Sunday Update: July 6, 2014

Redefining Disability1

 

There’s no ROW 80 check-in this week. The new around begins tomorrow, but I have some update-y things to cover, and I didn’t do one last week.

Redefining Disability2

Redefining Disability

I made a new intro post for the expanded Redefining Disability Project, since the original intro was specifically for the blog series. If you’re new to my blog, and you’re interested in representation for people with disabilities, please check out that post.

On the Blog/in My Social Media Feeds

I discovered this week that WordPress only lets me reblog a post once. I’d been planning to periodically reblog that one. Looking for a work-around if anyone else has ideas.

Sharing the intro post on Facebook this week led to a cool discussion about the definition of disability, and I’m thinking about revisiting that topic when I open the series in September. I talked about language and definitions before, but I feel like this needs to be a topic we talk about more than once. Almost every post I’ve seen and even some of the comments here address this issue or demonstrate the need for further discussion just by virtue of how often I see phrases like “the disabled” “the handicapped” and “wheelchair bound.” I read some discussion about metaphorical representation this week too, around the issue of whether or not “made up” or “magical” disabilities count as representation. That’s worth discussing here, because I don’t want to assume that everyone shares my opinion about this.

There’s also this post from yesterday about stereotypes and idealizing people with disabilities. I’d like to revisit that topic in a more thought-out post and see if we can generate some discussion around fears about acquiring a disability or social conventions that contribute tho this kind of idealized characterization.

So, I think that I may start with those two topics in September and see what kind of discussion develops. I think they would both be good as groundwork for practical writing examples and tips. So, I’m looking at doing those posts in September and then starting writing related topics in October, unless folks are really enthusiastic about getting those writing tips out as soon as I can manage it.

On Other Sites

I have three guest posts finished. One for Signal Positive, one for Readful Things, and one for Wording Well. They need to be formatted and have html added for links and such. Then they should all be off to their respective host bloggers sometime later this week.

Fiction

I have first drafts finished for three of the four stories I said I would write for Redefining Disability. I’m having trouble with the fourth one because the story ideas I come up with work, but they don’t end up being very helpful comes to examples of presenting or introducin anyhitng.


 

Disney/Children’s Media

I took an unplanned break from this in June and I started watching a couple of adult shows, and I’ve recently found out that the ABC show Switched At Birth has a Deaf main character. I think I’m going to let the children’s media break continue and check these out for Redefining Disability.

ROW80 and Redefining Disability For Writers

Redefining Disability2

Redefining Disability2Okay, this post is going to do double duty as my ROW 80 check in for the last three weeks, a follow up to yesterday’s Redefining Disability discussion, and some general things I’ve been meaning to take care of on the site. Wait. That’s like… Quintuple duty. Or something. Anyway.

Row 80

My goals for round two have been to maintain a running to-do list and spend an hour each night working through the items on it. I haven’t made the check in for the last few weeks because I’ve been extremely industrious and busy making progress on my goals.  (Yay!)

 

This is after I spent several weeks being sick, so I was also playing catch-up, but I’m excited to say that all the items on my current to do list have been scratched out. The goal for next week is to come up with a new to do list. Given that the round is almost over, that one will probably run into round three.

 

This next part is relevant to writing, so any ROW80 folks who are interested in topics like diversity and minority representation, you might want to keep reading.

 

Redefining Disability A Recap and General Update

 

Back in February, I made a post that analyzed the Disney Princesses as a cultural and historical phenomenon. I looked at them in their historical contexts, as fairytale adaptations, and as innovations and benchmarks in the world of animation.

 

That led to a discussion about media representation for people with disabilities and led me to start a blog series that examined concepts related to disability awareness and the Independenet Living movement.

 

I looked at various characters who are or could be iconic representational figures for people with disabilities, and I used them to frame the concepts I was trying to explain.

 

My goal was to help able-bodied readers understand critical concepts in disability awareness and help facilitate productive discussion. Disability rights and Independent Living haven’t made much social progress since the 1990s. I see varying degrees of social progress for other minority groups, but civil rights for people with disabilities has stalled big time. I think the biggest reason for that is that dialogue between the disability community and able-bodied folks gets snarled up.  The other reason is that there is almost no consistent, positive representation for people with disabilities in the media.

 

So, we’ve talked a lot about concepts and about how things might be different. I’ve covered everything I wanted to talk about in terms of concept, but I don’t want the discussion to end there. Yesterday, I opened the floor and ask for feedback about other things we can do for the series.

One of the things that came up was the idea of hosting discussions specifically for story creators about things they can do to better integrate characters with disabilities in their work. We talked about

 

  • private chats,
  • blog example posts,
  •  a place that creators can ask for feedback on their works in progress,
  • and we had some discussion about what kinds of topics that writers were concerned about.

