Comments on: My Body is Not Public Property: The Disability Version Changing the Cultural Conversation Fri, 12 Jul 2013 02:15:54 +0000 hourly 1 By: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Thu, 27 Jun 2013 19:40:10 +0000 Emma, interesting take. In this case, there might have been an element of putting me in my place, albeit unconscious. I saw the man as trying to get out of his place of having to ask for money at all, and he did it by using my cane as an escape route, thereby giving himself more power. In general, though, I find that being visibly disabled tends to put people on the street more at ease with me rather than less. I think there is a vulnerability implied by the cane that makes people feel less worried about their own vulnerability when talking with me. Even without the cane, people intuitively know that they can trust me, so they don’t seem to feel fearful about approaching me, but the quality of most of the interactions seems somewhat different now, and in a good way.

By: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Thu, 27 Jun 2013 19:33:25 +0000 I don’t know. He might have told me I was doing the yoga wrong and needed to find another teacher, which would get us back into the same conversation!

By: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Thu, 27 Jun 2013 19:32:01 +0000 Jesse, I love the idea of critiquing the ways in which nondisabled people see disabled people as “help objects.” The whole notion of a “help object” really speaks to what is going on.

By: Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg Thu, 27 Jun 2013 19:28:56 +0000 Jules, I think that we are very much in agreement on most points. My main source of upset in the interaction was that the concern came from a complete stranger. I have less of a problem with someone who is known to me giving me advice, because then, as unwelcome as the advice might be, it’s part of an ongoing relationship that we can work out. It might be annoying, but at least there is some intimacy already there that might lead a person to believe that the advice is welcome. In this case, there was no such intimacy, so it felt like more of a boundary violation than it would if it had come from, say, my husband or my kid. Plus, the people who know me well know to preface advice with a question like, “Could I give you some suggestions about…?” and they know that our personal contract always gives me the right to say no.

When it comes down to it, I think it was the absence of a personal contract between myself and the old yogi that made talking about my body so uncomfortable. It was a really unbounded interaction to begin with — it took place on the street between two vulnerable strangers with all kinds of intersecting lines of privilege and oppression going on. I’m beginning to realize that the absence of a personal contract is what makes so many interactions between strangers problematic. You see it on the Internet all the time — people breaking one another’s boundaries because there is nothing in place to hold the interaction within agreed-upon parameters. The only agreement about boundaries seems to be that there is no agreement.

One of the reasons that I left the interaction feeling upset rather than angry is that I saw that the old yogi really was trying to make an offering to me. That was very clear, and I really, really want to honor that. It’s critical that people who have next to nothing know that they have something to give; I think that there is a kind of despair in people who don’t feel that they can contribute, especially in a culture in which getting and spending are the primary ways in which people think they can make a contribution to the world. So I get that. It’s just that the route he took toward making an offering went straight through my body and all kinds of able-bodied and gender privilege. It’s worth looking at those things because they all work together to keep us stuck in place. Using one form of oppression to get out from under another form of oppression isn’t a long-term solution — though I can understand why it was a short-term solution for the old yogi, who clearly is laboring under greater burdens than I am.

By: Jules Jules Thu, 27 Jun 2013 15:14:49 +0000 Being a woman is an invitation to intrusion. Period. Especially with other women, in my experience. The minute anyone knows you are experiencing anything that is perceived as novel/different/difficult/ it’s an open invitation for comments/suggestions/advice/stories.

I wanted to leave a comment here yesterday but I didn’t want to seem argumentative or insensitive. I respect whatever reasons others have for their feelings. It’s fine.

I have to remind myself that most people are well intentioned. Here’s a real life example: I am “poor” by American standards. Some years ago, I decided to get a cat. A woman I know, who is a bit younger than me, called me on the phone and asked me if I knew how much money it cost to keep a pet cat. She was concerned that I might not be able to afford it. That call, which I found infuriating and almost degrading (I mean, of course I know the ramifications of having a pet! I’m in my fifties!) was made out of concern for my welfare. Did I just say, “Thanks for telling me that!” No. I didn’t thank her. I somewhat impolitely chided her for thinking that having a cat wasn’t worth whatever expense it would incur and that she hadn’t thought I might have had a pet in the past/and/or thought it, through (etc. etc.) . . .

This woman, like many women I know, chronically “mother” other women. It’s an offering. Misplaced, perhaps. I believe that the man you gave money to wanted to give you something in return. Can you imagine being a homeless man? He can’t get into your head nor you into his (and I’m not alluding to anything “autistic” here).

I used to use a cane myself. I was 18 when I used it. It was necessary. It actually did make my hip problem worse after about a year. Will this be your experience? I have no idea. I might, in conversation, tell you about my experience because I’d think it could be helpful to you. You might not want to hear it. Or you might.

Another example: I had some surgery that turned out to be unnecessary. In this case, it was considered impolite to talk about in public. No one said anything to me about it. When I found out that a few people I know had the same surgery at the same hospital and had similar experiences, I wished someone had said something to me. Maybe I would have been annoyed. I don’t know. Hindsight is 20/20.

Maybe I’m not “getting” your post. It hit some nerve in me. In some cases, I know for sure that I’ve felt that people could actually help each other more if we were more open about our health issues. I know that what works/doesn’t work for me is totally different than for others, but what if it isn’t?

These are questions of community and communication and I think they are huge. There’s no one right answer that fits all.

I’m glad that you brought it up, though!

By: Jesse the K Jesse the K Wed, 26 Jun 2013 00:16:11 +0000 I appreciate your parallel of the boundaries we wish to maintain as women and as people with visible disabilities.

Even the folks who disagree with us now recognize what a “sex object” is: the assumption that our genitals are worth more than any other part of us, and the highest best use of our bodies is prone.

I’m thinking we need to establish a similarly well-understood critique of the “help object”: that people with disabilities don’t exist to be helped, we don’t need to be interrogated about our help requirements, we can even provide help in many cases (as you did today).

By: Sheogorath Sheogorath Tue, 25 Jun 2013 22:41:21 +0000 He proceeded to tell me how he did yoga and got off the cane, how the cane was a crutch that keeps your body from getting better, how a cane can become addictive, and how I should spend some money on some yoga classes and see whether I could clear up the problem myself.
At which point I’d have said that yoga caused my injury. Yes, it’s lying, but it gets them off your back and prevents greater harm to your psyche.

By: emma rosenthal emma rosenthal Tue, 25 Jun 2013 20:04:46 +0000 “I was really shaken by this interaction. On the one hand, I understand where the guy was coming from. The class division was there and it was complicated by gender: a man was asking for money from a woman. There was a power struggle of sorts, a struggle in which my disability became my point of vulnerability, despite — or perhaps because of — my class privilege. And there was also an emotional struggle, in which the old yogi wanted to feel the dignity of giving back, as a man and as someone in poverty. He didn’t just want to take. He wanted to help me, too. I saw all of that happen, and it’s difficult to feel angry about it, because at the end of the day, he’s still sitting on the street asking for money and I’m in my apartment with plenty of food and safety.”

great article, on all points.

the other aspect is one of charity– who gets to give it and who gets to receive it. it is an affront to receive charity from a person with a dis-ability, especially a woman with a dis-ability. it’s an affront for pwds (people w dis-abilities) to have any agency, place, space, acumen, authority, leadership, skill or information.

pwods (people w/o a dis-ability), feel entitled to do for us, not with us, and certainly not from us.that is the hierarchy.

in giving you advice, he was putting you in your place. it was an offense that you had a resource for HIM, and he was establishing himself in the supremacy hierarchy.