Transcontinental Disability Choir: Disability: The Human Condition
As a kid I had pretty much free reign over what I read, but what I didn't find readily available was someone who gave a crap about what I thought or how a certain book made me feel. This was probably why book reports were some of my favorite assignments (maybe it's why I blog now!). I had a captive audience for validating my thoughts and feelings on whatever I had just read.
I want my Kid to have the same freedom with reading material, and I want to be able to have meaningful discussion with her about the themes and characters and feelings...and anything else that may pop up as she journeys through literature. As a result of this, and probably as a bit of a guilty pleasure, I probably read more Young Adult literature than is advisable.
I guess it was inevitable that this wildly popular so-called vampire love story series that you may have heard of hit my Mommy Radar. It's being toted as this incredibly romantic, never before have young hearts felt anything so incredibly real love story. If someday my Kid decides this is something she would like to read there will be plenty to discuss, like how stalking doesn't equal love, and how if he has to dismantle your car to keep you from your friends maybe he isn't the one to bring home to the fam (and helllooooo, heterocentricism!). Or maybe the way the author seems to view Native Americans as savage, and brown people as dark and unpleasant to behold.
What does this outrageously popular if not possibly anti-feminist anthem have to do with disability? The main protagonist's human condition is practically summed up as a handicap throughout a majority of the series. Her never-fail-to-almost-kill-herself-by-just-walking-down-the-stairs clumsiness is painted as terminal, requiring her to be carried or shoved everywhere (so I guess accessibility isn't an issue, huh?). She can't be left alone lest she try to open a package and get a paper cut (oops, she totally does that!) and must be watched over by a supernatural man at all times. The only part worth salvaging is her womb. She must be kept calm and uninformed constantly otherwise she will become hysterical!, and she breaks her own wrist trying to defend herself when she is sexually assaulted, so she obviously can't take care of herself.
Let's not kid ourselves. Humanity is a disability, clumsiness is a placeholder for that disability and all that is bad with being human, and vampirism as that magical cure, the sure fire fix for all things disabling. It's like The Secret with fangs. It's not good enough to have flaws. To be weak or fragile or vulnerable is a mistake in the genetic coding that must be eradicated. Weed out the imperfections, just like using genetic testing. Why would anyone want to be less than perfect when you can have all of your flaws erased and breath that smells like Mars bars (even though you spend most of your time abstaining from your life source and otherwise hungry)? Why live with a difference when you can be perfect, and pure and whole and strong (and white)? To live as less than perfect must be miserable. Every vampire in the "good" vamp clan was "born" not of perfect humans with no flaws or illnesses, but those on the brink of death ... yanked from the edge of pain, disfigurement, disability or death by being once bitten (and twice shy! Sorry. *Heh-hem*).
It never seems to occur to anyone, let alone the author of this tripe, that part of being human is the gamut of possibility and range of conditions. That there is no "default". Normal is a social construct that the world was built around and if you fall somewhere outside of it, well too bad for you, I guess, is what we are supposed to take away from this. I certainly hope you have a werewolf to keep you warm in the snowstorm or a vampire to bite you in case you find yourself somehow damaged or impaired, or if your pregnancy goes awry. At least that way no one has to worry about how you are going to survive in a real world that is hostile to real people.
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Sarah Richardson (not verified)