this is not a review: ‘falling for myself’, by dorothy ellen palmer

 

A few years ago on this site I told the story of watching a short man emerge from a large truck and how my mother, seeing the same thing, saw a handicapped man and how I just did NOT see the handicap. On the contrary, I saw resourcefulness in a world that was not built for his height. (And that if it were built to his height, well then, we’d be the ‘handicapped’ ones.)

I remember also a time when my sister, who had ALS, was confined to a wheelchair and the looks of outright peeved annoyance as I rolled her about some store or other, taking up, I guess, more room in the aisles than ‘normal’ people. I was shocked by these looks and later wondered if the people giving them were possibly the same people who, in a different situation, one that wasn’t inconveniencing them, looked at my sister with pity and prided themselves on their ‘compassion’, which probably more often than not translated into gratefulness for not being her.

My sister was also asked to please not attend the wedding of a close family friend (formerly close) because her wheelchair and generally emaciated and twisted appearance and inability to talk in anything more than grunts and slurs, was not the vibe the general wedding decor/party/event was going for.

Judgement.

All this, and more, comes to mind after reading Falling for Myself, by Dorothy Ellen Palmer, a memoir that addresses ableism and judgement and what Stella Young termed Inspiration Porn, (a reference to the way the disabled are treated differently, referred to as ‘inspiring’, and used to make the so-called ‘normal’ people feel better about themselves for a) not being disabled, and b) being ‘kind’ to those who are.

“In inspiration porn, the disabled person is reduced to the object, the silent prop. The heroic captain of the football team leans down and asks ‘a wheelchair girl’ to prom. A brave tech entrepreneur takes the ‘risk’ to hire a disabled programmer. A mega-millionaire basketball star drops by with cameras and has lunch, once, for ten minutes, with a  bullied, autistic child. In inspiration porn, the abled person is the hero; the disabled person is the second banana, the sidekick.”

Inside the cover (cleverly designed as an accessibility sign) Palmer writes from the place of someone who was born with the challenge of walking and staying upright. Her feet, as an adult, are size one and half, and two and half. She has given each foot a name. She also names her walking tools, her crutches, etc. She has done/continues to do much in her life as a teacher, activist, union executive, writer, and member of the Accessibility Advisory Committe of the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD). For starters. She is also a daughter and mother and citizen of a city and country that (like so many cities and countries) needs to take a look at how public spaces are built in order to accommodate both the disabled and able bodied equally.

Because the current tokenism that exists in the form of a designated parking space that is used by people who are not disabled and who justify that use since they’re only going to be a minute …. ditto that one wheelchair accessible stall in the loo… and a host of other issues knowable only to those who use chairs and walkers, who have impaired vision or hearing… isn’t going to cut it.

In a very conversational way, through frustration in the form of humour, Palmer sheds light on an issue that shouldn’t exist, but instead is sadly ubiquitous, and which stays hidden due to inspiration porn, ableism and much of the world patting itself on the back for NOT taking that parking spot.

Essentially, the book is about how she lives as a woman… also how she lives as a woman with a disability. Apparently in our society these are two separate things. It’s also about how (by the way) the disabled are very often content in their bodies… it’s the rest of the world that’s a bit of a challenge.

“We all need to stop falling for the double lie that disabled people can be healed and should want to be healed.

And if anyone reading this says well, heck, are we supposed to accommodate everybody??? The answer is a resounding YES. Because that would be the kind of progress that would actually benefit all of society, not just those who stand to make a profit from so-called ‘progress’.

Would love to see this as required reading in schools.

 

 

 

 

squirrely

 

How is it possible the same brain that can make a nest from leaves and spit,
 


 

a nest that will stand up through snowstorms, rain, thunder, lightning and gale force winds, cannot seem to remember where it hides its nuts and berries and seeds and wotnots?
 


 

I’m wondering if it’s similar to the way someone who’s able to do complicated math… and understands highbrow philosophies
 


 

but is never sure whether to turn left or right when exiting a public bathroom…
 

 

 

say the word

 

I just read this wonderful piece about seventh graders asking for tampons in their school and the powers that be who denied the request because of worries that the girls would “abuse the privilege”.

Because tampons are so useful for things other than menstruation. (Actually, I happen to know from an episode of Sex and the City that they can be used to staunch a nosebleed when cut in half lengthwise).

So the kids, instead of whinging and wailing

and crying about the unfairness of everything,

decided to bake cookies. Tampon cookies.

Which is lovely in its own self-evident way, but what got me even more than the cookies and the chutzpah is what someone in the article said about how things have changed, how once upon a time no one would have dared even SAY the word ‘tampon’. And when you think about that… I mean really think about it… it’s entirely mad. The silencing of what is so utterly normal.

