[Description: Line drawing of a woman in a bed, sitting up against the pillows as her eyes—popping out of her head—focus on her body parts, which have detached from their sockets and are floating around the room.]
[Description: Line drawing of a woman in a bed, sitting up against the pillows as her eyes—popping out of her head—focus on her body parts, which have detached from their sockets and are floating around the room.]
Recently, I read this bizarre article, penned by Judith Warner, in the New York Times–one in a stream of many that detail how excessively awful the current generation of young people (read: young workers) is at putting its collective nose to the grindstone, sucking it up, and generally not acting like a bunch of brats, or something.
Many of us have heard about, or come into contact with, some of these bright young things. They are heralded — or, more commonly, blasted — as naive, entitled, too optimistic, and over-confident. The note of panic begins fairly quickly: They don’t know how to dress professionally! They expect to march into the workplace of their choice and immediately start making a six figure-salary! They think they are perfect! They want praise all of the time! (Does no one who writes this stuff stop to consider that many human beings want praise when they complete a task to the best of their abilities?) They have tattoos, dyed hair, and iPods! EVERYBODY PANIC, because the American workplace is apparently going to be dragged down by Generation Y’s entitlement, narcissism and laziness! This narrative, however, seems to apply mostly to a very specific subset of the population (and even the picture that accompanies the NYT article reinforces this): young, able-bodied, middle to upper-middle class, college-educated white people.
This erases, or conveniently ignores, a hell of a lot of folks who are not young, abled, middle/upper-middle class, and white. It erases young workers who may not have had as many educational opportunities, or who had to take more than the expected four years to finish their degree, or who did not finish school, or go to college at all. It erases people whose parents or family members may not have been quite so “involved” in their education, or in their lives at all. Of course, it also erases young people with disabilities — both those who cannot work, and those who want to work but who may be bumping up against this narrative of the “entitled” Generation Y denizen. Some of us have psychological issues or disabilities that put us completely at odds with the “overly-confident” and “entitled” stereotype that apparently befits the current generation — because we cannot stop worrying despite the fact that we are supposed to be totally optimistic and confident all of the time, thinking that the roads leading to our perfect job will be lined with rainbows and gold.
Some of us have physical disabilities, chronic pain, or chronic illnesses that prevent us from working 40-hour weeks (or more); asking for accommodations or disclosing our condition(s), we fear, may make us look “entitled,” or like we do not want to put in the time necessary to work our way up — even if this is not the case. The fact is that many people, and many young people, with disabilities are already at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to the labor market and making a living. Not only are many people with disabilities more likely to live in poverty, but they may face hostility, discrimination, and unreasonable demands, both in the workplace and from society at large.
While I am not saying that these over-entitled Generation Y-ers don’t exist (they absolutely do, in my experience), I am struck by the fact that this narrative is so dependent upon erasing or ignoring certain people whose bodies and experiences do not fit the “expected” labor-related attitudes that have been traditionally upheld by American culture. Many of these attitudes, furthermore, rely heavily on binaries: You either work full-time, or you’re lazy. You’re willing to be mistreated in the workplace and do whatever it takes “for the job,” or you’re a wimp. Suck it up, or go home. If you’re not making enough money to live on or are poor, you just aren’t working hard enough. If you ask for “accommodations,” you’re asking for too much — just do your job! You have to work hard to “make it,” and if you don’t work hard enough, it’s your fault. If you don’t like your job or face daily mistreatment, you can always quit and find another one, right? But if you can’t, it’s your fault, and why did you quit that job, anyway?
The message for Generation Y, in general, may be “Get over yourself,” but the message for those who do not fit the characteristics of the “average” Generation Y worker is more severe — and ultimately more dire.
[Cross-posted at FWD]
[Description: A young-looking white woman enters what looks like a fancy lobby and climbs a set of stairs, to soft music. Cut to a closet, where a pair of anthropomorphic orange slip-on shoes peek out of the door. One makes a “quiet” motion to the other. The woman unlocks the door to her apartment, and the shoes open the closet door. A dog looks at them as they come running out of the closet, tripping over some dog toys as they do so. The shoes grab onto the woman’s ankles as she enters the apartment. She sits down, and they remove her high heeled-shoes, then begin to massage her feet. Voiceover: “Meet Croslite, the loyal, loving, good-for-you-technology in every pair of Crocs.” The woman stands up from the couch, and this time her feet are clad in a pair of red flats. She walks into another room as text onscreen reads “Feel the love” and Crocs shoe-styles “rotate” near the text, and the Crocs logo appears below it.]
