Loud Silence and other Oxymorons!

I am having a pain day, yet emotionally I feel fairly good. I am watching my cat’s bathe, and just found a friend’s keys. That means they have to come back. I already called them too, because of course they must be hunting for them. It makes the writing jarring at times as I like the flow on the dance of the words. I have been so busy lately, finding the means to all the scattered ends that make up a life, that I finally am having a moment of peace and solitude. It sure is noisy in my head today.

I am amused by some random things, curse words, the way that the pillows on my bed look, the sound of my neighbor’s existence being so quiet here after a year of so much noise. There is a quiet in this apartment that I have longed for and it dwarfs everything. At this moment as the sun streams through the window brightening my home, the cats too are between their moments of gleeful play. Here they play, not just a little but a lot. They wake me at times, crashing and thudding, yowling and howling, and being free. Sometimes they wake me up just so I will roll over and wrap my arms around them both using them as pillows. Even with music my house feels quiet.

The quiet won’t shatter here, though I find the adventures of life are leading me to some odd discoveries. I am going through the process of getting reassessed for more caregiver hours, I am exploring Second Life at long last, and I find that second life is actually satisfying. To me the virtual world has never really satiated the needs for communication I have, but to see the other person’s online self has given me something I was lacking. It is not a perfect match for social interaction but, it does fill in part of the void.

The Oxymorons however, abound with Second Life. There is less chat speak present than I expected, and more dysmorphia of the body. You can see people who have made their avatars look anorexic, no one that I have met so far appears to weigh as much as they really do. I am not even human in this virtual world. I donned the form of a cat, so that I can run and jump and play. It cuts down on my jealousy with Sprite and William. Some of the males suffer from a body image issue as well. They are so bulky that it is frightening to behold, their bodies twisted into caricatures of humanoid.

I know if I spent more time out of the house I would see the same body image issues, and I know too the media perpetuates a large portion of this mental disease. Our culture is ill. The more we watch movies with actresses who happen to make a broomstick look like it is obese, the more we make these movies, the more pressure our minds are under. Children suffer most especially. When I was diagnosed with Bulimia at the age of eight, it was rare and almost unheard of for someone so young to have an eating disorder. Now? Eating disorders are common at any age.

I didn’t notice until two years ago how men are also effected by the movies. They too have the unattainable body type. The people who twist themselves into these forms, perfectly thin, without figure, without health in many cases, give up their free time, the ability to go out and do things with friends, and those who use starvation or an extreme diet put their mental health at risk. Dieting can kill. You hear about it with diet pills but the restrictions and extremes that are persistent and present right now are the most shocking, cutting your stomach apart so that you can’t fit as much into your body is not going to work if you do not pay attention to how much you eat.

Now I am not saying everyone who diets doesn’t need to. Some people have eating disorders or disordered eating that effects their health. Exercise and proper diet are what matters. Proper diet doesn’t mean a spoonful of tomato soup a day. It means three squares. It means the balance you can achieve with a mixture of foods that are safe for you to eat. It means too listening to your doctor even if it means giving up food you may like.

I noticed too, by no longer watching television I no longer feel as worried about my weight. I rarely did before, but at times the old messages about my value and my body came up. The recent activities that I have dealt with made that much harder. Improper diet can trigger improper behaviors. It is harder to reign in my anger, which can be at times misplaced. I can be harder, but, when I look in the mirror I see me the way I am. I feel more beautiful today than I did when I was belly dancing. I think I may be healthier. That last sentence could be another oxymoron, or merely disguised as one.

The world we live in prizes ability, appearance, and supposed beauty over health, happiness, and the ability to live. To fit into this world in the way that they wanted I was living in a private hell, I was so tired, I was also living in pain that would never be treated because of course the pain had to be in my head. Our society is sick.

I challenge my readers today to leave the TV off for one week. You can get your news online, but at the very least try going one week without a sitcom, action or adventure. Spend some time with your books, family, or in the roaring silence of peace. Document the ways that you feel before and after, and see if there is a difference between your perceptions. How toxic can our current media system be?

Some other questions you might ask yourself?

1. How often do I see people like me (ability, race, gender, sexuality etc) represented on the news? In TV shows? Broadcast network shows? Cable shows?

