On Cheap Glasses and the Myth of Affordable

Glasses are expensive and if you have less than perfect vision, you need them. Whenever anyone talks about needing glasses in an online space, they are met by a chorus of “Oh go to this *insert online dealer*! I got mine there and they were just *insert seemingly nominal amount*!” The thing is though, that what seems nominal to one person may be a cost too high for another.

Story time. My glasses broke in half last summer. I went to put them on my face when I woke up and they fell into two pieces. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was three years old, my prescription is quite high. When I talked about my glasses breaking, immediately I was flooded with recommendations for various online sellers.

The thing is, because my prescription is so high, the glasses that were costing my friends $30 were more in the $75-100 range for me. Which is a big difference! In fact, what was a nominal cost for them became a choice between being sighted and paying a bill for that month for me.

And this is a reality for many people.

There is room in this discussion for the intersections between class and ableism to be examined. After all, it is only those with low prescriptions that can access the low-cost options with using these online dealers. It also ignores the fact that people need to be able to be seen for a prescription which, without insurance especially, can be a hefty cost. What I’m bringing this up for today is to discuss the ever-changing goal post of “affordability”.

Not everyone operates from the same financial level and we really need to stop speaking as though “cheap” is the same level for everyone. Not everyone can access the same opportunities due to their unique circumstances (like my high prescription vs my friend’s low one) and not everyone is working with the same amount of capital.

This isn’t to say that we should never suggest things to others looking for help and guidance, it is only to say that we need to be aware of the difference between people that will change their experience. Instead of “go here it’s so cheap!” try “I had a good experience with this company under these circumstances”. Be aware of the fact that a cost that may seem low to you may be a budget breaker to someone else. After all, even $30 may be a tough choice to a family that is stretched thin financially.

It’s good to try and help but don’t forget that you are not an authority on anyone’s life but your own and even though something may work really well for you it may not be so great for someone else. The idea of affordability across the board is a myth. The only thing that is affordable for everyone regardless of life needs is free. Anything above that and it cheap really depends on what you consider expensive and that’s different for everyone.

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Trump Doesn’t Have a Mental Disorder

man-person-people-emotions

Stop writing pieces speculating on what mental illness Donald Trump may have. It’s abelist and it’s the same tactic we use to excuse white boys who shoot people. They didn’t mean it, they’re SICK. No. Donald Trump isn’t sick. He’s just a man who is used to having everyone kiss his ass.

Our president does not have a mental illness. We are not going to excuse his bad behavior because he has narcissistic personality disorder or he may be suffering from PTSD from the 9/11 attacks. His actions are not based on some emotional boogeyman. He is doing these things because he wants to and thinks they’re the right course of action.

It’s scary to accept that the leader of the free world is so visibly self-serving and is lacking quite a bit of knowledge surrounding the very important position he’s in but it’s the truth and we must accept it. Armchair psychology at the best of times is a pointless pursuit and we are not anywhere near those times.

Continuing to play this game that Trump has some yet undiagnosed disorder is at once a distraction and a tactic used to hold him less than accountable for his choices. It causes people who could act to hold back with the idea that “he’s reacting to his disorder, possibly.”

No, stop it. There’s nothing wrong with Trump. Discussions about what might be wrong with him are a distraction. Don’t get distracted.

Zootopia is about what Conservative White people fear

zootopia

Zootopia came out over the summer and blew everyone away with its metaphors for race relations in the United States. I just watched it last night with my children and I agree, it’s about race in the US. Specifically, it’s about what Conservative White people fear will happen if they were to become the minority in the country.

This is a children’s film and that’s important to note because one of the criticisms of this film is that the metaphors are messy. Even though I think most of the reading of this film’s meaning was off base, particularly that they assigned the predators as the people of color, and the prey as white people, and that is part of what leads to the less than perfect allegories, I also think that there are things that don’t work perfectly simply because this is a children’s movie and we have to arrive at a happy end.

So I acknowledge that it’s not perfect but it does read cleaner when you look at it as metaphor not for today but for a future time when White people are a minority and that they are portrayed as the predators in the film, not the prey. We also need to understand that there are multiple things going on with this storyline, some of which do not fit into the overreaching racial metaphor, some that speak to other issues in our culture, and some that are just children movie story building.

