memes that demean
August 13, 2014 12:00 PM   Subscribe

"Having influential figures like George Takei publishing a meme that reinforces disabled=fake is incredibly damaging to disabled people."
There's this huge misconception that if you can stand up for even a second, you must be faking your impairment. For that matter; you get called a "faker" if you can move your legs at all... But - despite needing a wheelchair for anything more than a couple of steps - I can stand up to reach something from a supermarket shelf. The person being mocked in that meme could so easily have been me. It's sheer luck that it wasn't...

My friend David was one of the disabled people that posted in reply to Takei on Facebook. He explained in his comment "I've been physically assaulted for walking while disabled, I'm well into double figures with verbal abuse, usually claiming I'm faking my disability for welfare fraud. And that's pretty much a typical experience for all my disabled friends...

...I'm hoping that Takei didn't mean harm when he first shared that picture. I'm hoping that he shared it out of ignorance. Perhaps he genuinely thought that all wheelchair users are completely unable to stand up. Perhaps he didn't realise just how much harassment disabled people face for trying to do such a simple thing as going to the supermarket.

Where he really screwed up was in his refusal to back down when countless people commented on the post explaining how offensive it was. Plenty of people shared their experiences of being on the receiving end of disablist bullying; a fire Takei was liberally pouring fuel onto. His reaction wasn't to learn from what people were saying, it was to tell the victims of harassment to "take it down - a notch". I wonder if he'd say the same thing to gay people telling him about their experiences of homophobic bullying for having the audacity to be true to themselves in the supermarket?
Slate - How “miracle” jokes and inspiration porn demean disabled people
Worse than the individual posts of thoughtless able-bodied celebrities, though, are the attitudes that turn images that demean the disabled into memes. The “miracle” meme would not have been shared tens of thousands of times after George Takei posted it on Facebook unless there were tens of thousands of people who felt they recognised in it a comic truth about disabled people so profound they were compelled to share it with everyone they know online.

...Social media exerts pressure on users to create or share posts that are immediately eye-catching and different, and to present them with the wittiest captions they can compose. Many of us who are disabled will always be eye-catching and different. And perhaps that is why we are increasingly mocked in memes. Other Internet memes do not mock people with disabilities but instead subject us to a peculiar kind of veneration. They are known as “inspiration porn,” and many disabled people, including the activist Stella Young, who gave a TED talk on the subject, strongly object to them for the stereotypes they strengthen.

...inspiration porn suggests that disabled people only exist to inspire the able-bodied, just as memes that mock us suggest we only exist for their amusement... We are either inspirational angels, whose purpose is to set your first world problems in context and give you a boost of the kind once found in “Hang in there, Baby” kitten posters, or we are freaks and frauds to be mocked and exposed for crimes we are not committing. The truth is we are neither. We are just people.

When we go about our lives, whether that involves stepping out of our wheelchairs to buy a bottle of alcohol or going to the gym to do pull-ups, no one needs to take a photograph and put it on Facebook. The sight of disabled people simply being disabled is not a joke. It is not a miracle. And it does not need to be made into a meme.
That Crazy Crippled Chick - This Is What Disability Binarism Looks Like:
"I exist on the grey area of disability, the part where things are neither black nor white. I am neither wholly visibly disabled, nor wholly invisibly disabled. I walk on my own, and yet, I use a wheelchair. More people are with me in the grey area than you think. Not everything is black and white. And that is the core of disability binarism - the concept that things are all or nothing - you are either low-functioning or high functioning. You're either "wheelchair bound" or you can walk. You're either totally deaf, or you hear fine."

Stella Young - We're not here for your inspiration (previously on MeFi)

Disability & Representation - category: inspiration porn
(scroll down to see the "Normal People Inspire Me" series of meme-flipping)

New Statesman - Social media means the voices of the disabled can no longer be ignored by those in power
“Disabled people have taken social media and made it into their own medium, where they can have a voice on equal terms with their non-disabled counterparts, something not often afforded by society as a whole,” says Ellen Clifford, 37, of the campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

The freedom and ease of a computer or a mobile has reached people disabled not only by their health or lack of mobility, but also by low income and geographic location, and by a society built for the non-disabled. A protest in central London is not easy when the tube network doesn’t fit wheelchairs or a health condition makes getting out of bed - let alone being out for hours - exhausting...

Among the high profile impact of the campaigns like Spartacus and No Go Britain sits the daily myth-busting of tweets to strangers, blogging with new friends, or exasperating conversations with commenters ‘below the line’ of articles on disability benefit cuts... Disabled people’s exclusion from society is such that, too often, they’re even excluded from the traditional means to protest what is being done to them. Tweeting, Facebook, below-the-line comments, or blogging, has given many a new way."

(front page link via ClaudiaCenter)
posted by flex (137 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, until i saw that response from him i was about to go "great, another colbert incident". That facebook page used to be mostly managed by an intern(interns?), and some shitty things have been posted in the past.

But if he wants to own it and double down on being an ass about it? Oh well, fire the phasers full spread.
posted by emptythought at 12:04 PM on August 13, 2014 [24 favorites]


As ROU_Xenophobe put it yesterday: I try to remember when I see stuff like that, or people taking the elevator up one floor, that many people have disabilities that are hard to see.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:10 PM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


The punchline of his joke was "know your place, disableds."

Gross.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:12 PM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ugh, this is depressing and very disappointing.
posted by Fizz at 12:14 PM on August 13, 2014


But if he wants to own it and double down on being an ass about it? Oh well, fire the phasers full spread.

I had to unfollow the George Takei Facebook page sometime last year after one too many incidents just like this... I know he has other people posting for him, but I don't know if that extends to the shitty "you're just looking to be offended" statements that get posted in his name after every single time this happens. It's bullshit, and it makes me respect the man just a little bit less every time, because either he has minimal control over his own public social media persona, or he genuinely does not give a fuck who gets hurt.
posted by palomar at 12:15 PM on August 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


It does seem rather tone deaf, especially the doubling-down once people cried foul.
posted by hippybear at 12:16 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow, I had no idea how many people apparently think that both your legs have to be paralyzed for you to use a wheelchair to aid mobility. Then again, I guess I should never be surprised at the depths of stupidity.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:16 PM on August 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


I was really disappointed in his response to his misstep. Personally, I try to think of Takei as old Uncle George for the internet. Got a good heart, but he's an old man, and what are you going to do? Nothing, except have the conversation for the people who are listening.

I used to suffer from IBS -- it's dormant now. But I remember many times desperately needing a seat on the subway due to stomach cramps, and having no language whatsoever to request one of those two seats that are labeled "please offer to the elderly/disabled". I don't wish I'd tried, or anything. It's just a personal reminder that I don't know why somebody is sitting there when I'm inclined to think someone more "deserving" is standing.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:17 PM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


The worst part of Takei's non-pology is that if you don't already know what post he's referencing the implication is that the person who is complaining is overreacting. Just because people complain about the memes he posts daily doesn't mean that all complaints should be painted with the same brush.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:17 PM on August 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Looks like Takei pulled a dickwolf with this one.
posted by Behemoth at 12:19 PM on August 13, 2014 [16 favorites]


This is a great opportunity for me to ask why people post and share such obviously stupid stuff on social media.

Even before this, Takei was about as funny as Hi & Lois.
posted by Nevin at 12:20 PM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


A friend pointed out on Twitter a while ago that we all would be better off if, around the time he went all-in on the Daily Wacky Post, George Takei's web browser had been replaced with a cleverly-formatted Word doc.
posted by COBRA! at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2014 [16 favorites]


This is a great opportunity for me to ask why people post and share such obviously stupid stuff on social media.

Positive reinforcement: 81,169 people like this. 52,473 shares.
posted by smackfu at 12:27 PM on August 13, 2014


I'd call it overreaction but whatever. At least we've lovely image macros in that facebook thread. Appears George Takei's fans frequently do that, very nice.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:28 PM on August 13, 2014


A friend pointed out on Twitter a while ago that we all would be better off if, around the time he went all-in on the Daily Wacky Post, George Takei's web browser had been replaced with a cleverly-formatted Word doc.
posted by COBRA! at 3:21 PM on August 13 [2 favorites +] [!]


Creed Thoughts.
posted by Fizz at 12:33 PM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


palomar: "I know he has other people posting for him, but I don't know if that extends to the shitty "you're just looking to be offended" statements that get posted in his name after every single time this happens. It's bullshit, and it makes me respect the man just a little bit less every time, because either he has minimal control over his own public social media persona, or he genuinely does not give a fuck who gets hurt."

