I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Archive for April 2009

Things that are bigger than Amazon, fail or no.

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…with love and hate and passions just like mine…(The Smiths)

It is slightly odd to me that this blog suddenly has visibility of a sort because of a dashed off post on an issue that I’ve not really thought much about – the living embodiment of “the personal is the political” I suppose. Part of me feels slightly uncomfortable that 150 plus people have read my posts over the past week due to a post that in some ways trades on the identity and experience of an ex-boyfriend who I’ve had only the most minimal contact with in over 10 years. But it was also my experience. Part of how we dismantle privilege is by relating problems to our own experience and working past that filter and acknowledging how things are different for us as privileged persons. I can relate to the invisible nature of sexuality for the disabled because I lived it for a time as the privileged partner of a person with a disability. I’ve experienced first hand the nature of most discussions of prejudice and privilege – that my past experience as the able bodied partner of a person with a disability counts for more in these discussions than the experience of people with disabilities themselves.

One of the bigger picture results of my reinvesting myself with feminism over the past few years is a greater awareness of other intersecting issues. One of these that comes up with less frequency than you might think is ableism and disability rights. And that right there is part of the problem I see with the rhetoric around #amazonfail and the aftermath. Honestly, at this point, my issues are less with Amazon, and more with how the blogosphere, the twitterverse, the LJ-whatever and the mainstream media cast the entire issue.

Some of the most progressive venues I know – places that usually get almost everything right – completely ignored the disability angle of Amazon’s coding error, or mentioned it only in a laundry list of categories, never touching on the fact that there was a real impact of these derankings. And on the one hand, I sort of understand. Out of hundreds of books that were deranked on Amazon, a very small handful dealt with disability. The vast majority – and most of the most egregious examples of non-sexual materials – involved the queer community. That outrage is completely understandable, particularly because so much of the material was coded as sexually explicit because of its gayness – as if sex were the sole defining factor in any non-heterosexual/non-cisgendered context. What I’m no so sure about is why that is somehow an excuse for ignoring the complete erasure of the fact that people with disabilities can have sexualitywas not also worthy of commentary. It should not be a contest between oppressions – we can be outraged about and discuss both. To not even see the issue is a huge exercise in privilege.

Written by emandink

April 18, 2009 at 3:56 pm

About #amazonfail and ableism

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It’s not just LGBTQ and feminist related materials. Disability and sex related materialshave also been de-ranked, it seems. 

Can’t say I’m surprised, to be honest. Some of the worst street harassment I ever encountered related to sexuality was when I was dating a male wheelchair user in college. It didn’t help that we were both visibly freaky and arguably genderbending to a degree. But openly sexual and visibly disabled people are threatening. A man in a wheelchair with an obvious girlfriend is a threat to the widespread infantalism of people with disabilities. It is a threat to the idea that appearance and visible ability is valued. The idea that a chick with big tits might be interested in a guy who can’t walk is a threat to patriarchy (I mean, can he even, like, have, you know, sex?). Likewise, the idea that an able-bodied man might be interested in a woman who is “deformed” and imperfect. If we can accept people regardless of their perceived (and easily perceivable) “flaws”, then maybe we have to accept fat people and non-white people and others that don’t fit the societal ideal of beauty and mateability.

And heavens forfend that a person with a disability dare to express any sort of non-heterosexual non-vanilla sexual desires. Even if American society can wrap it’s little brain around the idea of a nice hetero relationship involving some sort of tragic heroic sacrifice on the part of the able-bodied partner, anything beyond that is cause for collective panic.

So, yeah. Count me among the not surprised that a search for sex and disability on Amazon turns up more results about developmental disability in sex offenders than it does guides to help people with disabilities have sex lives.

Written by emandink

April 13, 2009 at 10:24 am

Syllogism* for the day.

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1. Children are taught how to read media, including what characters to relate to and what they are supposed to enjoy.

2. Media perpetuates the notion that boys don’t want to/cannot relate to girl characters.

3. Therefore, boys are never taught to relate to girl characters.

Girls, otoh, are expected to learn how to relate to boys/men as the default – we are taught from early on that we can/should be able to relate to boy characters. Even in stories that are carefully structured to have both boys and girls (and therefore appeal across the board) and where the girls are “strong” characters (i.e., they are more than just a blank stereotype), the boys are still the leaders. In the Magic Treehouse books, the third person narration is focused on Jack’s POV and internal thoughts and how he relates to Annie. Harry Potter may need Hermione’s brains, but he’s still the lead. Diego needed to balance out Dora, because heavens forfend three and four year old boys like a “girls show”. Even such basic toys as blocks and legos default as “boy” toys. Again – heaven’s forfend something be gender neutral.

I could go on about this forever, but it stuck in my craw this morning. General purpose, “gender neutral” narration is almost always male directed. Even when it involves men harming killing women (or their children or themselves), men still get to determine the narrative.

*Perhaps not strictly speaking a syllogism (If A, then C. B is A. Therefore B is C), but work with me here.

Written by emandink

April 9, 2009 at 9:14 am

Posted in Feminism, Law

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