NY Times article: Move Over, My Pretty, Ugly is Here

Photo of the Wicked Witch of the West (with lovely green hands and face) from the Hollywood film “The Wizard of Oz.”  Everett Collection

 By SARAH KERSHAW

Published: October 29, 2008

IT would be close to impossible to tally all the magazine articles, scholarly treatises and philosophical works, reality shows and Internet sites, college courses, lectures and books devoted to the subject of beauty.

 

Bartolomeo Passerotti/Rizzoli New York, 2007
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER Depictions of ugliness:
“Caricature” by Bartolomeo Passerotti.

But what about ugliness?

It is an awkward topic, a wretched concept, really, and, of course, a terrible insult when flung in your direction.  When a woman once told Winston Churchill he was drunk, he is said to have replied: “And you, madam, are ugly. But I shall be sober tomorrow, whereas you will still be ugly.”

Ugliness is associated with evil and fear, with villains and monsters: the Wicked Witch of the West, Freddy Krueger and Harry Potter’s arch-meanie, Lord Voldemort, with his veiny skull, creepy slits in his nose for nostrils and rotten teeth.  There are the gentle souls, too, plagued through no fault of their own by their disturbing appearance: Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, the Elephant Man and Shrek, who is ugly and green but in a cute way.

Ugliness has recently emerged as a serious subject of study and academic interest unto itself, in some small part because of the success of television’s “Ugly Betty,” which ABC promoted with a “Be Ugly” campaign stressing self-esteem for girls and young women. Sociologists, writers, lawyers and economists have begun to examine ugliness, suggesting that the subject has been marginalized in history and that discrimination against the unattractive, while difficult to document or prevent, is a quiet but widespread injustice.

Researchers who have tried to measure appearance discrimination, or “uglyism” and “looksism,” and the impact of what they call the “beauty premium” and the “plainness penalty” on income, say that the time has come for ugly to peek out from beauty’s shadow. 

Read the entire article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/fashion/30ugly.html?th&emc=th

Positively Autistic

Autism Awareness icon

Autism Awareness icon

CBC News has just run a special, Postively Autistic, that many will find of interest–the link to the site is beneath the fold below as well as a transcript. The video runs 19 minutes, and features Amanda Baggs, Ari Ne’eman, and Michelle Dawson, amongst others. The site for the special also contains a lot of other information. General drift: representation of autism as a positive human variation that stands in need of social acceptance, and links this view to the disability rights movement and the idea of neurodiversity. It’s a bit more choppy than I would have liked, and has very articulate autistics (like Baggs and Ne’eman) speaking for auties as a whole. Maybe this is a good way to start with introducing the idea of autism as a form of natural human variation, but we might push further and represent more of this variation, some of which folks will find more disturbing. (Here having Dawson in here is a bonus, since while she’s incredibly articulate, she also conveys a few more clues about the kind of variation one might find on the spectrum. Sadly, there’s not an extra piece on her, only on Laurent Mottron, whom she works with in Montreal, on the CBC website. I suspect that was a personal choice of Dawson’s.)

To be sure, this is not a way of saying Continue reading

Disability in/and hacking

I have two running projects, one on hackers and the other on patient activism with a focus on psychiatric survivors and chronic lyme disease activists. The later project may seem to have more overt ties with questions of the body and disability, but I would say computer hacking, which is the subject of a course I am teaching this fall is fundamentally tied in with issues of ability and disability as well. Three of the most salient issues are 1) Blindness 2) Autisms/Aspergers 3) Repetitive Stress Injuries

For example, the history of phone phreaking (a variant of hacking where experimentation is focused not on computers but phone systems; it predates hacking as well) is fundamentally intertwined with blindness. Some of the most famous phreakers from the past were blind (and found great comfort and freedom, really a social outlet, in exploring the phone lines and hanging out with other phreakers in party lines). And even today, some of the most (in) famous phreakers are blind, the subject of this recent article on a particularly bold and brash blind phreaker.