He's the Ron Paul of Asian Sci-Fi actors!
posted by symbioid at 12:35 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


He had some fat-joke thing at one point which is when I lost all respect after his "I can make fun of anyone and anything" attitude. This doesn't surprise me, though it's still sad and disappointing.
posted by symbioid at 12:36 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


The “miracle” meme would not have been shared tens of thousands of times after George Takei posted it on Facebook unless there were tens of thousands of people who felt they recognised in it a comic truth about disabled people so profound they were compelled to share it with everyone they know online.

This is hilarious. This lady is seriously overestimating the amount of thought people but into that meme.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:38 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


This lady is seriously overestimating the amount of thought people but into that meme.
I think that's sort of the point. They don't think about why they find it funny. The underlying assumptions are totally unconscious. They're still there, though. If you understand how disability works, there's nothing funny about that image. It's just an image of a woman who is shopping. It's only funny if you have weird, probably-not-thought-through ideas about people who use wheelchairs.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:43 PM on August 13, 2014 [59 favorites]


How terrible it is that by simply existing as a person with a disability, you are open to constant scrutiny as to whether or not you are "disabled enough." And if you are judged (on whatever information happens to be visible to the person judging you) to not be "disabled enough" for the wheelchair or handicapped bathroom or seat on the bus, it is not only fair but righteous and good for strangers to subject you to mocking, open aggression, and public shaming.

Takei's meme reminds me of the sort of ha-ha-lazy-people-amirite? joking that also happens about large people that use scooters or wheelchairs. The fact is that you don't know what any other human being is going through or experiencing in their body just by looking at them.

It sucks that he doubled down on it. There are ways to make a funny that don't perpetuate negative, harmful stereotypes about an entire class of people.
posted by annekate at 12:43 PM on August 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


Even so, perhaps it's good for people to be called out on thoughtlessness that harms an entire group of people for the benefit of another?
posted by xarnop at 12:46 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The idea that there's this meme "disabled=fake" seems really odd to me. I've never heard that, or thought that, or felt a suggestion that other people thought that.

To me this seems more like "human beings will overcome any adversity for something they really want" and by the way humans love alcohol lol. I don't see the maliciousness at all.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:57 PM on August 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Overreaction.

Social media is designed for outrage and stupid jokes.

Anyway, I would expect that Takei would be slightly more thoughtful and humane? This is just sneering and demeaning.
posted by Nevin at 1:01 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, let's cool it.]
posted by cortex at 1:05 PM on August 13, 2014


The idea that there's this meme "disabled=fake" seems really odd to me. I've never heard that, or thought that, or felt a suggestion that other people thought that.

(Emphasis mine.)

You've never heard people complaining about disabled parking spaces? Never seen people sneer at those with invisible disabilities using aid devices? Congrats, all your acquaintances and everybody you've ever met are incredible mensches.

I also like how every attempt to explain away the meaning of the image is different. Is it about miracle healing fraud or the indomitable human spirit?
posted by kmz at 1:08 PM on August 13, 2014 [20 favorites]


The idea that there's this meme "disabled=fake" seems really odd to me. I've never heard that, or thought that, or felt a suggestion that other people thought that.

Are you disabled? It's something you don't notice as much if you're not. Disabled people hear all the time that: it can't be that bad; they probably don't have $CONDITION that they do, in fact, have because $CONDITION is rare/more severe than that/really bad; or the parking spot/designated seat/other accommodation is for "actual" or "real" disabled people or just "disabled person" (i.e., not you). The first link recounted numerous instances in which disabled people were harassed and even physically assaulted for standing up or walking near their own wheelchairs.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:11 PM on August 13, 2014 [35 favorites]


Posting a picture of a person who uses a wheelchair and then comparing that person to a fake-disabled person at a faith-healer show? That's shitty.

Posting a picture of a person who uses a wheelchair and then suggesting that it's a miracle when that person is standing? That's shitty.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:14 PM on August 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Anyway, I would expect that Takei would be slightly more thoughtful and humane? This is just sneering and demeaning.

I think the lesson that we can learn from this that even the most benevolent, understanding and forgiving of humans are susceptible to cognitive bias. The meme has an underlying bias against the disabled that likely came socialization experienced by Takei throughout his life. There may be a blind spot there for him because he's never bothered to look. Does that make him an inherently awful person? No.

And even his response to it, doubling down with his non-apologetic, sorry-you're-offended statement doesn't make him inherently awful either. I'm convinced that a response like that, from someone like him, is completely out of denial. Nobody wants to be the ablist, especially if they're a de facto figurehead of such a progressive movement. It's a very difficult thing to admit the wrongness of something you said, and to not do it immediately is only human.

Hopefully Takei will, at the very least, modify his behavior on this. But since he's such a prominent figure, I'd prefer he do it publicly.
posted by triceryclops at 1:15 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not the first time Takei (or his social media handlers) has posted a really offensive and thoughtless picture, sadly.
posted by ymgve at 1:18 PM on August 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


I've never heard that, or thought that, or felt a suggestion that other people thought that...I don't see the maliciousness at all.

It's quite common.

An anecdote: I knew a fellow with a prosthetic leg and a good enough gait that, with long pants on, you wouldn't know it to look at him. One day, he's grocery shopping. Parks in a handicapped spot near the door, because he doesn't want to tire himself out. Does his shopping.

When he's done and gets back to the car, there's a store security guy (or possibly a policeman -- I don't remember all the details) and an irate fellow shopper waiting for him by his car. This man is parked illegally, the shopper declares; I saw him walk into the store! A short discussion follows in which he reassures the shopper that he is, in fact, disabled, even though he might not look it, which is ultimately unconvincing on the grounds that he 'doesn't look disabled.'

Nonplussed, he removes his leg.

...

Which is sort of amusing in isolation (insofar as it ended the conversation rather definitively), but it gets rapidly less amusing the more often the accusation gets leveled, and when you start to think about how often someone must be thinking it but not saying it -- and, on a basic level, having to prove to strangers that you're 'really disabled' is simply something that no one should have to put up with.
posted by cjelli at 1:20 PM on August 13, 2014 [34 favorites]


I didn't have to click to know the image, it's floated around for awhile and the jokes about it are heartbreaking.

The judgment of disabled people is really toxic. My brother has numerous mental and physical disabilities and can't be left alone. When we went out as a family we used to park in disabled spots but the glares and remarks that we were somehow "taking advantage" of his disabilities for the sweet parking drove my mother to tears so many times that we stopped. It might take him 10 minutes to walk into a restaurant but that was better than facing the scrutiny of others.

His health has declined to the point where we park in the disabled spots again. I still get yelled at when I park in the disabled spot and spend 90 seconds inside to pick him up from his volunteer job, and it still feels like shit even though I know it shouldn't.

I guess the takeaway here is this isn't people overreacting to a harmless joke, it's people reacting appropriately to an incredibly hurtful joke.
posted by edeezy at 1:21 PM on August 13, 2014 [20 favorites]


Disabled people hear all the time that: it can't be that bad; they probably don't have $CONDITION that they do, in fact, have because $CONDITION is rare/more severe than that/really bad; or the parking spot/designated seat/other accommodation is for "actual" or "real" disabled people or just "disabled person" (i.e., not you). The first link recounted numerous instances in which disabled people were harassed and even physically assaulted for standing up or walking near their own wheelchairs.

One of my grandmother's favorite pastimes seems to be bitching very loudly about not obviously disabled people using disabled parking spaces... which is ironic and also infuriating, because she's a not obviously disabled person using a disabled parking space. Her beef always seems to be either that the person parking their car doesn't have a visible disabled placard to hang on their rearview mirror so they must not have one at all, or the person getting out of the car isn't even bothering to limp or act like they need assistance. She's even gone so far as to get out a notepad and start writing down license plate numbers of people she thinks are in violation of permit laws.

Of course, when I point out that the placard is in plain sight and maybe her failing eyesight is the issue, or that while she was griping about the lack of placard the driver pulled it out and hung it on the mirror (just like my grandmother does, surprise surprise), or when I point out that she often parks her car in a disabled spot and has the audacity to walk like an able-bodied person even though she is not, that doesn't go over so well.

