Nowadays, American society puts a label on everything. Not just things but humans as well. When people are trying to be open-minded about something or someone, sometimes they take it too far.
We can see it in the discussion about people with disabilities, society accepts them for who they are but to the point where all they can do is stay at home or be supervised by someone who is not like them, someone healthy. When a person sees, or reads a ‘person with disability’, they think of someone who’s born with it. But they often forget that one can develop in later in a life or get it from some kind of accident.
Most of the time society wants to make them happy and make them feel good, but sometimes those actions target them and attack them instead. Nancy Mairs in her essay “On Being a Cripple” and Johanna Hedva in her essay “Sick Woman Theory”, want to change the telos of disabled, explaining how society should rethink the way they put their labels on people, and instead should encourage people with disability to accept who they are.
The authors do that by demonstrating audience their own opinion, showing what disabled society really wants and thinks and of course using their own examples being labeled by others. Nancy Mairs in her essay, showed clearly what her stance is and how she feels about being a person with a disability, being ‘cripple’. Mairs is proving her personal narrative and analysis about disability. She starts her essay off with the quote by Louise Bogan, “To escape in nothing. Not to escape is nothing”, to show her audience that no matter how hard one will try to escape from their problems, it still will leave a stain in their lives anyway.
The idea of that problem will be a part of them even if they do escape it and make them who they are. She wants us to understand that disabled people are no different than un-disabled people, just like skinny or fat, tall or short, we are all people, we are compounded with the same seed, just simply are different by our own problems. Of course, she wishes she could be healthy again, but that is who she is, she cannot change that. Mairs knows how hard it is to accept yourself, but one just has to do it. If one will accept who they are, then everything bad around them will just go away and it will be easier for them to live. What is more important is how she encourages everyone to love themselves, as a cripple she prides it, she does not hate it.
After giving a good definition of a cripple, she is saying, “as a cripple, I swagger” (Mairs, 700), to point out that she is proud to show who she is, it turns her into herself. Of course, her path was not easy, she had given up a lot of things that she liked, she had to do a lot of new things to bring her life back together again. But one thing about her, is that she never regretted what happened to her, she has no hate for it. It is so fascinating how open-minded she was about new her and how she never wished to go back to old her.
From something like that she had strength to create a new life that she loved. Mairs accepts who she is, “…I’m not sorry to be a cripple… I’m glad of what I have” (711), she is proud of what was given to her and what brought her where she was at the moment when she felt happy. Her path was not easy, and it is not over yet, she continues to do things she loves to do. Furthermore, Johanna Hedva is trying to show the importance of disabled people in society as well as healthy people.
In the beginning of the essay she is showing her audience that she is sick, to comfort them with showing that she knows how it is to be disabled. Her essay is composed of her own theory, “Sick Woman Theory”. She explains how this theory shows how healthy people are linked with ability to work and disability people with no ability to do that. Not only does she state her examples but also, she talks for the whole disabled and sick society. She is trying to fight for every person that has been left out in society. Hedva is demonstrating her disease and how it affected her as a person. She states that the name of her disease is “endometriosis, which is a disease of the uterus where the uterine lining grows where it shouldn’t… bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and depersonalization disorder have also come to me”, (Hedva, 24) she didn’t get one disease at the time, she got multiple.
At the beginning it was hard for her to accept herself. She experienced all kind of pain, nearly died, but she was brave enough to stand up for herself and for others who’s been hurt and labeled by the society. That is Hedva’s main goal, to change how this world perceive sick people. Hedva puts people first, her “Sick Woman Theory is for those who are faced with their vulnerability and unbearable fragility, every day, and so have to fight for their experience to be not only honored, but first made visible” (31), she wants society to see those people and accept them no matter what.
The idea that when someone is sick, does not mean they are not able to do anything for their society, for example, being political and tries to encourage society to help those people to not feel ashamed of who they are. Nancy Mairs and Johanna Hedva both stick to the argument about how people should change the idea of how they accept people with disability. Both authors are not negative about what is wrong within them, they do not criticize themselves, and they are not trying to make their audience feel bad about themselves, but to show them that they are strong individuals who survive in the same environment with their own problems just like other people. They teach us a lot of important things. With using their own ideas Mairs and Hedva shows how her disease changed them as a human. But both of them clearly do not like society’s norms and labels.
Mairs states that, “society is no readier to accept crippledness than to accept death, war, sex, sweat, or wrinkles…” (701), because it is unique is some way, it does not happen to everyone society do not know what would happen if they did accept that. That is bad for disabled people because they start thinking what is wrong with them or what they do not have that healthy people do.
The authors mission is to teach them to accept people for what they are and not to look at the norms to accept them with the hearts and souls and not with eyes. That is when Hedva makes a point saying that, “you don’t need to be fixed, my queens – it’s the world that needs the fixing” (31). No matter if one disabled, does not mean one cannot be political or an activist. Society argues how they cannot do things like healthy people do, but whose job it is to label them like that. No ones. One doesn’t have to be outside to be political or to change this world for better. It is simple, every human is equal and if they want to do something for this world, they can. But they cannot do it with a society that thinks that if one is disabled, one cannot do a ‘normal’ thing.
Everyone needs society that accepts them for them and not what they have, that is why their norms and labels should be different. Again, the authors do not state that society does not like or hate those people but divides them from their rights on being a citizen, political and an activist in their country.
Reading these essays made me realize a lot of important things about one’s life and their role in the world. Because of Mairs and Hedva, changes like the one they have dreamed about would happen, if society tries to help and change the way they are. They were clearly aware of their diseases but were still brave about it. The two of them think alike, Mairs is saying “what I hate is not me, but a disease. I am not a disease” (706), and when Hedva is saying that is “‘the sickness has come to me.’ I love it and want to honor it” (23), they encourage not to hate yourself but to love yourself.
They show everyone that something like that is not going to break one’s life and future. I have always truly respected people with disability, but sometimes I felt sorry for them. And that is what society’s first problem, and what both authors hated. We should not feel sorry about that but to help them to embrace that. That is something that will be always part for them, we should just fight with them and encourage them to step out of their boxes.
Accepting them as you would accept a person with no disability. Not dividing them from the society norms would change this world for so much better. This argument creates a bigger idea about every human on this earth. Society made this world a bit crazier with their ideas, labels and opinions. We are all humans and we have to stick with that idea. We have to remember that we are no better than someone else.
Indeed, we do differ from each other, we might be disabled, different color, different culture, woman or man, short or tall, fat or skinny. But we should not forget to respect and love no matter who you are. Being a citizen of the world and not just your own country. It is important to protect and care about everyone and does not matter if you know them or not, respectful and be open-minded to their opinions. And following that idea, hopefully society will change for the better, and next time Mairs and Hedva hear about stories how people who are disabled or sick are proud of who they are and respect themselves. And that next time Hedva hears a march by her house in a park, it will be a march of celebration of the people who are united and not some other protest that divides them instead. The significance of this change is huge, that is why society should control and learn how to use less labels on everything.