 

 

The biggest thing that came up was concern about how to introduce or talk about a disability in a way that was not “stereotypical” or offensive.

 

As an author who also has a disability, that’s an eye-opener for me. The first thing that comes to my mind is “plot clichés, lack of integration, and storylines that are entirely consumed by the disability or don’t address it at all.”  If able-bodied writers are stuck at “how do I introduce this character/concept…?” no wonder there’s a lack of representation.

 

So, I’m going to throw this out there.  If you’re a writer (or story creator in any media format) interested in diversity and representation for people with disabilities, follow this blog.

If you know others who’d be interested, please share.  If you have specific questions, topics you’d like to ask about, or anything else, leave a comment on this post.

 

I’ll put some posts together on handling disability in storytelling and start with introducing charcters once I know what else people need to see.  I’ll put a topic list together.Gene’O and I are going to be (banging) our heads together, but we need this to be an interactive discussion in order for it to help anybody.

If you’re a person with a disability (whether you create stories or not) and you want to see better media representation, follow the blog and check out Redefining Disability (Especially yesterday’s topic.)

 

If you’re a parent (grandparent), teacher, youth leader, or medical professional working with young folks who have disabilities, I want to hear your thoughts as well.  Follow the blog.

 

I’m on Facebook, twitter, and tumblr.  You can follow me there as well.

I’ll be using my Sunday check-ins to post updates on Redefining Disability for Writers, but there will be other stuff once we have a more concrete plan.

 

 

This is for anyone I interact with regularly, but may of interest to new followers if we get a discussion group going.

 

For the rest of the summer, this is when I’ll be on WordPress/available to chat or help out with anything (especially related to social media.) I check my email and may be able to answer comments at other times, but this is what you can expect.

 

Mondays: 5 — 8 PM

Tuesdays: 4 — 8 PM

Wednesdays: 7 — 9 PM

Thursdays: 4 — 8 PM

Fridays: 6 — 10 PM

Saturdays: Usually get on around 12PM.  Intermittantly on from then to midnight.

Sundays: 2 — 8 PM.

 

*If we’re involved in something, or I know you well, you can probably expect  a reply from me within 20 minutes all day long.  If you need a quick reply, these are the best times to get me.

 

My Life and the Evolving Internet: Musings of a Thirtysomething

mhY3004
English: Forums and Minerals, the new Internet...
English: Forums and Minerals, the new Internet tools Español: Foros de Minerales, las nuevas herramientas de Internet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Please note, I wrote most of this post in Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and it always capitalizes “Internet.”

Yesterday, I got into an interesting discussion with my friend Hannah. We were talking about classifying websites, the changing Internet, and differences in generational perceptions about it. I realized that I am in a pretty (weird) unique position.

  • I’m in my late 30s.
  • My generation was in high school when the Internet as we know it was born.
  • I am a geek, and I have actually taught basic computer and Internet skills to people in four different generations.

Because I was in high school when the Internet was born, I’m part of a generation that embraced computers and Internet technology, is reasonably competent and familiar with them, but has clear memories of a world before the Internet. I was also old enough and aware enough that I can comment on the ways that the Internet has changed, the way using the Internet is different now than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and the way in which my generation and the one preceding it perceive the Internet differently than the two generations who have now grown up with the Internet as part of their daily experience.

Continue reading My Life and the Evolving Internet: Musings of a Thirtysomething

The Princess, the Fat Lady, and the Follow Up Post #1

Disney-Princess-Kida-disney-princess-30168400-2560-1117

Disney-Princess-Kida-disney-princess-30168400-2560-1117Yesterday’s post on the Disney princesses generated some interesting and thoughtful discussions and comments. Here are some highlights.

From a Facebook commenter:

“…now I’m a skinny white woman. And being a skinny person can be the other side of the coin. I was picked on in school for being short and skinny, “Hey bag of bones” or “don’t turn sideways we won’t see you” and many more things.”

I was hoping that someone would be able to speak to this issue. Being skinny or short can make someone the target of bullies just as much as being overweight (or too tall.) We shouldn’t ignore that and assume that thin people have it easy.
Another friend of mine, a petite white girl, tells a story about spending several years in a community where most of the girls her age were black and had physically bigger body types. My friend was picked on for being small and for being white.
I think any kind of trait that makes someone stand out can become a target for bullies. I have several female friends who were targeted (mostly by other girls) because they had started developing breasts sooner than the majority of the female classmates.

I’m not trying to diminish or minimize the experiences of black people or members of other racial minorities. The problem of racism is far more widespread and damaging than I can speak to in one small post. It’s probably more than I can ever speak to. What I’m getting at is that the problem of emphasizing physical appearance over inner qualities is more complex than just “there are too many thin white people in the media.”

The popularity of the Disney princesses and the attention that they get (both positive and negative) makes them an easy example for me to point to. I think the problem a lot of people see with the Disney princesses is not just that they’re skinny but that they have idealized figures.