Some hackers also are known to have aspergers or autism (some identify with being autistic, others do not) and this sort of trait can lend itself toward computer work. I have heard people informally joke about how the Internet is built by the labor of autistic geeks. And while it is an exaggeration to say that all geeks and hackers have autism, there does seem to be a higher than normal prevalence of autistic like behaviors among this crowd. Continue reading

CFP: Special Issue of Disability Studies Quarterly on Autism

Submission deadline: Jan. 1 2009
Projected publication date: Summer 2010

Co-editors: Emily Thornton Savarese, University of Iowa, and Ralph James Savarese, Grinnell College

We are looking for completed articles, from a disability studies perspective, on what the medical community refers to as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). We are especially interested in pieces that engage the so-called “low-functioning” end of the spectrum, where increasingly those presumed retarded and lacking social awareness are writing back to the empire of science. As the field of disability studies has theorized cognitive difference, it has had to refine its cherished social-constructionist approach, making sure to account for physiological distinctiveness in the organ of sensibility, a distinctiveness that has been interpreted in a myriad of ways, most quite prejudicial. We are interested in the burgeoning neurodiversity movement, which has self-consciously resisted such prejudicial interpretations, often revealing the “science” of autism to be anything but reliable and objective. How to talk about autistic difference? How to represent it? How to convey its gifts and challenges? Who can talk about it? What role should parents play in this representational arena? What role should teachers, doctors, researchers, therapists, media entities, and academics play? What kind of interdisciplinary approaches are needed to understand, respect, and even cherish autism? Continue reading

Society for Disability Studies (SDS) Annual Convention 2009: Call for Proposals

NOTE FROM ST: If you are organizing a conference and wish to make it inclusive of, and accessible to, a diverse range of disabled people, you should take some cues from the requirements for accessible presentations which are provided in this CFP following the description of themes for this conference. Notice, for instance, that the accessibility provisions are made explicit in the CFP itself.  Thus, disabled individuals who wish to submit a paper and/or attend the conference are not required to contact the conference organizers themselves in order to inquire about the accessibility of the event, nor are they left to guess, hope, or take their chances in regard to its accessibility.

THEME:  “IT’S ‘OUR’ TIME:  PATHWAYS TO AND FROM
DISABILITY STUDIES—PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE”

The Society for Disability Studies is pleased to announce a call for proposals for its annual convention, to be held June 17-20, 2009, in Tucson, Arizona, at the Hilton El Conquistador Resort.  The theme for this convention is “It’s ‘Our’ Time: Pathways to and From Disability Studies—Past, Present, Future.”  Time, in all its forms, conceptualizations, and manifestations, will be the central focus of the conference, though proposals on any topic relevant to Disability Studies are welcomed.  We imagine a number of different ways of approaching the issue of time, a concept critical to all aspects of disability experience and culture: Continue reading

“Disability doesn’t mean Inability”

* For those in the NYC-area, this looks like a fabulous event

“Disability doesn’t mean Inability”
By: Emmanuel Yeboah, Athlete and Activist
 
 When:  Monday, October 27, 2008
 Where: NYU Pless Hall, First Floor Lounge
 82 Washington Square East
 New York, NY 10003
 Time:    6:00-8:30PM
 
 
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born in Ghana, with a deformed right leg and 
meager expectations. He was able to become self-sufficient in a 
society where the disabled (almost 10 percent of the population) are 
abandoned, shunned and hopeless.  To show his countrymen that 
disability doesn’t mean inability, he pedaled a bike donated by 
Challenged Athletes Foundation 610 km (379 miles) around Ghana using 
only his left leg. He continues to work vigorously to ensure that 
opportunities are available to all physically challenged Ghanaians.
 
Panel Discussion, Q & A, Wine & Cheese to follow
 
 
For questions please contact us at africa.house@nyu.edu

Conference announcement: PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY INTO PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH, AND MOTHERING

May 14-16, 2009
At the University of Oregon

This one-time conference will take place in the Spring of 2009. The conference will be primarily philosophical in focus, but interdisciplinary scholarship from fields outside of philosophy is also invited including, but not limited to, sociology, psychology, womenʼs and gender studies, and health care related fields.

Keynote speakers

Lisa Guenther, Vanderbilt University

Eva Kittay, SUNY at Stony Brook

Invited speaker

Andrea O’Reilly, the Association for Research on Mothering, York University

Call for Papers

Submit abstracts for papers or panels of approximately 750 words

Due January 31, 2009, at 5:00 p.m.

E-mail submissions or questions to PCM_Conference@yahoo.com  

Include a cover sheet with name, institution, department, and contact information. Document should be submitted in MS Word (.doc file). For further details and registration information, please link to www.uoregon.edu/~uophil/events.html  

 

Hosted by the University of Oregon and the Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Mothering Research Group. Sponsorship provided by the University of Oregon Graduate School, the Center for the Study of Women in Society, the Oregon Humanities Center, University of Oregon Department of Philosophy, and the Graduate Student Philosophy Club.