The thesis of this paper is to examine feminist disability studies and their place in the current feminist theory. To do that, the author discusses several literary sources collected, and how they retrieve, reimagine, and rethink feminist disability. While acknowledging the issues and communities related to the broader concept of ‘disability’, feminist disability studies tend to examine how certain people get excluded from the equality of social order. Breaking the barriers that exist for women with disabilities is another important goal of feminist disability studies. The stance and tone of the paper are critical and passionate.
One of the terms that I was unfamiliar with before I read this paper is disability identity. This term refers to a personal sense of self as a person having some disability. The author claims that, although the experience of disability is “almost universal, disability identity goes unclaimed by and undescribed to accomplished people” (Garland-Thomson 1561). Apart from its main meaning, this term also encompasses a person’s sense of belonging to a certain community of people with a similar disability. Understanding the concept of the disability identity is essential to be able to design necessary services, communities, and support mechanisms, and to promote positive identity development (Garland-Thomson 1585). Therefore, it is an integral part of the field of feminist disability studies.
According to Garland-Thomson, the field of feminist disability studies argues that disability is “a cultural interpretation of human variation rather than an inherent inferiority, a pathology to cure, or an undesirable trait to eliminate” (1557). I find this quote interesting because I think that it represents the goal and the message of feminist disability studies in a very accurate way.
This chapter discusses the environment and environmental activism concerning disability studies. The main thesis is that the work of environmental scholars could bring many benefits to the field of disability studies. The author discusses the deployment of disability in the most popular discourses and uncovers the ideas of able-bodiedness and able-mindedness in works and papers on nature. One of the main points the author makes in this chapter is that people’s ideas and assumptions about the words “nature” or “environment” tend to be self-evident and based on specific histories and experiences. The author encourages the readers to question these experiences and assumptions when discussed in connection to able-bodiedness and able-mindedness. The stance and the tone of the paper seem critical but objective.
One of the terms I was unfamiliar with before reading this chapter is “ecofeminism”. Ecofeminism, or ecological feminism, is a movement and a political philosophy within feminism that focuses on different ways in which women and nature are connected. An important part of the movement is examining the oppression of women and nature in a patriarchal society. Thus, ecofeminism acknowledges that patriarchy is the source of gender domination and environmental domination (Mallory 12). Kafer, in turn, discusses the essay “Ecofeminism and the Politics of Reality” by Linda Vance, where she writes about her development as an ecofeminist. To understand nature and wilderness, people need to have personal experiences of it (Kafer 135).
“This is not a supercrip story of triumphing over disability, and it’s not an ableist story of bodies without limitation. It’s a story of recognizing ourselves in the world around us, recognizing common structures of bone, flesh, oxygen, and air.” This is one of the quotes from this chapter that I find very interesting. Kafer uses it when he discusses the painting by Riva Lehrer. I like it because it expresses the way I believe bodies should be perceived: through recognizing and accepting.
This study aims to explore the limitations that older Americans face in terms of quality of life. Although there has been a considerable decline in functional disabilities among older people in the last three decades, the study argues that Black people are still at a disadvantage compared to non-Hispanic Whites. Fuller-Thomson et al. have found that differences in income and education are the main factors that contribute to high disability rates both for men and women in the USA. Thus, the study suggests that differences in socioeconomic status explain higher disability risks among older Black Americans. The stance and tone of the paper are objective and neutral.
One of the concepts I did not know about before reading this article is income relative to poverty-threshold percentage, or the IRPP. This is one of the measures of socioeconomic status (SES) used in the study (Levy 56). It is a measure of household income as a percentage of the poverty threshold for households of a similar size and composition (Fuller-Thomson, et al. 681). According to the author, the IRPP can show a person’s financial situation accurately.
“Our finding that approximately 90% of the Black-White differences in the rates of both functional and ADL limitations among men aged 55 to 64 and that 75% of this differential among women of this age group are explained by education and poverty level provides new evidence of the powerful role of SES in explaining racial disparities in disability” (Fuller-Thomson, et al. 687). I find this quote interesting because it explains the important connection between the limitations that older Black Americans face and their socioeconomic status (Assari, et al. 51). Understanding the cause of these challenges can allow policymakers and activists to develop strategies to solve these problems.
This text is an introduction to “Disability, Identity, and Representation”, a book by Rosemary Garland-Thompson. In this introduction, the author explains the main purpose of her book. This is examining how bodies are represented in modern society, as well as in literature, and how these representations can add certain meanings to the concept of bodies. The author also discusses disability in connection to other ideas about bodies. The book aims to challenge the stereotypical assumptions people have about “able-bodiedness” and ‘disability” as opposing concepts. The stance and tone of this text are critical and passionate.
One of the terms I was not quite familiar with before I read this text is “a degree of visibility” (Garland-Thompson 14). I did understand what Garland-Thompson means by that, and I think this concept is extremely important in the discussion of disability, as well as the limitations and challenges that disabled people face. Thus, the author examines how the fact a person’s disability is visible or not affects their life and status in society. In addition, the functionality and visibility of one’s disability affect the way other people perceive them (Kim and Sellmaier 498).
“Having been acculturated similarly to everyone else, disabled people also often avoid and stereotype one another in attempting to normalize their own social identities” (Garland-Thompson 15). This is one of the quotes from this reading that I find interesting. I have never thought about this aspect of disabled people’s lives. However, I think it is one of the main challenges they face, as this fear and avoidance can stop them from communicating with other people, and lead to insecurities and more fears.
Assari, Shervin, et al. “Income and Self-Rated Mental Health: Diminished Returns for High Income Black Americans.” Behavioral Sciences, vol. 8, no. 5, 2018, p. 50.
Fuller-Thomson, Esme, et al. “Black—White Disparities in Disability Among Older Americans.” Journal of Aging and Health, vol. 21, no. 5, 2009, pp. 677-698.
Garland-Thompson, Rosemary. “Disability, Identity, and Representation: An Introduction.” Extraordinary Bodies, 1997, pp. 1-18.
Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “Feminist Disability Studies.” The University of Chicago Press, vol. 30, no. 2, 2005, pp. 1557-1587.
Kafer, Alison. Feminist, Queer, Crip. Indiana UP, 2013.
Kim, JaeRan, and Claudia Sellmaier. “Making Disability Visible in Social Work Education.” Journal of Social Work Education, vol. 56, no. 3, 2019, pp. 496-507.
Levy, Helen. “Income, Poverty, and Material Hardship Among Older Americans.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, p. 55.
Mallory, Chaone. “What’s in a Name? In Defense of Ecofeminism (Not Ecological Feminisms, Feminist Ecology, or Gender and the Environment): Or “Why Ecofeminism Need Not Be Ecofeminine—But So What If It Is?”.” Ethics and the Environment, vol. 23, no. 2, 2018, p. 11.