What’s the best way to maintain inequality? Never name the fire that fuels it. The best way to hog power and control? Keep people in the dark about the ways they’re being mistreated; be it by individuals or institutions. Tell them it’s their fault. Redefine their reality. Tell them they’re losing they’re mind, that they did this to themselves, over and over until they take it for truth.
I’ve been asked to define ableism multiple times in the last few months. Each time, my stomach clenches with fear and retreat, as many different instances unfold themselves in my mind’s eye. I can’t. I think, almost instinctually. Putting the complexities of my daily life into tangible, understandable terms of oppression feels all-too-intense.
As intense as unacknowledged oppressions are, silence is worse. Silence is harmful. Silence manifests more ableism. I’m done with silence, and below is some of the ableism I experience. Add your experiences with ableism, so we can paint a fuller picture together, and hopefully dispel the power held by silence and ambiguity.
#AbleismIs a contradiction, a trap, that constantly invalidates people with disabilities and then tells them to get over their disabilities, be different, erase parts of themselves, look more ‘normal’
#AbleismIs the belief that disabilities are an excuse, born out of laziness or incompetency.
#Ableism says that disabled people are liars and/or criminals. Its baseline asserts that we could work but don’t, and if we are able to work, are scamming government funds and resources if we still have physical or monetary needs. #burdenofproof.
#Ableism locks disabled people up in institutions, presently, in many countries around the world. In Canada, the last known(abusive) institution was shut down in 2009.
#AbleismIs the assumption that everyone wants to be able-bodied,
#AbleismIs the belief that disabled people are less-than.
Systemically, #AbleismIs the structural oppression that legitimizes our poverty, unemployment, isolation, and general lack of well being. #Ableism justifies these inequalities by calling us inefficient, undeserving.
#Ableism glorifies our helpers as saints, while ignoring our names and stories.
#AbleismIs the reason why so many men still ask me if I can have sex.
#AbleismIs the reason those same men ask, “but how?”
#Ableism is this online dating text:
#Ableism (internalized) tells me that I should not have other friends in wheelchairs, or with disabilities of any kind. It says that I’ve worked so hard to overcome my disability (eye roll), and thus shouldn’t have to associate with other PwDs.
#Ableism (internalized) whispers that I’m too good to date other PwD, because that’s all society expects of me and I better ‘do better’.
#Ableism (internalized) makes me a snob, isolates me from my own community.
#Ableism (internalized) makes me uncomfortable with disclosing my disability to those I’ll never see face-to-face, for fear they’ll start questioning my competency/legitimacy as a person, once discovering that I’m disabled.
#Ableism expects me to talk louder.
#Ableism wants me to learn in a standardized way.
#Ableism makes no time for mental health/sick days.
#AbleismIs the reason I didn’t know what ableism was until I was 24.
And maybe worst of all, #AbleismIs what’s made me think all these negatives are simply, “the cards I’ve been dealt.”
#AbleismIs never going to acknowledge that I was born with less spoons than ablebodied people, and #Ableism will never note that that does not make me less-than, but in fact gives me a greater filter against bullshit and time-wasting.
#AbleismIs the reason the rate of suicide for disabled people is estimated to be much higher than those of the “average” population.
#AbleismIs the reason those suicide stats are so well-hidden.
#AbleismIs the pity-smile from the passerbys at the grocery store.
#AbleismIs hiding my learning differences, because my physical differences are already too much to handle.
#Ableism causes closeted-living.
#Ableism teaches us that ablebodied people’s time is of more value than ours, that their lives matter more than ours, and that we should be grateful we are alive.
#AbleismIs ignoring or invalidating invisible disabilities.
#AbleismIs refusing to believe in the legitimacy of our disabilities.
#Ableism is, “You have brain damage? Well, you seem really smart.”
#AbleismIs the “R-word,” because when you use that word, you dissociate from the humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.
#Ableism says that I don’t understand how my body works.
#Ableism says my body is broken/deformed/tragic/something to gawk over.
#AbleismIs why I felt ugly as soon as I hit puberty.
#AbleismIs why I eventually decided “Fuck that, I’m pretty.”
#Ableism assumes that institutions know my priorities, and what’s best for me.
#AbleismIs responsible for the medicalization and dehumanization of my body.
#Ableism still regularly tells me I’m stupid, not good enough, and should just take what I can get out of life.
That’s all I have right now. My goal is to make a comprehensive list depicting what ableism looks like for all sorts of people, so contribute if you feel comfortable. Tell me, what does ableism mean to you?
Additions to #AbleismIs From Other PwD:
Jennifer Clayton says: “Ableism is…doctors telling me to find another doctor because they don’t treat people with “multiple problems.”
Ableism treats me like a dumb child, and is surprised I’ve had any accomplishments.
Ableism thinks I should be cured by now, or dead.
Ableism thinks I should apologize.
Ableism can suck it!”
#ableismis when a sign says dogs are welcome at the cafe that doesn’t let wheelchairs in.”