It’s this big taboo. Disabled people are supposed to be suffering, all the time. We are not supposed to enjoy anything about being disabled. If we do enjoy anything about being disabled, then people consider us suspect. They may think we are faking, but if it’s obvious enough that we are not…
Once upon a time, back in the 1940s, when men didn’t wear shorts in public for any reason, at least in the northern, white, working class town my parents grew up in, my grandfather was a bit of a weirdo. He wore bermuda shorts in public, even when no one really knew where he got them. He wore stripes with plaids and polkadots and whatever else he could afford, but without a lot of sense for what other people thought of it. So he’s at a diner, and a woman leans over to her husband, and says “Do you see that man, George? He must be VERY wealthy. No one else would dare dress that way.”
My parents said it over and over when I was growing up, and I think now, gosh, what a weird lesson to drill into your child, but there it was, explicitly, word for word, not just in the subconscious lessons about class that I am still unpicking slowly, “if you’re poor, you’re crazy. If you’re rich, you’re eccentric.” So you better be rich if you’re going to be weird.
I’ve never really thought about this from this particular angle, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the difference between “shameful disability services” and “luxury goods” is often just money. I don’t think I am capable of mowing a lawn. I’m terrified of lawn mowers, going near one turned off is enough to make my hands clammy. The noise, even from inside a building, makes my heart race and my vision blur and I just.. I can’t. But because I can afford $35 every few weeks, it’s a luxury good that a nice father and son team come out and take care of my lawn. But I still wouldn’t be able to do it even if I couldn’t afford to pay someone to help me.
It’s totally normal, even idealized, to pay someone to wash your hair at a salon, but to have a carer do it because you can’t? Suddenly that’s shameful and weird.
If I have a child I cannot manage alone, I would be shamed for having the child in the first place, shamed for daring to be a weak or incompetent or inadequate mother, I might even have a child taken away or denied to me via the foster system. This is a completely rational fear, one lived every single day by disabled parents, parents or people who’d like to be parents who face sterilization. Particularly disabled and poor people of color. But if I am wealthy, I can hire a private nanny, or a private nurse if my child is disabled, and suddenly child care assistance becomes a luxury good. Even if it is exactly the same, done by exactly the same person, for exactly the same reason.
So yeah I am thinking a lot lately about how ableism intersects with classism. And how disgusting it is to have to cling to capitalism because the alternatives leave me without the resources I use to maintain good functionality.