Menstrual trivia: Not until 1985 did the word ‘period’ even appear in advertising, although, of course, many products were advertised (for ‘female conditions’ and ‘time of the month’ and other euphemisms. It was Courtney Cox who had the honours of finally outing the word in a TV ad for Tampax.

But for all the distance we’ve covered, we are STILL in this place where girls and women are made to feel a warped sense of taboo about their own bodies.

**

Two summers ago, in order to promote Gush, a book of essays, poetry, and stories about menstruation,  I sat at a little table on the sidewalk in downtown Uxbridge, outside the Blue Heron Book Shop, and chatted with passersby about menstrual memories. What were their stories? Etc.

It actually went brilliantly, as in PEOPLE (women mostly, but some men too, god bless them) WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF.

They just need to know it’s okay.

All that’s required is to normalize it. By saying the words. By asking the questions. By sharing stories that make us laugh and cry and want to change the world in tiny ways that are freeing. All of which toward the goal of changing things in bigger ways, as in, oh I don’t know… research into women’s health issues? which remain sadly underfunded and/or overlooked.

For starters.

Because we’re far from done with this subject.

(Slovenian graffiti in Ljubljana; courtesy of WikiCommons)

 

 

 

hey, cupcake…

 

Once upon a time there was a girl who grew up believing in bravery, truth, equality and heart. She thought everyone was the same.

She grew up.

She saw there was a difference.

And then one day so many voices sang a song she longed to hear… “same, different, what does it matter? !” What matters is brains and heart and truth sang the voices and the girl was happy to hear this happy song and packed up her brains and her bravery and her truth and arranged them on her new desk and on her shelves and she opened books that said this is allowed and this is allowed and this and this and she memorized it all and took it to heart and she was very good at keeping things true and there were pots of tea, and fresh cupcakes everywhere and they were marvellous and all was well.

Tra la, tra la, things went (or so it seemed) until out of the blue (or so it seemed) the people who said same different doesn’t matter said what are you doing? And the girl said keeping things true. And the same different people said why? And the girl looked up from her books, looked up into their faces, and she was confused, didn’t understand the word why.

There is no same they said (or maybe they implied it), everything is different. We thought you knew that. We thought you knew this was just a desk and those were just shelves (who cares that you line them with truth?) and you are just a girl and stop eating the good cupcakes… the stale ones are for you. We thought you knew that.

Once upon a time there was a girl.

welcome!

 

It’s official.

We now live in Honey Boo Boo Ville.

All we need is a quick change of signage and some new stationery.

 

Greed. Just greed. Lest we wonder how this happened.

Also, it’s a sign we need to seriously look at our values as a society… and maybe talk to each other occasionally, not merely at each other. The divide will simply become greater and greater until we learn to really see and hear The Other. Whether or not we agree is irrelevant. Respect is more important than agreement.

And less anger. More conversation, more questions, more listening, and maybe one day we can meet in the middle somewhere, or close to it.

There has to be something worthwhile that comes of this. It’s a yin yang world after all.

 
 
 

appropriate, my foot

 

I don’t care for the word ‘appropriate’ or its variations. Unless we’re talking how sandals aren’t appropriate for hiking in Antarctica or coal is not an appropriate gift for a miner, I’d prefer it not be used… or, more accurately, overused.

For example, in the context of language, inappropriate  behaviour or messages, including those that, oh, I don’t know, threaten job security so an MPP in Ontario can get a date, let’s say, which is a very different thing than bringing coal to a miner. One is inappropriate, the other is pathetic.

See what I mean? Approprite/inappropirate are often words automatically used when other words would be more accurate.Words such as insensitive, racist, anti-semitic, sexist, unkind, or downright stupid and uninformed.

I’m not a fan of political correctness generally. I’m a fan of attempting to be a decent person, or as decent as one can be… and when one is not decent, to be the kind of person that owns up to that indecency by saying the indecency was wrong. Not inappropriate. Not politically incorrect. Just plain wrong.

The terms ‘political correctness’ and ‘appropriate behaviour’ suggest a sign of the times… the perception of a complicated era wherein complicated things need to be memorized. As if we should all make a list of Things To Say and Do in Various Situations and in the Presence of Certain People These Days, rather than acquiring the quality of giving a rat’s ass about people, generally.

It’s the difference between doing what’s decent versus doing what makes you appear to be decent.

I heard someone recently whinging about how things “used to be simpler’, that it “used to be okay” to say certain things, to raise a fist and make a joke about knocking a woman into next week… it’s a joke! Can’t you take a joke? It used to be okay to say these things. God. How is anybody supposed to know what’s appropriate anymore??

Here’s what’s getting lost in that argument… it was never appropriate.

