Ali Myers

@amglory | contributor
A college student with faulty collagen. She/her.
Ali Myers
Ali Myers @amglory
contributor

The Complexities of Reclaiming the Word 'Cripple'

Language is fascinating. We don’t realize it when we’re speaking, perhaps, but every vowel we shape and every consonant we form are, by unspoken agreement, imbued with meaning. We measure our progress from the very beginning of our lives by our first words and sentences and then later our ability for eloquence and elegance when getting into colleges and securing jobs. Simply put: words have power. Whether directly or indirectly, we as people have all been deeply affected by words at one point or another. It could be a stranger on Twitter calling us names, or a moving speech given by an inspiration of ours, or the more mundane—but no less important moments—in our lives: being told you are loved, or informing a friend how very much they mean to you. This is why the language we use in our lives matters, especially when discussing a subject like disability. Slurs are used against every marginalized group of people, and the process of reclaiming such derogatory terms is a concept that has been—and continues to be—explored by the communities. It’s a potential way to turn the tables against those seeking to harm them, and a compelling way indeed. The slur “cripple” is discussed at length in Joseph Shapiro’s chapter titled “Tiny Tims, Supercrips, and the End of Pity” from his book, “No Pity: People With Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement.” Shapiro’s text is over two decades old, however, which is why a more modern take on language usage in conjunction with disability—among other marginalized communities—was something I sought as a touchstone for today’s views on slurs. Gary Nunn’s “Power grab: reclaiming words can be such a bitch” talks about why reclaiming words is a worthwhile venture in the first place and lists quite a few examples of society having done so. These pieces were written in two different times in our history, about two decades apart, thus offering two differing perspectives on the reclamation of words for the disabled community and other marginalized groups. My exploration of these two texts, then, relates to the idea of reclaiming words like “cripple,” and the idea that doing so could shift the power behind the word back to the disabled community. In one section of “Tiny Tims, Supercrips, and the End of Pity,” Shapiro discusses the importance of language in the portrayal and perception of disabled people in our society. “Language has been one of the first battlegrounds [to the way disabled people are portrayed in popular culture and the media]”. It is a battleground, in my opinion, as there is a constant war for both disabled and non-disabled people when it comes to how to address a disabled person. Words have power since they have societal connotations that are both conscious and unconscious. Based on both my own personal experiences of being disabled and society’s demonstrations of what a disabled person is allowed to be, disabled people are reduced to stereotypes and treated as such. For example, a word like “cripple” might carry the underlying meaning of someone frail or disfigured, someone like Tiny Tim from “A Christmas Carol:” a young boy unable to fully live independently as he is disabled. Images are conjured of someone childlike and in need of fixing… a figure to be pitied and looked down upon. Tiny Tim is someone you don’t want to be or become, someone at the mercy of others. Language, as defined by non-disabled people toward disabled people, reduces disabled people into woeful figures in need of help, or a cure, or (worse) something to be feared and avoided. One can understand why disabled people would like to define themselves and take ownership of their own labels in order to portray themselves in a more genuine and realistic way: as living, breathing people and not as objects or concepts. One thing that Shapiro—who I’d like to note is a nondisabled man—does in his piece which is crucial to its value is his interviewing of disabled people to get their opinions of matters affecting them. One of the discussions about the reclamation of words was with Cheryl Wade, who is a fan of using the word “cripple” to describe herself. He explains, “Newly in vogue among some physically disabled people is the very word that is the ultimate in offensiveness to others: ‘cripple.’ ‘It’s like a raised gnarled fist,’ says Cheryl Wade, a Berkeley, California, performance artist, who likes ‘crippled’ because it is a blunt and accurate description of her body.” This quote shows the dichotomy of slurs as both a harmful weapon against disabled people, but also a shield or a tool that disabled people can pick up themselves and hold in their own defense or wield with power. In taking back and changing the use of a word such as “cripple,” the disabled community gains control of the narrative and the meaning of the word, which in turn gives the power of the word back to the disabled community. It takes the hurtful, demeaning connotation out of the term and instead forms a new definition or association that is empowering. So instead of an oppressive construct, “cripple” becomes a symbol of