When Protecting is Passive Shaming

3 Jan

I recently decided to try Reddit. (Find me at https://www.reddit.com/user/ChristinaIrene/) and one of the subreddits I follow is r/disability. A concerned and sensitive person asked the disability community about the straw ban and if a certain perspective is ableist. The person’s opinion is that straws should be available upon request. When discussing this with another able-bodied person, they were accused of being ableist, the argument being that having to request a straw would single out a disabled person. Here’s a screenshot of the post:

Screenshot_20200103-110043_Reddit

To summarize: Person B, able-bodied called Person A, also able-bodied, ableist for an idea that would “single out” disabled people.

My opinion? Person B is ableist. Trying to protect someone from being identified in a certain way implies that there is shame in that identity. There is no shame in being disabled. Here was my exact response:

Wow.

Here’s the significant problem.

The assumption that someone’s disability being noticed is a bad thing.

Why is it bad??

Saying a disabled person wouldn’t want to be singled out is propagating the stigma of disability. It’s disability shaming and is pressuring a culture of passing, which makes disabled people’s lives even harder. Hiding disability protects abled people more than anything, so their empathy isn’t activated. So they don’t feel obligated to help, so they don’t face their own frightening vulnerabilities.

It doesn’t get more ableist than that.

For the record, I did go back in and clarify that I appreciated the question and that  Person B was ableist for calling Person A an ableist. (I may have had a bit too much passion in my initial reply!)

Anyway, food for thought. Or, drink for thought. When we try to hide someone else’s disability or difference, like when a parent tries to keep their child’s condition a secret, is it protecting the person, or is it shaming their difference and imposing extra pressure to be someone they’re not?

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