I can’t be the only one who’s creeped out by this TV ad for Crocs; it has the general aura of one of those ads that’s supposed to be cute but just ends up seeming totally fucking creepy. As comfortable as Crocs are, I do not want to associate my pair (surprise, they are orange!) with scary little shoe-people who are just so excited when I come home that they cannot help but grab onto my ankles, then smile and blink as they massage my feet (which are probably stinky and certainly not that nicely manicured).
Furthermore, I can only imagine what the pitch meeting for this ad must have been like.
So, what are your favorite ad campaigns in which a sense of creepiness (or outright horror) rises from the ashes of cute and/or endearing?
[Image via Tlönista in this comment thread at Flip Flopping Joy.]
One unfortunately common response to marginalized people saying that there’s a problem is the “Educate me NOW” demand from “well-intentioned allies” who totally mean well, but they just lack education on these issues and so just can’t understand what the fuss is all about.
I am using the following example not to appropriate from the awesome anti-racist work that Jessica Yee and the fabulous Racialicious crew (and countless bloggers around the web!) do on a daily basis, but rather for two specific reasons: 1.) I have already talked about my personal relationship with this oft-used derailing tactic rather extensively, and could probably talk about it ’til I’m blue in the face; 2.) anti-racist activism and disability activism are not completely separate, independent social justice strains — many of us who are involved in these activist projects are, in fact, fighting similar (though NOT completely analogous) battles. For me, claiming an identity as a feminist disability activist has entailed doing my best to fight racism and white privilege alongside fighting for disability rights. This is because disability and race intersect in many, many ways — sort of like how disability and gender, and race and gender, intersect. In other words, this is not just a disability issue, or a feminist issue, or a trans* issue, or an anti-racist issue; it affects many of us in the social justice blogosphere, if in differing ways.
The “educate me now because I want to learn, marginalized person!” response played out, yet again, fairly recently in the comments to a post on Bitch authored by Indigenous activist and writer Jessica Yee. Jessica had written a post on white hipster/hippie appropriation of native dress and why it’s not only ridiculous, but racist. Makes sense, right? (If it doesn’t, you might be at the wrong blog. Or go read this. I don’t know.) Overall, this piece seems like it would fit right in on a website for a magazine that is dedicated to showcasing “feminist response[s] to pop culture.”
And then the comments started rolling in, and so did the “but you have a responsibility to educate people who mean well!” trope:
I’m sure this is in fact extremely annoying. However, you might consider that when people bring that up, they’re not saying, “Hey I’m just like you and I totally understand what you deal with,” they’re trying to make a connection and learn something. Ignorant people are a pain in the neck, but they’re mostly not trying to be ignorant on purpose.
I‘m merely suggesting that if this is a cause you deem worthy of championing, then you should have a prepared source of information for them—be it this blog, book titles, or documentaries. Encourage them to learn more about THEIR history and perhaps you’ll draw a new soldier to your army.
It seems somewhat contradictory to put stickers on your laptop that indicate a Mohawk heritage and then rudely dismiss a stranger who expresses an interest in your advertisement. Perhaps a better way to accomplish your agenda (whatever it is) would be to engage in polite and open-minded conversation with those who mistake your stickers for an invitation.
Thea Lim at Racialicious pretty much nailed it in her recent post on what went down, entitled “Some Basic Racist Ideas and some Rebuttals, & Why We Exist” (which I highly recommend that you read in full, by the way). An excerpt:
This kind of hey-let-me-help-you-achieve-your-goal-by-suggesting-you-be-more-radio-friendly response totally misunderstands (and appears disinterested) in the anti-racist project, because it assumes that anti-racism is all about convincing white people to be nice to people of colour. In other words, it assumes that anti-racism revolves around white folks. Like everything else in the world.
Anti-racism and people of colour organizing is not about being friendly, being appealing, or educating white folks. While individual anti-racist activists may take those tacks to achieve their goals, the point of anti-racism is to be for people of colour.
