Petition to cancel humanitarian award for Jerry Lewis

Every year, disability activists in the US protest the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon because of the stereotypes and prejudice that Lewis and his annual escapade promote about people with muscular dystrophy and other disabled people. The Academy of Motion Pictures Art and Sciences has announced that it will award Lewis its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at next month’s Oscar awards ceremony. American disability activist and author Laura Hershey has written a petition which will be delivered to the Academy. An excerpt follows: Continue reading

About Face(s): here’s an article from the L.A. Times about a face transplant

Woman undergoes face transplant in Cleveland

Surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic replace about 80% of her face with skin and muscles harvested from a cadaver. It’s the most extensive such operation ever performed and the first in the U.S.
By Karen Kaplan and Shari Roan
December 17, 2008
A woman being treated at the Cleveland Clinic has an almost entirely new face following the most extensive facial transplant ever performed, the medical center said Tuesday. The surgery was the first face transplant in the U.S. and the fourth in the world.

Few details about the patient have been released in advance of a news conference scheduled for today. About 80% of the patient’s face was replaced with skin and muscles harvested from a cadaver.

The family of the patient has asked that her name and age not be released so she can remain anonymous, the clinic said. It was not clear when the surgery took place.

Dr. Maria Siemionow, the Cleveland Clinic plastic surgeon who performed the marathon procedure, is well known among microsurgery specialists, and colleagues were quick to praise the achievement. They said face transplants would become routine in the coming years.

“We’re on the threshold of a whole new way of correcting defects,” said Dr. Warren C. Breidenbach of the University of Louisville, who performed the first hand transplant in the United States.

Read the entire article at the link below:
http://www.latimes.com/news/la-sci-facetransplant17-2008dec17,0,6148948.story?track=ntothtml

What Sorts of Actors Can There Be?

(Image description: Actor Jason Maza sits in a grassy area on the set of “Special People” in a black manual wheelchair.   He is wearing a navy hoodie with white collar and blue jeans and is holding a film camera on his lap. )

Director’s Anger over Comedy Film’s “Disability” Warning (from The Independent)

By Paul Bignell
Sunday, November 16, 2008

Disabled actors last night condemned a move by British film censors to label a new film featuring a disabled cast with a warning stating that the film contains “disability themes”.  Special People, a British, feature-length film with a cast  of mainly disabled actors playing disabled characters, was given the label by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) along with a 12A rating.  The director, Justin Edgar, is angry about the “unnecessary” labelling. “I was really surprised to get this certificate,” he said. “I couldn’t understand why a film censor thought it was necessary to make people aware that the film had disabled people in it.”

The movie – a comedy which follows a film-maker on the verge of a nervous breakdown who is enlisted to teach a class of wheelchair-users about film-making – has garnered awards and been selected for festivals around the world.  Read the entire article at the link below:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/directors-anger-over-comedy-films-disability-warning-1020484.html

Acknowledgment to Beth Haller @ media dis and dat

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: The Body as a Site of Discrimination

The Body as a Site of Discrimination: A Multidisciplinary, Multimedia Online Journal

The Body as a Site of Discrimination will be an interactive, educational, multi-disciplinary, high quality, critical, and cutting edge online journal. This creative project will fulfill the degree requirements for two Master’s of Social Work students at SFSU.  This is a call for submissions to explore the following themes, but other interpretations are also encouraged.

— Disability and Ableism
— Fatphobia or Size Discrimination
— Ageism
— Racism
— Gender Discrimination, transphobia, non-conforming gender identities, sexual assault, sexism, and reproductive rights Continue reading

Call for papers: Skin, Culture and Psychoanalysis

Edited by Sheila L. Cavanagh, Rachel Hurst and Angela Failler
Deadline for submissions: 15 February 2009
Email:  psychoanalysisandskin@gmail.com

The editors of Skin, Culture and Psychoanalysis invite contributions for an interdisciplinary collection on the cultural politics and psychoanalysis of skin. We welcome papers that unhinge skin from the biological sciences to examine its layers of significance by way of social and psychoanalytic critique. Skin is the first and enduring medium through which we encounter the world. It delimits interiority and exteriority and, consequently, our relationships to self and others. Skin is laden with unconscious meanings and those we attach to it with respect to gender, sexuality, ‘race’ and racialization, religion, nationality, class, and dis/ability. Moreover, as both “screen” and “container,” skin functions to simultaneously reveal and hide the ways we negotiate identity, body and culture. Perhaps due to these complexities, skin remains an under-theorized yet productive site of inquiry.     Continue reading