I talked about the historical and literary reasons for that in yesterday’s post. It is changing and I hope it will continue to.

From my friend Hannah, a point I hadn’t considered:

Having movies about women was kind of a big deal, and these women AREN’T just sex objects. Being interested in marriage doesn’t mean the princesses are there for titillation, especially since marriage would be a good tactical decision during these time periods…

One or both of us will probably blog more on this particular point in the future.

And there’s also this, from a comment thread between Hannah and I:

Just as a point of clarity, women in old comics actually do catch a lot of heat for being stupid and man-obsessed and whatnot. I do think maybe comic book people address their criticism to the era more than the specific women, which is valid. I kind of wish we talked about it more, because in many ways/in many comics, it’s still just as bad. (Again this is often a problem with plots, or clearly a specific writer’s misogynistic view, rather than the actual characters not being good.) Comic book portrayals make me more uncomfortable because it really is a “sex object” issue, not just one of representation….I don’t think “the general public” is saying anything at all about women in 1930s comics, and little kids certainly aren’t reading them. The general public says a LOT about the trashy portrayals of women in modern comics, not least because people still think comics are for kids, much like Disney movies are supposed to be for kids. Like you say, it’s different because these are the actual same Disney movies made in the 30s.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff there, from women’s issues, media presentations, to a personal favorite of mine, which is attitudes toward “children’s” entertainment, and if you’re interested you should read the whole thread. I realize I should probably blog about some of that too. Hannah’s a comic book fan and I’m not, so I trust her perception. I may have been at least partly mistaken in what I posted yesterday.
The main point for me was that in general I think that if I handed a bunch of random people comic books from the 1930s, most of those people would laugh at the way the women acted and say “well, it was the 30s after all.” The film Snow White deserves to be given that same grace.

I spent several hours last night and today having a multi-venue discussion about lack of progress in the Disabilities Rights Movement since the ADA was passed in the 1990s.

Things we touched on included:

  • How that can be at least partially traced back to the distinct lack of media representation of people with disabilities.
  • Political/social convolution of Disability Rights with issues connected to the elderly.
  • Confusion for able-bodied people because of the huge scope and varied nature of the people who identify as having disabilities.
  • Confusion and fear about asking questions because no one wants to take the chance of using the wrong word or getting too personal and offending the person with the disability.
  • The number of people with very different kinds of disabilities who ALL want to see a Disney Princess or other television or movie character (who is NOT A SUPERHERO) they identify with and why that’s important.
  • Very real and valid concerns about having Disney somehow accidentally end up with a “special” class of princess to encompass various different people’s experiences with disability and why that’s a problem.

In the spirit of transparency, I’m a little bit leery about tackling the disability stuff on this blog. I try really hard to make the blog diverse and something that doesn’t focus so much on my having a disability that I become pigeonholed as a “Disabled Writer” or some kind of activist. I hung up my activist hat after college, and I would prefer not to pick it up again.

At the same time, I don’t see anyone else really talking a lot about these issues in fandom, and I feel like they need to be included in the discussion.

What do you guys think? Is there enough interest in the topics related to disability and representation in the media for me to include the stuff here? Would you rather that I found another outlet for those kinds of discussions and only post links here?

And finally, a number of people have suggested that I take the time to watch some of the newer Disney movies and the show Once upon a Time as part of an ongoing analysis of the princesses and the evolution of Disney characters in general. I’m willing to do that, but I need to find a way to have access to the films that doesn’t cost me any money. The only option I have right now is to stream them from Netflix or something like that. I don’t have access to my own DVDs or even my television. (I’ve been living out of one room in my home for over a year because of renovations in my building.) If anyone has some suggestions on this, I’m open to it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Food For Thought–“We’re All Veterans Today…”

question-mark-112390_640

I’m following an interesting discussion on Facebook. Doctor Maya Angelou is one of my biggest influences. I’m not sure whether to categorize her as a writing influence or personal one. She posted a status this morning that read:

“We are all veterans today. There is not one of us who can say we didn’t have a father, a brother, a cousin, an aunt, a sister, a friend… who served or serves in the military. Veterans represent us and when necessary fight for us, let us represent and fight for each other.”

I responded by saying thank you because I think it is important for everyone to be willing to serve their country in the best way that they’re able to do. I don’t know whether I would have used the word “veteran” in this situation, but the word can and does have valid meaning outside of a military context. Doctor Angelou is a poet using poetic language to give her point more immediacy and emotional impact. She’s trying to draw the reader’s attention and illustrate a commonality that she sees between the sacrifices that military service members make and the sacrifices that their friends and families make while waiting in fear for them during wartime and missing them whenever they’re gone.

Continue reading Food For Thought–“We’re All Veterans Today…”