Ragged Edge Online



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Sexism, handicappism

By Patrick William Connally

Patrick William Connally is with Disability Rights, Enforcement, Education, Services.


In the late 1960s, one of the researchers on community living compared the status of people with disabilities to the status of women. Women were not, for the most part, considered equal. The work, ideas, and contributions of women and people with disabilities were both de-valued. Both needed to be protected and chaperoned. Any women or persons with disabilities who succeed outside the programs and perimeters were considered exceptional.

We still run our system for people with disabilities with values that were once used for women.

Suppose there was a government committee to make life better for women and it was run like committees all across the United States are for the disability community: The women's committee would have many more men than women on it -- because men understand women; they live with and support women. Men are better at coping with women's issue because they deal with them daily. Men run the service system for women so they can have better information. Most of the men would be employed by the service system.

Women's ideas and criticisms of women's services can be dismissed because they are wishful thinking based on gender envy, not the wisdom of good men with resources and experience. Women should be grateful -- and if they are not, the problem is of their own making. After all, the programs are there to help them. The men say the programs work: they did not work, the men say, would government fund them?

Men would run women's services, because women do not have the professional experience to run them. Really, women are much happier protected in segregated or women's programs doing piecework or singing songs. A few exceptional women may enter the workforce, but if you hire them for management, most will not have what it takes, so it is better not to even get into that. Besides, if women entered the workplace, business and government would have to pay for installing women's restrooms and other accommodations. Women employees would take time from male employees who would have to open doors; a woman's presence on the job would cause male coworkers' minds to wander. Women who protest the setup are just bitter and angry.


I, as a person with a disability, I have been subjected to this kind of thinking -- as were millions of women in the 1950s. This attitude went unchallenged until women loudly protested. The disability community should not tolerate handicappism -- just as brave and wonderful women did not tolerate sexism.

A couple of years ago I went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting. It is customary at these meetings to have a social hour, during which people hand out business cards and meet other business people in the area. I was handing out cards and talking, too. I talked to one businessperson who told me how wonderful it was that the disability program had let me out to come to the meeting.

Thanks to Patrick Wm. Connally for allowing reproduction of this article. For more, visit www.dizbiz.com


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