In conclusion, sometimes even disabled people are dicks to other disabled people. You just might not get to see it in action if you're not disabled or you don't spend time with someone who is. It's kind of like how some men don't believe that women get harassed in public, because it doesn't happen in front of them.
posted by palomar at 1:21 PM on August 13, 2014 [21 favorites]


By the way, I think this parallels the conversation about the deserving/undeserving poor.

Not the first time Takei (or his social media handlers) has posted a really offensive and thoughtless picture, sadly.

Jesus Christ.
posted by triceryclops at 1:24 PM on August 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


This kind of ignorant attack on people with disabilities is fucking vile, and sadly not really out of character for a Takei share.
posted by edheil at 1:24 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like George Takei, and he's great about skewering racism and homophobia and does not post racist or homophobic images. But that's it: he's posted more than on misogynistic "just a joke", and I'm not surprised at this one either.
posted by jeather at 1:27 PM on August 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


Disappointed, but not surprised.
posted by jeather at 1:27 PM on August 13, 2014


I had to unfollow the George Takei Facebook page sometime last year after one too many incidents just like this... I know he has other people posting for him, but I don't know if that extends to the shitty "you're just looking to be offended" statements that get posted in his name after every single time this happens.

Same. Whether it's an intern posting or not, it's still his name and it's not a good look.
posted by sweetkid at 1:28 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like George Takei, and he's great about skewering racism and homophobia

Only being great about your own groups doesn't cut it if you are an offensive bigot toward everyone not like you. Which frankly is what I think he is.
posted by bearwife at 1:32 PM on August 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


I have a friend who has cerebral palsy, and she posted on Facebook last week that someone came up and yelled at her for using a parking space for people with disabilities. When she walks, you can totally tell that she has a disability, but apparently it wasn't clear from the way she was standing as she was putting things in her car. I think this is a pretty common thing for people with invisible disabilities, and it even happens occasionally to people with visible disabilities whose disabilities aren't sufficiently visible in that particular instant. If that's surprising to you, I think it might be that it's not something that you personally have to deal with.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:33 PM on August 13, 2014 [12 favorites]


Sure is a sweet deal being disabled. You get parking spots marginally closer to the store and those bathroom stalls that always have someone already in them. I can really see why someone would go through the effort of constantly lugging a wheelchair in and out of their car and rolling everywhere at slower than a walking pace to get benefits like that.
posted by ckape at 1:41 PM on August 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


I shared the original status with this,
I'd like to share why I am now 'unfollowing' the George Takei facebook page. It is not so much for the vicious and horrifyingly common misconception that he chose to spread as a joke, but his response to finding out that he unwittingly used his influence to hurt others. Instead of listening to his amazing and compassionate fan base who refused to mock this woman with him and responded with education and kindness, he decided to mock their compassion.

In the end it is indeed just a facebook post, but I would much rather support and be in community with people who respond to news that they are in the wrong with remorse and change, not dismissive arrogance.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:46 PM on August 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


The point of the joke is that it's shitty to pretend to be disabled. It's not funny, but it's also not a swipe at disabled people.
posted by facetious at 1:47 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The point of the joke is that it's shitty to pretend to be disabled. It's not funny, but it's also not a swipe at disabled people.

So you think the woman in the photo is pretending?
posted by kmz at 1:49 PM on August 13, 2014 [26 favorites]


The point of the joke is that it's shitty to pretend to be disabled.

It is shitty to pretend to be disabled, but being in a wheelchair and also able to stand up is not pretending to be disabled, and the "joke" suggests that it is, which will have the result of more assholes yelling at people who don't look disabled enough.
posted by jeather at 1:50 PM on August 13, 2014 [37 favorites]


The point of the joke is that it's shitty to pretend to be disabled. It's not funny, but it's also not a swipe at disabled people.

Except that the person depicted is doing what lots of disabled people do - there's no reason to think they're pretending. And the assumption that someone who looks (or behaves) like that is faking it is one that is both common and harmful towards disabled people.

Hell, it doesn't even have to be 'invisible disabilities' - I am very obviously/visibly disabled, and I get crap from people when I occasionally stand up or get out of my chair.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:50 PM on August 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


The point of the article is that it's shitty to assume someone is pretending to need a wheelchair just because they can stand for a few seconds.
posted by ckape at 1:51 PM on August 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's also really shitty to pretend that you can tell whether someone has a disability, especially when you have ignorant and distorted ideas about what people with disabilities can do. It's good to be educated about disability so you don't do that shitty thing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:51 PM on August 13, 2014 [17 favorites]


Massive overthinking. Guy parks in a handicap spot. He's not handicapped. Handicapped spots are for people who need them. He's a bad guy. That's the level this is happening at. This has nothing to do with whether this actual woman has an actual disability, or whether people with actual disabilities can or can't stand up. It just can't bear that kind of weight as a joke. It's a stupid, superficial joke. All the things y'all are saying are true, but you're reading too much into it.
posted by facetious at 1:58 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


The practice of disability policing is by definition taking a swipe at disabled people. The idea that random people on the street have the right--nay, the duty!--to eyeball others and decide if they are "really disabled" or "just lazy cheaters" is toxic and does great harm to people with disabilities.
posted by DrMew at 1:58 PM on August 13, 2014 [31 favorites]


This has nothing to do with whether this actual woman has an actual disability

The image macro does, most definitely.
posted by Hoopo at 2:00 PM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


There's an interesting Venn Diagram to be drawn of the folks who are offended by Mr. Takei's joke and the people who enjoy playing Cards Against Humanity.

I mean, I'm sure none of them are here.
posted by DWRoelands at 2:02 PM on August 13, 2014


Massive overthinking. Guy parks in a handicap spot. He's not handicapped. Handicapped spots are for people who need them. He's a bad guy. That's the level this is happening at

Have you actually seen the image in question, or are you just here to be the contrarian?
posted by palomar at 2:03 PM on August 13, 2014 [12 favorites]



There's an interesting Venn Diagram to be drawn of the folks who are offended by Mr. Takei's joke and the people who enjoy playing Cards Against Humanity.

that's me, here I am, I'm here.
posted by sweetkid at 2:05 PM on August 13, 2014 [20 favorites]


This has nothing to do with whether this actual woman has an actual disability, or whether people with actual disabilities can or can't stand up.

This has everything to do with that: if you see the picture as someone who's disabled...continuing to be disabled and getting some stuff off a shelf? Then there's literally no joke there. It ceases to be a joke. The joke only works -- it can only be a joke -- if you read it as someone who isn't 'really' disabled.

It's a stupid, superficial joke.

In-deed.
posted by cjelli at 2:06 PM on August 13, 2014 [12 favorites]


So he's an arsehole who just happens to be gay?
posted by fullerine at 2:06 PM on August 13, 2014


The practice of disability policing is by definition taking a swipe at disabled people. The idea that random people on the street have the right--nay, the duty!--to eyeball others and decide if they are "really disabled" or "just lazy cheaters" is toxic and does great harm to people with disabilities.

Sorry, this just sounds like paternalism. Not having public accommodations and equal access to education, medicine, jobs - that harms people with disabilities. This meme is just trivial bullshit.

Have you actually seen the image in question, or are you just here to be the contrarian?

Do you actually understand my simple point, or are you just here to be the good guy?
posted by facetious at 2:07 PM on August 13, 2014


Not the first time Takei (or his social media handlers) has posted a really offensive and thoughtless picture, sadly.

Wow.

Um.

Uh... just... wow.

As much as i'm usually first on the block to talk about how toxic it is that "call out culture" has resulted in so much infighting and "AHA, you did one wrong thing, you're satan!" on social media... this is definitely a pattern of failure.

Seriously, if he had responded like an adult and gone "wow, i didn't realize how offensive that was, i get it now, sorry" to this current one i probably would have written it off. But people keep showing me more and more fairly upsetting things like this he, or his staff which he seems to be not acknowledging exists, has posted.

In the end, these shitty posts kind of remind me of the sort of thing my mom constantly imessages me. A lot of it's good stuff, or just harmless funny stuff... but some of it's a lot like this. She's close to 60, and while she is pretty good about talking mad shit on sexist and racist stuff... she kinda fails at the same kind of stuff he seems to be failing at.

I know it's a tired excuse, and i'm not really trying to use it as one, but i really have to wonder if there's some kind of generational blinders/embedded socialization thing going on here. That stuff was just so far below the radar when you were young in the 60s and 70s or even 80s and completely mucking through a bunch of racism and shit that was way more blatant and given a free pass than it is today.

