What’s up with stigma, anyways?

A few years ago I saw a comedian who was doing a bit about people with glasses.

Why is it that it’s OK to ask people with glasses to try their glasses on? They always have the same reaction – “wow! You are SO BLIND!”

You wouldn’t ask a person in a wheelchair to try their wheelchair on for size. “Wow! You really can’t walk!”

I laughed my ass of when I heard that. So much so that years later I can pretty much still recite it from memory. He was completely bang on about how people treat those with a visual disability – so long as you’re not completely blind.

It is impossible to find decent photos for this! So here, enjoy this adorable cartoon of a blind man and his dog. Courtesy of Emily9 at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
It is impossible to find decent photos for this! So here, enjoy this adorable cartoon of a blind man and his dog. Courtesy of Emily9 at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

I think we’ve created a sort of variant on the crazy/hot scale for disabilities – the pity/visible disability scale. It’s virtually identical in that it poses the same question of how much we’re willing to tolerate someone based on how significant the visual incentive is. If someone is really good looking, we’re apparently willing to overlook a more significant amount of personality flaws. If someone has a really visible disability, we’re more willing to accommodate and offer our pity. If they’re ugly though, or if I can’t diagnose their exact condition on the spot, it’s tough titties.

The problem with these models is that they are both incredibly simplistic. They don’t even belong in the college bars they were doubtlessly created in after many cans of macro lager. You can smell the boozy logic of a horny teenager at 3AM. It is sad that we’ve essentially adopted that way of thinking.

The absolute worst part is that these models imply that the power is wholly in the observer. “I’m willing to sleep with you even though I think you’re crazy” doesn’t leave much room for the Crazy Girl to decide whether she’s willing to accept such a tempting offer.

The parallels in the disabled community are striking. I will do you a favour to make myself feel better. Funny, I don’t recall anyone asking for a self-righteous pity party. Either you get the hard love treatment, the motherless child treatment (do you need help, kid? Here, let me become your steward until I grow weary of playing the part), or you just don’t have a disability worth noting (like vision impairment or depression). 

So here is my simple solution – we eliminate these models entirely and function on the oldest of models instead: don’t treat people like ass, because you wouldn’t want to be treated like ass.

Jesus Christ, it isn’t that difficult.

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