... issues and tissues with a touch of the spicy from the spirit hag ...
Published on November 29, 2004 By mignuna In Misc

 

I used to work with a fellow who had a younger sister with cerebral palsy. He often spoke with pride of her high intelligence and academic achievements, and also of her occasionally mischievous nature.

 

I remember one occasion when he told me, with some excitement, that she had been chosen to be interviewed by a journalist from a major magazine on behalf of the students at her university.

 

The day of the interview came, and he waited for her phone call to be collected from the magazines' office. When it came, it was from a thoroughly disappointed and mildly enraged young woman who had just been subjected to the press’s idea of ‘political correctness’ for the first time.

 

His sister explained that the interview had begun smoothly enough, despite her intimidation at the groomed-to-within-an-inch-of-her-life 30-something female journalist facing her. The first few questions had involved the university newspaper, and were relevant and well thought out.

 

However, when it came time to discuss the on-campus requirements particular to students with physical or intellectual disabilities, things quickly turned pear-shaped.

 

Apparently, the journalist was so addicted to political correctness that, despite the entire point of the question being to discuss aspects of  her subjects’ unique needs, she descended into ‘PC speak’ that utterly alienated the younger woman by avoiding the facts of her disability.

 

When the journalist referred to her interviewees’ disability as “your condition”, and to the disabled students (as a group) as “the otherly abled”, the girl pointed out that the correct term for her was ‘a spastic’.

 

The woman was shocked, and said “I beg your pardon ?”, so she repeated her statement: "I am a spastic, ok ?. It’s not an insult”. The journalist then went silent, and this silence was quickly filled by the young womans’ careful explanation.

 

She explained that the word ‘spastic’ has a medical meaning, despite its being so stigmatised that she was thinking of having a t-shirt made that said ‘spastic is not a dirty word’ to make it plain that political correctness was making us all sugar-coat everything or else be thought callous (even those it was designed to protect).

 

I learned a big lesson that day, and I continue to learn them from another dear friend who, at 26, has been wheelchair-bound by spina bifida for 20 years.

 

The way he looks at it, if people don’t get the chance to look at you and see who you are, rather than which way you’re ‘arranged’, then they’re likely to make the mistake of assuming that you’re as uncomfortable about it as they are.

 

The (Australian charity) ‘The Spastic Centre’ has long fought the mild ridicule that prejudice has attached to its name. We’d all be much better off if their name inspired visions of hope and joy, as opposed to the image of a ‘spastic’ as a soulless drooling moron, and the term ‘spastic’ being regarded as a ‘forbidden’ slur.

 

Then, rather than more sniggers and misconceptions, they may have more funding to do their vital work, as unattractive connotations rarely attract the ‘glamorous’ funding of  media ‘pet issues’.

 

The myth of the ‘stupid spastic’ is one that deserves to be shattered by young and confident people with the nerve to be what, as well as who, they are, just as this young woman did.

 

Kudos to you, little sister. You’re one of lifes’ trailblazers.

 

 

"
Comments
on Nov 29, 2004
Spastic of not, someone has guts telling off the interviewer like that
on Nov 30, 2004
My mother worked for years as a volunteer at the Spastic Centre in Killarney Heights, here in Sydney. As young teenagers, my siblings and I attended a number of Christmas party/family open days at the Centre. To say these kids are special is an understatement but to say they are disadvantaged because they are 'spastic' is ignorance at its worst. Some of the happiest, funniest and sweetest moments of my young life were spent with these kids who never once exhibited any shame or discomfort with their disabilities.

Sometimes I wonder who the disabled really are...

Excellent piece, Mignuna

Cheers,

Maso
on Nov 30, 2004
Great article mignuna. I had no idea about the term spastic. I have never heard it used in any way other than derrogatory.

Wish I could have seen that reporter's face.

I volunteered for the Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children as a candy striper when I was in High School. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Unfortunately, I think they changed the name to just the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children because of some PC nonsense.

Sometimes I wonder who the disabled really are...


on Dec 01, 2004

danny, i agree. she certainly has guts

dynamaso, thankyou so much for your insightful comment !. yours is the type of voice these young people need more of

thankyou, heather. for reading and for sharing your experiences. and yes, i'd have loved to have seen her face too !

mig XXX

on Dec 02, 2004
When I was in my late 20's, I tried to volunteer my services once at a school for severley disabled kids, but my offer was greeted with suspicion and contempt by the staff, because they suspected I might be some sort of pervert. I was absolutely devasted. They didn't even give me an interview. If they'd taken the time to talk to me, they would have learnt about my handicapped Uncle Michael and my time with the kids at the Spastic Centre.
Make no mistake, I understand why they were suspicious. There are too many evil, sick minds out there and the teachers were only looking after the kid's interests. But to prejudge me like this without knowing me is something I still have a hard time talking about. Sorry for the hijacking, but I really needed to get this out.

Thanks for this opportunity, Mig. Again, a great post

Cheers,

Maso
on Dec 02, 2004
Excellent post Mignuna. Just wanted to say so.
on Dec 02, 2004
Remarkable, the intelligence of those we have labeled disabled, when in fact we are the ones who are disabled.
on Dec 02, 2004
Kudos to you too, for a thoughtful (insightful even) and timely post.

The way he looks at it, if people don’t get the chance to look at you and see who you are, rather than which way you’re ‘arranged’, then they’re likely to make the mistake of assuming that you’re as uncomfortable about it as they are.


I like this direct, no-nonsense approach to dealing with others. The problem is that we're so encouraged to be PC that it sometimes adds this additional layer of stuff we have to weed through in order to reach the point of real communication. One thing I've learned recently, though, is that it's better to err on the side of caution.
on Dec 05, 2004

But to prejudge me like this without knowing me is something I still have a hard time talking about. Sorry for the hijacking, but I really needed to get this out.


no apology necessary, maso . thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, i'm very glad to have your input. i agree that it's a shame that some sick individuals have made it difficult for genuine folks such as yourself to offer help. it's the way of the world these days, and it's a sad, sad thing.


bluedev, thankyou so much for your comment, i appreciate it


evorg, i agree. thankyou for your insight and welcome to my blog


hamster 311, your ability to actually add something to the blogs you comment on is so welcome. 'political correctness' is another one of my 'bugbears', and combining the two is near impossible !


mig XXX

on Dec 05, 2004
Thanks very much, Mig. You're too kind

Cheers,

Maso
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