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Prep Notes for Week 3


eli clare

not read this work before, although I've heard of it as a powerful exploration of class, gender and sexuality.

title:  exile and pride.  disability, queerness and liberation
why is class (or ecology) not in the title?  the dedication is "To the rocks and trees, hills and beaches"

mantra:  "I want nondisabled progressive activists to add disability to their political agenda.  And at the same time I want disability activists to abandon their single-issue politics and strategies. (ix)
who do you consider her audience?  was she writing to you?  were you hearing her?

examples of entanglement/diffraction:

"...woven through and around the private and intimate is always the public and political." (149)

Combahee River Collective, 1977:  ...(W)e are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking.  The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives." (xi)

"Just how urban is the most visible of queer identities, how middle-class, how consumer oriented?" (42)

"...doctors and their pathology, rubes and their money, anthropologists and their theories, gawkers and their so-called innocuous intentions, bullies and their violence, showmen and their hype, Jerry Lewis and his telethon, government bureaucrats and their rules will no longer define us." (106)

"And as a symbol of pride, the pink triangle neutralizes and transforms hatred, following a smilar political path as the words queer and cripple.  It is word by out and proud queer people.  These functions--marking identity, expressing pride, insisting upon witness--go hand in hand, all three important for any marginalized community." (114)

referring to the 3 images of disability in MDA, New Mobility, Mencap:  "These three stories need telling separately in all their specific detail.  They can also be brought together to tell a single larger story, one about the meaning of images, how those meanings change and shift depending upon the context, and the many ways in which they enter the body." (120)

speaking of Ellen Stohl's appearance in Playboy:  "Other feminists tried to analyze the contradictory messages, the sexual objectification of women intertwined with the perception of disabled people as asexual, the visual presentation of Ellen as nondisabled contrasted with the textual presentation of her as a supercrip." (121)

referring to the feminist sex wars (debates among feminist activists about the use of sexualized images of women in advertising, movies, pornography, erotica):  "This analysis has led to much powerful feminist activism in the past 25 years against rape and child abuse, against pornography and other media portrayals of women.  But when taken to its extreme--sometimes in the form of legislation--it has also led to pro-censorship stands, bizarre agreements with the right wing, and narrow, dogmatic view about sex and sexual imagery.  (and here I read about nodes and anti-nodes) It succeeded in bringing to the foreground what is degrading, humiliating, and dangerous about sexual objectification, but failed to understand the complicated realtionship between the self as subject and the self as object.  It spoke eloquently about the damage that can be caused by pornographic sexual representation but failed to embrace the need for pleasure.  It named certain sexual behaviors as oppressive, but failed to take into account the multi-layered reality of erotic power." (132)

using a double slit:  "I place Ed's (founder of Rolling Quads) engagement next to Ellen's (Stohl) pose.  The camera catches Ed mid-sentence, Ellen arranged for an audience.  I know these two images have very different intentions, but still they create a dialogue.  I listen to Ed's activist passion for making independent living a reality for all disabled people.  He means to overturn ableism.  I watch Ellen's pose search for a place in a world that denies her sexuality, her womanhood ... But in spite of the tnesion between them, they also merge to form the perfect retort to MDA's empty wheelchair and Mencap's vision of disabled people as passive children." (141)

"Gender reaches into disability; disability wraps around class; class strains against abuse; abuse snarls into sexuality; sexuality folds on top of race...everything finally piling into a single human body." (143)

diffractions with Wilchins, Swartz:

"I want my gendered story to be one of many stories that defy, bend, smash the gender binary.  But in the end, what I really want is for all the many gendered possibilities in the world to be, not normal, but rather profoundly ordinary and familiar." (xiv)
in what ways do you seek to be ordinary and familiar?

"As long as I maintained the balance--my unspoken queerness weighed against their tacit acceptance--I would be fine." (32)

"Simply put, my desire for community, for physical safety, for emotional well-being and psychological comfort compelled me to leave." (36)

"It isn't that outside the bounds of this fragile balance these rural white people are any more homophobic than the average urban person.  Rather the difference lies in urban anonymity." (34)

"Is the upward scramble worth the loss?  This question leads me back to being queer, to another, similar question:  is queer identity worth the loss?" (40)

"At the same time, our bodies are not merely blank slates upon which the powers-that-be write their lessons.  We cannot ignore the body itself:  the sensory, mostly non-verbal experience of our hearts and lungs, muscles and tendons, telling us and the world who we are." (150)

"But to cast my abiding sense of gendered (and sexualized?) self simply as a reaction to ableism (or religion?) is to ignore my body and what it had to tell me. ... How do we negotiate the lies and listen to our bodies? ... (I)f the external and internal didn't match, what then?" (152)

the mountain

image of the view from our house
therapy--images of mountain/lake

climbing Mt. Adams:  I never once heard, "You made the right choice when you turned around." (10)