self-respect. However, this quote references the fact that some disabled people still find the word “cripple” extremely offensive. For some, this word is so deeply entrenched with derogatory connotations that it is filled with implications of disabled people being subhuman or useless. In the quote, Shapiro makes mention of the contrasting viewpoints held in the disability community about the interpretation of words such as “cripple.” However, it’s impossible to deny the imagery Cheryl Wade uses. To expand upon the metaphor of language being “one of the first battlegrounds,” Wade’s imagery of a fist—a weapon to fight with—is appropriate. The disabled community is fighting back against the imposed and unasked for non-disabled definition of the word “cripple.” The relevance of this is that whether one is disabled or not, it is critical to always be conscious of the fact that supposedly reclaimed words like “cripple” might still carry echoes of a time when the word would be thrown in a disabled person’s face as an insult. More importantly, this use of the word “cripple” is a self-definition: while Shapiro asserts that language is key to society’s image of disabled people, it’s the disabled people who have the power to reclaim words and the power to choose which words the community reclaims. The two opposing views of reclaimed words like “cripple” is further discussed in Nunn’s “Power grab” article: “That’s one of the problems with reclaiming concepts: not only do you have a set of people who don’t understand that the word has been reclaimed in the first place, so they continue to use it in the older negative way, but you can also have different understandings of what the reclaiming actually means.” This quote shows the reasons why some people in marginalized communities might not embrace the usage of demeaning terms. One of these reasons is ignorance, in that it’s not known when a word has been reclaimed; there is no ad taken out in newspapers or worldwide cell phone alert that notifies the whole disabled community that certain words are undergoing a rebrand. The other issue that people have with reclaimed words is there is no council meeting about the new singular definition of a word. Therefore, if reclaiming words is to be effective, there must be some general consensus or—at the very least—an element of forgiveness if someone doesn’t like how the word is being used. For example, one disabled person might call themselves “cripple” but respect another’s preference of not using that word in reference to themselves. Respectful discourse is the key to successfully reclaiming words. Reclamation of words is not a phenomenon unique to the disability community, which Nunn points out in his article. Other marginalized groups have done this, including women taking back the word “bitch” and using it as an affectionate label for friends, or the LGBTQ+ community reclaiming “queer” to use as an umbrella term to reference themselves. “‘Reclaiming words, when done effectively, is all about power,’ says Tony Thorne [curator of the Slang and New Language archive at King’s College London].” As a marginalized person, having control of one’s own narrative is empowering since it allows for the community they are a part of to move towards self-definition. For instance, women have traditionally been labeled “bitches” by men who were threatened by the assertive behavior of women speaking freely or acting independently. Those in power hoped to use the term “bitch” to muzzle or shame outspoken women. Another example is “queer,” which has been used against people that are or are perceived as gay as a negative term to label them as abnormal or Other. The use of language that was once employed to silence or dehumanize people is now being rectified by reclaiming words that were once harmful to the very communities they were used against. People of the LGBTQ+ community may use “queer” to talk about themselves and the spectrum of gender identity, with some members even shunning specific labels like gay or bisexual and instead only referring to themselves as “queer,” seeing it as a catch-all term for their sexuality. This shows that having control of one’s own narrative is empowering because a community can then, quite literally, define itself. However, Thorne’s assertion that the reclamation of words “is all about power” cannot, as he says, be “done effectively” if the marginalized community in question is not on the same page. In lieu of a group chat of every marginalized person getting everyone up to speed on new definitions and thus discontinuing the “use [of a reclaimed word] in the older negative way,” we have to recognize that not everyone will agree to the terms and conditions of reclaimed words… and that’s OK. A disabled person, for example, has to be comfortable with other disabled people not being comfortable with reclaimed words, but nevertheless hope we can either come to some consensus or, at the very least, agree to disagree. Unfortunately, it’s a conscious and constant effort to defy the previously prevalent definitions of words like “cripple,” “bitch,” or “queer.” The way “bitch” and “queer” have been reclaimed is that they have been built into our society’s vernacular and thus there doesn’t have to be much, if