Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Disability Intersections and 'cisgender'

Portraying marginalised groups accurately and sympathetically can remove some of the prejudice surrounding them, so including these characters is paramount. Disabled people are one of the groups who are still lacking accurate and respectful representation in the media. (Alice Hewitt, 2014, from the article pictured, left)

Stumbled across this online magazine looking for something else: this particular article/essay has a rather distinctive voice, adding a feminist critique on top of considering disability representation in isolation. As I'll often point out, it makes sense to consider any given category in combination with others too - this writer addresses sexuality as much as gender.

The author uses a term I hadn't previously encountered, cisgender ... the Wiki seemed a reasonable enough summary:
Cisgender and cissexual (often abbreviated to simply cis) describe related types of gender identity where an individual's experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.[1] Sociologists Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook define cisgender as a label for "individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity" as a complement to transgender.[2]
There are a number of derivatives of the terms in use, including cis male for "male assigned male at birth", cis female for "female assigned female at birth", analogically cis man and cis woman, as well as cissexism and cissexual assumption. In addition, certain scholars have begun to use the term cisnormativity, akin to the queer studies' heteronormativity.[3][4] A related adjective is gender-normative; Eli R. Green has written that "'cisgendered' is used [instead of the more popular 'gender normative'] to refer to people who do not identify with a gender diverse experience, without enforcing existence of a 'normative' gender expression".[5]

Top Ten Disabled TV Characters

This is an American list; who would you suggest if attempting to do a comparable UK TV character list? See http://www.squidoo.com/TV-disability.
There are alternative lists out there:
the WheresLulu site had a useful (US again) list in 2011;

InTheseTimes.org brings this up to date with a critical look from late 2013 at what examples are out there and what is upcoming (the Michael J Fox character with Parkinson's is highlighted);

WhatCulture Top10 Film Characters.

TV Tropes - common representations

The TVTropes.com website (a Wiki) has its issues, and its judgements can be questioned, but it is a useful resource for getting your head round recurring ways in which certain character types are represented. NB: the language can be a little blunt at times, but I think the lack of PC'ness (political correctness) is acceptable given that the site is largely EXPOSING the prejudice and stereotyping of much of our TV.

You can see pictured some of the headings for tropes they have linked with the theme of disability; sample entry (for 'Disabled Means Helpless'):
Disabled Means Helpless

Spagna (cutting Pelswick's food): There! All done!
Pelswick: Thanks for doing that, but it's my legs that don't work, not my teeth.
Pelswick, "Hear No Evil, P.C. No Evil"
When some people meet a person with a disability, they automatically assume that the individual is totally incapable of looking after themselves, and treat them as such. Most egregiously, some people even assume that having one disability equals having every disability! These people are the ones who insist on SHOUTING AT THE BLIND, assuming they can't hear, either. These patronizing attitudes often create resentment on the part of people with disabilities. In fiction, they have little problem telling the offender exactly that. Learning this is not true is often the point of a Very Special Episode. Contrast this trope to the Handicapped Badass, who everyone can instantly tell is not to be messed with.

I'm not familiar with that show, but the style of humour is reminiscent of the 1989 Wilder/Pryor vehicle, See No Evil, Hear No Evil - trailer below; you can watch a typical clip here, but note that it contains some strong language.