Michael Oliver defines
impairment:  "lacking part or or all of a limb, or having a defective limb, organism, or mechanism of the body." (6)  is this overly material?  where is the embodied mind, emotion, desire?
disability:  "the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes no or little account of people who have physical (and/or cognitive/intellectual) impairments and thus excludes them from the mainstream of society." (6)

"Exile. If queer is the easiest, then exile is the hardest.  I lie when I write that home is being a dyke in dyke community.  Rather home is particular wild and ragged beaches, specific kinds of trees and berry brambles, the exact meander of the river I grew up near, the familiar sounds and sights of a dying logging and fishing town.  Exile is the hardest because I have irrevocably lost that place as actual home." (32)

what are words you'd like to define or hear others' definitions?  Hoosier

when do you know what is home? For me, it is when I'm in a strange place and I long to see someone from home.

"Pride is not an inessential thing.  ... But disability pride is no easy thing to come by.  Disability has been soaked in shame, dressed in silence, rooted in isolation. (107)  "(Pride) encourages anger, strength, and joy.  To transform self-hatred into pride is a fundamental act of resistance." (109)  "Is flaunting the same as pride?" (110)  "How does witness differ from pride?  What do they share in common?" (112)  "Both witness and pride strengthen identity, foster resistance, cultivate subversion. (...) Yet we also need to remember that witness and pride are not the same.  Witness pairs grief and rage with remembrance.  Pride pairs joy with a determination to be visible.  Witness demands primary adherence to and respect for history.  Pride uses history as one of its many tools.  Sometimes witness and pride work in concert, other times not..." (115)  "I want to sharpen my pride on what strengthens me, my witness on what haunts me.  Whatever we name ourselves, however we end up shattering our self-hatred, shame, silence, and isolation, the goal is the same:  to end our daily material oppression." (118)

bearing witness vs baring witness


are there other goals and other kinds of oppression that are just as dangerous and harmful as material oppression?

Paul Longmore, historian and disability activist:  "...(Disabled people) declare that they prize not self-sufficiency but self-determination, not independence but interdependence, not functional separateness but human community.  This values-formation takes disability as its starting point." (123)

"Simply put, the disabled, mixed-class tomboy who asked her mother, 'Am I feminine?' didn't discover a sexuality among dykes, but rather a definition of woman large enought to be comfortable for many years." (155).  "I want to enter as a not-girl-not-boy transgender butch--gendered differently than when I first came out, thinking simpliy, 'This is how I'll be a woman,' never imagining there might be a day when the word woman was too small; differently from the tomboy who wanted to be a hermit; but still connected to both.  Enter with my pockets and heart half-full of stone.  Enter knowing that the muscled grip of desire is a wild, half-grown horse, ready to bolt but too curious to stay away." (159)

handicapped, disabled,cripple, gimp, retard, differently abled, physically challenged, freak (81-84)

"Queer belongs to me.  So does cripple for many of the same reasons.  Queer and cripple are cousins:  words to shock, words to infuse with pride and self-love, words to resist internalized hatred, words to help forge a politics.  They have been gladly chosen...  Freak is another story.  Unlike queer and crip, it has not been widely embraced in my communities.  For me freak has a hurtful, scary edge; it takes queer and cripple one step too far..." (84)

"Among many marginalized peoples, objectification exoticizes culture, sexualizes bodies, and distorts real lived sexuality:  white women as sex things; Asian people as exotic and passive; African american men as hypersexual, violent predators; working-class and poor women as sluts; gay men as sexually depraved molesters; transsexual people as sexual curiosities and freaks. ... But for disabled people, objectification means something entirely different.  (127)

"Where is the line between being a sexual object and sexual subject?  Does the location of that line change depending on context, community, culture, intent?  Can one find herself as a sexual subject through sexual objectification?" 

What and who defines "one step too far"?Who draws those lines?  What can you do/say if you (or someone else) steps over those lines?


"This construction depended not only upon the showmanship of the "freaks" and their managers.  It also capitalized on the eagerness of rubes to gawk at fraks and on the ableism and racism, which made the transitions from disabled white person, disabled person of color, nondisabled person of color, to freak even possible.  Without this pair of oppressive ideologies, the attendant fear and hatred of all disabled people and all people of color, and the desire to create an Other against whom one could gauge her/his normality, who could ever believe for even one farcical moment..."(89)

let's explore normality, definitions of normal

1.conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.
2.serving to establish a standard.
3.Psychology .
a.approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment. from any mental disorder; sane.
4.Biology, Medicine/Medical . from any infection or other form of disease or malformation, or from experimental therapy or manipulation.
b.of natural occurrence.
5.Mathematics .
a.being at right angles, as a line; perpendicular.
b.of the nature of or pertaining to a mathematical normal.
c.(of an orthogonal system of real functions) defined so that the integral of the square of the absolute value of any function is 1.
d.(of a topological space) having the property that corresponding to every pair of disjoint closed sets are two disjoint open sets, each containing one of the closed sets.
e.(of a subgroup) having the property that the same set of elements results when all the elements of the subgroup are operated on consistently on the left and consistently on the right by any element of the group; invariant.
"I struggle daily against the sterotype of the child-like cripple, having to estalish myself over and over again as fully adult in the nondisabled world." (125)  What does it mean to you to be "fully adult"?  What does adult mean according to


1.having attained full size and strength; grown up; mature: an adult person, animal, or plant.
2.of, pertaining to, or befitting adults.
3.intended for adults; not suitable for children: adult entertainment.