any, explanation as to why you just referred to your best friend as one of your “bitches.” As humans, we tend to take the path of least resistance when discussing difficult topics such as gender, race, sexuality, disability, and more, due in part to our discomfort with not being experts or having first-hand knowledge of these subjects. This tendency to revert to the status quo is called being a “cognitive miser” in the field of psychology. In other words, we don’t want to think too much; we want to have information handed to us, as this is easier and requires less effort on our part. This is why a quote from Paul Baker, a professor of English Language at Lancaster University, explains the public’s discomfort with reclaimed words so well: “Control language and you control the society.” If people don’t care to think too hard about their language, they will follow what has come before without too much questioning, perpetuating stereotypes. The idea then of being able to control society through linguistic means is not so much Orwellian, but instead is realistic in a society of cognitive misers. We don’t tend to think about word choice unless we are called out on it, whether by a culturally-forward friend or by an editor reading our essay. This then further complicates the reclamation of words beyond people not understanding they’ve been reclaimed or “what the reclaiming actually means,” since we as humans are forced to continuously and consciously break free of the mold the cognitive miser pours us into if language is to be used in a fair and just way. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of respectful discourse in the effort to reclaim words, something women and the LGBTQ+ community, it can be argued, have done with a great deal of success. In an ideal world, we would be both mindful of our word choices, but also not harshly punished for saying something wrong so that we could then be educated and guided toward a more comfortable dialogue for all. Alas, we don’t (yet) live in this open and equal utopia. We live in one that allows the Other-ing of people that are different from the perceived and valued norm of being individual and independent. Our society fears pain and fears the loss of control that is thought to come with disability. A way to linguistically combat this notion is through the reclamation of words. “In reclaiming ‘cripple,’ disabled people are taking the thing in their identity that scares the outside world the most and making it a cause to revel in with militant self-pride.” In using the term in an affirming way, marginalized people are saying “screw you” to those who only see disability as something to be feared; basically, if you’re only going to see me as one aspect of my identity—as only my disability—then I am going to sprinkle my disabled confetti all over your parade of nondisabled fear. Nunn’s piece brings a similar example of a term once used to ridicule women: “suffragette.” The modern usage of the word brings to mind women in petticoats, fighting for the right to vote in a time when the mere idea of such a thing was laughable. “Suffragette” has been so successfully rebranded that most don’t even know of its initial intention to be used as a derisive title; the power of the word was so completely shifted to the ladies of the movement that no one would even think to use it as a slur nowadays. The hope then for some in the disabled community is that a word like “cripple” can over time lose the negativity associated with it and become a term used with pride. Shapiro’s usage of the word “militant” when referring to self-pride has a potent undertone; perhaps, with enough work, the word “cripple” can become akin to a bullet in the gun on the battleground of disability rights, just like “suffragette.” It is my belief that reclaiming words such as “cripple” could be a step forward for the disabled community, just as “suffragette” was for the women’s rights movement. There is certainly a coalition behind the reclamation of “cripple” as seen in Cheryl Wade’s championing of the word in Shapiro’s piece, and the much more recent use of the word by disabled tweeters with hashtags like #CripTheVote, acknowledged on air by news anchor Jake Tapper in November of 2020. Likewise, there is another way of referring to disabled people that has been seen as the pinnacle of politically correct phrasing, officially called “people first” language. In his chapter, Shapiro believes—along with some of the disabled people he interviewed—“person with a disability” is the most acceptable way to refer to a disabled person. However, both I and others I know in the disability community hold the opinion that “people first” language works against disabled people. If, as Shapiro says, using “person with a disability … emphasizes the individual before the condition,” why do we have to state they are a person first? Must we remind the speaker that oh, yes, this “person with a disability” is, in fact, a person, and not, I don’t know, a plant or some other inanimate object with a disability? Shouldn’t it be a given that of course, a disabled person is indeed a person? Before, I drew comparisons between how marginalized communities such as women and LGBTQ+ people have successfully reclaimed