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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When Smug Entitlement Makes me SICK.

I've loved nearly all the TED Talks I've ever watched. Not just liked, but really loved. But I've just watched one which was so misguided, so downright offensive, that I am fuming with rage.

Julia Query is a writer and psychotherapist with a disabled son. She talks about "Being In A Club Nobody Wants To Join" and having watched it, frankly, I don't want her to join it. Anecdote after anecdote about how horrifically prejudiced against disabled people she *used to be*, damaging oversharing to serve the purpose of taking her to an end point where she can be smug and self-congratulatory about how she is now less hateful. Woo.

This wouldn't be a story, never mind a chapter of her future book, if she had not held such appalling views in the first place. She talks about them unapologetically, as if they are somehow natural or understandable, and didn't she do well to overcome them?

Well no.

She is too proud of herself when relating each level of her disgust at disability. Too proud of each harmful attitude she has encompassed. Yes, she might be less disgusted now, but that just means she's where she should have been in the first place. It doesn't mean she should write books and give big talks about how well she's doing because she doesn't hate disabled people any more.

I mentioned that this story is part of her future book. Well, the title she has chosen for this chapter: "If you haven't partied with retards, you haven't partied". I think that says it all.

Julia, you still have a long, long way to go before you can join any club that I'm in. If nothing else, at least have a good read of Spread the Word to End the R-Word. And that's only the very, very, very beginning.

You can watch the talk below, but to be frank, I wouldn't bother.


Miss Shuganah said...

I have a severely disabled daughter. People tell me things like, "You're such a great mom," or "I couldn't do what you do." As if I were doing something heroic. She is my child, and I am trying to give her what she needs. These same people are bitterly disappointed when I turn out to be human.

I am also appalled by people who insist that children and adults with disabilities are somehow extra wonderful. My daughter can be pretty funny, but she can also be pretty damned insufferable. I am dealing with a person not some saint. People feel sorry for her. She doesn't feel sorry for herself. I think people mistake pity for compassion. I am not sure how to shift that perspective, but when I hear someone express that kind of feeling I want to shout, "stop it!"

Something deeply wrong with TED when they let a woman like this speak. Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back, dearie.

Jessica said...

Thanks for posting this. For privileged people in certain circles, I think it can be tempting to use our ally status to draw attention to ourselves, even if that's just another manifestation of the entitlement we're trying to confront. Although it's important to celebrate our progress, once ego becomes involved it switches from intrinsic to extrinsic motivation and hampers what you're trying to do. It sounds like this is the trap she fell into. The title of that chapter is just disgusting.

Also, great point Miss Shuganah about confusing pity with compassion. All people want to be recognized and accepted as complex individuals, and I think them putting you on a pedestal simply for loving your daughter (though of course inherently wonderful) is a way of distancing themselves from the same. Like saying "oh, yes, that's just for the martyrs".