Where is sexuality in definitions of adults?

"Yet disabled people find no trace of our sexualities in that world.  We are genderless, asexual undesirables." (130)
If this is true, what does that say about Butler's goal of abolishing systems of gender?

"There would be a million ways to acknowledge our own and each other's sexualities, none of them connected to oppression.  But in the world as it is, sexual objectification is a powerful marker, however, damaging, of sexuality.  In turn, its absence is also powerful." (131)

Clare claims that in freak shows, there was an alliance between the managers and at least some of the "freaks" at the expense of the curious, entertainment-seeking rubes in an ableist, racist, gender biased country, but that the move toward medicalizing disability was more pernicious.  That there was no longer any novelty or mystery, but pity and pathology (96-99).  Do people with impairments benefit from the switch from freak shows to medical clinics?


There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

Walt Whitman, "There Was a Child Went Forth," Leaves of Grass  1871

"The body as home, but only if it is understood that bodies are never singular, but rather haunted, strengthened, underscored by countless other bodies" (11)

"The body as home, but only if it is understood that place and community and culture burrow deep into our bones." (11)  where were you born, where have you lived and how does that burrow into your bones?  What does it do to you when people are ignorant or dismissive of your places of origin, growth and development?

       being a hoosier
image:  The world as seen from New York's 9th Avenue (New Yorker cartoon)

 In grade school, my favorite subject was geography.  draw maps of regions you're most familiar/comfortable with--share

The Geography of Childhood:  "Both the decision to love and the belief in one's safety in wild country are acts of faith.  To commit to either requires the most delicate balance of wariness and boldness of which are capable." (63)

for Clare, "my loss of home is about being queer." (35) "...abuse is another" (36)  "My loss of home, my exile, is about class." (37) what is your exile?

"The body as home, but only if it is understood that language too lives under the skin.  I think of the words crip, queer, freak, redneck.  None of these are easy words.  They mark the jagged edge between self-hatred and pride, the chasm between how the dominant culture views marginalized peoples and how we view ourselves, the razor between finding home, finding our bodies, and living in exile, living on the metaphoric mountain." (12)

"The body as home, but only if it is understood that bodies can be stolen, fed lies and poison, torn away from us." (12)

"The body as home, but only if it is understood that the stolen body can be reclaimed.  The bodies irrevocably taken from us:  we can memorialize them in quilts, granite walls, candlelight vigils; remember and mourn them; use their deaths to strenghten our will." (13)

"What I don't say is how homesick I feel for those place names, plant names, bare slopes, not nostalgic, but lonely for a particular kind of familiarity, a loneliness that reaches deep under my skin, infuses my muscles and tendons.  How do I explain the distance, the tension, the disjunction between my politics and my lonelinees?" (19)

"I wanted to belong somewhere."  rather than human be-ings, are we better described as human be-longings?

"How do I reach beneath the skin to write, not about the stones, but the body that warmed them, the heat itself?" (145)

Ecology, communities, and mutual responsibility:

"In the white, Western world view that I learned as a child, trees, fish and water were renewable resources.  Only 50 years prior, they were conceived of as endless resources, a myth white people brought west into the 'frontier.'"

"I knew that maintaining an alliance with (Bill, the sheriff who had been known on more than one occasion to go knocking on doors, looking for the people who had committed homophobic violence) was part of nurturing our rural dyke community....If queer activists and communities don't create the 'options that hold the promise of wholeness (and) freedom' for all queer people, rural as well as urban, working-class and poor as well as middle- and upper-class, we have failed.  And if we fail, those of us who are rural or rural-raised, poor and working-class, even mixed class, will have to continue to make difficult choices to measure what our losses are worth." (46)

"For Jim and others like him, the woods provide sanctuary, home, and livelihood." (56) thinking of ecologies as conditions for livelihood.

"The point isn't to feel guilty, but rather responsible, to recognize how our out-of-control consumption creates the logic of and need for clearcutting, creates our belief in endlessly renewable resources." (62)

"Still, to blame the system without also holding individuals accountable is to leave the system untouched.  Complicity follows twin paths, one tracking the course of capitalism and the other tracking the people who sustain and benefit the most from that system." (63) and those who fear they can't afford to lose any more?

"The disability rights movement, like other social change movements, names systems of oppression as the problem, not individual bodies." (122)

Creating alliances:

"I suggest that environmentalists turn their attention to timber companies and logging executives..." (66-67)