words, so I would like to apply this “people first” language to them. Would saying “person with breasts” or “person who has sex with the same sex” be just as acceptable to both those within and outside of those communities? I’d argue no, as it seems to only allow the marginalized to be synonymous with one aspect of their identity, in a harmful and monolithic way. This is counterintuitive to the idea that reclaiming words allows a marginalized group to possess “militant self-pride” through the use of language. Both Nunn and I, as members of marginalized communities, would agree it’s better to use reclaimed or in-the-process-of-being-reclaimed words in all of their imperfect glory than to tiptoe around with language that requires a reminder of other people’s humanity: “Owning any insult that could be thrown at you will render the term null and void, your skin thick and hard and yourself empowered and lighter.” Those fighting for the disabled community to be seen more realistically recognize the power of language. Both Nunn and Shapiro understand the concept of reclaiming language as a possible few inches gained on the battleground of progress. Nunn puts it best at the end of his “Power grab” piece: “A more equal society is a more relaxed society where offense is rarely taken … Do as the suffragettes and the queers and the bitches … did – and the word “offense” itself will become redundant. We can but dream.” The intention of this essay was to explore the idea of whether power can indeed be shifted back to marginalized groups, but I am still unsure if there is an answer. If the reclamation of language makes those in the disabled community feel “empowered and lighter,” then that would seem to indicate that power has been shifted back, at least to those who are part of the consensus in reclaiming a particular word like “cripple.” But maybe reclaiming language is a concept that doesn’t have to be this or that-ed; there can be those who embrace the usage of the “gnarled fist” of  “cripple” with glee, while others should be allowed to disregard the term should they wish to do so. Representativity is also a trap we must be careful not to fall into. It may be slightly uncomfortable, but talking to disabled people about the way they want to be described is the most sensible and sensitive way to live. If you are a non-disabled person, recognize you are the one with the power in a given situation. Collectively, you have used language to shame or shun disabled people, so try to be less offended if you’re called out on how you talk about disability. Don’t let the cognitive miser in you prevent respectful discourse that can go a long way in ensuring disabled people feel comfortable around you. The original word that sparked the idea behind this essay—“cripple”—may never be something that will be acceptable (in my opinion, at least) to have a non-disabled person call a disabled person… but that’s OK. We should be mindful of the language we use when referring to others, particularly marginalized others, but so long as we try to be respectful and always open to discussion, that’s what matters. Reclaiming words is important to some and less so to others within a marginalized community, so I suppose it is both a venture that is effective in shifting the power back to those that have very little say and also a deeply personal and optional decision to make as an individual. On the battleground of disability rights, the reclamation of words is just one of many weapons to be used.

Ali Myers
Ali Myers @amglory
contributor

How Society's Obsession With 'Fixing' Disabilities Causes Harm

Being “normal” is a good thing. If you told this to anyone, be it a high school student applying to college, a worker vying for a promotion, or a Nobel Peace Prize winner accepting an award, you would probably be seen as odd, or maybe even laughed at. As a whole, individuals are told to excel in their lives in order to make them mean something. Society is the culprit of this, and if we look back on what society has dictated to us in the past, we can see that cultural expectations are fickle creatures — one would not, for example, go out in public today wearing a pink poodle skirt and expect to be seen as the height of fashion, since we, as a society, have decided that poodle skirts are no longer en vogue. But what happens, then, if the deviation from society’s norms is not a voluntary action, but is instead an unchangeable aspect of your identity? You can’t just change the color of your skin or the dis/ability of your body. If you live outside the “hegemony of normalcy,” as described in Lennard J. Davis’ piece “Constructing Normalcy: The Bell Curve, the Novel, and the Invention of the Disabled Body in the Nineteenth Century,” you will face both pressure and oppression from society to conform. Davis tackles the concept of societal norms, eugenics, and how the Other is treated in literature. While we would like to think of eugenics as something firmly in the past, many disabled people face a version of it as soon as they step out their front door. Disabled people are often confronted with the question of a “cure,” in a twisted form of modern eugenics. This concept is discussed in Wendy Lu’s article “Disabled People Don’t Need to