Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Doing the Disability Drag (Get Your Cripface on!)

Oh, yeah, this is an official BAD CRIPPLE blog entry. Bad Cripple says, "Only you can stop kicking wheelchair wheels during movie viewing. They did not let me in for free because I brought my own chair, asshole!"


A blond, blazer-ed PatientC trying to look casual for a wheelchair picture.
NOT PICTURED: CRIP DRAG.


Recently, after I mentioned a crip face issue on Facebook, a friend asked me to point her towards resources on the topic. I am usually happy to do that for anyone interested in a social justice topic, especially folks I know (given the usual: spoons available, respectful request, all that sort of thing). I was only able to point her towards an article on the fantastic but defunct FWD. Most of the resources I had compiled way back when are all gone. So come with me and we will make a new one here.

Disability drag/crip face/cripface/crip drag all describe the same thing: the act of behaving as if one has a disability that one, in fact, does not have. Usually this is done by TAB (temporarily able bodied) person, but it can be done by anyone. A person with a disability cannot cripface their own disability, but can cripface one that is not theirs. It is not usually considered cripface to temporarily take on the qualities of a disability that one has had in the past, as they are pulling from their own lived experiences and not demeaning someone else's life experience.

Crip drag is always a display of privilege and is always ableist/disableist

ProTip: if you are not yourself disabled, you should stay away from using the word cripple (and that word family). Stick with disability.

Cripface is part of a long tradition of people with institutional & social power, with privilege, appropriating the experiences and lives of those without it. It is on the same field as yellow face, black face, poverty drag and other tasteless and hurtful impersonations of the very social structures that cause these inequities. I make no moral equivalencies here, I leave the Oppression Olympics to other folks! I am only pointing out a general category of people pretending to experience the problems and therefore somehow the lives of other people. 

This has come up recently in discussions about The Fault in Our Stars, a really good movie and an even better book. I think that both are worth the time. And I can enjoy an entertainment product while also understanding that it has a cripface issue. Hell, House, MD helped me through a rough patch in my life when I was newly dealing with using a cane as part of a bigger package of suck that came from a misdiagnosed infarction. Except it was my life and House was crip drag. Frequently patient characters were, too. Yet I was a big fan for years. The new Ironsides was totally cripface no matter how awesome Blair Underwood is in everything he does. I estimate that about 90% of disability I see on major media is fake. Oh, shout outs to Game of Thrones and CSI - you know why you rock.

Yes, it is disability drag when committed by a major motion picture the same as it is one of those empathy stunts. You know the empathy stunt (my phrase, but I would love it to be common use): where someone wears a blindfold for a week or uses a wheelchair for a month and learns valuable lessons. Usually done in service of a good cause, but almost always a bad idea.

Because crip face is still so commonly practiced and accepted, we are mostly just forced to deal with it or never dig anything. I have a lot more to say about the politics and power around cripface, about how you respond to the subject says more about you than about the problem, all kinds of things. There is so little out there, and I want to help fix that. Discussing this is part of the solution to it. Looking at these systems that benefit from disability drag should be something we all do together. Dismantling this problem should not be the sole responsibility of the people victimized by it. 

Avoiding using accurate terminology because you like something or give the creators a pass for being good people is part of the problem. Bad Cripple says, "Stop it. Stop it right now." 

I am in the middle of a medium evil classic lupus flare with some bonus avoidance activation, but I decided to write anyway. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I hope you are free from suffering and the root of all suffering.