Bailey Merriman’s Class Summary for 9/23/21

The class began, as it does somewhat frequently, with a reward quiz. Once we had finished with that, Dr Foss went over the readings we would be discussing during the class, which consisted of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s piece “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory”, Snyder and Mitchell’s introduction, and Jillian Weise’s “Nondisabled Demands”. Although the class talked about a multitude of different things, a majority of the class discussion was about the intersectionality between disabled communities and other oppressed groups, as well as the tokenization of those with disabilities.

The first reading we discussed was Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory”. Dr. Foss had the class split into four small groups, with each group being assigned a section of the article, these being Activism, Representation, the Body, and Identity. While discussing the piece, each group wrote down their thoughts and questions they had before passing their sheet to allow for another group to discuss that section. Many of the conversations were about how many of the things feminism is fighting against are also affecting disabled people in similar ways. For example, throughout history women’s bodies and minds have been “culturally disabled”, and have been seen as incompetent and weak, which was compared to the ways disabled people are often seen by society in similar ways. The ways both women and people with disabilities are often forced by societal expectations to put their appearance over their health was also discussed, with the example of women wearing corsets or binding their feet and disabled people being expected to undergo painful surgeries or therapy, was also a topic that was brought up.

After reforming as a full class, we started our discussion with Snyder and Mitchell’s introduction “Cultural Locations of Disability”. Dr Foss began this dialogue by bringing up their controversial take that the Holocaust was not very shocking, and was instead the logical outcome of a society that needs perfection and hygenics. He brought up their idea that a society’s need for perfection and normalization puts all bodies at risk, but especially disabled ones. The class then began discussing the problems with the medical model and the social model of disability. The class agreed that one of the main problems with the medical model was that it pathologized disabled people, while the biggest problem with the social model was that it identified disability with only it’s negative encounters, and victimized those who are disabled. We then compared these two models with the cultural model that Snyder and Mitchell present. The cultural model seemed to be the best model presented, as it sees disabled people as entire people, instead of just victims of oppression, as well as acknowledging disability as both “human variation encountering environmental obstacles and socially mediated difference that lends group identity and phenomenological perspective” (10).

The final reading the class discussed was Jillian Weise’s poem “Nondisabled Demands”. After the poem was read to the class, the first point raised was about the last stanza “If you refuse to answer then we call/your doctor. Then we get to say/You’re an inspiration”. We discussed how often disabled people are pulled into the public eye and then labeled as inspiring or brave solely because they are living with a disability, and how doing this allows society to ignore the oppression the people they are calling inspirations have to face. The idea that many people view all disabled people as the same, and that if one person is comfortable talking about their disability then everyone else is as well was also discussed. This led into a conversation about tokenization, and how people from oppressed communities are forced to become representatives for everyone else in that group, regardless of whether or not they consented to doing so.

“I pledge”- Bailey Merriman

One thought on “Bailey Merriman’s Class Summary for 9/23/21”

  1. Bailey I liked that you brought up the point that the world believes that all people with disabilities are the same. Often there is a “chosen” one that people use as their poster child to represent everyone that is in a specific group. People cannot wrap their minds around that everyone has their own experiences and ways of how they deal with things. Great summary!

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