Be Fixed — We Need a Cure for Ableism.” Lu, a disabled writer, delves into “cure-focused narratives” and why they are both harmful to the disabled community and a product of the systemic ableism we as a society have. In this essay, I wish to explore Davis’ concept of the “hegemony of normalcy” in relation to Lu’s discussion of society’s fixation on fixes for disability. Davis discusses norms and normalcy throughout his piece in the context of statistics and literature. It is the former that is being alluded to in this quote: “The concept of a norm … implies that the majority of the population must or should somehow be part of the norm.” Unless you can check off all of the imaginary boxes that dictate being “normal,” you will feel the consequences of being an outsider. It’s essential not to lose sight of the fact that norms are concepts: they are social constructions, established values put in place, and very often are exclusive and hard to attain. Norms are typically inherited from previous generations and are slow to change. They aren’t questioned by the majority who don’t suffer from being an Other and, in fact, many people don’t even consciously realize norms exist in order to be questioned. They are just accepted, part of the landscape of our culture. Let us think of the hegemony of normalcy as a spider web made up of many individual strands of norms: in order to appreciate the trap of the web, it must be looked at from a distance to see the entirety of the oppression those caught like flies within it endure. It’s easier to only see a single spun strand of normalcy instead of the extent of the vast web, the collection of norms we as a society have. This is the problem at the heart of tackling the hegemony of normalcy, since most people don’t even recognize it exists, which is why it is nearly impossible to form a coalition in order to dismantle it. Davis discusses statistics in his piece and how “with the concept of a norm comes the concept of deviations or extremes. When we think of bodies, in a society where the concept of the norm is operative, then people with disabilities will be thought of as deviants.” If we were talking about numbers, deviations wouldn’t be inherently negative. But the norm we are discussing is not that of a bell curve — it is being applied to human beings. In fact, the mathematical term “deviant” gains a sinister undertone when we apply it to humans: to deviate means to stray or to become wayward from the majority. Perhaps the word “normal” in and of itself doesn’t carry moral baggage, but when it’s used in contrast with “deviant” it can be seen in a wholly different and usually negative light. “Normal” becomes “right” and everything else becomes “wrong.” That idea is problematic to say the least. Why is it that the Other should change and not society itself? The answer to that question lies in the fact that the oppressors are the ones in charge. Davis talks about why it is that the majority is swayed to the side of this Orwellian notion, explaining that “an important consequence of the idea of the norm is that it divides the total population into standard and nonstandard subpopulations. The next step in conceiving of the population as norm and non-norm is for the state to attempt to norm the nonstandard.” This causes a vicious cycle, where the Other is seen as “deviant,” society tries to correct the Other, and then either the Other is normed or is unable to be. If the “deviant” is corrected, the cycle resets and continues ad infinitum to address the next substandard subpopulation. If the Other cannot be normed, they will suffer the consequences of nonconformity. For a disabled person, the consequences include constant questions about their disability, shaming the individual for having a disability, and limiting accessibility in their environment. Davis refers to “the state” as the ones in charge of the norming, with the implication of “nonstandard” people running around flaunting their “deviancy” as being an apocalyptic idea, leading to the fear of the disintegration of society itself. Davis’ piece lays out first the concept of a norm, then the creation of an Other, and, finally, society’s attempt to correct the Other. The pervasive yet invisible forces of the hegemony of normalcy try to eliminate the Other, leading to a hidden dystopian underbelly disguised as a utopian idea of a more beneficial society for all, because how could fixing something that’s broken be bad? Well, it becomes bad when that “something” is a person, and thus the proposed utopia becomes an idea that, in reality, is only better for the privileged norm. Turning to Lu’s article, she recognizes the problem with being the Other in this equation as well. When talking to Eli Clare, a disabled author, they discuss how people outside the norm are punished: “To be ‘normal’ is hard to define and impossible to catch, and it has so much power because disabled people are so often considered ‘abnormal’ and defective … Once a community of people is deemed defective, two things are most likely: Either they’re targets for disposal or targeted for cure.” Clare asserts that normalcy is unable to be pinned down, both in the sense of what it means and because of the fact that those who are not normal