Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Palin Problem for Women and Disability

Lots of folks, disabled and Deaf both, took a look at the Palin speech last night at the Republican National Convention and were very, very uncomfortable. Naturally there is the yucky thing about McCain selecting a VP who is not really his peer or political partner---a younger woman who a lot of folks doubt can do the job. That's gross. There's also the fact that she's using her status as a mom of a kid with a disability as a political tool, but as the running mate of a man who won't support the Community Choice Act because apparently he thinks that kind of thing costs a million dollars a day, or should be free. Do you see the hypocrisy here? Also, a lot of us cringe at the phrase "special needs" because it makes us seem like kids when in fact lots of us are adults, hairy, gross and generally do adult things and think adult thoughts. But a lot of parents of kids with disabilities use that, real adults with disabilities don't say those words. But OH---Palin wasn't talking about adults! I guess we all just die off at say 20, 21...

The really bad thing, however, is that Palin was able to pre-empt the Obama people from talking about women and disability on a very public stage. Sorry, Obama people, but she did steal that show. I think the Obama campaign has some serious thinking to do about the voice that its decisionmakers allow for disability issues. What are we, prize goats? (Maybe!!!) And you know what Palin stole the show on? Combining a woman's issue (being a mom) and a disability issue (having a kid with Down Syndrome). The Obama campaign needs to do a LOT better on this topic than it has been doing because now some women's disability rights issues are going to get big play (unless McCain dumps Palin).

Now, about having a kid with Down Syndrome...yes, 85% of women who test positive for a DS kid want to abort, so if you keep your kid, you're definitely bucking a genocidal trend. But personally, making it a right to life issue on a national stage? I don't agree. Imagine saying, "Thank me because I decided not to kill my child!" That's not about the kid, that's about the mom. I think this is clearly a women's issue because it's women's bodies after all---but it is also disabled kids' bodies too. I err on the side of choice and advocate disability-positive knowledge about knowing how kids can live a real life with a disability---then you can make your choice.

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