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

Saturday Night Live (SNL) parody of Lennon sisters mocking disabled people

A discussion on the Disability Studies in the Humanities listserv has centred around a skit recently performed on this American-produced late-night variety show. While SNL prides itself on being an alternative to mainstream television which pushes the limits of conventional cultural attitudes and mores, the skit serves to bolster deeply-entrenched biases, stereotypes, and ideas about disabled people (and disabled women in particular) as revolting, sexually disqualified, and so on. Check it out at the link below (uncaptioned of course):

http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/the-lawrence-welk-show/727501/

Acknowledgements to Tobin Siebers, Margaret Finkand, and  Rosemarie Garland Thomson on DS-HUM.

Violations of the Human Rights of People with Albinism

This post (acknowledgements to Sandy Sufian and Penny L. Richards) includes a letter from Rick Guidotti of Positive Exposure, the link to a petition Guidotti will take to Tanzania, as well as a link to the NY Times article (June 2008) on these unspeakable crimes. 

___________________________________________________________________

We write to advise you of disturbing human rights violations against people with albinism in Tanzania that call out for action by the genetic community and ask for a few minutes of your time to make a difference.  Recent reports from Tanzania published by BBC News, New York Times and the Washington Post tell of the murders of persons with albinism, including children, on the orders of witchdoctors peddling the belief that potions made from the legs, hair, hands, and blood of people with albinism can make a person rich.

In mid-October, Positive Exposure’s Rick Guidotti (www.positiveexposure.org) will be traveling to Tanzania in partnership with Under the Same Sun (www.underthesamesun.com) to  collaborate with national and local government officials, authorities and interests groups to develop effective strategies to end these 
crimes against humanity.  Please sign the online petition which the team will present to the government of Tanzania. We need 10,000 signatures for this to be effective.  http://listserv.galists.org/t/345183/10873/81/0/?u=aHR0cDovL3d3dy51bmRlcnRoZXNhbWVzdW4uY29tL3BldGl0aW9ucy5waHA%3d&x=dde07514

This petition will also let the albinism community in Tanzania know that they are NOT ALONE and that many throughout the world are standing with them in defense of their fundamental human right to safety, security and freedom.

Positive Exposure is a non-profit organization that challenges stigma associated with difference by celebrating the richness and beauty of human diversity. 

Here is the link to the NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/08/world/africa/08albino.html

NY Times article: Day 1: Olympic Swimmer Du Toit Wins Paralympic Gold

AP Photo/Greg Baker
Natalie Du Toit at the WaterCube in Beijing on Sunday. (AP/Greg Baker)
Natalie Du Toit, the South African who won five gold medals at the 2004 Paralympics and who finished 16th in the 20-kilometer open-water swim three weeks ago at the Beijing Olympics, added another Paralympic gold to her collection on Sunday when she won the 100-meter butterfly in her disability class.

NY TIMES article: Amputee Seeks Medal and to Master a Rival

Feeling good never felt more infuriating. Marlon Shirley, the world’s premier amputee sprinter, woke up July 3 with no pain in his knee — not from the half-dozen recent operations, not from the staph infections, not from other problems still lurking in there — for the first time in months. Yet all he could think of was: It’s too late now. I can’t be ready in time.

Marlon Shirley, above in the Netherlands in 2006, has two Paralympic golds in the 100 meters.
photo by Fred Ernst/Associated Press

Ready or not, Monday morning at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, Shirley will blast from the blocks and run what he calls the race of his life — the 100-meter sprint in the Paralympics, the Olympics for disabled athletes, which opened Saturday. It might become the last race of his life, because for all he knows, his knee will explode somewhere around the 70-meter mark. But two months after assuming he would never race in Beijing, at least he would fail trying.

Read the full story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/sports/othersports/07sprinter.html

Triathlete? Ball Girl? Amputee? All of the Above.

Triathlete? Ball Girl? Amputee? All of the Above.

By JOSHUA ROBINSON

 Published: August 28, 2008

After every few dashes across Court 14, Kelly Bruno reached down to her right leg and flicked at something. It was a gesture so slight and so fleeting, she could have been swatting away a bug. It was also the only thing she did that was not in the protocol for a United States Open ball girl — nowhere does it mention popping the pressure valve on a prosthetic leg.
 