are endlessly chasing after the unattainable title. The word choice of “defective” is important to consider here, as it suggests the eugenicist idea that people who aren’t normal should be sent back to the factory for repairs. Like Clare says, the “defective” community, once they have been sent back to the metaphorical factory, will be removed from society — perhaps socially by their neighbors or, in worst cases, placed in institutions. If a community is “targeted for [a] cure,” there will be relentless societal pressure to take that cure. Clare’s insights into how the definition of normalcy perpetually remains on the tip of our tongues and the “my way or the highway” attitude taken up by the majority are similar to Davis’ ideas, despite the fact there is a 23-year gap between the two pieces. This shows the power and the potency of the hegemony of normalcy in our society. At the time Davis’ piece was written, the ADA was only five years old, so the expectation that attitudes towards disabled people would change was still reasonable and something to hope for because the legislation was so new. However, as we see in Lu’s more recent article, despite there being a vocal community of disabled activists, the idea of fixing the disabled population still gets floated with alarming frequency. We may be seen as equal in the eyes of the law, but the society we live in lags behind, or simply doesn’t share that point of view. In particular, the push for cures highlights the harmful effects of the hegemony of normalcy — and the shove to make everyone a part of it — upon the individual: “When cure functions as a type of social control or pressure to eradicate disability communities, it becomes the opposite of liberation. Especially for people whose disabilities don’t have cures, this mindset can make them feel trapped or inadequate.” Obviously, taking into account that cures for pandemic conditions are a good thing, what Lu is talking about here is the underlying eugenic belief that disabilities are inherently bad and should therefore be erased. It’s not free will if the choice has been made for you by society’s ideology. When cures are used as a means of controlling the disability community, that’s where the problem begins. There is never any consideration on the part of the non-disabled person as to whether a fix is wanted for a disabled individual, because the idea of not wanting to fit into the norm is unfathomable for most. There is also never any question about whether society is the thing that needs readjusting. Why should an entire group of people change to better fit the mold people are supposed to be poured into, rather than changing the shape of the mold itself? Alice Wong, the founder of the Disability Visibility Project, is cited in Lu’s piece when the phenomenon of cures is being discussed. “Cure-focused ableism, like other forms of discrimination, exists because society is structured to uphold people with privilege and deprive others of power.” The concept of “cure-focused ableism” as a particular kind of ableism is worth thinking about, as it is the most innocuous form, in addition to the fact that it is sometimes done with good intentions. For example, myself and many other disabled people are told to try supplements or do yoga, as if popping a vitamin or doing sun salutations would be a panacea! Able-bodied people are frequently uncomfortable around those who are disabled, which causes them to offer unsolicited and often ignorant advice. The discomfort on the part of the able-bodied person stems from the value society places on normalcy. While “cure-focused ableism” might not be noticeable or seem particularly insidious, it is still just as much of a dangerous form of discrimination as more blatantly prejudiced actions. Someone would likely be reprimanded for using a slur against a person using a wheelchair, but a comment about how that same disabled person has to try useless and unproven treatments for their condition would likely go unchecked. Both Davis and Lu’s pieces have overt mentions of the existence of norms and Others with an undertone of the consistent need by society to reinforce normalcy. The aspect of the majority ruling minorities is something that is abundantly clear in our society; so long as you are an Other, you will face oppression. Why, then, if the majority is such a powerful and immovable force, is there a need to constantly set and inflict norms upon society at large? In my opinion, this has to do with the fragile nature of normalcy, which may seem like an oxymoronic idea after I’ve spent this entire essay discussing the concept of the hegemony. Davis touches upon this, saying, “Normalcy must constantly be enforced in public venues, must always be creating and bolstering its image by processing, comparing, constructing, deconstructing images of normalcy and the abnormal.” His use of the words “comparing” and “deconstructing” are worth noting here, as this ties into Lu’s idea that an able-bodied person, upon coming across a disabled individual, has a knee-jerk reaction of offering up a cure. I spoke earlier about this reaction being a product of discomfort, but what able-bodied people don’t seem to realize is that just because an obviously disabled person dares