Comedian Rebel Wilson presented a BAFTA award this year. She commented that she’s not invited to the Oscars because ‘they’re racist’, evoking images of a certain white singer who claimed to be black to make money. Next she said, ‘I’ve been practicing my transgender face [in the hope of winning awards]’. (See the Guardian for details and a link to YouTube.)
Many ‘socially aware’ people claimed to be outraged but I’m calling it: Rebel Wilson totally nailed it with her ‘transgender face’ comment. I’m not talking about Caitlin Jenner — all strength to her — I’m talking about people who make spurious claims to get attention and win awards. I’m talking about those so-called feminists, those so-called ‘anti-harassment’ people who aren’t above taking down minorities when they perceive those minorities to be their competition.
People who claim to have a disability to get recognition, sympathy and positions piss me off. People have claimed ‘I have a disability — I suffer from depression’. Perhaps they don’t live up to their aspiration of being ‘sufficiently happy’ but, with stellar professional careers and a jet-setting lifestyle, there’s no evidence of a disability affecting their lifestyle, no evidence of disability discrimination holding them down under that glass floor reserved to keep the disabled down.
Sometimes these people claim a free pass on abusing others (‘But I was depressed, it’s not my fault I sent you abusive, threatening emails. You have to forgive and forget’).
Sometimes these people secure added status and increased career opportunities by, for example, working on projects that are supposed to be limited to those with genuine disabilities.
The idea behind projects limited to those with genuine disabilities isn’t to give middle class people with professional careers and a jet-setting lifestyle added status and career opportunities.
The idea behind these projects is to give people with actual disabilities increased opportunities as a form of minor compensation for barriers to participation caused by lack of access and disability discrimination.
This discrimination affects every part of people with disabilities’ (PWD’s) lives, careers and entertainment opportunities. Having our opportunities to be represented by our own tribe usurped by people whose careers, lifestyle and entertainment opportunities are NOT detrimentally impacted by genuine disabilities is an abuse that reinforces the status quo.
So I’m calling it.
WHO IS WEARING DISABILITY FACE?
And who is claiming to be an ally but is inventing possible reasons (‘they might…’ ‘it’s plausible that…’) to justify disability discrimination at Lunacon, New York’s science fiction convention?
Who believes, as some have said, ‘It’s good that they’re being honest [about lack of disability access]‘?
Who is offended by people with disabilities advocating for change?
Who has criticized people with disabilities for asking for disability access?
When I asked, no one seeking to excuse or justify lack of disability access said they’re directly affected by the lack of disability access. Several admitted to not being disabled but claimed to be there to help — while making excuses for Lunacon.
That’s not quite ‘disability face’ but it’s damn close.
This post was written by Nalini Haynes who has a Master of Social Science and other disability advocacy training, experience of disability, experience working with people with disabilities and in the disability community.
Nalini Haynes BA; Grad Dip SS; MSS; Assoc Deg PWE.