Friday, January 11, 2013

Waist-High in the World

Waist-High in the World  by Nancy Mairs
Weight: 8.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving at Joe's in EAV

I bought Waist-High in the World ages ago--long before I had a passion for reading and exploring (dis)ability.  I picked it up recently without considering what it was about and just started reading.  I was glad to realize it was by an author with MS.  I am a beginner.  I am ignorant to this disease but, looking back, I do not understand how.  I guess it is what we so often do in this able-body obsessed world.  I glanced at it and kept going, never considering who it touched and that it might one day be something me and/or my friends might be diagnosed with.  I am not always proud of how I have moved through the world, though I imagine every thoughtful person must feel this way when looking upon certain situations in their lives.

The thing about disability, as with all umbrella terms, is that it encompasses so many people, so many situations, and so many bodies that it can become overwhelming.  What we can narrow down and see clearly though is that, in the United States, the world is set up in a way that seems to benefit white "able-bodied" heterosexual men most of all.  Once one takes the time to delve into disability studies, read the blogs of people of varying abilities, open up, talk with their friends and family about disability, so many things become clear.  Having a disability is one thing, learning how to maneuver the world is a whole other thing.  The signs on the bathroom doors may say handicap accessible, but are they really?  Can everyone fit in them, turn, move, arrange themselves in them.  Are there enough bars?  Are they at the right height?  If needed, can an aid fit in the stall?  Do city signs and public buildings utilize Braille, sounds, font size in a way that can benefit a large number of people, including those that would not even consider themselves handicapped?  Are wheelchairs, screen readers, and other tools affordable and accessible?  Despite the laws, are noticeably disabled people as likely to be hired for a job they are qualified for?  Are they given help when fighting for these rights?  Are people without an obvious disability frequently pushed to do things they should not do and then judged when they cannot do them or when they are more easily exhausted by them?  Do they have the same literature, movies, and music that are representative of their body experience, their sexualities, their negative experiences with oppression, their positive experiences?  Even when disabled characters show up in pop culture it is generally so that they can be pitied or so they can prove that they are superhuman despite all the odds.  How helpful is this really?  Do we have the information available that would be helpful in exploring and celebrating sexuality in a way that is not focused only on penetrative, orgasmic, heterosexual sex?  I could go on but, by now, I am sure you are able to think up your own lists.  It just goes on and on and on. 

I highly recommend this book to everyone.  It is one woman's experience of MS and living with her husband who battles cancer.  It is not a book about what MS is or how it effects everyone that has it.  As is often the case with these things, it effects people's minds and bodies differently.  This is a book by an intelligent, thoughtful woman.  It examines various topics that influence all of our lives, and it also gives us a candid and powerful insight into hers.

1 comment:

  1. This was returned to the Decatur Library in the bookdrop! Passing it along to their Friends group.