Not in the good old days  when Jackie Gleason did it, not when Ricky Ricardo put Lucy over his knee because she blew the housekeeping budget. Not any time before or since or in the future has it ever or will it ever be okay to disrespect anyone or put your rights above theirs.

Still, it seems there are a few confused souls among us, so here’s a couple of pointers that I hope will help.

♦  If it comes up that you sent emails to someone threatening their job security unless they _________ [fill in the blank], and nobody wants to hang out with you anymore, do not grumble how times have changed. Because that suggests the problem is the times, not you. Be accurate, say that you are an ass, that you have no consideration for others and especially do not value or respect the people to whom you’ve written the emails.

♦  Stop hiding behind variations on the word appropriate.

♦  And spare me the scripted apologies designed to get you out of sticky wickets rather than taking the three minutes necessary to actually consider your actions.

♦  Consider the fact that women are people (they have been since 1929).

♦  Consider that anyone, regardless of gender, might appreciate (instead of platitudes and political correctness) the sense that their feelings matter and to not have to constantly explain what those feelings are and why they matter, not to mention worry about your feelings in the process.

Here’s an example:

You step on someone’s toe . They say ouch.

You can—

a)  be pissed off that they didn’t just keep quiet about it

b)  say oh don’t be so stupid, I didn’t hurt you

c)  sigh dramatically in the way of those who must occasionally throw the little people a crumb, and say fine, I’m soooorrreeee that I apparently stepped on your stupid toe, are you happy now?

d)  send flowers, chocolates, jewellery, money, in lieu of recognizing their feelings and then refer to the injured party as a liar when said ‘gifts’ don’t work their intended magic

or

e)  you can say (and actually mean it), oh, shit, did I step on your toe? What a moron I am, what a clutz. Sorry about that, are you okay?

 

Bottom line—  intention, sincerity, genuine respect for another person is much more than appropriate behaviour.

Way more than optics.

Language matters.

Intentions matter.

p.s. This particular rant is about the treatment of women, but with a bit of re-jigging and imagination, it would easily apply to the treatment by anyone, of  anyone, of any gender, class, culture, religion, hair colour or shoe size.

 

 

 

the war on litter: notes from the front line

 

Actually, not so much notes as questions.

For instance…

All those festively coloured bags of doggie doo-doo you see on boulevards, sidewalks, parks, woodlands. Are dog walkers notoriously butter-fingered, i.e. are all those bags unknowingly dropped? Or have they been set down with the idea of being retrieved on the return trip (after all, who wants to carry crud AND a Timmy’s while strolling) and then forgotten when a different route home is decided upon? Or just forgotten. And those baggies all chubby with doo doo tied to fences or hanging from trees. What is that??  The result of someone coming along, finding a dropped bag and thinking: hmmm… let’s see what could be the best possible move here… oh, I know!  Or do the dog walkers themselves use the baggies as a sort of code among themselves? (If so, please let me in on it, because I’m an occasional dog walker myself.)

Also… people who enjoy a walk (with or without furry friends), who choose to ramble in the pristine beauty of a forest, conservation area or field of buttercups, the beach or any shoreline… and yet somehow find it normal to drop their drinking cups, cans, bottles and chip bags like breadcrumbs as they go. Why are you walking in pristine beauty when you obviously don’t like pristine beauty? Wouldn’t it make more sense for you to stretch your legs at the dump? Wouldn’t you feel more at home there??  Serious question.

And speaking of cups, cans and bottles. (And bags of doo doo for that matter.) Please don’t chuck them under trees. It just makes it harder for me to ferret them out. (FYI — they don’t magically become invisible under there)

Oh, and to the black Honda with tinted windows in front of me as I left the Bulk Barn the other day, whose passenger threw a plastic cup out the window while I watched, stunned:  I’m sorry I didn’t gather my moxie in time to put my car in Park, get out, knock on your tint and ask you in my best inquiring-minds-want-to-know voice, what the [redacted] is wrong with you. Again, serious question:  How messed up is your life that you have so little regard for the planet and what can we do to help you?

And here’s something I learned recently… cigarette butts take forever to decompose. In the meantime they clog and poison land and waterways and are often found inside fish. Yum!  But even if they didn’t do all that harm, chucking your smokes is very Honey Boo Boo.  Seriously, people who empty ashtrays on parking lots or throw butts out car windows or onto the street… please go live on another planet. Because, wouldn’t you like that, to be among all your like-minded friends, each of you knee deep in schmutz??**

Serious question.

** Of course more garbage cans and public ashtrays wouldn’t go amiss either.

Write letters, people! Ask for what’s needed.

Read the story that goes with this pic, here.

From The Litter I See Project.