Check Your Ableism…

It’s one of my guilty pleasures.  Along with quality chocolate and a glass of Mascato most evenings, I love watching Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday nights.  I don’t know if I can explain the appeal for me exactly, but there was something in the early days about wondering if Meredith and Derek’s relationship was going to be a “happily ever after” thing and how much of an ass Alex was going to be before he finally redeemed himself that got me hooked.  I think I have seen every episode since the show first aired twelve years ago, and that has continued even when I made the decision to give up cable.  Call it dedication.  Or addiction.  Whichever works.

One of the things I have always liked about the show is its social commentary.  I can identify with some of the story lines when patients have chronic illnesses and some of the feelings associated with their various challenges. But I enjoy the other social commentary as well.  So I wasn’t disappointed in the episode a few weeks ago that included this intriguing scene.

I am not saying in any way, shape or form that I can identify with “Check your white privilege,” but I do know what it is like to be judged because of a circumstance in my life that is out of my control, and people making unfair assumptions because of what they think that circumstance means for me.  I can relate to the feeling that “it is like a low buzz” and it never really goes away.

But instead of the phrase “white privilege,” in my life, I would challenge some people to check their “ableism.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines “ableism” as is a form of discrimination or social prejudice against people with disabilities.”  Sadly, I have experienced it before.

Although I have mentioned this experience before in other blog posts, I will never forget the time a few years ago when I went out to lunch with a caregiver and her boyfriend.  When we entered the restaurant, the hostess looked at me and immediately asked my caregiver “Do you need a children’s menu for her?”

I was stunned but recovered enough to say “No thanks, I am pretty hungry, the adult portions that you usually serve will be just fine.”

There was a handyman that came to my house a few years ago.  When I showed him what needed to be fixed, he told me that he couldn’t do anything until we checked with the landlord.  He was genuinely surprised when I told him I owned my home.

Then there was the time at the doctor’s office where I went for a female exam  several years back.  I was having a sonogram done on my abdomen, which happened to be filled with fluid. In an effort to determine the cause, the technician looked at me and said: “Are you actually capable of having sex?” Seriously, that is a direct quote.  I was offended because she could have gotten the information she needed if she asked me the same question that I am sure she asked other women many times every day, simply, “Are you sexually active?”

There was also the time the insurance salesman came over one evening to see if I needed any changes in my policy.  After commenting how much he liked my house he looked at me and said: “given that you don’t get out much, it’s good that your house has a lot of windows.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that most people are not trying to be intentionally cruel.  I am aware, in most cases rather, that they are simply blissfully ignorant.  I just gets tiresome  when people make the assumption that my inability to walk from place to place like they do must automatically mean that I can’t do many other things. The “low buzz” wears on me sometimes.

I don’t think anybody who makes assumptions like these is evil incarnate.  For the people who take the time to know me well, this isn’t an issue.  And hopefully, after anyone has a conversation with me for a few minutes, it won’t be an issue for long.

I just have a request of the public at large.

The next time you want to make an assumption about my abilities or lack of them, notice it.  Check your “ableism”: and don’t do it again.

 

 

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This entry was posted in Ableism, communicating respect, compassion, disability etiquette, Get To Know Me, Grey's Anatomy, negative perceptions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Check Your Ableism…

  1. With my dwarfism, can I ever relate! A friend, upon learning I played the hammer dulcimer, asked: “How can you reach all the strings with short arms?”

    A musician, who also happened to be a doctor, upon learning I played Irish whistle, asked: “How can you play with your fingers being so short?”

    Not “congratulations” or “hey, I’d like to hear you play”. Just assume I can’t, why don’t you?

    That old saying about “assume” is all wrong. When you assume, you make an “ass” out of “u” AND “u” alone.

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