So yea, i'm sort of subscribing to the old uncle theory. He deserves to be called out, and i'm not saying it makes it ok... just that it seems to be a fairly common failure point even among Mostly Good People above a certain age. Exceptions seem to be standout cases.
posted by emptythought at 2:10 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sorry, this just sounds like paternalism. Not having public accommodations and equal access to education, medicine, jobs - that harms people with disabilities. This meme is just trivial bullshit.

1) The trivial bullshit is endless and harmful.

2) We are capable of holding more than two thoughts in our heads at once and of pursuing discrete but related goals at once, such as getting equal access to housing and getting people on the Internet to stop making shitty, shitty jokes and then telling us to lighten up, we have bigger problems.

3) Believe me, we know exactly how big our problems are.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:11 PM on August 13, 2014 [37 favorites]


"Even so, perhaps it's good for people to be called out on thoughtlessness that harms an entire group of people for the benefit of another?"

Am I misreading you? Because it sounds as if you're defending Takei.

Assuming you are, then, no, it's not good except in very limited, specific circumstances. There's all sorts of problems with it, such as the paternalism implicit when abled people make this argument.

But most generally, it's harmful because this kind of implicit social testing of authenticity is a universal and powerful mechanism for the defense of privilege.

If thinking about privilege and bigotry with regard to disability is new to you, then thinking about these patterns in other areas, like racism and sexism and homophobia, will make it more obvious. How often have you heard a racist or sexist or homophobe defend their bigotry on the basis that some people deserve it? That some people are ruining it for the truly "deserving" class and that their bigotry is really in defense of those deserving few? How often have you seen non-whites and women scrutinized for "authenticity"? How often have you heard the argument that they want "special rights" or that claiming to be a victim of bigotry is a highly sought-after prize?

The pervasive cloud of suspicion is a weapon and the presumed right for the privileged to constantly query authenticity is a weapon that's used to defend bigotry and privilege. And so is the paternalism of justifying these patterns on the basis of it being for your own good.

These patterns are very regular, very predictable. I understand why some highly privileged and bigoted folks would be blind to them universally or nearly universally; what I have a lot more trouble understanding is how many people can be very familiar with them in one area, such as with sexism or racism or homophobia, but be aggressively resistant to recognizing them in other areas, such as transphobia or ableism or classism. It's hard for me to believe that someone could deploy the "people are in love with being outraged and are oversensitive" or "it's just the bad ones that I'm mocking because they're ruining it for the good ones I approve of" arguments in one context when they know what it signifies in another. I am amazed at how frequently such folk fail to see what they're writing and then go, oh, wait, hold on, I'm sounding exactly like truly awful people.

"Only being great about your own groups doesn't cut it if you are an offensive bigot toward everyone not like you. Which frankly is what I think he is."

It's very common. Some of the most intense personal dislikes I've formed against people are built around their aggressive display of this vice.

It's human nature and of course most people are going to be especially aware of the the oppression they personally suffer and unaware of the privilege they possess, but it's the one thing that mostly powerfully causes me to alternately be despairing about the state of the world and other people, or be furiously angry. I've never stopped being surprised and appalled by it over my adult lifetime.

"The point of the joke is that it's shitty to pretend to be disabled."

I don't shop in anything bigger than a small store, certainly not a typical US supermarket, because I feel like I "can't". I feel like this because although I can, on an isolated occasion, walk around such a supermarket using my cane, I will be in severe pain when I'm done and nearly unable to walk, and will remain so for at least the following day. But I could use one of those electric carts they provide, right?

Well, that's true except that one half of me feels that because I can walk I should leave those carts available for people who can't walk at all, and the other half of me feels that because I can walk I will be subjected to the scrutiny of people like George Takei and, also, obviously, that other half of myself. And so I don't. I either limit myself to small stores or other people shop for me. Which is a bad result, all around.

My family have sort of given up on me about this, but there was a while about eight years ago when they'd keep prodding me about it. And one night my mother said to me, as gently as possible, that anyone, anywhere who saw me walk for even two steps would have no doubt that I'm quite disabled. No one, she said, would doubt my disability. I'm not entirely sure -- would getting out of a chair to reach something on the shelf, like in this photo, not produce skepticism? But, taking her at her word, the thing is that hearing that, too, hurt. I don't want to be disabled and I certainly don't want to be someone who is identified as disabled (and pitied) by only a glance. On the other hand, I don't want to be harassed by people who think I'm falsely claiming to be disabled, either.

But, hey, there are handicapped parking spaces and electric carts and I get special treatment and all these things I can't do and all this public scrutiny, whether hostile or helpful or pitying, is no big deal and if I get angry about something like Takei's tweet, then I'm an oversensitive outrage-addict without a sense of humor, right?

"Sorry, this just sounds like paternalism."

The irony is stupendous.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:11 PM on August 13, 2014 [37 favorites]


I assume that you are being, as your username implies, facetious.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:11 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


The meme has an underlying bias against the disabled that likely came socialization experienced by Takei throughout his life. There may be a blind spot there for him because he's never bothered to look.

I used to think this bias was largely confined to people who grew up in the generations when people with disabilities were either routinely kept away from society at large in institutions or by being housebound or bedridden. As a kid, I might have been tempted to write Takei's prejudice off as "Old man can't understand modern world."

But I've encountered too many people my own age and younger with the same attitudes. Becoming active in online theme park communities has opened my eyes even further. (The average guest at Walt Disney World, for example, walks an estimated average of 8-12 miles a day. Is it any wonder that people not permanently confined to wheelchairs at home, where they only need to walk short distances, might need them temporarily in such a situation?)

People are living longer with conditions and injuries that used to kill them. People are living longer in general. Medical science has come far enough to restore some function to people who decades ago would have had far less, but not far enough to restore all. A large percentage of my own family falls into that not-so-sweet spot.

I was among those who unfollowed Takei after his double-down. He may have the money to pay for the best medical care out there, but age is eventually going to catch up with him and weaken his body, if it already hasn't. I wish it didn't have to come to people needing to experience troubles for themselves in order to respect the basic dignity of those who do. (And half the time, they end up as a "The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion" type.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:13 PM on August 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well at least we know why Takei was never tapped to command a starship.
posted by Nevin at 2:14 PM on August 13, 2014


because starships aren't real?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:16 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Do you actually understand my simple point, or are you just here to be the good guy?

I am here to have a thoughtful discussion about this issue instead of insisting that anyone who doesn't like it is overreacting. What are you here for?
posted by palomar at 2:17 PM on August 13, 2014 [12 favorites]


because starships aren't real?

What planet are you living on?
posted by Nevin at 2:18 PM on August 13, 2014


Guy parks in a handicap spot. He's not handicapped.

And you know he's not handicapped because...?

Heck, even if there's no hangtag on the car it doesn't mean he didn't just forget to put it on that trip, or that it didn't fall off, or that he's not waiting for a replacement. All you can discern from that is that he's parking in a handicap spot without the proper ID being displayed - which doesn't mean you have any way of knowing he's not actually handicapped.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:20 PM on August 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Sorry, this just sounds like paternalism. Not having public accommodations and equal access to education, medicine, jobs - that harms people with disabilities. This meme is just trivial bullshit.

Sure, public accommodations are important, but the fact that a shockingly large proportion of the population feels it is their right, nay their duty, to judge and harass people with disabilities who they somehow believe to be fakers is more than just trivial bullshit. It's really not that hard to wrap one's head around the concept that someone may be best served by using a wheelchair and still be able to stand for a moment to reach something from a grocery shelf. But the only thing that makes the meme "funny" is the belief that we should point and laugh at the lazy person who's obviously been faking it for the parking spaces or something.

The meme is not the most earth shattering thing in the world, but the very real mentality behind it is something that plays out in public entirely too often (as the various links here testify to). In a sense, it's not very different from street harassment of women, and I don't think I'd consider jokes about that to be trivial bullshit either.
posted by zachlipton at 2:20 PM on August 13, 2014 [16 favorites]


So he's an arsehole who just happens to be gay?

I'm not sure why we have to paint in such broad strokes all the time. Yes it was a shitty tasteless joke with implications he clearly didn't consider, and he didn't react as well as could be hoped for in light of the reaction. I don't know many people who haven't dug deeper at one point or another rather than swallow their pride and apologize, and I don't consider them all assholes above all else for it. Fuck knows, maybe he'll come around yet.

Well at least we know why Takei was never tapped to command a starship.

