I was thinking about the Me, Too movement and how much competition has arisen from a statement that aims for collaboration. I ask myself, am I a “me too,” too?. It sounds cliché because it is. I don’t know if I have been sexually harassed. People say inappropriate thing to me all the time. When I was younger, I was asked “what happened to you?;” “what’s wrong with you;” “did your mother do drugs?;” “Are you angry with god?” I didn’t know how to take these comments, because I wasn’t sure how to respond to them…at first. I would just say “I was born this way,” in order to end the conversation quickly. And I was born this way. I am, by diagnosis, a quadruple amputee. This language suggests that I was mutilated on all four limps. But that’s not what happened. I don’t know “what happened,” because I don’t care. My body is asymmetrical and different from able-bodied people. In our society, that has often meant that I am damaged. But am I damaged? If you asked me this question, I would either think you weren’t worth my efforts to educated you, or maybe you are worth my time. What does that mean? It means……I don’t know. I get feelings about things. Some people seems to be interested without being derogatory and others seem not worth my time to compose an adequate response.
I have been told I am cute and sexy, all my life. Is this sexual harassment? Maybe. One of the main forms of sexual harassment against disabled people is being told we aren’t sexual. In mainstream culture, disabled people, men and women, are either oversexualized as novelty fucks, or de-sexualized. Is it the same for disabled men and women? Sometimes. It depends on what you consider “masculine” or “feminine.” These labels and identities are constructed and varied. I began to discuss the notions in my January, 18, 2017 blog, “For Emily Dickinson.”
“What happens with women, and what should a woman do?” I don’t know; what woman are you asking about? ALL women? That construction is outdated and ignorant. “Women” are not all the same, but, speaking from my personal experience with friends and family, who are mainly women, and many men (all of whom are disabled, non-disabled, of differing races and ethnicities, trans, queer, and alternative – anybody not considered “Normal”) benefit from collaboration. We like to talk to each other and learn from each other’s experiences. Sometimes ALL people can join together if they have a common goal. What is a common goal? It depends on who you ask. Is this still confusing? I can only illustrate with specific examples.
I am a congenitally physically disabled woman, a survivor of traumatic brain injury (TBI, which include all the assumptions about and diagnosis of TBI), an art historian, and a visual artist. For many disabled women, when we are sexualized, it is often to exploit and harm us. I personally have never been physically abused, but I have been psychologically abused. People have said outrageous things to me, throughout my life. I have been hit on and propositioned inappropriately, I have been told that I can’t do things and should accept help, and I have been told and asked questions that frame me as an overcomer, a freak of nature, a mistake, and an (often solitary) role model. The connotations of these names are as varied as one can imagine. Because of this, I have always been a defensive and careful who I expose myself to.
I see my identity like a collage. Sometimes I feel that it is worth my time to educate others. Sometimes I don’t want to waste my time. Sometimes I get angry (I get mad!) at people who ask me about my body my mind/brain, and my personal history, as if it were their business and their right to know. And sometimes, I need more time to let the name calling crystalize. I need to think about who is saying what to me and how I feel about that person. “That’s a long process!” you might say, and it is! Sometimes I perseverate other things, but this action helps me to speak and write with more confidence and in the most colorful and cogent words possible. I also paint, draw, and make collages, and these practices let me express myself in ways that I choose. I often ask others what they think of my work, and sometimes I feel it will never be good enough, but the more I do these things, the better I become. I would never try to speak for all people who have attempted to unite under the “Me, Too” movement, yet my specific embodied experiences may resonate with a multiplicity of readers.