garland Thomson 118). This memoir portrays a message of security, making the disabled and abled body feel like being disabled it’s not so bad. Everyone’s reality is different. Many people tend to discriminate against the disabled based on their abilities. Society has categorized the disabled as weak, to hide their own disabilities. Mairs’ and Linton’s representation on disability are very comparable. That being that their views are very similar but their means of expression are different.
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