Third Wave Of Feminism - Feminism And Disability Rights

The confluence of disability studies and feminist philosophy is another key discovery in current third wave feminism. 

Disability studies, like feminism, opposes ‘normative' notions of the body: beliefs that assert that there is a normal body. 

When societal perceptions of a normal body prevail, departures from that standard are labeled as impairments, and a person is labeled handicapped. 

However, new research in the field of disability studies casts doubt on that notion. 

Disability, on the other hand, is caused by societal systems that make it more difficult for certain bodies to operate than others. 

Consider the difference between vision impairment and motility. 

  • The normative definition of vision is very broad, and society (represented here by signs, insurance companies, societal norms of attractiveness, and so on) allows for defective eyesight. 
  • Unless a visual impairment is severe, a person may operate in the same way as others who do not have a "vision issue." In other words, it is a socially acceptable "disability." 
  • However, not all impairments are so easily accommodated. 

A excellent counter-example is mobility. 

  • If a person's capacity to move and get about in society is hampered by a body that differs from the bodies of the majority of people, or at least those in positions of power, that individual may not be able to operate as well as others who do not have this distinct body. 

Working on the intersections of disability and feminism, feminists contend that pathologizing the nonnormative body misrepresents disability. 

  • They believe that disability is a social system failing rather than a fault in a specific body. 
  • The social system maintains a hierarchy of bodies that approach the norm, and it often fails to invest in structural improvements that would enable those bodies furthest from the standard to operate effectively and meaningfully contribute to the social total. 

Wheelchair users are essentially denied entry when university and government building entrances are only accessible via steps. 

  • When communication or discussion takes place via a phone line, a deaf person is left out of the dialogue, information, or communication. 

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which went into effect in December 2006 (and was preceded by the Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons in 1975), has made significant progress in altering the societal view of disability. 

  • Rather of considering persons with disabilities as objects in need of help, the United Nations Convention stresses their rights and subjectivity. 
  • The Convention emphasizes the social obligation to provide accessible buildings, phone lines equipped with technology for the hearing impaired, and numerous other changes to ensure the full participation of people with disabilities in society by shifting thinking about disability away from an individual with a physical problem to a society with an accommodation problem. 

Similarly, the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 26: Integration of Persons with Disabilities) and national laws encourage a change in thinking about disability. 

  • Feminists contribute to this study by applying feminist ethics, epistemology, and other ideas to disability studies, as well as borrowing or discovering new ways to think about feminism from disability studies. 
  • Many feminist theorists utilize feminist ethics of care to explain some of the problems that handicapped people and their carers face on a personal level, in the medical system, and in society at large. 

Feminist bioethics, which is often founded on an ethics of care and other feminist ethical frameworks, discusses and examines problems concerning the handicapped in a similar way. 

  • The techniques utilized as well as the substance of the problems are what make these issues feminist. 
  • The approaches rely on nonhierarchical ethical concerns, a relational view of the self, and personal story to elucidate ethical arguments. 
  • Relationships between caregivers and the cared for, sexuality and disability, rights to carry and raise children, and rape and abuse of the handicapped are only a few of the numerous feminist concerns. 

Feminist epistemology is helpful in communicating the needs and aspirations of individuals from various backgrounds. 

  • Remember how one feminist epistemological suggestion was to attempt to view the world through the eyes of the other. 
  • When confronted with a handicap in another person, it's natural to envision what it's like to be that person and extrapolate from one's own experience. 
  • If an able-bodied person observes someone who is unable to use her arm, that able-bodied person may recall how it felt to live with a sprained wrist and envision the other's handicap based on that limited experience. 

Feminist epistemology, on the other hand, proposes that we conceive her impairment via her experience. 

  • This entails listening to and learning from the individual in order to comprehend the role of disability in her life, as well as the true role of disability in one's own life. 

What impact does your perception of her handicap have on her life? 

Is she aware of an able-bodied person's pitying gaze? 

Is she relegated to her useless arm? 

If anything like an appropriate knowledge of disability is conceivable, these and other issues must be addressed. 

  • Of course, feminism isn't alone in its quest to better comprehend others' experiences; comparable discoveries can be found in oppression studies in general, as well as moral philosophy. 

The confluence of disability studies and feminism is also useful for considering how transgendered individuals have been treated in the past and what kinds of alternatives might be imagined. 

  • Instead of attempting to ‘fix' the transgendered person by forcing them to adhere to one of just two gender options that also corresponds to a supposed biological sex, we could strive to repair the societal expectations and conventions that assume gender and sex fall along such simple boundaries. 

We can think about individuals in terms of various genders and sexes without having to name or categorize them. 

  • Of fact, a person may choose to be different genders at different times in their lives. 
  • This kind of dramatic shift isn't simple to achieve; for starters, we'd have to give up our gendered pronouns. 
  • Language, on the other hand, is extremely flexible and reacts quickly to social changes.

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