The story line is about a bunny, named Judy, who is the first rabbit to be allowed on the force. On her first day she finds out that 14 predator animals have gone missing. She ends up working the case and discovers that these animals have gone savage and are dangerous. Once this news gets out, the populace begins to distrust predator animals, even though only a small handful have done anything bad. Eventually, they uncover that the animals have been drugged due to a plot by prey animals to frame predator animals. Everything is resolved in the end, Shakira shows up and sings a song, roll credits.

The inclusion of Judy on the police force reads as affirmative action and is likely why so many people read prey as Black people. The lion mayor calls it the “mammal inclusion act” which is so blatant. However, this is the first instance of the race metaphor not working. If you look closely at the animals you will see that the force contains a lot of non-predator animals. They may not be prey, but elephants and rhinos aren’t known for their hunting skills either (although hippos are VICIOUS). What is actually going on here is that only big animals are allowed on the police force. Her species isn’t left out because she munches veggies, but because she’s small. This is sometimes read as sexism but it’s important to point out that Judy’s drill sergeant is ALSO a woman.

Her inclusion is actually read better as allegory for disability (far from perfect as she’s not actually disabled in any way) and the inclusion of differently-abled people into all walks of life as they can add their own unique abilities to the greater whole.

In any case, you can shed her relationship to the police force as a server for the race metaphor. What we can deal with, however, is her relationship with foxes.

Foxes eat rabbits. That’s what they do. If you watch this movie with the understanding that predators are White people then foxes, all foxes, are White people. Early on, Judy is attacked by a fox when she is a child. When she’s an adult she meets Nick, a fox, and they become best friends (there’s a lot of plot and not being BFF but that’s where things end up).

Judy experienced metaphorical racism at the hands of a fox as a child and although she tries not to let this color her view of ALL foxes, the fear is still there, that they will turn on her or that they are just waiting to reveal their true nature. It is a fear that is shared by her parents who warn her against them. This works really well as a metaphor for how Black and other people of color exist in White spaces. Many of us have experienced racism growing up and now look for signs to avoid it as adults.

What doesn’t work so well is Nick’s, the fox, counter story. In fact, this part illustrates the ways in which this being a children’s movie, gets in the way of the overreaching message. Nick’s counter story is basically “reverse racism” 101.

Nick tells a story about how he wanted to be a cub scout which in this reality is something that only prey animals do. When he shows up at the meeting, they laugh at him and put a muzzle on him. Because he’s a dangerous predator. So you know, he too knows what it’s like to be profiled and we should all just see people for who they are, everyone’s guilty and we can all do better. Only the whole thing pretty well glosses over the reality of what happened.

What happened to Nick was emotionally painful and likely would haunt him for his life (if he wasn’t a cartoon) but what happened to Judy was actually physically and emotionally scarring. The fox that attacked her as a child slashed up her face, he very easily could have killed her. What happened to Nick was sad but what happened to Judy was a step away from homicide.

When they found out what is causing the animals to go postal in the film, a certain type of blue flower (very Through a Scanner Darkly) it’s also revealed that although only predators have had the problem in the city, it can also happen to prey animals. This is, again, not a race/species thing, it’s just some bad luck. But it again ignores the fact that the one prey animal we’re told about who had eaten this plant only left a bite on their victim but the predators that have gone missing by and large can and will KILL the people they attack. Savage bunnies aren’t great and can certainly hurt other bunnies or small animals but savage tigers will kill bunnies, wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, and other tigers who get in the way.

This is noteworthy because it speaks to the conversation about police brutality vs Black on Black crime. People with more power and influence can do greater damage with their violence than those without. A criminal Black person has a much smaller reach than a violent cop. A gangbanger can influence a neighborhood, a cop that sees all Black people as violent can influence policy that keeps people of color oppressed.

Before it’s revealed that the animals are going savage as a plot by, of all heavy handed metaphors, a sheep, it causes the populace of Zootopia to fear and distrust the predator animals in their society, of which, are only 10% of the population.

This is where the metaphor of the future of all scared White people really takes hold. Even though the population of predatory animals is very small, the prey animals shy away from them, for fear that will revert back to a more violent version of themselves because it’s in ALL of their nature (all White people are racist).

