After BBC documentary "The Undateables" spawned quite a bit of controversy that I commented on in September, here we go again, another controversial show is announced, the AMC Freakshow. Non-disabled people such as Jen Lee Reeves - mother of a girl that was born missing left elbow, forearm and hand - use the Huffington Post to treat the issue of people like us that risk not just getting called undateable but also freakish at once and simultaneously as...:
- (a) outrageous; how can a person with visible disability (that no one - practically speaking - wants to date) accept getting called "freak" - after all, the sovereignty to decide who is or is not a freak resides deep within the realm of non-disabled people?
- (b) absolute non-issue; according to Jen Lee Reeves' article, adults with limb differences (also?) need to be "celebrated" ?
What troubles me is this show is focusing on the word "freak" instead of focusing on how adults with differences can be celebrated.
- (c) voyeuristic attraction as freak-show but social isolation; sure, amputees feel isolated even without shows such as the AMC Freakshows, and I do not see how isolation only pertains to children?
Even without a show that focuses on terms like "freakshow," these children feel isolated.
It is a clear fact that one is quite isolated, socially, with and due to an arm amputation. No one celebrates adults, leave alone adults with a handicap. To expect that I guess one needs to really hide one's head in the sand.
But that is also not made worse a bit by shows such as the AMC Freakshow. It is made worse by people that won't behave. It is made worse by emphasizing a social ideal for men or women that has no room for exceptions. It is made worse by amputees that do not enter a necessarily difficult and at times aggressive dialog with people that do not respect that we are also humans and that we also have a brain that can mange to express thoughts.
Because it is a fact that non-disabled people, on the grand scale of things and by and large, believe they can get by treating amputees like lesser beings. Ultimately, Otto Bock never would have sold me diameter-varying bolts had they known I'd go and measure. Why wouldn't they think I go and check their produce to fractions of a millimeter? [bibcite key=schweitzer2008bolts] To sell products on a large scale that run up reputations such as these on a large scale, that requires a very peculiar image of amputees. And that can be seen as a problem. Seeing as if it is now 2013, it appears to me that I - and maybe others - somehow inherited that problem from previous amputees that, before me, failed to so clearly educate the public about how to behave properly that somehow, a large amount of folks still seem they just can get away with it. And that is what I deplore.
So I believe, the AMC Freakshow has the capacity to tell us what, in 2013, society believes they still can get away with. In terms of treating people as outcasts, labeling them, being voyeuristic about them. In any really modern society, racial and ethnic discrimination as well as discriminating against handicapped people has been moved from a public dialog to some type of sub-basis narrative (see reference [bibcite key=virchow2006gegen], page 44 - at the bottom, the term is derived as "Subbasiserzaehlung" from "Basiserzaehlung" in footnote 126, that references further) - so, people still exhibit strong fears that also control them to a significant degree, but only utter them if they feel unobserved. It is entirely not true that people embrace what makes others unique, even if it makes them uncomfortable or even scares them. No way. People may embrace their own uniqueness - but embracing others' more emphasized variations is still, by and large, far off the mark. And while people now hide that they run from diversity, in a screaming and panicking sort of way, they nowadays have learned to camouflage that with excuses or explanations. Do not get fooled - they will still shut out folks with handicaps at the glimpse of an eye. But it takes increasing amounts of skill to extract these opinions from modern people. And yet, it obviously can be done, and if I manage, you can manage too.
With increasingly rare glimpses inside the madness that lives in people's brains that governs all the disgust, hate, fear and reject they have for people with disabilities, it is well worthy any attention one can give to the proponents of such outrageously fresh and arrogant attempts like AMC Freakshow to tell us something. We want to know about the new, embarrassed society that surrounds us.
I want to know if they tell us something new.