Parsing Meryl’s Speech
“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart,” said Streep. “Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”
Although many with disabilities appreciated Streep’s heartfelt words, Rooted in Right’s Emily Ladau disagrees that having a disability means we’re powerless. “The outrage over the mocking stems from a perception of disability that is stigmatizing in and of itself: We’re a defenseless group, already leading pitiable lives. Never mind that Serge Kovaleski is a successful, established reporter.” If the media could move beyond denouncing superficial ableism and dig deeper into life-and-death disability issues, that might be something to celebrate, she explains in her article found on TheEstablishment.co, “I’m a Disabled Woman Who’s NOT Celebrating Meryl Streep’s Speech.”
It’s a smart piece, worth the read.
Excerpt: ‘My Life With Paralysis, It’s a Workout’
We, the disabled, encourage one another to demand that society accept us for who we are, and not change our routines to accommodate how the general public feels we should look. But I want to stay healthy, and I want to keep my body ready for the future. I believe strongly that everything should have been made accessible yesterday, but I also would choose an abled version of myself over my current self any day — it’s easier and more time-efficient to manage. Does spending so much time maintaining my body make me an inspiration, or a disability rights failure? Can I choose a lifestyle that won’t be judged?
Perhaps not. And so I’ve taken on a small but meaningful act of resistance, by changing the way I talk about the life I now lead. I’ve sought to explain my regimen to others as health maintenance, which is an accurate, although thoroughly unsexy, description. My FES cycle workouts and standing frame (a machine that is exactly what it sounds like) sessions keep my muscles and bone density intact, my circulation going, and my health at a level such that I am less likely to require hospitalization.
I don’t want to come off as angry, hopeless or inspirational, because my life may end up defined by one of those adjectives if I provide the slightest description of my day. But let me, just for now, take control of my story and tell you that I have a disability, and it takes time and effort to both maintain my health and live my life.
— Valerie Piro, www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/opinion/my-life-with-paralysis-its-a-workout.html