Christopher Pike is on the hiring committee?
posted by Hoopo at 2:24 PM on August 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


Oh, can I add some extra favorites with sparkles on them to Hoopo's final comment? Truly funny. I am pretty sure Cap'n Pike would have thrown Takei in the brig for this kind of demeaning and ignorant behavior.
posted by bearwife at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Potential persecution like this is why, after 42 years of mere paraplegia, I had my left foot amputated.

Well, actually, it was kind of a osteomyelitis/diabetes thing, but don't think I don't appreciate my now-unquestionable disability.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


I stopped following Takei when he started posting misogynist memes about dishwashers and such left and right. Probably over a year ago. He's kind of in a bubble and his legions of fans defend it all as "just a joke."
posted by aydeejones at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Sorry, this just sounds like paternalism."

The irony is stupendous.

No, I'm sorry, it's not. Deciding on behalf of a group what's good for that group is paternalistic, whether or not you're a member of that group.

Let's put it this way. This meme goes away. What just changed? That's right, nothing. What would you like to see changed? That all people are treated with dignity and respect? Sounds like a job for consciousness-raising. How should we consciousness-raise? Oh, and I suppose we're just talking about raising the consciousness of non-disabled people, whoever the heck that is - because, really, that's who we're complaining about, right? So let's say we try consciousness-raising by complaining about stupid fucking memes. Whoops, it turns out that no non-disabled people who are insensitive jerks just became more sensitive because we complained. Well how about non-disabled people who aren't insensitive jerks? Hm, looks like some of them are offended because you took them for a bunch of rednecks. Whoops again, now they're offended about our being offended? How offensive!

Don't act like it's so simple.
posted by facetious at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2014


Oh, and I suppose we're just talking about raising the consciousness of non-disabled people, whoever the heck that is - because, really, that's who we're complaining about, right?

Nope. I already complained in this thread about my disabled grandmother's weird perceptions about people using disabled parking.
posted by palomar at 2:35 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Deciding on behalf of a group what's good for that group is paternalistic, whether or not you're a member of that group.
That doesn't even make any sense, since you've just decided on behalf of people with disabilities that what's good for them is not to complain about ignorant memes. But also, you've just created a recipe for not having any social movements. You can't have any sort of political or social movement unless you have a vision of what's good for some group of people. Your stance is basically a fake-passive way of always supporting the status quo.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:36 PM on August 13, 2014 [26 favorites]


We want George to be more of an ally than a promoter of his general causes. The disconnect is that he only takes discrimination seriously on the basis of race and sexual orientation. We want him to take the next leap. He can argue that being interned and denied the right to marry is worse than being mocked. Fine. We just want better from him and that's really what this is about. I work in orthopedics and sometimes help disabled people get into their car. My grandma is disabled. My father in law is disabled. I saw a 500 lb woman in a wheel chair stand up briefly yesterday. Nearly all of these people can stand up for a few seconds when they have to. They are still disabled. This contrarian "What's the use" concern trolling would be better served by contributing nothing.
posted by aydeejones at 2:39 PM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


Whoops, it turns out that no non-disabled people who are insensitive jerks just became more sensitive because we complained.

Bullcrap. It turns out that if you don't say anything, nobody changes their minds about things, but if you speak up and say "Hey, this is shitty and here's why", some people will change their minds about the thing you spoke up about.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:42 PM on August 13, 2014 [24 favorites]


Deciding on behalf of a group what's good for that group is paternalistic, whether or not you're a member of that group.

If you read the articles, you'll see numerous people with a wide variety of disabilities discussing people harassing them in public for not being disabled enough. None of them were thankfully that such kind strangers pointed out their previously-unknown abilities, causing them to cast their wheelchairs and other mobility aids off into the rubbish.

Members of the group have told us that they don't like it when they get harassed in public (duh). It's not paternalistic to think that a meme that's fundamentally about the same thing is a crappy thing to spread around. Doesn't make it the moral outrage of the century, but it's still stupid.
posted by zachlipton at 2:42 PM on August 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


And yes my deceased father in law actually used a walker and my grandma uses a wheelchair. They both could handle a modicum of standing unassisted and certainly did get mad at people taking disabled spots, assuming the worst even when they couldn't see the person, the person is off doing their thing and being judged as not - really - disabled sight unseen. Talking about these things over the years has changed me and it can change others. I say tone deaf things and probably did yesterday, here on metafilter.com. but I am changing and so is my wife and kids. Empathy FTW.
posted by aydeejones at 2:44 PM on August 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


No, I'm sorry, it's not. Deciding on behalf of a group what's good for that group is paternalistic, whether or not you're a member of that group.

Are the people with disabilities right here in this thread saying that it's a shitty meme that helps encourage attitudes that make their lives worse somehow not count? Does it not matter that at some point, I may become disabled enough to require a tag in my car and/or a wheelchair, and so if for no other reason (and there are! other reasons!), I have an interest in lessening shitty attitudes aimed at people with disabilities?

Sorry, you said all this was pointless, and if you're right, then we should all just sit down and be quiet because talking about this never changes anything. That's why you came into this thread and said that, right, because expressing your opinion is useless.
posted by rtha at 2:45 PM on August 13, 2014 [26 favorites]


Hell I said terrible things about disability just the other day and apologize here for it. I saw a Marc Maron bit yesterday that put me into perspective. I say nasty things too quickly and then apologize. Just gotta make the next leap and not say them at all. I know how it works, and I have my own issues that make it easy to blame neurotransmitters and whatever but ultimately kindness matters, and preemptive kindness is some fine stuff indeed
posted by aydeejones at 2:48 PM on August 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


Bullcrap. It turns out that if you don't say anything, nobody changes their minds about things, but if you speak up and say "Hey, this is shitty and here's why", some people will change their minds about the thing you spoke up about.

Yep. Case in point, the guy whose byline is right under this sentence.
posted by kmz at 2:52 PM on August 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


Just a general note on this sort of thing: everybody gets the joke. The issue isn't that some people don't get comedy and need to have it explained to him.
posted by maxsparber at 2:54 PM on August 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


On this one, in particular, a lot of people are just straight-up ignorant. I don't mean ignorant as a euphemism for bigoted. I mean that they always assumed that everyone who used a wheelchair was paralyzed from the waist down. When you explain that people use wheelchairs for lots of different reasons, and some of them can stand up for short periods, then they're like "oh, ok," and they stop thinking that people who stand up out of wheelchairs are faking needing the wheelchair. It's literally just a matter of clearing up a misconception. And I don't agree that you should avoid clearing up misconceptions because people might be overly sensitive about being told they're wrong, especially when the misconception is as damaging as this one. And it is very damaging, because the idea that people fake disability is at the heart of efforts to make it more difficult for people with disabilities to get the things they need to participate fully in society.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:57 PM on August 13, 2014 [36 favorites]


George Takei often wonders why he was never offered a chance by the studio to appear as the commander of a starship in one of the movies. Maybe this points to why?
posted by Nevin at 2:58 PM on August 13, 2014


Definitely not defending Takei, just the opposite. A statement above mine indicated people were reading to much into it and it was just a thoughtless comment. My point is, even if a thoughtless comment, that's a great reason to point out how harmful thoughtless comments can be.
posted by xarnop at 3:06 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


"So yea, i'm sort of subscribing to the old uncle theory. He deserves to be called out, and i'm not saying it makes it ok... just that it seems to be a fairly common failure point even among Mostly Good People above a certain age. Exceptions seem to be standout cases."

I don't know how you can think this given that MetaFilter has proven, and is proving in this thread, to also have a lot of folks who think this way. I mean, yeah, MeFi collectively isn't "young", it's more like thirtyish, but there are a whole lot of reasons why it'd especially be younger folk who are oblivious to the privilege of being abled -- which is to say, that they don't think twice about defending paternalistic policing, like people are doing here, or they don't think twice about being dismissive of complaints and play the "you're oversensitive" card.

It really bears some strong examination that people who are otherwise very sensitive to how privilege functions (and how discussion plays out when privilege is involved) in one or two areas are so blind to it in so many others. Someone above wrote that this closely parallels the "deserving poor" stuff, and they're quite right, it's very much alike, and is notably similar in that these two issues are huge MetaFilter blind spots, where our progressive instincts badly fail.

And this is the case because privilege is invisible to the privileged. It takes a lot of effort, and overcoming natural defensiveness, to recognize one's own privilege.

