Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
Some time ago (within the last year), when one of my dear friends registered a social media account under a handle that involved an ableist slur ("t*rd" to be more specific), I felt uncomfortable but didn't bring it up. What I didn't realize was that this is a handle she's taking on as she pursues a career in the gaming industry, and since then she's registered a few internet accounts under this name (some promotional social media accounts and a blog, as well as accounts on websites relevant to her industry).
After what Rousso describes as a childhood full of ups and downs and other children asking why she was "crippled," Rousso grew up to pursue higher education despite what some saw as barriers—her disability and her gender. She earned a degree from Brandeis University in economics in 1968, which landed her a job in Washington D.C. in the Office of Economic Opportunity and also exposed her to the women's rights movement. It was while living in D.C. that Rousso became involved in feminist activism. Rousso said in an interview that when she started working in feminist issues, she realized that "this self-loathing about my body and about my womanhood is not just a disability issue, it is a women's issue." Her first taste of activism fueled her to go on to get two masters degrees, one in education from Boston University and the second in social work from New York University. She had hoped to study psychotherapy but was rejected from a program because of her disability. Instead of being discouraged, this action further inspired her life work at the intersection of disability and women's rights.
I have this personal theory that I'd like people to consider: Spending 30 minutes trying to eat in a pitch-black room doesn't really tell you much about being blind. It just tells you how difficult it is to eat a meal in the dark.
This seems to be a pretty controversial thing to say, since "disability simulations" like the one the Washington Post wrote about are seen as a "good" way for the able-bodied to learn about the "challenges" that people with disabilities face every day. The theory seems to be that able-bodied folks (like me!) can learn what it's like to be blind by being blindfolded and led around for a couple of hours, what it's like to be deaf by having earplugs for the afternoon, and what it's like to be a full-time wheelchair user by using a wheelchair for three hours a day for a week.
Strangely enough, spending a couple of hours in an unfamiliar situation is pretty darn difficult!