biological gender is unequivocally binary. So threatening to the order of things is the natural embodiment of conjoined twins and intersexed people that they are almost always surgically normalized through ampu- tation and mutilation immediately after birth (Clark and Myser 1996; Dreger 1998a; Kessler 1990; Fausto-Sterling 2000). Not infrequently, one conjoined twin is sacrificed to save the other from the supposed abnor- mality of their embodiment. Such mutilations are justified as preventing suffering and creating well-adjusted individuals. So intolerable is their insult to dominant ideologies about who patriarchal culture insists that we are, that the testimonies of adults with these forms of embodiment who say that they do not want to be separated is routinely ignored in establishing the rationale for medical treatment (Dreger 1998b). In truth, these procedures benefit not the affected individuals, but rather they This content downloaded on Mon, 25 Feb 2013 15:58:30 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
14 ROSEMARIE GARLAND-THOMSON expunge the kinds of corporeal human variations that contradict the ide- ologies the dominant order depends upon to anchor truths it insists are unequivocally encoded in bodies. I do not want to oversimplify here by suggesting that women and dis- abled people should not use modern medicine to improve their lives or help their bodies function more fully. But the critical issues are complex and provocative. A feminist disability theory should illuminate and explain, not become ideological policing or set orthodoxy. The kinds of critical analyses I am discussing offer a counterlogic to the overdeter- mined cultural mandates to comply with normal and beautiful at any cost. The medical commitment to healing, when coupled with moder- nity's faith in technology and interventions that control outcomes, has increasingly shifted toward an aggressive intent to fix, regulate, or eradi- cate ostensibly deviant bodies. Such a program of elimination has often been at the expense of creating a more accessible environment or provid- ing better support services for people with disabilities. The privileging of medical technology over less ambitious programs such as rehabilitation has encouraged the cultural conviction that disability can be extirpated; inviting the belief that life with a disability is intolerable. As charity campaigns and telethons repeatedly affirm, cure rather than adjustment or accommodation is the overdetermined cultural response to disability (Longmore 1997). For instance, a 1949 March of Dimes poster shows an appealing little girl stepping out of her wheelchair into the supposed redemption of walking: "Look, I Can Walk Again!" the text proclaims, while at once charging the viewers with the responsibility of assuring her future ambulation (Fig. 4). Nowhere do we find posters suggesting that life as a wheelchair user might be full and satisfying, as many people who actually use them find their lives to be. This ideology of cure is not isolated in medical texts or charity campaigns, but in fact permeates the entire cultural conversation about disability and illness. Take, for
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- Summer '18
- Dr. Jennifer Gagnon
- Feminism, Feminist theory, Feminist Disability Studies