Having experience being unprivileged and suffering other people's privilege is no help at all, sadly, because the two subjective experiences are radically different. I think that's partly why it's the case that so many people are like George Takei -- who is sensitive to racism and homophobia as a non-white, gay man -- because they wrongly assume that because other people's oppressive privilege is so obvious to them, they'd recognize their own oppressive privilege. And, worse, it also tends to embolden such folk in their presumed self-righteous defense of privilege because they're so certain they couldn't possibly be in the wrong, they're on the side of the angels.

This is also why in that "demonizing our political opponents is bad" thread, my comment was that I don't think demonizing our opponents is so much the problem, but that it's our failure to demonize ourselves. Obviously, I don't really think we should "demonize" anyone, but the point is that no, we absolutely shouldn't be tolerant of other people's bigotry but we especially shouldn't be tolerant of our own -- certainly we should work much, much harder than most of us do at querying ourselves for vices we easily recognize in others.

What I wish for is that people would be more deliberately aware of certain patterns of defense of privilege as patterns, such that they'd be more likely to recognize it when they are doing it themselves -- and then, in consequence, would query themselves about things they've most likely not before considered and, um, not reflexively post that dismissive/defensive comment.

"Definitely not defending Takei, just the opposite. A statement above mine indicated people were reading to much into it and it was just a thoughtless comment. My point is, even if a thoughtless comment, that's a great reason to point out how harmful thoughtless comments can be."

Ah! Okay, it seemed like a point you'd not argue, but people are surprising and what you were responding to was unclear. Thanks for letting me know and not being offended that I misunderstood you.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:11 PM on August 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


This totally blew up on Facebook the past few days, mostly from friends with one form of disability or another. I'm kind of surprised anyone is defending Takei here. I mean I like the guy, think he's really funny and normally a good dude, but in this case it was a very off-color joke he passed along that is offensive to a great number of people that have explained why it sucks and I'm surprised we haven't heard a simple straightforward apology (like Weird Al's, a couple weeks ago).
posted by mathowie at 3:13 PM on August 13, 2014 [15 favorites]


its pretty clear facetious is trolling, right? If not:

Let's put it this way. This meme goes away. What just changed? That's right, nothing.

Disabled people feel slightly less shitty.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:14 PM on August 13, 2014 [12 favorites]


George Takei often wonders why he was never offered a chance by the studio to appear as the commander of a starship in one of the movies.

He's the captain of the Excelsior in ST VI.
posted by biffa at 3:18 PM on August 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


George Takei often wonders why he was never offered a chance by the studio to appear as the commander of a starship in one of the movies. Maybe this points to why?

Nah, I'm sticking with Hollywood's history of being incredibly racist when it comes to casting traditional movie roles.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:20 PM on August 13, 2014 [17 favorites]


Fuck this joke, and fuck anyone who thinks it's funny to judge anyone because they don't "look" or "act" how you expect a disabled person to look or act.

Able-ism is a mental deficiency, and you should feel ashamed of making a joke that "punches down."

You should also hold in contempt the asshole Revival Tent preachers who conned people into believing that faith healing is real by using "fakers" in the audience.

"It's just a joke."
So is what you see in the mirror everyday.
posted by daq at 3:37 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is how a grownup apologizes for an eerily similar mistake.

I've seen that miracle meme and other ones just like it a few times, but I guess I'd always assumed the creeps taking and propagating covert pictures of strangers in grocery stores were young sheltered people or something, and that all they'd really need is for someone to explain how things actually work in real life. Maybe they just haven't known anyone with a disability. Maybe they were just being sloppy and passed it along without thinking. Maybe they'll be appropriately mortified once someone points out how harmful that sort of joke can be.

That's what Jason Chen did, and he turned his own misunderstanding into a reminder that "people in photos are actually people."
posted by ernielundquist at 3:43 PM on August 13, 2014 [18 favorites]


Not to make everything about Weird Al, but.

The seeming inability of so many people to just admit they're wrong is kind of staggering to me. You actually come off looking better if you just say "my bad" (or whatever) and apologize.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:09 PM on August 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


He's the captain of the Excelsior in ST VI.

The trolling in this thread is out of control. It was Star Trek IV.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 4:10 PM on August 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


There is a very virulent strain of macho culture out there at the moment that holds admission of a mistake tantamount to humiliation and personal defeat. It's the same school of thought that views apologizing as a shameful act of failure.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:47 PM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


Let's put it this way. This meme goes away. What just changed? That's right, nothing.

Actually, if you're familiar with the history of the "Boyzone" issues on MetaFilter, you know that once of the bigger sea change moments was a MeTa thread where people really hashed out the issue of sexist jokiness and why it contributes to a community feeling hostile to women.

Sure it didn't solve all sexism everywhere forever, but a lot of minds on this site did change once enough people spoke up to say "hey, these jokes hit a bit close to home for me." That in turn shifted community norms, and we're at a place now where people generally know not to do that. It's nothing but good.
posted by annekate at 5:03 PM on August 13, 2014 [18 favorites]


I'm glad to see the Jason Chen example of "how to apologize." But I'm sad to see two paragraphs of exceptionally detailed medical information about how the pictured woman lost her leg.

Non-disabled people so often feel compelled to inquire exactly how we are disabled. It's so baked in to our culture, and so irritating, that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically mentions where we do not have to "explain ourselves."

This is particularly important because the U.S. courts spent the first decade ignoring the ADA through the legal loophole of claiming any petitioner "wasn't really disabled." (When the eye of the beholder belongs to a judge, it does matter whether they think wheelchair users can never stand.)

http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
posted by Jesse the K at 5:03 PM on August 13, 2014 [19 favorites]


He's the captain of the Excelsior in ST VI.

USS Kapok is his next obvious command.

If he's lucky...
posted by Pudhoho at 5:05 PM on August 13, 2014


Wow, who woulda thunk that some actor from the old Star Trek series would start believing his own press and turn into kind of a jerk?

Totally unprecedented.
posted by allthinky at 5:37 PM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Remember what Capt. Vimes always said: “Just because someone's a member of an ethnic minority doesn't mean they're not a nasty small-minded little jerk.”
posted by Pinback at 6:05 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just want to point out that flex's post, like most flex posts, are about a lot more than the Takei meme post. Also I don't think everything we talk about on the internet around these topics is necessarily about things that "surprise" us.
posted by sweetkid at 6:23 PM on August 13, 2014


I don't think anyone should feel obligated to answer questions about their disabilities or other personal issues, and nobody should be asking or speculating, either.

But some people do want to share their experiences, which was what I assumed was the case with the woman from Jason Chen's story, and the internet is a perfect place to do that.

Way back in the 80s, I had a transgendered friend who was having some serious issues that had caused issues with her transition. So she was feeling poorly and she wasn't passing. While she wanted people to know what she was going through, she was tired and it was distracting for her to have to stop and be reminded of everything over and over and over again. Plus the hormone issues were making her more prone to crying than usual. So one night, we were out getting a little tipsy, and she asked me to help her explain her situation to some of our mutual acquaintances, sort of as a liaison or something. It seems so weird now, having to ask another person (a dopey teenager at that) to help you explain your life, but she spent so much time and energy explaining her life individually to so many different people that it kind of made sense at the time.

And I'm pretty sure that if there had been a web back then, she would have jumped at the opportunity to use it to share her experiences and to increase awareness both for her and others having similar issues.

Now that I re-look at the Chen article, it actually isn't totally clear that she'd approved of and wanted that explanation out there. I guess I'd just assumed that part.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:23 PM on August 13, 2014


You know, I was really bothered by the meme and appalled at Takei's "apology", but yet I have looked askance at people parking in handicapped spaces who did not seem disabled. I would never, never say anything, but I was thinking it. I have often assumed people were taking away spaces from people who needed them. It was fairly ingrained in my view of handicapped spaces. This thread has me realizing that I really don't know and I should make no assumptions. Therefor this thread has made a difference inside my head, maybe that's not much, but I, for one, am glad we are having this discussion.
posted by dawg-proud at 7:27 PM on August 13, 2014 [30 favorites]


This meme and Takei's reaction to people's reaction to it is quite common among Internet atheists: they spend so much time posting image macros making fun of religion and brushing off objections by offended Christians that they feel they have a license to upset and offend anyone they like in the process. In this particular case Takei's caption accompanying the Twitter post contains a joke about Christianity ("holy... spirit"), it's not even really about disabled people, they are just being used as a prop for bashing Christianity. It's like making jokes at the expense of cancer patients because some Christians believe prayer can cure cancer.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:46 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Takei just posted the following on his FB page:

"I’ve just come back from an extended trip to England, and I came home to a large number of fan emails concerning a meme I shared more than a week ago. In that meme, a woman in a wheelchair was standing up to reach for a bottle of liquor in the store, and the caption said something about a miracle in the alcohol aisle. To this I added a quip about her being touched by the holy spirits.