Then we find out that they are being poisoned by sheep to bring out this violent side. This is an allegory for the Black Lives Matter and really any discussion of race by people of color. The predator animals weren’t violent until they were poisoned by the prey animals.

The sheep enacted this plot after years of mistreatment by the larger predatory animals in the city. It’s not a perfect metaphor, again, because this movie is for children and in children’s movies, your villain must be a bad guy. There isn’t time in an hour and a half to peel back the layers of motivation and see how the person with the gun got to where they are. But it’s easy to put together.

The sheep, being small and not able to access the upward mobility that the larger herbivores had access to due to their large size, organized and worked to overthrow the system that kept them at the lower levels. This is what Conservative White people think BLM is doing (it’s not, we just want cops to stop shooting people which doesn’t seem like it would need a whole movement but this is America and cops NOT killing people seems to be controversial) and this entire film is an allegory for what would happen if White people and Black people switched population sizes. At the root of that is if POC don’t say or do anything to draw attention to racism then we’ll see those distasteful parts of the Whiteness begin to disappear.

Ultimately, none of the overreaching issues are resolved in more than face value. The flower is identified, the sheep that started it all is locked up, we can all learn to get along, Shakira, Shakira. Still, it’s a good place to start.

Zootopia was not a perfect movie. It was a very fun children’s movie however it does rely on a good deal of racism 101, we’re all equal and can learn to love our differences which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for young children. It does serve as a very subtle, albeit less than perfect, metaphor for the concerns of Conservative White America but it leaves a lot unexplored and sacrifices a stronger point to make a better children’s movie.

Your Weight Loss Talk is Classist and Abelist

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It’s that time of year again. That wonderful time when gyms and industries geared to making us feel bad about ourselves get a slew of new memberships because it’s a new year and it’s a new you! If you want to spend your time and money chasing the magical weight loss solution that will somehow solve all of your health/self-esteem issues, that’s fine (it’s not but that’s not what we’re talking about today). You can do what you want but think twice about how you talk about it because conversations based in weight loss are extremely abelist and classist.

Chances are the person speaking about their goals doesn’t mean to be abelist. They don’t think they’re being classist but the fact of the matter is that the weight loss industry is skewed strongly in the favor of able bodied people who are likely working at a level above poverty.

When we talk about weight loss there is often a component of working out and there are a ton of suggestions for how to work out with or without a gym, low impact, high impact, whatever. With all the options out there, one can question how can it be abelist? But the fact of the matter is that there are many people for whom even the most low impact of work outs is too much or very, very difficult.

Also, if you feel the need to mention some internet story you say with some disabled person who was ripped like Jesus even though they are missing a leg or something, just stop. Not here for the inspiration porn either.

Disability isn’t always obvious. Many people live with chronic, invisible illnesses and casually recommending water aerobics to someone ignores the very real health struggles they may have. Simply insisting that someone just needs to “try” ignores the struggles of people who have other health issues above and beyond their love handles and muffin top.

Some people have gained weight due to medication. Telling a person that they’ll feel better if they take the weight off is a slap in the face to a person who picked up extra pounds due to taking medication that keeps them alive and able to function.

Then there is the matter of telling someone to just “eat better” which is so problematic. Unfortunately “good” food (defined here as foods that are rich in nutrients for the purposes of this blog. In reality there is no such thing as good or bad food) is very expensive and many people live in food deserts adding an extra expense to going to get the food.

This is where the classism comes in with the added bonus of intersectionality because sadly, many disabled people live at or below the poverty line. Simply saying eat better ignores the fact that food is a commodity that many people do not have solid access too.

Then there are the invisible costs to food which include full kitchens to prepare and store as well as time to plan and cook. These are things that many people do not have in abundance and talking about food as if it falls from the sky ready to eat like we live in the world of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs stinks of privilege.

When we talk about weight loss, we talk about it as if it will be easy and all you need is willpower. This is what the diet industry wants you to believe. The fact of the matter is that a lot goes into losing weight or why weight was gained to begin with. Having the health and resources to lose weight is not something that everyone has access to and if you’re talking about it, then you should be mindful of that.

