Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Delirious Feminism: question #3 of 3 (how can we all help?)

I met Lucy Grealy once. She wrote Autobiography of a Face. Cancer had eroded bone, but I didn't think she looked wrong, just different. There's a sweet man in my neighborhood with a partial face. People avoid looking at him. I don't get it. He's a sweetie. Granted I was trained as a child to overlook visible disability. Unfortunately I have huge problems overlooking stupidity. My patience is tested every day. But that's a willful disability.

Novelist Ann Patchett wrote a memoir of her friendship with Grealy, and excerpted some in an article in New York Magazine. Here's the link.


Patchett: "I knew Lucy Grealy for several years before she knew me, and now that she’s dead, I think of all the years I will know her again in this one-sided way, me thinking of her. We started college together in 1981. Even at Sarah Lawrence, a school full of models and actresses and millionaire daughters of industry, everyone knew Lucy and everyone knew her story: childhood cancer, endless reconstruction. She was the campus mascot, the favorite pet in her dirty jeans and oversize Irish sweaters. She kept her head tipped down so that her long dark-blonde hair fell over her face to hide the fact that much of her lower jaw was missing."

My previous two postings responded to Jennifer Bartlett's first two questions about Feminism and disability on Delirious Hem, delirioushem.blogspot.com.
Her third probe is how Feminists can advance issues of disability, including issues of employment, childbearing, abortion.

My response?

Be fearless. Don't make "polite" or "lovely" or "acceptable" the goal. Be willing to ransack the psyches to get in touch with the outsider and love it. Sit on it. That's what I have to do every time I get annoyed by someone's idiocy. It is a challenge. As I was trained to overlook the physical I somehow imbibed a frantic attention to words and formation of argument. If I can try, we all can try.

Love all God's creatures. Be kind.

Ladies, grow a pair.

1 comment:

  1. I worked for a couple of years (prenticing at a book-binder's, ill-fated and unpleasant choice) with a young man known as Triangle, who, like Lucy Grealy, had suffered facial disfiguration from childhood cancer. Cancer treatments had caused his lower jaw to stop growing at about the age of six, and thus the name (due to his head shape). He was always losing teeth and bits of teeth into his lunch. I thought of him, for the first time in many years, when you ended (well, not ended but like close to the end, for which condition and position I'm sure there is a term)your piece today with the statement 'Don't make "polite" or "lovely" or "acceptable" the goal.' Triangle was unashamed and unworried. He had a short life ahead of him, was in pain all the time, and had carefully constructed some limited ambitions that would not run into those fences too soon. Those (unlike, i suspect, Lucy Grealy or any other woman, straight bi or gay, that i have ever known) involved a shiny, tacky vintage truck with lots of pipes and hoses, and a desire to meet and spend time with some girl from a bedroom poster. He made no arguments whatsoever, and liked to arm-wrestle. He matched nobody in his life, and not once did he deviate from his course as a result.

    On him, it looked fine, and not because those were the only clothes he could dress his life in.

    Thanks for reminding.