Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"She's a good helper, isn't she?"

Here's a very tiny story. I was walking one of my clients and this elderly man stops in front of me. I could tell he was about to say something. As I passed him, he said in a loud patronizing voice, "She's a good helper, isn't she?" I think he meant the dog, but I'm not 100% sure. Oy. I certainly don't mind people saying hello if they do it in a non-patronizing way. He was definitely trying to make me "feel good" versus just saying hi.

18 comments:

  1. Maybe he was trying to interact with you but was self concious. You say he was elderly. Perhaps he was doing the best he could; certainly not perfect, but an effort nonetheless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. well, i find that a very clever and a very thoughtful approach. he was certainly referring to you as he was saying those kind words, perhaps to make you feel good about what you do for the elders. maybe he can't just tell it to you directly. good story!

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Anon - accepting it when elderly people behave like that is incredibly ageist and patronising.

    Yeah, there might be nice reasons (not excuses) why he'd say that, but there's also the option that he's trying to prove how great he is by his version of tolerating the disabled. Which involves treating an adult like a small child (and actually EVEN SMALL CHILDREN don't like it when strangers patronise them, so...)

    ReplyDelete
  4. You're too sensitive.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Oliver - People aren't born knowing how to interact with others—they have to learn. Our society is learning how to treat disabled people only very slowly. People who were taught wrong need to relearn. That process gets harder with increasing age, and in peope with dementia it may simply be impossible.

    ReplyDelete
  6. OBVIOUS TROLL IS OBVIOUS.

    Yes, how DARE she be sensitive about her own OPPRESSION. HOW DARE SHE. Ugh. Sorry shit like this happens to you DAILY, Eva. I read all of your entries, even if I rarely comment on them.

    I'm constantly referring people to your blog for Ableism 101. This blog consistently comes up with super good examples of how people should NOT behave, and I'm really grateful that you take the time to share these things with us (even if they're painful experiences for you sometimes).

    ReplyDelete
  7. What Anonymous above doesn't realize is that these little incidents Eva blogs about are really just the visible part of the iceberg; there's a whole lot more going on beneath. Sure, at first blush it may seem oversensitive to write about some old man's ignorant comment, but it's indicative of the kind of infantilization that is so pervasive and harmful to people with disabilities. What if that old man had been a doctor deciding what treatments he'd offer Eva? Or a college admissions committee member deciding whether to admit her to higher education? A distant relation who did not think her worthy of the time to contact? A waitress who ignored her wishes and imposed her own judgment instead?

    These are all symptoms of the greater malaise that Eva is trying to impart to us. You would do well to listen. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. What Anonymous above doesn't realize is that these little incidents Eva blogs about are really just the visible part of the iceberg; there's a whole lot more going on beneath.
    Someone unfamiliar with discrimination may think it oversensitive to write about some old man's ignorant comment, but it's indicative of the kind of infantilization that is so pervasive and harmful to people with disabilities. What if that old man had been a doctor deciding what treatments he'd offer Eva? Or a college admissions committee member deciding whether to admit her to higher education? A distant relation who did not think her worthy of the time to contact? A waitress who ignored her wishes and imposed her own judgment instead?

    These are all symptoms of the greater malaise that Eva is trying to impart to us. You would do well to listen. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm really tired of the "They can't help it, it's how society was for a long time, we are changing slowly, be patient." As a disabled person with a barely-visible disability, even I see this nonsense on a day to day basis. We should not have to be GRATEFUL every time a person DOES know how to treat someone with a disability. Respect should be just "how society is." The only way to get that respect is to keep hammering it home every time someone makes an apparently innocuous but completely ridiculous assumption like this. I don't think the old man wanted to be hurtful either, and I'm sure, if he got around to reading this blog, he would probably realize his actions were a little bit foolish and a whole lot insulting. However, Anon, YOU, who read the blog and should therefore know why Eva is offended, went out of your way to defend one virtual stranger over another. Eva's point was pretty simple. It's not okay to treat an adult like a child. I would think that means it's less okay to ask an adult who is treated like a child to be polite and take on her assumed role in society, because oppressor in question cannot be expected to do better, but the oppressed CAN.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The irony in the attitude that disabled people should be educating others is that it's often harder to spare the time. If you have issues with fatigue in any way, it's hard to have the patience, or even the energy to engage someone enough to educate them.

    And just because they want to learn, doesn't mean anyone with a disability has to teach them. The fact is, some of us don't want to interact with folks who aren't socially apt enough to realize that you treat people like *people*. For me, odds are they aren't the kind of people that will interest me if they fixate on the one aspect of who I am that happens to stick out.

    I didn't know how to react when a bus driver once greeted me with "hi gimpy!" in a very enthused way, but it did piss me off. No way I could have calmly educated that guy, although maybe I should have told him off.

    When it comes down to it, we have to be our own advocates in some manner, but that need not mean engaging random people whenever they might need educating! How tiresome.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh and I think Eva's blog is a perfect example of a practical way to do it--she blogs about things on her own time, after the fact. It's got to be far less stressful (or at least less time consuming) than face to face, especially when she has to do a lot of work just to get people to stop seeing her as a young boy!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Why are you all attacking me?! I agree with Eva 100% and find it ridiculous that someone would tell her that she's being too sensitive. Was is not plainly clear that I was being SARCASTIC when I said "How dare she"? I'm all OVER privilege. I get it. You need to understand that I'm ON YOUR SIDE. My god.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I still think Eva is being over-sensitive. Assholes are everywhere, whether you're disabled or not. Everyone runs into people that don't treat them how they want to be treated. That's life, in any walk of life (haha, see what I did there?)

    Eva said in this one, that she didn't know if the man was talking about her dog or not. So she's choosing to take it personally.

    ReplyDelete
  14. ...see, there are some problems that come with being anonymous. Sarcasm also doesn't come through in text very well, especially from unknown commenters? You probably know these things--and probably don't take kindly to being patronized/attacked.

    You're too sensitive, I guess ;)

    At any rate, all I saw in this short blog post was minor annoyance, which seems like a normal way to react to people acting like jerks--intentional or not!

    ReplyDelete
  15. So was Anonymous being sarcastic in saying Eva's too sensitive, or does Anonymous believe Eva's too sensitive, or are there two different Anonymouses? Because there's two Anonymous comments that directly contradict each other and I'm confused.

    If the guy meant your dog, he may have thought your dog was a helper-dog and used that "Good Boy!" voice that people take on with dogs. That's the most charitable way I can interpret that. Sounds like a weird situation all around. He should have just said to you, "hey, nice dog," if that's what he meant.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I absolutely adore reading your blog posts, the variety of writing is smashing.This blog as usual was educational, I have had to bookmark your site and subscribe to your feed in i feed. Your theme looks lovely.Thanks for sharing.

    Hearing aid accessories

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have had people say to me a number of times (mostly older men) when they see me with my German Shepherd "Oh she is a good protector for you" in a patronizing sort of voice. It is really obnoxious. I don't know if it is because I look like a kid or because I am a small woman walking a big Shepherd but for some reason I get that a lot (it's not as obnoxious as strangers who tell me to "Smile!" all the time though.)

    ReplyDelete