Friday, May 21, 2010


(American Able image created by Holly Norris and Jes Sachse)

"'American Able' intends to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media...Too often, the pervasive influence of imagery in mass media goes unexamined, consumed en masse by the public. However, this imagery has real, oppressive effects on people who are continuously ‘othered’ by society."

American Able is a brilliant slam-dunk against the ways genuinely "normal" bodies -- those which are what we see in our everyday public -- are rendered "other" by the media and particularly by fashion, which is an industry predicated on perpetuating our most deeply-held oppressions even as they might argue they are subverting it.

THIS is what real subversion looks like. It jerks you up short and makes you question ALL your assumptions, and notice the human connection you are missing.

Physical difference is the guidepost for identifying most groups targeted for oppression: Not Males, people of color/ethnicities, children, elderly, disabled, fat, and on a subtler but just as effective level, class and regional identity. Physical difference is, for most of these categories, presumed to have a biological origin which also imprints the personality/mentality of those in the different categories, and that "inherent" difference serves as justification for targeting.

We cannot imagine a difference which does not imply biological hierarchy of some kind. We cannot imagine a difference in which all deviance is equally valued.

But we have to try, because that is in fact the truth. And those of us who want to live in a reality-based community will have to lead the way, especially through art, in creating a goal of the imagination: THIS is what real, desirable, valuable people look like. They look like us.

Self-hatred allows a devastated system to sell us a devastated world.

To start imagining, it is necessary to understand exactly where your conditioning has hobbled you. For that work. I find implicit association tests extremely helpful. These tests can quickly unroof biases you may have denied or discounted. The good news is, whatever lies you were taught along the way can be unlearned. Take these tests (especially the ones you feel like you'd rather avoid), carry the information gathered to your support system, and embark on healing with loving company. You'll be moved to creative, effective action as part of the healing.

You won't believe the beauty that is in store for you.

A wide range of implicit association tests are available online at Project Implicit run by Harvard.

[Giant tip of the hat to the always groundbreaking BagNewsNotes for bringing this to our attention.]


Wednesday, May 19, 2010


(Dale Evans and Buttermilk)

A story my mother often told began with her saying she didn't know the yard I was going to play in would have no adult supervision, and since she was gardening in our backyard, she thought I was in line of sight anyhow.

I was four and we were recently back from India, 1959, returned to the small house my parents owned on the edge of Lafayatte, Louisiana. That subdivision was brand new, and not all the treeless backyards looking onto each other had fences yet. My family's chain link fence had only just been installed. Behind us and two or three houses to the right was the yard I went to play in, without any fences in between.

That yard had a new swingset, which was the draw. I don't remember actually knowing the kids I tagged along behind, and they all seemed vastly older than me, certainly much more coordinated. I felt small and alone but not afraid. Not yet. The father who had been outside when Mama waved her okay went back inside while Mama was bent over a flowerbed. Mama would always put this in the recounting with a defensive tone.

The new slide was higher than any I had been on. In my memory, it was towering, which might mean it was twice my height. In that memory, I am not yet afraid of heights. My last memory without acrophobia.

There was a line of us to use the slide, including children standing behind each other on the ladder itself. Someone ahead of us had dared to go down the slide backwards, and now everyone was doing it, but since I was on the ladder I could not see the technique clearly. I got to the top and was determined to do what the big kids were doing. I wasn't sure how to get myself reversed, however. I remember perching on the top and the kid behind me yelling to hurry up, and I even remember leaning far to the side so I could maybe swing my body around in the air.

Mama said I landed on my head. I'm not sure how she could have known that, since neither she nor the father of that house was watching. He only came out when one of his children ran in the sliding glass door, shouting. He was a short, muscled Cajun man in his 30s. He picked me up, unconscious, and began walking hurriedly toward my house.

Mama had straightened up because Peggy from next door had come over to chat. Peggy was Irish and had a pair of Boston terriers named Pat and Mike who were not friendly dogs. Mama said she saw the man coming from the corner of her eye and turned to look, seeing me lying apparently lifeless across his arms. She said it was one of the worst moments of her life.

Daddy of course was not home, and my little brother was a newborn. She said she lay me in the front seat of the car but she had to leave Bill with somebody and Peggy had gone into gibbering hysterics, declaring me dead. The father had gone back home because he still had a yard full of kids. Mama said she slapped Peggy to make her shut up and listen, handing Bill off to her before driving me to the hospital.

I didn't regain consciousness for 45 minutes. Mama was very specific about the lapse of time and I believe her. They said it was a severe concussion. I actually remember the x-rays because they wouldn't give me a pillow for my aching head and instead insisted I lean back against a hard green triangle of wood, which I found very unfair. I was put in a private room and Mama was told to keep me still but not allow me to go to sleep.

She was inventive and spent most of the next three days there with me. I remember clearly that she brought me a Dale Evans paper doll set, hoping that quiet play would keep me absorbed. I took the time to watch Mama cut out one outfit before declaring it boring and refusing to touch it any more. The paper tabs which had to be bent to hold on the clothes were inadequate and everything slipped off. Mama wound up cutting out the entire book of ensembles on her own and arranging them for hours on my bedside tray, muttering to herself between admonishing me to lie still.

I never cared for paper dolls since, they reminded me of captivity. And I can't look out from a height without becoming dizzy with terror. I've worked on the latter, many times. It's kept me from being able to stand up on a chair to change a lightbulb. At this point, given my other physical limits, it's a phobia I'm willing to die with. During movie scenes shot on a precipice, I simply close my eyes.

And not caring for dressing up dolls has been a smart choice, not a phobia at all.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.

And the first two here are from little gator.

And -- three variations on the same theme: