The One Where I Write About the Varsity

What follows is an entirely personal opinion, not that of the Graduate Students’ Union, University of Toronto or any other related to it. Thanks! – Brad.

So, now and again, I read the Varsity – the mostly-undergraduate newspaper at the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus. And, while I enjoy their work on the whole, something they’ve written – as a sort of missive to new students kind of bothers me. Not in a deeply aggrieved sense of wrongdoing, no, but rather in that I think the venerable Varsity’s writers here have missed the point. Continue reading

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Hey folks, 

So, this is one of those blog posts I’ve been thinking about for the past several days and I think I’m finally in the right head-space to write about it. I think, in some sense, I’ve been part of the problem. “What do you mean?”, they ask. Well, if you folks follow me on the Book of Faces or Newfoundland’s beloved department of government communications Twitter then you’ll have seen this article by the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Stella Young called “We’re not here for your inspiration”. The article, if you haven’t read it, tackles the notion of inspiration porn which Young defines as “ is an image of a person with a disability, often a kid, doing something completely ordinary – like playing, or talking, or running, or drawing a picture, or hitting a tennis ball – carrying a caption like “your excuse is invalid” or “before you quit, try”. Increasingly, they feature the Hamilton quote.

And yeah, I complete 100% agree with the focus of this article: Disabled People* are not here for your enjoyment, amusement, swooping feeling of encouragement or utter and complete shame. We’re all regular folks and, frankly, most of us don’t really care that much about how special our everyday accomplishments appear – because, well, they are everyday accomplishments and that’s that. I know most folks don’t set out in their day to be walking-embodiments of sunshine and the presumption that folks with disabilities (visible and not) must conform to that ideal is really, really soul-crushing for a lot of people.

But, in thinking about all this, I had to stop and reflect. Have I, both purposefully or otherwise been part of this very problem? I mean, I’m an optimist by nature and do appear often as that guy who is – in fact – walking embodiment of sunshine, lollipops and all that other stuff. That’s just who I am a lot of the time – particularly in public, but most of the time outside of it. But, in saying that, have I been re-enforcing at times the very negative sentiments noted in this article (and elsewhere)?

The answer is a big yes.

Which kind of really threw me off. I mean, that’s why this article has taken me so long to write. I often tell folks, when they ask about the ‘challenges’ of my disability, that I simply don’t see ‘it’ as one. Never did, but that’s more because I feel its an intrinsic part of who I am, rather than as a problem – sure, there are issues here and there I have to face, but so do many in life. But in retrospect, I can see that people might not take what I’m saying that way. They might often see what I’m trying to say as just another form of inspiration porn – just another declaration that if I can feel this way, every other one of you is a lazy sack of somethin’. Which isn’t, I don’t think, what I ever meant… but it could easily, easily be thought of like that.

Moreover, in reading stuff I’ve said in the past, I often downplay my disability with adjectives like ‘mild’ to contrast with others’ whose circumstances are more ‘severe’. Which, I think, is part of that complex a few of us tend to have, at times, when identifying as a disabled person that we’re not ‘as disabled’ as others or other sorts of dividing monikers amongst our lot – which is hella frustrating and comes up in groups of us too, as anyone with a disability knows already.

But you know, that has to feel really bloody patronizing to read and while it comes from my own weird-feelings in the moment in identification – which is the fun part about identity, when we feel the need by design or otherwise to drop qualifiers on that identity – it sounds so awful. So, sorry about that.

I mean, what this comes down to is that we’ve all engrained in ourselves the culture that creates inspiration porn and all other such things which tends to divide us in ways which are unneeded and unhelpful.  More and more, I’m convinced we need to actively adopt the tactics and stratagems which have been successful in race, sex, gender and orientation discussions – and that have actively succeeded in making noted change. And while this discussion has happened in the realm of disability studies and such disciplines, the reality is that such ideals have not really translated outward from the academy unlike these other currents of thought.

But that’s for another time, I think. Tonight, I just wanted to reflect on the personal and own up to my part in not really moving our collective cause forward at points in my life. Still, the more aware of this I am, the better I become at being able to – hopefully, aid in doing just that.

*Ok, for those of you who know me and heard me talk on this – which is rare – I really hate the term ‘person with a disability’. My cerebral palsy, folks, ain’t a sachel or handbag I carry about and am ever able to take off, it is simply part of my identity and the ‘with a’ distinction just drives a sense of separation from part of myself that just has never gelled with me. A lot of people like this wording and I admit, ‘disabied’ is often subbed for ‘inable’ in our society and its a term that carries its own set of baggage too… but, I like it more personally and I’m going to use it now more frequently, openly. I, funny enough, felt such relief in being able to discuss that fact openly with folks at OISE this year and felt quite validated by the whole chat. So, yeah. I know the community is pretty careful with language and the near-universally accepted term is ‘person with a disability’ but I’m not going to use it. So… there. 

Photo By Karen Evoy.

(Yeah, I couldn’t find a good photo for here so heck I thought why not play it for the irony and have me mundanely climbing up a hill. BE INSPIRED, PEOPLE! But seriously, there be my father behind me (in case you were of the opinion I was born, fully-formed, from an egg) and my mother took the photo. T’was a nice day with them.)

Voice of the Common Moron.


Oh VOCM, your exploits and often failure as a news organization is legendary throughout our fine province. But today’s Question of the Day really takes said cake:

Given the number of robberies and other crimes where the perpetrators wear hoodies, should the garment be banned in the province. Why or Why Not?

What? I mean, I’m all for off-the-wall questions in these sorts of things but… this is just laughable. This is particularly fun, as VOCM has a bit of a reputation as government’s unofficial mouthpiece.

Similarly, government has been having their own series of laughable decisions in their media relations department, including declaring July as Automotive Heritage Month (“Automotive Heritage Month is a great time to promote the hobby of antique automobile collecting” – Min. Paul Davis) while Min. Derrek Dalley decided to tell the people of the province that he was attending a play.

Some days, I honestly think “Dare to be Stupid” would be an honest attempt at replacing the current provincial anthem. Oh my…

Dare to be Stupid -“Weird” Al Yankovic.

mis·an·dry

noun /misˈandrē/

  1. The hatred of men by women
    • – her brand of feminism is just poorly disguised misandry

Thanks Google.

You know what I think is garbage? Misandry. While various groups of my fellow y-chromosome bearing brethren have attempted to use this as a counter-accusation to claims of misogyny for ages (as if this was a verbal martial art of moves and counter-moves), it seems like such currents in society are only getting stronger.

One only needs to examine the comments section of either of these articles on the latest waves of attacks against Anita Sarkeesian of FeministFrequency for her “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” Project to see what I mean. Constant cries abound that Sarkeesian wishing to provoke discussion and thought is attacking masculinity or that her defenders simply hate the bejezzus out of men because they are defending her.

This is, in short, malarkey. 

The very idea that in a society which is primarily still heavily dominated by men (of a particular race, orientation, ability, etc. most especially) is somehow diminished when concern is raised by women with regards to issues of their mis- or under- or entirely lack of representation within mediums of society should show this to be clear. But, like with accusations of reverse racism and all those sorts of things, misandry is an expression of the dominant group within society attempting to frame the struggles of opressed groups as oppressive, in and of itself. 

The use and absorption of language used to challenge oppression by those creating oppressive environments by way of maintaining various traditional power-structures is something one sees more often of late. Indeed, just a few days ago the union where I work was left with the kind message that our stance on equity was in someway was discriminatory to men of the white, able, cis-gendered and heterosexual variety. Like, seriously people? 😐

But so goes the major currents of our society and so sets the stage of the current fight for the socially progressive within our society.