I did not expect the level of offense this meme caused. I had naturally just thought of those movies where the evangelical preacher miraculously cures someone who was disabled. What I’d never really considered before so many fans wrote in is how that portrayal of disabled persons is filled with ignorance and prejudice—two things I never want to promote, even inadvertently.

Now, before all of you go and start defending my right to post what I want, I want first to thank the many fans who wrote in with the hopes of educating me on the question of “ableist” bias. While I did not ever mean to suggest by sharing the meme that all people in wheelchairs cannot walk, or that they don’t need them despite the fact that they can stand on their own from time to time, I have taken the fan mail and criticism to heart.

After I’d posted the meme, I noted in the comments an inordinate amount of very uncivil behavior on the part of many fans, including both those who demanded I take it down and those who said I should leave it up. I also received a good deal of email IN CAPITAL LETTERS asking me if I would feel the same way if someone called me FAG or a JAP. Now, I took down the meme from my timeline shortly after it went up, but I admit I was decidedly irked by the tenor of some of those criticizing me. In that moment, I posted a follow up telling fans that perhaps they should “take it down—a notch” which, in retrospect, was not the most sensitive response.

The fact that I was surprised by the response the wheelchair meme received indicates that I do indeed lack knowledge, and some sensitivity, over what is clearly a hot button issue, and that I and others can take this as an opportunity not to dig in, but rather to open up to the stories and experiences of those in the disabled community. I appreciate those who took the time to write in. I wish I’d had the chance to respond sooner, but until today I was not able to go through all the mail I’d received.

So to those who were hurt by my posts on this issue, I ask you please to accept this apology. To those who think I shouldn’t have to apologize, I want to remind you that I get to decide what I apologize for, so there’s no need to come to my defense.

Very well then, carry on, friends. Carry on."
posted by zeusianfog at 7:55 PM on August 13, 2014 [44 favorites]


that's a great apology. wow. nicely done.

I'm not disabled though and don't claim to speak for the disabled at all as a response.
posted by sweetkid at 8:02 PM on August 13, 2014


I also received a good deal of email IN CAPITAL LETTERS asking me if I would feel the same way if someone called me FAG or a JAP. Now, I took down the meme from my timeline shortly after it went up, but I admit I was decidedly irked by the tenor of some of those criticizing me.

This isn't a good way to make a point though (asking him how he would feel if people said FAG or JAP), so I sympathize if this made him prickly. This is interesting.
posted by sweetkid at 8:03 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Boy, I give it a 9.95/10. Minor form deductions only, +.3 bonus for apologizing for initial insensitive reaction and encouraging non-disabled people to learn from the disabled community, overall excellent example of sincere apology, recommend use as training material for new celebrity owners of social media accounts and Ani DiFranco.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:04 PM on August 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


I also received a good deal of email IN CAPITAL LETTERS asking me if I would feel the same way if someone called me FAG or a JAP.

This also explains his initial non-apology a little bit more. It sounds like his point was asking those morons to "take it down...a notch" rather than belittling those who found the original photo offensive.

And for today's lesson, just because someone offends you with a stereotype or derogatory term directed at your preferred group, it doesn't make it right to use other stereotypes and derogatory terms directed at their preferred group. This stuff really isn't so hard people.
posted by zachlipton at 8:15 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


That was a good, thoughtful, sincere apology.
posted by palomar at 8:16 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


That was the best response one could hope for in the situation from Mr Takei. Am glad to see it.
posted by liquorice at 8:22 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm pleased and impressed by it. I wish more of these kinds of things went the way this one did.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:25 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am pleased and impressed but will also continue to wait to see what he does the next time.
posted by jeather at 8:31 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Takei's apology is a good thing, however, the comments I have seen all over the internet about disability fakers is disheartening.

I am disabled. I use (depending on the day/distance/how I am doing) a cane, walker, crutches, or wheelchair to get around. Hell, some days, I use my wheelchair as a walker and sit when the pain gets to be too much or I become worn out.

If you look at me, I'm just a short fat woman who does not look disabled.

You can't see the issue with my joints or muscles. You cannot see the problem with my spine. You cannot see the other pain issues. The only visible disability I have is lymphedema and if I'm wearing many of my clothes, you can't see that, either. (I'm more visibly disabled right now as I have a broken foot and have surgery on Friday, but this is temporary.)

I can stand to grab stuff, and do. There are days when I can barely walk to the bathroom in our tiny house. (seriously, tiny place.)

I have not just a disabled placard, but disabled plates on my old minivan. I have been called out by numerous people as I get out of my vehicle for not looking disabled.

I have been screamed at in an electric cart for being "too damn fat and lazy" to be disabled.

This meme is hurtful to the disabled. It continues the prejudice against us. It makes life harder for us, it leaves us up for more public ridicule. It makes people think it is okay to question a person who is using a disabled parking space.

It makes store managers think it is okay to question us about cart usage.


Like life as a disabled person isn't difficult enough.

Isn't humor supposed to punch up, not down?
posted by SuzySmith at 8:47 PM on August 13, 2014 [8 favorites]




Not to make everything about Weird Al, but.

The seeming inability of so many people to just admit they're wrong is kind of staggering to me. You actually come off looking better if you just say "my bad" (or whatever) and apologize.


But what if you admit you're wrong and then leave the offending video out there, unedited, probably earning money for you as it's played by people who never saw the apology you tweeted?
posted by layceepee at 9:19 PM on August 13, 2014


Our society is so broken, backwards and paranoid that we're obsessed with ferreting out those who might be god-forbid "getting away with something" and getting something I'm not getting. It reminds me of nosy assholes who give other people a hard time for what they choose to buy with their food stamps. Or the rhetoric surrounding unions and how they only serve to let lazy people milk the system. It's sick that people feel like they will never rise if they don't tear down everyone around them first.
posted by bleep at 9:25 PM on August 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


Suzy, I'm right there with you, sister. Just got back from the ER because an ulcerative colitis flareup left me completely crippled with joint inflammation. This thread provided some catharsis while I sat in the waiting room for the fourth time this year.

I'm a guy who plays music on stage, jumping around and shredding on keyboards and putting on a highly energetic performance. When I'm "on" I'm a whirlwind, and am generally the "hyperactive bouncy" guy in any crowd. So it's REALLY hard for people to take it at face value when I say I'm in so much pain I can't get out of bed. "Yeah I have days like that too, LOL, just wanna be lazy"

One of my coworkers didn't take my situation seriously until I went into the office with my entire face red and peeling, often the only visible sign. He was like "Jesus Christ, what happened to you?" and I said "If you think THIS looks uncomfortable, try sticking a camera up my ass." He's been checking up every day since then, but hasn't taken me up on the camera invitation.

I am privileged in a LOT of ways, but having a "hidden illness" makes it very easy to understand people's feelings about unseen inequality, even beyond health issues.
posted by jake at 9:28 PM on August 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


"Not to make everything about Weird Al, but."

Did we ever talk about the different cross-Atlantic sociolinguistics of the term he used? You'd think that MeFi, with all the Brits here, would have discussed it, but I don't recall. The discussion at Language Log was very interesting.

The upshot is that while the word is pretty offensive when used here in North America, it's intensely offensive in the UK and Ireland. The impression I got from the LL discussion is that it continued to be used medically there in very visible ways (like in names of hospitals and the like) for long after this was the case in North America and, correspondingly, it was used as a schoolyard taunt specifically as a knowing reference to its medical usage -- which has meant that as its use has been eventually stigmatized there, it's accreted much more potency as a slur and very specifically a self-aware ableist slur, which isn't as much the case in the US and Canada.

That's in no way excusing Yankovic, because I think it's not excusable in the American context. But it's relevant to understand that in other parts of the anglophone world, it's especially offensive.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:41 PM on August 13, 2014


In this particular case Takei's caption accompanying the Twitter post contains a joke about Christianity ("holy... spirit"), it's not even really about disabled people, they are just being used as a prop for bashing Christianity.

