Red Rhetor Digest (October 8, 2015)

I had started this post on Sunday but then got distracted. So here it is, nearing the end of the week, and I’m adding a few items and posting. This week is mostly dis/ability focused, with three links on disability issues, and a fourth link on sexuality in one of my favorite shows, Bob’s Burgers.

1. It’s not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males (Salon)

Arthur Chu’s column is from June, after the shootings in Charleston, but after the school shooting in Oregon last week, it seems to carry resonance again. Chu argues that after mass shootings blaming mental illness ignores all sorts of society problems, distracting us from discussions of racism, sexism, guns, and terrorism. Further, mentally ill people are much likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators—and, well, plenty of “sane” people commit violent crimes. From Chu’s column:

We’ve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. We’ve got a narrative going where doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.

2. Sex-positivity in the music of Bob’s Burgers (Pitchfork)

Eric Thurm at Pitchfork discusses the sex-positivity of one of my favorite television shows, Bob’s Burgers. It’s a quick romp through the music of Bob’s Burgers, the show’s anti-shame mentality, Gene’s gender apathy, Tina’s butt and zombie fetish, etc.

3. “What’s wrong with you?”—A critique of the medical model of disability (London Freewheel)

Katie Pennick offers an accessible and personal explanation of the difference between the medical model of disability and the social model. For those who haven’t read much critique of disability discourses, this is a great introduction. Pennick, who uses a wheelchair, starts with an explanation of the assumptions behind the question “What’s wrong with you?” and then explains how the medical model of disability locates problems in individual bodies. The social model, on the other hand, sees disability as a product of society: “For example, I am disabled, yes, but I do not experience problems because I can’t walk, I experience problems because I live in a society that is not at all geared up for wheelchairs. Thus, the issue really is stairs and inaccessibility, not my genes.”

4. Screen backlash is a disability issue (NOS Magazine)

Sara Luterman explains her experience using screens as someone with Autism—instant messaging, message boards, and now social media and smart phones—and how these technologies helped her feel less alone and more social. Her point is that those who are arguing against screens—that they are making us more isolated, more alone—are ignoring people with disabilities:

People who oppose the use of screens aren’t trying to silence disabled people. The problem is that they aren’t thinking about us at all. When confronted with what smartphones can do for disabled people, anti-screen folks will claim that they are not talking about us. The thing is, when they look at a café and see people using their phones, there is no way to distinguish between the people who use phones as disability aids and people who just happen to find speaking through social media a perfectly adequate or even preferable mode of communication. A false hierarchy is formed, and of course, the ways some disabled people speak is at the bottom of it.

By idealizing inflexible, narrow definitions of communication, we are dehumanizing the people who don’t make eye contact, the people who don’t speak. Social media just gives us more socially acceptable and normalized options for communication. A world where people are “glued to their screens” is a world where I and others can more easily exist, succeed and be happy. Stop telling strangers you pass on the street to “look up.”

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