The circumstances that allow people to focus on exercise and diet are a privilege. Having access to grocery stores, gyms, and safe walking areas are privileges. Having the space to store food and the time to prepare it are privileges. Having a body strong and healthy enough to engage in physical activity is a huge privilege. Be mindful that not everyone has these.

We Need To Talk About Kylie Jenner Because Sometimes Context Matters

Steven Klein / Interview Magazine

Steven Klein / Interview Magazine

Let’s talk about Kylie Jenner. Everyone is talking about Kylie Jenner right now because Jenner recently did an erotically charged photo shoot where she was featured in a wheelchair and now, she’s won the ire of disability activists. But maybe using disability as a prop wasn’t what she was trying to do and maybe if she was someone other than Kylie Jenner, the context of these photos would matter more.

To be sure, the conversation surrounding disability is very much needed and this blog post in reaction to the photo in question is a very good one that discusses the ways in which wheelchair use, mobility, and visibility are all viewed in modern society. If you want to know why a photo shoot featuring a wheelchair as a stand in prop for disability is a terribly bad idea, that post covers it. That’s not what this post is about. This post is about intent, context, and the ways we let our perceptions about individuals color our reactions in the media.

At first glance, this photo seems to be exactly what the outrage points at. Jenner is dressed in a latex corset, in a wheelchair. However, when seen with the other photos featuring her being removed from the storage box, posed, etc, it becomes clear that the wheelchair photo is part of the featured lifestyle of men who love dolls and that Jenner is supposed to be a sex doll in these shots.

man with real doll

Man with Real Doll in wheelchair Found on Photobucket

I support this starting an unintentional conversation surrounding disability and how it is perceived by society, I think that’s a very important conversation. What I don’t think is needed is the vilifying of Jenner for this photo shoot.

There is a context to this photo that is missed by removing the one shot from the greater whole. There are changes that would make the single photo a bit clearer and the message stronger. For example, if Jenner held her hands with slightly splayed fingers next to the wheels, as the actual dolls look. This is nit picking however as it’s fairly clear without such a small change.

By removing the photo from the context, it helps to fuel the narrative that is popular around Jenner (and by extension, her entire family) as being the bad guy. Vapid fame monsters with no care for anyone but their own. They are villains that the country loves to hate.

The question is, if someone else had been featured in this photo, a media darling instead, would the reaction of been so strong and unforgiving? Would they have been given more of a benefit of a doubt? Part of the reason why this photo has gone viral isn’t just because of the perceived negativity but also because of the woman in the chair.

Even if you personally have no issue with Jenner, none of us exists in a vacuum and we can all be caught up in the outrage machine. We feed off of that, we fall prey to that. This isn’t some random model being insensitive, this is KYLIE JENNER once AGAIN doing something that INSULTS an OPPRESSED GROUP. This is someone from THAT family ONCE AGAIN flaunting their PRIVILEGE while real people suffer.

That is the narrative. Meanwhile, the male photographer whose concept it was is getting a pass. They don’t have to explain themselves, answer to anything. The magazine is going to get a pass. They did release a statement but ultimately they won’t be known as the magazine that put out the abelist fashion spread but Jenner will always in part be known by this photo shoot as one more terrible thing that she did. This isn’t to say that Jenner is a saint that is simply misunderstood but it is to say that maybe, in this case, she’s not alone in her fault.

If there is truly a fault at all. Context isn’t always important but sometimes, it does make a difference. Sometimes it changes the story that we’re telling. If the narrative of the photos is about how she has no agency and is a doll then why would we want a disabled model to be in those pictures? Isn’t that counter to the image that the community wants to be seen? What about the other photos in the spread? Would a disabled model want to be seen being carried around, in a box, posed, etc?

Steven Klein / Interview Magazine

Steven Klein / Interview Magazine

Is that the story they want to be told?

Let’s talk about disability in our society. Yes! Let’s talk about how it is portrayed by the media! Let’s have that conversation so we can as a whole become less abelist with more positive representations for everyBODY.

But let’s not take that stand based upon this woman in these photos. Let’s have the conversation because it needs to be had not because we think a fame monster is being a fame monster that needs to be called out.