That wasn't a joke bashing Christianity. It was a pun, just a riff on the "miracle" and "liquor" remarks on the image macro. The only part I could see taken as being at Christianity's expense rather than at the expense of disabled people is the parallel to faith healing.
posted by Hoopo at 9:49 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


OK, well nobody's buying my argument, so I'm conceding. I'm absolutely not trolling, and I'd welcome a fuller discussion, but I think I'm starting too far in left field to really connect here.
posted by facetious at 10:46 PM on August 13, 2014


I actually have become a lot more sensitive due to people pointing out the issues with memes. The nice thing is they are diffuse enough that it doesn't feel nearly as purposeful as someone pointing out that something I said was shitty, but it's specific enough and what people say is personal enough to them that I have a stronger feeling for them as people.

Interestingly, my own flirting with disability (I have a back injury such that if I throw my back out I can't walk, but I have resisted getting a placard for the bad times because I'm also fat and even with it being an injury I have had doctors tell me, while I was leaning on my walker, that I should exercise more) didn't do much to educate me in general. It was reading about other peoples' lives that somehow put the key in that particular lock.

One of the things I have practiced due to reading about the experiences of disabled people is a sort of very specific poker face, where I focus on being polite and interested in them as people (make eye contact; if there is a carer greet both people; don't ask invasive questions), while also trying to be sensitive to ways I can help (always ask first) and I've greatly appreciated the effect it's had when I've met someone and managed to not be an asshole. I've also found it's sensitized me to noticing when people around me might need help and asking if they do - and the resulting positive interactions make both of our days nicer.

It all comes down to what kind of stranger we want to be in other peoples lives.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:21 PM on August 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


daq: "You should also hold in contempt the asshole Revival Tent preachers who conned people into believing that faith healing is real by using "fakers" in the audience."

The preachers don't even need to use fakers as such if they can rely on their audience to have the same binary view that if you use a wheelchair you're incapable of standing. Barrage someone with enough charisma, get them to stand up and do a little dance, let everyone assume this is a miracle and direct their attention elsewhere before the adrenaline wears off.
posted by RobotHero at 11:40 PM on August 13, 2014


Yay, he just apologized!

To expand:
The fact that I was surprised by the response the wheelchair meme received indicates that I do indeed lack knowledge, and some sensitivity, over what is clearly a hot button issue, and that I and others can take this as an opportunity not to dig in, but rather to open up to the stories and experiences of those in the disabled community. I appreciate those who took the time to write in. I wish I’d had the chance to respond sooner, but until today I was not able to go through all the mail I’d received.

So to those who were hurt by my posts on this issue, I ask you please to accept this apology. To those who think I shouldn’t have to apologize, I want to remind you that I get to decide what I apologize for, so there’s no need to come to my defense.
That last part is particularly artful. He disarms (or tries to) both sides by saying "This is my fight, and I'm throwing in the towel. We're done."

I hope they take it to heart. Nine hours later, there are more than 13,000 comments on that FB post.
posted by Etrigan at 5:31 AM on August 14, 2014


"This isn't a good way to make a point though (asking him how he would feel if people said FAG or JAP), so I sympathize if this made him prickly. This is interesting."
It is also a really shittily dishonest way for Takei to characterize what the thread of that post looks like, I mean, you can certainly find comments like that if you dig way down but that thread is beautiful.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:28 AM on August 14, 2014


Pretty common for people to skim over the positive comments and stick on the negative ones.
posted by smackfu at 7:04 AM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


OK, well nobody's buying my argument, so I'm conceding. I'm absolutely not trolling, and I'd welcome a fuller discussion, but I think I'm starting too far in left field to really connect here.

facetious, my cousin has a disability. She can walk. But not for long and when she does its painful and she usually has a cane or walker. If she falls, she could easily die.

So she uses a wheelchair. How can you not see that making fun of people who are capable of not using a wheelchair for brief periods of time is incredibly hurtful? How would you feel if that was you or a family member?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:06 AM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


OK, well nobody's buying my argument, so I'm conceding. I'm absolutely not trolling, and I'd welcome a fuller discussion, but I think I'm starting too far in left field to really connect here.

I think that if there's one place that you'll find people willing to engage you in good faith on pretty much any topic, it's here. I think the disconnect in this particular instance is the premise that people are seeing this meme and then "deciding" to go in and defend disabled people (as though they weren't already clear in their own minds where they stood until this meme came along). At least, that's how this sentence comes across.

Deciding on behalf of a group what's good for that group is paternalistic, whether or not you're a member of that group.

I mean, the entire framing of the sentence kind of ignores the decades of advocacy from disabled people and people who live, work with and care for disabled people. The overwhelming negative response to this "meme" isn't some sudden "decision", nor was it borne from some pocket of do-gooders that have just sprung up and are intent on protecting disabled people regardless or whether they asked for it or not. This response is a much more classic Twitterstorm, where everybody knows that you don't do this shit and cannot believe that someone hasn't learnt this yet.

As for why people should want to see it taken down ("Let's put it this way. This meme goes away. What just changed? That's right, nothing."), there are quite a few reasons, which people have given you (politely, I might add). Personally, I like the simplest reason: If you take it down, there will be fewer people who see it. Which means fewer people to be insulted by it and fewer people to think that posting this sort of stuff is okay. Although I gotta say these sorts or internet blow-ups are pretty good for raising awareness.

Finally, I generally agree with your cynical albeit realistic viewpoint that people won't change their minds just because you tell them too. But this isn't a bunch of Democrats trying to convert a Republican, and 13,000 comments saying the same thing can have an effect. So in reply to this line,

"Whoops, it turns out that no non-disabled people who are insensitive jerks just became more sensitive because we complained"

I refer you to Takai's apology above. $10 says he never posts anything like this ever again.
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:10 AM on August 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


It is also a really shittily dishonest way for Takei to characterize what the thread of that post looks like, I mean, you can certainly find comments like that if you dig way down but that thread is beautiful.

He said emails not comments.
posted by BlueDuke at 7:10 AM on August 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I feel vindicated in keeping Mr. Takei in my Twitter feed now, because that (second) apology was just perfect.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:22 AM on August 14, 2014


Not directly related to the Takei situation, but I've had luck sharing "The Spoon Theory" with people who have a tough time understanding both invisible disabilities and disabilities that limit activity without reducing the person who has them to complete immobility.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:12 AM on August 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


Hopefully, Weird Al will get rid of the lyrics as best be can but there will be a lot of copies of the old ones out there. Still I wish he had promised to change them. As Ivan Fyodorovich points out, awareness of this issue came much more slowly to the US (and differently) but Weird Al is pretty late getting the message.

Eyesight, like mobility, tends to be discussed in a very monolithic way by people who haven't been touched by visual impairment. People think you are not blind unless you see absolutely nothing, or they think you are blind the day someone hands you a legally blind certificate. People seem determined to draw a line when in real life it's not like that at all. (When my father became legally blind, he was happy to now be entitled to some services, but he had been having issues with his sight forever.)
posted by BibiRose at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Huh. Apparently "spastic" refers to Cerebal Palsy. I have family with CP and had no idea (although I did know that Brits found it much more offensive.) At least in some parts of North America it is much more a synonym for "clumsy."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:47 AM on August 14, 2014


"At least in some parts of North America it is much more a synonym for 'clumsy.'"

Yeah, on both sides of the Atlantic it was very much a specific medical term, but over here in North America it became much more diffused in common language while, in contrast, retaining the specificity in the UK and Ireland. And I think that's because it passed out of common medical use much earlier in NA than it did over there.

So it's problematic here, regardless, because of its origins and continued association with a medical condition; but it's much more problematic there because it's very directly a pejorative about (or in comparison to) that medical condition.

It's frustrating, though, because I think not knowing this gives folk on both sides of the Atlantic the wrong impression about how the other side feels about the word.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:58 AM on August 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


[One comment deleted; sorry, but just because one is disabled doesn't give carte blanche to stick your "hate-filled micropenis in the guacamole and then alienate the maximum amount of people possible." You still need to discuss like a reasonable person talking reasonably to other real people here.]
posted by taz at 3:56 AM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Takei’s sorry analyzed on SorryWatch
posted by JBD at 8:43 AM on August 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: A hate-filled micropenis in the guacamole.
posted by DWRoelands at 5:47 AM on August 19, 2014


« Older 15,000 Useful Phrases   |   It's perfect! Everything we need is right here! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments