Tag Archives: disabled

“You Might as Well Have [insert character here] Be [insert 2-4 minority types here]!”

One of the most common adages on the internet is “don’t read the comments”. While this global network that we’re all currently using [unless you somehow managed to snag a printout of this post] has given us all the ability to share and discuss everything under the sun, the unfortunate truth is that a lot of that conversation amounts to hot garbage. You could scroll down past an article to see what people are saying about it, but chances are that it won’t be a particularly uplifting experience.

As someone who spends much of his time online reading about entertainment there’s a type of comment that I’ve seen crop up time and time again. It’s existence ties directly into a lot of the recent trends in comic books, television, and film, the push towards inclusivity and the people who are actively working to make that happen. A perfect example [of a handful I’ll be referencing throughout this article] is:

brandonallen

“disabled, multiracial trans women with disfiguring facial scars” – posted on “There are more (white) women starring in movies than ever before”

I’ve been compiling these for the past few months, originally with the intent of putting together another “For Your Consideration” and allowing readers to look them over and come to their own conclusions. A general [and accurate] takeaway would be to note them as being typical of inane online comments and move on, but I’d like to spend a little time breaking down the idiocy they represent.

They Perpetuate the Default

The default person, in case you needed to be informed of who generally holds the most power and screentime across the board, is a straight able-bodied cisgendered White man. I’m painfully aware that simply listing those words in successive order like that marks me as being one of the SJWs [my thoughts on that term here], but every one is important to take note of.

Take the following:

mikehuff

“black Asian gay lesbian transgender Spider-man” – posted on “Dear HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: May We Have a Word About ‘Cultural Appropriation’?”

To look at the list and mark it against the checklist of what makes a default human being, in the eyes of at least a few, we have:

  • straight  ≠ “gay lesbian”
  • cisgendered  ≠ “transgender”
  • White  ≠ “black Asian”

Other comments I’ll be including later on will add examples that include disabled people, but the general gist of every one capitalizes on the absurdity of a person who doesn’t match the standard cutout. A  straight able-bodied cisgendered White woman? Not a terrible strain of the imagination. Once you start to tick off more items that don’t coincide with the norm, however, things apparently get a lot shakier.

I don’t even think that many of these commenters are aware of the implicit message behind the words they type. By listing these adjectives and identifiers they end up with a person who most of them share absolutely nothing in common with, which exposes the very reason we need diversity at all. Everyone should be able to relate to entertainment, and for too long the industry has catered to an audience that gets smaller every day. Continue reading

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Culture War Correspondence: Minority Representation

EVAN: Gordon’s always been better at the fancy introductions, so I’m going to start by saying that this all began with this image-

See the rest of the image here.

– in which trans women [as well as a few others, I’m sure] tear Joss Whedon apart for answering a question about writing strong female leads with a joke. The problem being, of course, that the joke was trans-exclusionary.

This of course could be expanded into all jokes being trans-inclusionary, at which point Gordon had something to say about the number of trans men and women out there-

GORDON: Current estimates, for the US anyways, are holding at roughly 700,000, give or take, making up just about %0.3 of the population.

As Evan and I discussed in our first reaction to the outcry surrounding Whedon, this places people identifying as transgendered at somewhere above the number of folks hit by lightning and lower than the number of people born with more than five fingers on a hand.

Point being- it’s a very, very small group. Continue reading

Evan and Gordon Talk: Fat People

EVAN: Alright, ladies and gents, tonight Gordon and I are going to talk about a subject that may just help blot out the memory that was Man of Steel, and that is: fat people.

It was his suggestion, so I’m going to pass things off to him and get the ball rolling [no pun intended].

GORDON: More specifically, it’s the treatment we seem to offer the overweight in this country. I’m guessing you’ve seen at least one heftier person riding around the aisles of a grocery store in those little scooter things.

EVAN: Not so much here in Canada, but yes, they are indeed around. Again, no pun intended. Continue reading

Shame Day: Microaggressions

A few weeks ago I stumbled onto a website called The Microaggressions Project and then promptly forgot about it. Returning to it tonight I looked over the “About” page, which had the following paragraph at the top:

This project is a response to “it’s not a big deal” – “it” is a big deal. ”It” is in the everyday. ”It” is shoved in your face when you are least expecting it. ”It” happens when you expect it the most. ”It” is a reminder of your difference. ”It” enforces difference. ”It” can be painful. ”It” can be laughed off. ”It” can slide unnoticed by either the speaker, listener or both. ”It” can silence people. ”It” reminds us of the ways in which we and people like us continue to be excluded and oppressed. ”It” matters because these relate to a bigger “it”: a society where social difference has systematic consequences for the “others.”

A little later on they define what “microaggressions” are, a term that was originally coined to speak about racial experiences. From the essay “Racial microaggressions in everyday life: implications for clinical practice,” which appeared in American Psychologist, Vol. 62, No.4:

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

One example of this could be a White couple walking down the street and having a Black man pass by them on the sidewalk. The woman clutches her purse tighter against her body, the subconscious idea being, of course, that Black men are prone to crime and should not be trusted.

As an Asian-Canadian I’ve experienced microaggressions plenty of times. I’ve had someone ask me if I was half-White [I am clearly not] with their rationale being that my “English was very good.” It can be an everyday occurrence for non-White people [I deign to use the word minorities, since I do believe that balance is turning the other way], and begs the question: “Why is this such a big deal?”

Writer of the aforementioned article and author of Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation, Derald Wing Sue, PhD, has observed that microaggressions have actually been found to: “(a) assail the mental health of recipients, (b) create a hostile and invalidating work or campus climate, (c) perpetuate stereotype threat, (d) create physical health problems, (e) saturate the broader society with cues that signal devaluation of social group identities, (f) lower work productivity and problem solving abilities, and (g) be partially responsible for creating inequities in education, employment and health care.”

In other words, a Black or Latino man being stopped for a “random vehicle check” by police could be upset, and may even be accused of overreacting. Maybe they should simply be used to this and not let it bother them. The truth is that it makes them feel, even if only subconsciously, like second-class citizens. It’s true in a case as blatant as this one, and in an as subtle an action as hanging a Confederate flag or  having a Native American stereotype as a high school mascot.

To broaden this to the scope that The Microaggressions Project seeks to attain, microaggressions can include people saying to a person with Asperger’s, with no ill-intent whatsoever, “That you seem so normal!” It can be a 17-year-old girl being told by her gynecologist that just because she has access to birth control pills doesn’t mean she can just sleep around.

Microaggressions work in every direction. It’s like going to a Vietnamese restaurant and being given a fork and spoon instead of chopsticks because you’re White and not Asian. Microaggressions are built on assumptions and can make people painfully aware of who they are. They are rarely meant to offend, but often do. 

It truly is a shame that so much of the time we send out microaggressions without so much as a second thought, and then defend ourselves by deeming the offended to be “too sensitive.” While we won’t always be aware of how our words or actions can harm others, we can at the very least listen to the people being hurt, and in doing so try to lessen the presence of microaggressions in our society.