Emma's Summer Contemplations - June 2nd

Yesterday on Crip Camp Sweden we (among else) discussed internalized ableism – that is; the kind of ableism that you yourself have internalized due to societal (the externalized) ableism. I think all of this is pretty tricky…

At the American webinar last Sunday, the participants were asked to answer a poll. It contained six statements and the task was to answer whether you agreed a lot, a bit, stayed neutral, did not agree somewhat, or not at all. These were the statements:

  1. I feel like I need to work to be worthwhile.
  2. I am a “burden” due to my needs.
  3. I can “cure” my illness [Me: “illness”? Hmm…] by trying hard enough.
  4. I need to make other people comfortable with my disability by being extra accommodating.
  5. I should not ask my household members to take precautions in pandemic, even though I’m more at risk and feel frightened.
  6. I sometimes feel like my life is less valuable than able-bodied people’s.

When the result was shown in percent of what everyone had answered it was quite a shock that so many agreed with so many of the statements. Me – a burden? (Maybe to my friends when I whine about something insignificant.) Want to be “cured”? (From what then? Societal stupidity perhaps.) The only thing I could actually agree with was the feeling of needing to work, as well as the ongoing pressure of making other people comfortable. Is this actually an example of internalized ableism?

An easy way to explain it would be to blame it all on the individual. “You feel like you need to work and be able to perform because it is something disabled people are not believed to do. You hence do not wish to be thought of as being disabled.” as well as “Other people have to be comfortable with you since you are not comfortable with yourself, you just never want to think about it.” But are we not done guilt-tripping? What if it is just as simple as:

  1. You want to work.
  2. You are sick and tired of prejudice saying you cannot.
  3. You want people to be comfortable with your very existence (because who do not want that!!?).
  4. You are fed up having to all the time explain and stand up for yourself and therefore you have chosen to face ableism with a nice and outgoing personality – because it actually works in your favor!

In that case: is this really internalized ableism? Is it not rather a (very externalized) oppression, which you are continuously facing, and have grown tired of, but still in some way is forced to deal with?

Sure, all of us express some sort of ableism. It might be in the shape of wanting to avoid a certain aid although it actually would be helpful, always making sure to be the first one located on a meeting in order to not be “the whiny bastard” who people will have to adjust themselves to, or to make jokes depending on your abilities (or lack thereof) in order to ease up a situation. But my question still stands: is this actually something internalized? Is the ableist synonymous to the disabled individual, or is it just a way of dealing with all the other ableists out there? Of course I cannot offer any answers, but I truly think that it is about time to stop being so quick to criticize all crips for an issue created by the able-bodied. Cut us some slack – as you say across the pond!

Emma Åstrand

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