to exist, this doesn’t mean they are asking for a fix for their current situation. Let us take the example of Stephen Hawking, whom upon his death was praised for all of the things he accomplished despite his disability, despite “being ‘confined to a wheelchair,’ even though wheelchairs allow many disabled users to be mobile, independent and active members of their communities.” The instance of Hawking’s disability being seen as a crutch — pun absolutely intended — to his intellectual work, despite his disability seeming to have no actual impact upon it, is just another example of the constructed idea of normalcy tripping over itself in order to explain why being disabled is still “deviant,” no matter how many awards and honors Hawking received in his lifetime. To put it simply: if one had gone up to Stephen Hawking and asked if he wanted to be fixed, there would likely have been confusion in the minds of the able-bodied. After all, a brilliant person such as the great Stephen Hawking isn’t broken! Yes, society may wrongly pity the man for the so-called “confinement” to his wheelchair, but that same wheelchair allowed him to continue working… and this is where the fragility of normalcy becomes apparent. Normalcy is inherently and undeniably fragile if it constantly has to be enforced. The fallacy of the hegemony of normalcy may be clearest in the so-called exceptions like Hawking (a person of note and renown) but this concept should then be applied to the rest of the disabled community. If only disabled people were given equal opportunities, how many more of us could be more active members of society? For most able-bodied people, the barriers that have been intentionally put into place by society are not easily recognized. An able-bodied person wouldn’t notice if there were no available accessible parking spots or elevators since they aren’t the target audience for such things. Able-bodied people, those that don’t deviate from society’s cookie-cutter body and capacity to function, don’t see the need for things that make society more accessible to disabled people as they don’t experience the oppression of the literal obstacles disabled people face, such as the inability to enter a building due to the lack of a wheelchair ramp. It doesn’t affect them, so they don’t notice it, and thus they don’t care about it. Disabled people being denied entry to one building would be problematic, but disabled people being denied entry into many buildings — literal paths of life — is systematic. While “normalcy has to protect itself by looking into the maw of disability and then recovering from that glance,” disabled people are just fighting for an accessible seat at the table. The “recovery” from gazing at disability comes when the hegemony of normalcy shields itself from the horror of deviancy by trying to shift the deviants into the norm through cures or fixes. However, since not all disabled people can or wish to be fixed, society places obstacles to prevent them from integrating into society in a fulfilling and equal way. The idea that adding a ramp or an elevator to a building is an insurmountable task is laughable in the current frame of mind that society has, with the general air of political correctness and performative inclusivity. But if we take a macroscopic perspective, the real task we should strive to accomplish is what Lu proposed: curing ableism, not curing disabled people. So, where does this leave us? We have this hegemony of normalcy that is only powerful because no one attempts to dismantle it. As a consequence, we have rampant ableism to perpetuate the norms that exist to protect those privileged enough to fit in and be “normal.” Just sounding the alarm Davis pulled all those years ago about the existence of this hegemony of normalcy doesn’t mean that everything is fixed, or even has the ability to ever truly be fixed to the point where it doesn’t harm people. But we can dream: “In a perfectly accessible world where all disabled people are fully included in society and treated equitably, the pressure to conform likely wouldn’t exist.” If there was some way to lessen the stranglehold of the hegemony of normalcy, I believe Lu is correct in thinking disabled people wouldn’t be seen as Other. Cures and fixes could be abandoned as ramps and elevators are constructed. Stares on the street and questions of “have you tried…?” would be replaced by acceptance and inclusivity as our thinking shifted away from the norms we inherited and perpetuated. If we can frame cures as the bettering of an already fulfilling life instead of the eugenic elimination of disabled people, that would be the ideal. When treatments like surgery or medicine become elective options instead of forced fixes, that is when the hegemony of normalcy no longer reigns supreme. Perhaps an ideological shift can happen in our lifetime; after all, the swift switch to online learning in the midst of this global pandemic shows us that we as a society have the capacity to accommodate and make the world more accessible. This change in thinking will come slowly and painfully, but it can happen for the disabled community, who remain the largest minority. But, until then… could you stop asking me if I’ve tried essential oils? Thanks.