Story, story, story, WHAP!

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I was reading a bunch of historical short stories, just starting to get into them when… whap!  It feels like a whap anyway, or like having someone dump icewater on my head. It’s that sensation when I’m jolted out of having an ordinary reading experience, and thrown into an all-too-detailed look at how the author sees (in this case) developmentally disabled people, or (in other cases) some other group of people I’m part of. 

In this case, we’re shunted to the side, standing out even in a place supposedly devoted to nonconformity and diversity.  That’s not an unusual place to find us in people’s heads, but seeing it made so clear and obvious never gets any easier. We’re either on the sidelines, or we are there as a means to show another characters attitudes or morality, or we are piled high with the baggage the author carries from having a disabled family member. But whatever we are, we’re never just people, which is what we actually are in real life to anyone whose brain isn’t filled with BS about us.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

8 responses »

  1. I’m relieved to find that your blog has simply moved, not vanished

    I still vividly remember the first time I read a story (one of the Bobbsey Twin books) and suddenly discovered that THIS book had a minor character in it, a little girl who was deaf just like me! At first I was so excited and thrilled to find a character JUST LIKE ME in a book … but then it turned out that the girl was really only in the story to be a laughing stock. She “misunderstood” the other characters (Flo and her mother) in ways that were supposed to be amusing but didn’t even make sense if you know anything at all about how lipreading actually works in real life. For example, there was this line where the mother tells the little deaf girl that “we’ll fix you right up” (meaning they would help her settle in) and the girl says “I’m already mixed up” — but “f” doesn’t look anything like “m” on the lips so there’s no way a deaf child could have misunderstood her in that particular fashion: even as a young child myself, this was glaringly obvious to me from my own experiences with lipreading. But what was most upsetting to me is when the other two characters — major characters in the series who I was supposed to *care* about and view as lovely, likeable people to be admired — *laughed* at the deaf girl for being mixed up instead of helping her understand. I had waited for so long to find a character JUST LIKE ME in a book, so the experience felt like a profound betrayal. And it was upsetting to me that an experience that for me could be often very frustrating (ie, having difficulty understanding others, especially in a context where others don’t seem to be trying hard to enable my communication access) was simply turned into a moment of amusement for other, hearing people.

    These days, the hurt I feel when I discover a disabled character (especially a deaf character) who is not portrayed in a way that makes me feel comfortable is not nearly so fresh as it was that first time, back when I was a little girl. I’m a bit better prepared for it now. But … yeah. Whether you’re “prepared” or not, it’s never pleasant to see a character you relate to closely being twisted around in ugly ways that have no connection to your actual life or the lives of people you know.

    • i couldn’t keep on reading Dean Koontz’ books for that reason. i read things which indicated that he had that aspect about autistics fairly violently but also about people with mental illnesses. which, for as neurodivergent (or “odd”) a guy as he seems to be, seemed ridiculously hypocritical.

      more lately it happened with Brad Warner… i am reading his books Hardcore Zen and another 2 about Soto Zen Buddhism. and he has all these great down to earth ideas… but then he used to work as a … what Dave Hingsburger was in that article before he woke up? like the people that work in group homes and whatever. but he didn’t wake up (oddly enough because Buddhism is about waking up) and he says it’s about reality. but he doesn’t see that DD people are in the same reality as he is.

      and worst is that he has this autistic nephew, and he really doesn’t seem to see the kid as a person at all. which … i donno, i only have 4 buddhist friends (if i count dh) … 2 are autistic or something like it … and one rejected both dh and me for being who and what we are wired as, and another accepts us really great. so i donno, i thought Buddhists would be cool about autistics. especially with the whole reality thing and the whole, i donno, being open to the interconnectedness of, like, everthing?! it seems related, to me. LOL it would, wouldn’t it?!

  2. There’s actually no religion that is without lots of people who don’t get it about lots of things. Westerners tend to see Eastern religions from afar and romanticize them a bit, believing them more free of such things than the dominant Western religions. It’s kind of like a building that has a lot of grime on it but from a distance it’s hard to see the grime. While people close up have fewer illusions.

  3. i know but Buddhism isn’t supposed to be a religion. of course when people get involved, yeah… they add stuff.

    i like the image about the grime though.

  4. This explains some behaviours in society towards disabled people………..I think. Can’t explain how or why at the moment. Probably something to do with negative portrayal of disabled in books and stories……what Andrea Shettle is describing.

  5. Pingback: What instances of the “Story, story, story WHAP!” thing bug you the most at the moment? « Ballastexistenz

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