I completely agree with Thea here — and I believe something similar applies to disability activism. That is: Those of us with disabilities are not here to make abled people feel comfortable, to hold their hands as they have a Very Special Learning Experience (most often, it seems, at our expense), or to make them feel good about themselves. I, personally, don’t care how “good” your intentions are, or that you reallllllly wanna learn, or if you think I’m being mean by not dropping everything to educate you when you demand it. While I definitely don’t want to speak for Jessica, Thea, or any of the Racialicious contributors — or for people of color who do anti-racist work — I suspect that they may feel similarly about white people who come into PoC, WoC or other anti-racist spaces and demand that whoever is doing the activist work must halt whatever discussion is going on and educate them, now, because they are good “liberal” white people and have such good intentions, and you PoC want white people like me as allies, right? And if you don’t drop everything and rush over to educate me, well, you’re just a big meanie who must not want my support after all (such “support” is often conditional, and based upon whether the marginalized person can make the non-marginalized feel comfortable at all times), or you just want an excuse to be racist toward white people! Or some other ridiculous thing.
For me personally, the willingness that I “should” have to help well-meaning folks learn is also an energy issue. I am a person with disabilities, several of which I have written about at length on this website — and one of which is a pain condition subject to flare-ups. Thus, I have to manage my time and energy extremely carefully. Having to explain basic concepts over and over again to strangers on the internet because they’ve deigned to tell me that they “want” to learn — and some of whom may think, by extension, that they are somehow entitled to my time and energy — takes work. Writing takes work; additionally, a lot of bloggers do the blogging and responding to comments thing for free, on their own time.
And sometimes, those of us with conditions that intersect with our ability to do this work end up burnt out, frustrated, or we lose our patience. Though these end results are often nothing personal, they might read like it, and we end up paying the price energy-wise only to have that person who realllllly wanted to learn petultantly respond with something like, “You must not want to educate me, then, if you’re not up to answering all of my questions!” and leaving in a huff. But they reallllly want to learn. . . that is, if someone else does the brunt of the work for them and/or gives them good-ally cookies for just wanting to be educated about all this social justice stuff. Merely wanting is not enough; you have to actually follow through for your good intentions to matter.
There is, thankfully, a solution to this problem: those people who say, or comment, that they realllly want to learn must take responsibility for their own learning. There are several ways that this can be accomplished, among them lurking on blogs for a while before one starts commenting, reading a site’s archives (and most sites have them!), picking up a book (or two), reading articles online or off. Certainly, there are a lot of things that are privileged about this assertion; of course, not everyone has the time to read about social justice, lurk on blogs, or take similar steps. But what is also privileged is the putting the responsibility for your own 101-type education onto someone else — someone who might not have all of the energy, time and patience that you might.
[Note: Please read the comments policy carefully before commenting.]
In San Francisco currently, there is something of a debate brewing about Mayor Newsom’s proposed sit/lie laws, which would make it illegal for anyone to sit or lie on any public curb or street in San Francisco (with a couple of exceptions).
The intersections with disability here are rather clear. For one thing, there are some intersections between homelessness and disability, because some homeless people are, for example, mentally ill or have disabling physical problems. Do either of these things make them unworthy of compassion, or not human? Of course not, but from the way this proposed ordinance is designed, it is, on a very basic level, criminalizing homelessness even more than it is already criminalized (not to mention socially stigmatized), while taking extra “common sense” steps to avoid citing non-homeless people for an offense. Observe the following response to concerns that SF police would begin to crack down on non-homeless people were the laws to go into effect:
During a heated, five-hour Board of Supervisors public safety committee hearing on the issue Monday, Adachi showed photographs of behavior that would be illegal under Newsom’s proposed law: a well-heeled tourist sitting on her luggage as she waits for a cab, a little boy sitting on a sidewalk clutching his skateboard, and tourists sitting on a curb and gazing up at the sights.
Assistant Police Chief Kevin Cashman said all of those people would be warned first to move and that none of them would probably receive a citation.
“Obviously common sense is going to be part of the training with enforcement of this statute,” he said at the hearing.
Ah, yes, “common sense.” Common sense, apparently, still makes the further stigmatization of homeless people de rigeur. Because apparently, they don’t deserve to sit down in public, unlike “well-heeled” tourists and neighborhood residents. I wonder what the response to a person with disabilities — tourist or not — needing to sit down on a public street might be? Someone waiting for an ambulance? While that is approaching a bit of a slippery slope argument (which I generally like to avoid), it is worth considering, simply because “common sense” will mean different things to different people — those whose job it is to enforce the statute included.
