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Crip Camp and Relationships Reflection

lizzieryann's picture

During the week we had the option to watch a film, I rewatched Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution  a Netflix documentary film that recounts the history of the U.S. disability rights movement: a raucous revolution that eventually lead to the Americans With Disabilities Act. The film begins in 1971 at a Catskills summer camp, Camp Jened, and follows several camp alumni that become pivotal leaders in the disability rights movement of the ‘70s. Through detailing experiences at Camp Jened and the historic events of the disability rights movement, this film celebrates activist culture, which is largely sustained by moral caregiving. At first, I only recognized the caregiving relationship between Camp Jened campers and counselors. However, I then also noticed various other caregiving relationships and the integral role these caregiving relationships played in the success of the disability rights movement. 

    A key aspect of the caregiving dynamic between counselors and campers is that by recognizing each campers’s personhood counselors refrained from coddling campers. Specifically, Tannenbaum affirms this observation by mentioning that “at no other camp have counselors treated campers the way they do here; they’re not like babysitters.” The goal of the counselors was to provide campers with practical assistance with activities of daily living so that they could enjoy their camp experience whether that be through swimming, sexual exploration, smoking, baseball games, etc. Importantly, while affirming their condition and struggle, counselors treated each camper as teenagers- never reducing them to a shell of a person. 

Additionally, the lesbian couple from the East Bay, Black Panthers, and Secretaries in Sacramento all acted as caregivers during the sit in. Specifically, all parties provided practical assistance with activities of daily living to members of the disabled community that were partaking in the sit in. The lesbian couple from East Bay “washed anyone’s hair for three hours,” the black panthers “brought a hot meal for dinner and left food for breakfast and lunch,” and “Secretaries in Sacramento sent down mattresses”(Crip Camp, 2020). It’s interesting to consider that the lesbian couple and the Black Panthers belong to minority groups that have been oppressed in their own way, which leads me to believe that their caregiving was even more deeply interpersonal as they too were failed to be cared for by society.

Through the different examples of caregiving shown in Crip Camp, viewers can recognize the importance of caregiving in the disability movement. To me, it is care that has the power to enact social change and uplift communities. Crip Camp provides viewers with evidence of the value of caregiving, and it’s then up to the viewer to take this knowledge and apply it to the world.