2. How often do I see people like me represented as broad stereotypes (the angry guy in the wheelchair, the ugly woman in the wheelchair, the lesbian for a week, etc)?

3. How often do I see people like me represented as the villain?

4. How often do I see people like me represented as the victim?

5. How often do I see people like me as the hero?

6. How often do I see a person of a moderately healthy weight or a person who is plus sized ?

7. How often do I see a plus sized person as the lead, hero, villain etc?

There are dozens of other questions you can ask, but, the most important:

How does the lack/plethora of people like me in the media make me feel and effect the perceptions I have of myself/others?

I look forward to reading a few responses, and I think I may go and read a book.

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Privileged

We live in a world of priviledge. White, Male, Able bodied, and sexual are merely a few. My awareness of my disability became a journey into the cryptic world of truth. This is a part of what has lead me to become a reporter for a local paper. The staff understand that due to my limitations I cannot always “do it” but in turn I understand they have questions about who I am. My questioning mind seeks information out, and I never stop analyzing. This means I also have some very high standards for my social interactions with people. I know what I like, and screw you if you cannot maintain a consistent approach.

Having a diverse friend base, this does at times cause internal friction though I have only told the people I am rejecting to go away. I resort to the screw you if I cannot get through to them with the concept that I am not their friend. This as an adult has occurred with two people repeatedly. Today I told my fiance about a woman, Cynthia McKinney who was kidnapped in a foreign country. He hadn’t heard about this. I admit since we rarely watch the TV this isn’t a surprising factor, though when I mentioned that not many others had, excluding the twitter users and bloggers none bothered to talk about her capture, he was floored.  He then said the most wonderful thing, for it filled my heart with joy that I live with a man who is aware of his privilege. “It’s disgusting. We have these rules, that allow people to do that crap and feel better. It’s a band aid over a slit throat that’s dirty, old, and infected. Sure, we think we’re fine but our body is dying.”

Our body is dying. I think on privilege often. Neither of us can ignore it. As a disabled woman, I run into privilege daily. If I leave the house it is there. Yesterday, I was told just how convenient my wheelchair is because it has a sunshade. In my brand new effort to not be Super Cripple, I said, “Absolutely, I only had to break my spine, become homeless, and develop an allergy to the sun in order to have this convenience. Want me to help you get one? I am sure I can find some way for you to become disabled.” I said it with a smile. The cold knife of sarcasm caused the cashier to falter, she looked down, and then I was invisible. She handed MY change to my fiance. He tried to correct her and pointed to me but she just set it down.

i made a choice to use the cutting words, yet this is not the first time that this same cashier has said this. She doesn’t seem to remember that she has done it, and I don’t need to be exposed to her ignorance each time. My fiance and i talked about it before I went home by myself, wanting the sun on my skin and knowing that the side walk was safe between the shopping center and the house.

He asked, “Are you okay?”

I replied with a frown, “Yeah, well no. I am so tired of that same behavior. I think I may write the store manager about it, though the other employees also do the same stuff.” Each time we go in, I have someone leaning on my chair, patting my head, and in general am treated like a child. This is a national chain, and my fiance having worked there knows that Walgreens prides itself on how it’s employees are given sensitivity training. With a higher than average rate of ableism in this store, I think the trainer was flawed.  Every time we go in, I am required to educate someone. It is a burden. I usually just need a cool drink to lower my body temperature so that I don’t faint. I may actually just want to get a candy bar. Why am I forced to deal with their ableism? I cannot do so in silence, or it will get worse, but it is exhausting.

He nodded, “Maybe you should offer to retrain them. For a fee.” I laughed but seriously am considering this. I also plan to detail for the management just how much we buy at their establishment. My fiance is lumped into a new category with me. Each time we are out he is given the pitying look by someone, and often has mostly older persons (yes, an entire generation of people oblivious to privilege exists) whisper to him how nice it is that he takes care of the wheelchair woman. Most actually say “Stupid cripple.”

Sometimes I relish his responses, how can I relish the pain and shock his refusal to blend in with other people causes? I think it’s the freedom it feels. I almost feel like I don’t have the right to do this and that is when I start super cripping. It’s a stolen moment of equality, a moment which by all rights is mine, but has been taken from me by the limited acknowledgment of generations before. My favorite response to a person doing this was actually a few days ago.  He was more frustrated than I was, it was July 3rd and we had to get food. Sprite was tucked up in my sun shade and was very miffed that we hadn’t gone home, but without food there would be consequences. All of the local stores were closing early.

