Monday, May 01, 2006

BADD and Proud

So, here we are, on blogging against Disablism day.

I"ve been thinking about my own personal take on all this, knowing that every disabled individual taking part will have stories to tell. I suppose as good a start as any is to tell you one of mine.

I remember interviewing someone to help me with an arts workshop I ran regularly, as my volunteer. A colleague mentioned one lady"s name to me, so I duly gave her an interview on the understanding she was a pleasant person who was happy to give some free time as her children were settled in middle school. At the time I was around 29 years old, working in community arts, dreaming of being an artist, but not having found my 'direction' and was, quite frankly, hanging around waiting for inspiration, or divine intervention to strike me.

The interview went smoothly enough, and this lady was indeed a pleasant individual. During the interview we began to talk about family. She asked me if I had any children, to which I replied no, I wanted to develop my career. Surely at some point I wanted to be a mother, she said. Well, no, not really, I replied, I didn't feel any maternal urges and would, in fact, be happy if parenthood passed me by completely so I could concentrate on my career. (Fair enough in these times, don't you think? If you're a disabled woman, think again. As women, we may be edging further along the equality ladder, but as disabled women, maybe not so fast).

To my complete and utter surprise, the conversation took a sudden sinister turn. Suddenly this pleasant and generous individual, whom I considered my equal, and meant me no harm, began to theorise about my lack of maternal urges. It was only natural, she said, that I had no desire to be a mother. Indeed, it was obvious, seeing as my condition was a genetic one, that within me there was some kind of natural failsafe, courtesy of Mother Nature, that prevented me having the urge to procreate, so I would not, and I quote "pollute the gene pool with your faulty genes."

Phew. Let's just rewind a bit, shall we?

Firstly, I am alive. No matter what disadvantage, if any, my genes give me, my family have survived to deliver me and my brother into the present time. (I'm banking on my brother's natural Casanova instincts to carry on the legacy into the future, by the way).

Secondly, should I wish to have a child, I have every right to do so, and as a member of a supposedly democratic society, no-one else has the right to make a judgment on my suitability to reproduce.

Thirdly, pollute the gene pool? What about celebrating diversity? Celebrating difference? If anyone is in any doubt, I'm happy with who I am, and if that means I move differently, work different hours, go shopping differently, have sex differently, or drive a different car, then I can - and I will.

I can't speak for other people, but I think the world would be a deadly boring place if we all looked the same, had the same colour skin, had the same religious beliefs, desired the same kind of individual, had the same gender preferences, gave deference to one sex of human being over the other, in fact ANYTHING that made us so singular that all identity was selectively bred out, cancelled out by genocide, operated on until no individual features remained, or all behaviour suppressed until we all conformed to being some one acceptable thing.

You can read about all the different experiences people have because today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. This came about because one disabled writer had the idea to unite disabled people throughout the blogosphere to write about their lives. It's a brilliant idea, something that should make people sit up and take notice. Maybe change a few opinions. She has her own motivation for doing it, as have we all. Where will it get us in the future? Who knows'?

In short, thanks to the pleasant lady who enlightened me to the fact that I had no urge to reproduce so I would not pollute the gene pool (and many more like her), I found my artistic direction and became part of the Disability Arts world. I wanted to make art to tell people what it is like to be the world I am in. I wanted to let this lady and other like her know that being disabled isn't just about whatever your impairment is, but how society behaves toward you. And show that there's another way, maybe a more equal way, to think about things. And have a laugh, of course. Look at things a different way. Bend a few minds. Get my hands dirty...

You may have seen some Disability Art. You may not. It isn't in many art history books - it hasn't been present - or documented in the same way art by other artists has. No disabled artists have won the Turner prize - yet. You might have seen a naked disabled woman on a plinth in Trafalgar Square recently who is an artist, but she didn't make the piece, it was made by an able-bodied man. Still, progress, of sorts. Apparently Brian Sewell wasn't best pleased...

But maybe one day, eh? Keep watching.

Want to know more about Disability Arts? Follow the link below.
What Is Disability Arts?


Attila The Mom said...

Fabulous post!

I had an "expert" say in FRONT of my son, "If you're planning on having him sterilized, you should probably do it soon. It will be practically impossible after he turns 18."

Too bad they can't nuke "assholism" out of the gene pool. ;-)

BloggingMone said...

Great food for thoughts! I can recall countless discussions with deaf friends and deaf people in general which always ended up with the question: "Is ist justifiable to call something Deaf Arts, just because the artist was deaf?" Is this a question in the disability arts scene as well? Whether a piece of art of whatever kind is regarded as being artistic or not always is a matter of individual taste and preferancies, but I am strongly convinced that not everyone who is painting or writing poems should be called an artist. I am asking because here in Germany we do not have something I would call Disability Arts, it is more like every disability group having its own artists. Is the question of quality an item of discussion among disabled artists?

JackieTruckle said...

Hope this manages to get to you. On the Ouch board I'm "Cefyn Pawl". I'd be really interested in continuing our discussion about Disability/Deaf art or whatever else. My email is (I'm one of those nasty girls!). At the moment I'm working mostly with video and multi media
Best wishes,

imfunnytoo said...

Loved this post. Difference is necessary for learning, diversity the engine of New and Interesting things being done.

Why we are only labled as our's just so dumb.