Also interesting is the framing of this ordinance in terms of concern for children. From one of the SF Gate articles:
Newsom, who bought a home in the Haight recently, was convinced to support an ordinance after walking along Haight Street with his infant daughter and seeing someone smoking crack and blocking the entrance of a business.
Certainly, children need to be protected from dangerous situations or potentially dangerous situations, but is an ordinance that criminalizes the poor and homeless — not all of whom are recreational drug users or addicts — really the way to do it?
Additionally, nowhere have I seen any plan to increase the number of homeless shelters or services for homeless people attached to this ordinance. The implicit message behind these proposed sit/lie laws seems clear: It’s too bad you’re homeless, but don’t you dare be homeless on our streets, because it might make our city look bad. Oh, and you certainly shouldn’t expect the city to help you not be homeless — even after it cites you for breaking the sit/lie law.
(Cross-posted at FWD/Feminists With Disabilities)
[Important note: New feature! “Blast From the Past” will feature past posts from my old blog that I think are worthy of inclusion on this one, mostly because I like ’em. This post is from May 2009, so it’s a bit old in blog-time, but I think most of the points made are still (sadly) relevant. I’ve changed some of the wording for clarification purposes.]
There are days when I question whether feminism, as a whole, is welcoming to people like me. Or to people who are not exactly like me, but are still part of groups that have historically been ignored, erased, marginalized, or plundered by mainstream feminism.
This absolute trainwreck of a “discussion”–on mental illness–happened over two weeks ago at Feministe, and I’m still thinking about it. Many (though not all) of the comments on that post are horrific displays of ableist tripe.
I do not understand why some find it so haaaaaard to grasp that disability and ableism are feminist issues, or that disability rights and the rights of people of all genders are connected; I find it equally difficult to understand why some are so dedicated to holding on to the last vestiges of their privilege, even as they give lip service to things like “inclusion” and “diversity.” Neither term holds meaning when used by a certain type “good” mainstream liberal/feminist/et al to describe just how awesome and progressive they themselves are; oftentimes, these words are used to make those in the mainstream feel better about themselves, their privilege(s), and their biases–some of which they just cannot let go.
Again and again, I see comments in several places online that suggest that disabled and other marginalized people, and their experiences, are only good for two things: enabling the “growth and development” of mainstream feminists, and providing abstract (at least to those who have that privilege) discussion fodder that allows various “concerned” fems to do their thing without questioning their own privilege. Both of these have the effect of depoliticizing any radical potential that those who are NOT het white cis upper-middle class able-bodied mentally “healthy” feminists may bring to the table. In a way, it’s kind of like using the ideas of radical women of color—without referencing where these ideas come from!–to make a point about your wedding, of all things.
It fucking hurts.
When I blogged about Evelyn Evelyn for FWD over a month ago — critiquing it from a feminist disability perspective — I got all manner of off-topic reactions, including derails, a bunch of abled people showing up to tell me how things really are and/or spewing their privilege all over the place, and death threats.
So, what sort of lemonade am I supposed to make from death threats? Or from Palmer herself recently making the very existence of disabled feminists into a joke on Australian television?
For the record, I have yet to be contacted by any mainstream press outlet regarding my views on feminism, and my contact info is easily available. I am pretty sure that these same press outlets have yet to contact Lauredhel or Sparkymonster, both of whom have eloquently critiqued some of the less savory things that Palmer has treated us to in recent weeks.
And: cue comments here telling me that I shouldn’t be so invested in getting press or furthering my own goals or anything. Obviously, that’s for famous people only, not feminists with disabilities who don’t get paid for raising these issues (and then get heaped with abusive comments for even speaking up). I’ve spent a vast amount of time thinking and writing about this stuff — and disability feminism, too — but, of course, it’s just a hobby, whereas Palmer has a job creating art, and why aren’t I spending my time on more important disability issues?
Because all of this has affected me in a manner that is deeply fucking personal, that’s why. I am not going to apologize for finally wanting to consider my own bottom line in all of this, particularly when I’ve given so much of my time and energy to this “internet controversy” — only to get hit with what is, quite frankly, a bunch of bigoted crap.