I had just cursed someone out (I really said the”f” word) to get her to keep her hands off of me, and it took the threat of bodily harm via the Scooter to get her to step back. I was seething, then my person, my wonderful person comes and gets what we need off of that aisle. He doesn’t know it’s the same woman, as we are walking towards the next section she sidles up to him, I allow this because I am sure she’s about to tell him how evil I am. She says, “It’s so nice you can tolerate that thing.” Thing. Dehumanized in one sentence. He turns a bit red with rage, but she’s about my mother’s age, old enough that hitting her is worse somehow than hitting someone in our age group. He wanted to, it was there. We were both seething with exhausted frustration. “I mean, cripples are such burdens.”

I heard his response though I dropped back. In all honesty and openness I was considering how hard to ram her, and ifI should try to break her hip. I wouldn’t really but at times the visual is so wonderful. Imagination can be a great equalizer. He replied with anger, “She’s not a burden. If anything I am a burden to her. I don’t always pick up after myself, I sometimes expect her to do things she can’t and she does this with grace. She’s not a thing. That’s my wife.” He likes to call me his wife and I really do like it too. “My wife is a real lady, unlike you. She deals with people like you every day and she hasn’t killed any of them yet but she’d be within her rights.” Sometimes I want to and I usually share this with him, to let off the steam. “Another thing, if she’s a thing so are you! You have the privileged of a working body, it isn’t a right. You can be in a wheelchair like that.” Snapping his fingers he then sped up. I zipped past her, and rode beside him with great pride.

We talk about in this house often. There are no children to educate, it is merely something we both see. He has grown, as I have. In fact, he often tries to subvert is priviledge where he can. When he sees someone no matter who they are, having a bad day, he allows them in front of us in line (barring so low energy that this is a danger to my health). He does this to try and brighten their day and does this regardless of gratitude. Most of the time there is a grunt of anger or acknowledgment and that is it. He doesn’t stop. I note most often he does this for women, children, and persons who are most often ignored, allowing the men to wait. I am not sure if this is an expression of privilege but it is also the sort of person I would leave waiting, so if it is it is one we share. He is a joy to watch in the world. I often feel a separateness from most people but not with him.

How many white men who are so privileged to be in their 30s and still have a credit card from their parents usually see their privilege? How many white men usually can see it? In my experience it is the able bodied white man who fears this awareness above all. I know, too, that a requirement for being with the man I love, is this awareness.

I don’t talk about this often, but, some of the exploitation of the disabled that we see includes the cost of being disabled. It is very expensive, especially when the insurance companies don’t want to cover the cost of a wheelchair until you cannot leave your house, and then you still may not qualify for the one you actually need. if you need a bathchair, it is almost impossible to get a prescription for it, where we live. The cost increases as the economy makes money tighter.

What is my fiance doing to try and bring equality to the playing field? He is using his skills with repairing wheelchairs (he has repaired mine when the manufacturer failed) to try and help. He charges cost of parts, because we have to in order to eat, and a loaf of a specific gluten free bread or two dollars per hour, which has so far been used to buy a single loaf of gluten free bread. This fee is even negotiable. It is an expression of privilege that he CAN negotiate yet, it is also something that he wants to do to help people who may “lose their legs” and not be able to get their wheelchair repaired. I live with a man who knows his privilege. Yes, he is still learning about it but, the fact that he is willing to take that journey is by itself a fantastic thing that is the truest show of love he can offer me.

For more reading about privilege, I recommend checking out two places out of the thousands that you could check first. Start with a peak at http://www.womanist-musings.com/ followed up by http://thewhatifgirl.wordpress.com/. Renne, the proprietor of Womanist Musings is a wonderful writer, who has a life long experience with privilege. I find her writing more direct, and often much more clear about what privilege is. She also often reports on news you will not find elsewhere. The What if Girl has recently begun to discover her privilege and is exploring that. On top of this, she is also a fun read. I enjoy both of their blogs daily. You can find further resources at their sites, if you do not enjoy their writing specifically.

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