Thursday, March 20, 2014

Intersections of Gender Expectations and Ableism:

This is an article I wrote for my school's Feminist Club's Intersectionality Zine. It is meant to be a comprehensive overview. This means that I tried to cover as much topics as possible in a coherent, one page essay. It is lacking important information and analysis. Again, overview of a broad topic. I have just copied and pasted it. 

(Note: this was written by a Neurodivergent cis-male.) Ableism is the systemic discrimination in jobs, environments, and lack of equivalent access; harassment; desexualizing and/or fetishizing; and devaluing the lives of Disabled people over the able-bodied/neurotypical.  Gender expectation is the varied expectations of action/expression by gender, which is often enforced coercively. Gender expectations are perceived and enforced differently in different intersections. According to patriarchal expectations, men are supposed to be strong, decisive, in control, and never admit sadness nor feel emotion to any extreme. Ableism portrays Disabled people as inherently weak, unworthy, as having no autonomy over their lives, and unable to fulfill the obligations of a “functional” human. These two notions are then wholly incompatible for Disabled men.  (For Disabled women, these ideas lead to the notion of incompetence and to this day, their children are taken away from them by the state. Historically, it has lead to state-instituted sterilization.) If a man is chronically depressed, for example, then he cannot meet a basic expectation of his gender—be the “reasonable one,” devoid of emotion. He has become feminized to a society that artificially through patriarchy decides women are lesser. No wonder the adult suicide rate is highest among males assigned at birth (the suicide rate is highest among Trans women the second is cis-males but for different reasons.) If a man is Disabled, it is imperative to society that he “overcome” it to be “manly.” This requires him to forgo any accommodations, supports, or any help whatsoever with navigating a world built exclusively for the able bodied and neurotypical—suffering is “manly.”  This somewhat accounts for the discrepancy between male and female rates of diagnoses for “mental illness.” Females, because they are treated as incompetent and irrational already by society are not second guessed by (mostly abled cis-male) psychologists as to whether they “could” be depressed or have an eating disorder. Often times, female presenting people are ascribed these disorders for being “non-complaint” or for just being female. Still, males are the ones primarily studied for the diagnostic tool put out by the American Psychological association—the DSM—so females are often mis/under-diagnosed by psychologists.
In addition, the false idea of losing masculinity has often been defined as “mental illness” as a way to police the behaviors and identities of Gay, Bisexual, Trans and other Queer people with “homosexuality” and “gender-identity-disorder” (GID) in the DSM. (GID was removed in 2011; homosexuality was removed in 1973.)
The idea is that mental deviancies should be shameful, and therefore discouraged, so defining a break in gender expectations as “mental illness” is perfect for patriarchy. The societal fear of women losing “femininity” has been described historically as “hysteria.”
Female presenting people are often infantilized for their Disabilities. It is much easier for them to be treated this way as it is a part of their gender expectation—passive objects. Since Disabled people are also not regarded as having a good quality of life (or even deserving of life)—rape culture is heightened for Disabled communities. And even if the abuse is recognized as rape, rape culture is even stronger for a different reason in Disabled communities because when you can call a rape victim “crazy” the jury will have an easier time believing in the myth of a benevolent care-giver. Disabled females are often fetishized and abused by society. Disabled females have one of the highest rates of victimization due to prolific sexual assault in group homes, institutions (that people are often coerced into), and in greater society. In fact, Disabled cis-women are 2X more likely to be a victim of abuse than abled cis-women. Infantilization also takes the form of erasing the sexualities of Disabled women with the presumption of being non-sexual or heterosexual. In LGBTQ communities, Disabled people are often ignored.
In addition, race/racism is very important in the Disabled communities because the “unsightly” or “odd” behaviors of a white Disabled person might be overlooked by aggressive police, but for a Disabled Person of Color (PoC), it could be a sign of “suspicious activity.” Of the many Disabled people coerced into institutions and prisons, most are also marginalized as PoC.
If feminism is to be a movement for women, then Disabled women must be included. This means addressing Disability which includes males who are themselves oppressed by an able-normative patriarchy. In short, in order to break rigid gender norms, feminism cannot overlook the important intersection of it and ableism which oppresses cis-women, cis-men, and Trans people alike. (Note: though this article talks of oppression of Disabled cis-males, it’s a Feminist issue because males are only ever oppressed by other males in the patriarchy.)

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