Kelly Bruno reaching down to grab a ball off the court. 
Bruno’s prosthesis is in full view because she is wearing shorts.
photo by G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times

Call for Abstracts: Embodied Resistance: Breaking the Rules in Public Spaces

Call for Abstracts

Embodied Resistance: Breaking the Rules in Public Spaces

Co-Editors, Chris Bobel, University of Massachusetts Boston and Samantha Kwan, University of Houston

This edited collection will assemble scholarly yet accessibly written works that explore the dimensions of resistance to embodied taboos of all sorts. We are interested in pieces that describe and analyze the many ways that humans subvert the social constraints that deem certain behaviors and bodily presentations as inappropriate, disgusting, private and/or forbidden in various cultural and historical contexts. Empirical, historical, theoretical and narrative contributions are equally welcome. This book, intended as a supplemental text for use in undergraduate and graduate classrooms, aims to advance and deepen our understanding of the motivations, experiences and consequences associated with the bodies that break the rules through the (intersecting) lenses of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, religiosity, class and nation. Continue reading

Face of a Nation

Yang Peiyi, who recorded the song that Lin Miaoke lip-synced at the Beijing opening ceremonies.

Yang Peiyi, who recorded the song that Lin Miaoke lip-synced at the Beijing opening ceremonies.

Today’s big Olympic story (see CBC coverage here and National Post coverage here) was not about athletic accomplishments, but rather another lip-syncing controversy. This time, it was something far more disturbing than learning that Luciano Pavarotti lip-synced his performance at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. Rather, today we learned that not only did nine-year-old Lin Miaoke lip-synch her performance of “Ode to the Motherland” at the Beijing opening ceremony, but the girl who actually sang the song, seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, was considered not beautiful enough to represent China because of her crooked teeth. According to Chen Qigang, the ceremony’s chief music director, “The reason was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings and expression.”

It is interesting to note that the Chinese quest for the perfect prototype is one that has deeper roots in terms of how they see themselves in scope of human evolution. Several studies have demonstrated that the concept of race has been rejected by about 75% of anthropologists globally in terms of understanding human biological variation. Interestingly, a recent study of the race concept in China showed that of 324 articles directly related to human variation printed in Acta Anthropologica Sinica, China’s only journal dedicated to physical anthropology, none questioned the validity of human racial classification. Rather, several articles were mainly concerned with the biological differences among or between ‘major races.’ The reason for this is that Continue reading

Beauty through the eye of a camera

Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman, has battled anorexia for 15 years. (image courtesy Nolita)

Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old French woman, has battled anorexia for 15 years. (image courtesy Nolita)

In April, Paris drafted a voluntary charter encouraging advertisers to promote a wider range of body types in an effort to curb the spread of eating disorders among teenagers. Soon, Quebec may be following suit. Although some countries have made weight ranges mandatory, such as Spain, this voluntary measure is a first step that does not preclude the possibility of legislation passing in the future. See the full story here.

Here in Canada we’ve already seen some advertisers looking to promote a wider range body types. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a conspicuous one that has received much attention. Largely, I think, this is due to the shock value that half-naked non-models on billboards will inevitably provide in a culture where images of bodies in public are edited beyond recognition. Continue reading

Women and Botox

Botox has been a hot topic in the news for the last few years as one of a string of new less-invasive cosmetic surgery routines. For those unfamiliar with the procedure, it involves injecting a strain of botulin toxin (hence the name Bo-tox) into facial muscles in order to paralyze them, decreasing the user’s ability to wrinkle their face, but also their ability to make certain expressions, particularly the microgestures essential to meaning.

There is evidence that women are the main targets of the Botox revolution. Part of this may be a systemic preference for younger people. A recent Wallstreet Journal article details the pressure women feel to look physically younger for the advancement of their careers. Continue reading

The Power of Language new column from me out

Most people exhibit numerous biases some without even realizing that they have them and others they use for certain ends. What is needed is a tool that facilitates the identification of biases so that people can become more aware of them. The column highlights such a tool

read here

Imaginary Beauty

Musician, dancer, and British TV personality Alesha Dixon has recently spoken out against the practice of creating unrealistic and homogenized images of women in the media. Alesha experiences these practices personally as someone who frequently appears on magazine covers. Her BBC3 documentary on the subject, Look But Don’t Touch, goes behind the scenes on this issue, following Alesha in her quest to get a magazine to put her on the cover without photoshopping.

[this video contains auditory language and no subtitles, sign interpretation, or other captioning]

Creature DIScomforts

Creature Discomforts is an offshoot of Creature Comforts that is intended to reshape people’s perceptions about disability. It presents a series of animated TV commercials that combine claymation (from the creators of Wallace & Grommit) combined with the voices of people with disabilities. Here is one example: Continue reading