Flaunting the Haunting

One purpose of this blog is to give Dr. Dolmage an idea of where are thoughts are ahead of class. I have to admit, I’m sort of lost on the epilogue of McRuer’s Crip Theory. I don’t think I quite understand what the haunting is or why it’s valuable to disability studies. I tried looking up other instances of where McRuer has used the term. I found some stuff on LGBT studies and the like, but it didn’t really clear anything up for me. The example he gives of the “everyone will be disabled if they live long enough” line makes sense, but I still feel like I’m missing something. Is it just an aspect of something (i.e. disability studies) that makes us feel vulnerable? Is it just that eerie quality?

I did get a lot out of the Siebers chapter we read though. Specifically, it furthered my interest in Butler with respect to my final body project. A significant part of my Michael Jackson research will focus on issues of body modification and things like body dysmorphic disorder. Butler should give me some interesting things to think about. For example, the relationship between power and the body can be explored with The Psychic Life of Power. Butler argues that power impacts the body through guilt and ends up moulding it. The obvious question regarding Michael Jackson would be about the reverse. What power did Jackson take back in manipulating his body? Does this constitute resistance?


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4 Minute Exercise

If I were to apply today’s class towards my project (supposing I go with Michael Jackson again), I would concentrate on sex/gender and identity/performativity.

Jackson’s public appearance was famous for being androgynous. What interests me about sex and gender here is the context of superstardom. The movie star or the rock star is traditionally a sex symbol in pop culture. Michael Jackson was without question a rock star. As such, the public focus a lot of their sexual attention on him. Throughout his adult life, there was great interest in his sexuality, including gossip columns speculating on who he was dating (Brooke Shields, etc…). Where the media really started to turn him though was when he frustrated the public’s desire to see him follow a determined script for a “male” in his privileged position of fame and success. His seeming failure to fulfill the act of sexual reproduction that is the basis of our definition of sex was followed by a deepening transformation of his physical appearance and controversies surrounding his relationship with children.


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Whose Body?

I was intrigued this week by the feminist/cultural approach to eating disorders in Bordo’s Unbearable Weight. I was particularly interested in how it argued for the interpretation of something like body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) as in fact not a misconception on the part of the patient. Instead of a person developing an abnormal sense of reality (as the medical model would claim), this approach proposes that they are actually perceiving the pressures of gender and society, reflecting reality in their suffering.

According to Bordo, the feminist/cultural paradigm has done three things:

  1. “cast into doubt the designation of anorexia and bulimia as psychopathology”
  2. “reconstructed the role of culture and gender as primary and productive rather than triggering or contributory”
  3. “forced the reassignment, to social causes, of factors viewed in the standard medical model as pertaining to individual dysfunction”

I’m trying to think of how this paradigm would grapple with something like the child obesity epidemic in North America. I agree with the feminist criticism of eating disorders, but I wonder how similar approaches would deal with strategies that attempt to counter the rising rates of type 2 diabetes in kids. Campaigns like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move seek to end childhood obesity. They could easily been seen as bodily rhetoric that reinforces the “ideal” slim body. But if childhood obesity is proven to be a key link to diabetes and heart disease, isn’t there a moral imperative to promote healthy living?

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I’ve been thinking this week about transability. Specifically, I’m interested in the wannabe and pretender types. For me there seem to be a lot of similarities with race. I’m not sure where the dividing line between disability and race is though. The critical race readings didn’t resolve much for me either. That week just left me with more questions, in a good way though.

During the transability presentation, I was thinking about the appropriation of inner-city black culture by middle class suburban white youth. Would this qualify? Are the white pretenders assuming the socio-economic disability of their inner-city counterparts? Or does this idea simply belong to a different discipline like critical race theory?

Critical race theory is sociology, law, power, and race. But then so is disability studies.

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Disability is not only a material and individual experience located in one’s body. It is also a social force. I think Michael Jackson’s face is a good example of the intersection of disability in the individual and the society. Jackson suffered from bodily dysmorphic disorder (BDD), where he felt a crippling anxiety about his appearance. Jackson imagined defects and used plastic surgery excessively in an attempt to control and correct his appearance. He experience the disability in a very material, individual way that was located in his body alone.

On the flip side, society displaces their fears of disability and disfigurement onto the text that was Jackson’s face. The image of Michael Jackson is a repository for the anxiety on a societal level. Society experiences the disability of Jackson’s BDD in a communal way.

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Bodily Rhetoric

Rhetoric is persuasion. But, for me, the tricky thing about rhetoric is that it’s always “on.” Everything is rhetorical all the time.

When it comes to the body, it’s from every direction. A body can be rhetorical, impressing upon its environment and vice versa.

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Where the Rubber Meets the Road

What interested me most about the chapter from Our Own Master Race was the mention of A.R. Kaufman. I’ve lived in KW my entire life, so I’ve heard the name Kaufman many times. My parents live right next to A.R. Kaufman Public School. There’s a YMCA named after him. I have a friend who just moved into the lofts in the old converted Kaufman shoe factory over in Kitchener. You never really hear about his opinions about “the unintelligent and penniless who unfortunately constitute an increasing percentage of the total population.”

I first thought of the public school. I wondered about their policies toward persons with disabilities and their sex education programs. If the man had enough influence to leave his name on quite a number of things around town, I wonder how much he is responsible for aspects of those students’ daily lives.

I wanted to know more about Kaufman and I managed to find a few things. In the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, there is an article on Kaufman’s commercial concerns with birth control and eugenics. He owned the Kaufman Rubber Company, which supports the popular belief that he felt it advantageous from a business perspective to support the proliferation of condoms.

I brought up my findings over dinner with my parents. My dad sort of dismissed the revelation as only “popular opinion at the turn of the century.” Unfortunately though, even after the horrors of the WWII, Kaufman still held eugenicist views well into the 1970s. I shutter when I think of other influential figures who held strong to their beliefs in the face of such horrific manifestations.

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