TW: Internalized Ableism
I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been put in to an ill-fitted box, metaphorically, that is covered in tape with red writing that spells out the word ‘fragile.’ ‘Unable,’ ‘unequipped,’ ‘incompetent’ would also be words associated with this fixed, rigid, cubed space. A space that does not mirror, in the slightest, a disabled life. A space that has been orchestrated around a skewed idea of disability. It feels that when you are disabled you have to work twice as hard to be seen, to have some kind of value. Though I am also aware that I am part of one marginalised group that feels misunderstood, to say the least, and can play a huge factor in how we are ranked in society.
I loved a board or card game as a child (I still do now). It sparked a moment of shared fun and joy and, to exercise that competitive muscle. One of my favourite games was Top Trumps. That card game for two or more players, where cards have rankings against a set of qualities and whoever has the highest ranking on the quality in question wins.
I had a pack of Top Trumps based on The Simpsons and my most loved character card was Maggie Simpson, the youngest of the Simpson family, who appears as a yellow cartoon character wearing a sky blue long- sleeved dress with a matching bow in her spikey blonde hair and, as ever, sucking on a tangerine-coloured babies’ dummy. Coincidently she also got the highest ranking for ‘Most loveable’ with a 10.
As kids, Top Trumps was just about getting that higher number and winning that card, playing with innocent, untarnished and pure acts-generally speaking. Though such a focus on winning a game seems so trivial now, Top Trumps is a game played every day with more intensity and stakes that are far much higher .
We might not be sat in a circle, looking into the eyes of others trying to anticipate the numerical values that are before them, but we are still eager whilst also anxious to find out about what we’ll win or lose. Numerical values are swapped for our demographics or status. The reward of a piece of A6 sized card is swapped for opportunities, entitlements and ultimately our place in society.
I know that as disabled person, the immediate utterance of the word disabled automatically means that, in one way or another, my wants and needs will get judged on importance and worthiness and perhaps pitted against someone that perhaps doesn’t have such things.. For example. when it comes to getting my voice heard and having a seat at the table or having responsibility distributed or accessing education or employment, I know that as a disabled person I may not be the desired candidate. This means that I know I may lose out to those who are non-disabled, as it may feel “more convenient” or “less trouble” or “may require too much work” in terms of putting access and support in place for someone like me. I am left there wondering what is wrong with me? Why am I not good enough?
In this real-life depiction of Top Trumps, the quantity of cards that are in my hand therefore shrinks. This is before I hand over cards based on my identity as a woman, because society, as much as it has progressed, is still very much a man’s world. Yet I am privileged to be holding the cards that I have due to my white skin, my heterosexuality, and being cisgendered.
As a disabled individual there are those cards that I might win back, cards that I would rather loose. These ‘victories’ are funded by that ever-nauseating inspiration porn. Yes, I mean when cards are thrown my way just because I got out of bed this morning, or am seen going down the street, or have a smile on my face “Even though life must be oh so hard.”. These wins feels like I am also losing. Funnily enough though for those who have lost this card, they perhaps feel like they have won because they have done a good deed. It’s like being a kid again when adults let you win a board/card game just because. These wins therefore have no substance yet, I like, many in my position, am made to feel that I should be grateful for the cards or more accurately this type of praise given.
The term of worth and value needs to be deconstructed. We need stop being surface driven, ranking each other based on who we are or what we have or have not got and stop making others feel unworthy and that they need to escape and abandon who they are. We need to stop being guided by the myths and legends that were formed long ago about certain demographics. Let’s put our cards down and not be governed by the topsy turvy societal structure and start seeing and hearing each other. Let’s stop pitting ourselves against each other. Let’s leave competitive streaks only to rise around actual board and card game tables.
All my love XX