Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shougai Yakusha

A while back, I was reading an English language blog on life in Japan. The post was about a government report that seven of ten Japanese people with disabilities have experienced discrimination. The first comment, from someone with disability: "And the other three were in a vegetative state and couldn't answer." All comments after that agreed that the first comment was correct, that discrimination is extremely wide-spread and the report was likely understating the problem.

So, it was with great interest that I read that Kotaro Yanagi, a member of the ikemen* acting troupe, D-BOYS, had published an autobiography of his life since sustaining a severe brain injury. Great interest, and despair, because my ability to read Japanese is pretty much limited to distinguishing the men's and women's toilets. But now one of his bilingual fans is taking it on herself to translate for all the people who have bought the book but can't read it. Seeing as I was hopelessly pondering how expensive it would be to find someone to do that very thing, I couldn't be more delighted.

She has just started and only has the prologue up, but if you are curious, you also might want to read Hicchan's Translations. And, like she says, buy Yanagi's book even if you can't read it.

At any rate, I am very eager to read how Kotaro has managed to continue as a performer. And also, I am delighted that he's still considered an ikemen actor. I wonder if the same thing would hold for a young American actor who faced similar difficulties.

*good-looking (only applied to men)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Ashley treatment, writ large

I have been incredibly busy lately, and so quite late in checking blogs, email, festering sores that need attention.... OK, I did manage to work in the attention to festering sores. But I have had a deficit of web time. Yesterday, I was finally able to work through my RSS feed. Huzzah! And good thing I looked instead of just marking all as read, as I was tempted to do after three weeks of neglecting it. For there in Pharyngula, was a post about some perversely diabolical doctors essentially recommending taking poison to prevent the calamity of lesbian daughters. He is shocked and horrified, calling it "a convenient anti-uppitiness pill for women" and supplied a link to Alice Degner's criticism of the experiments at Bioethics Forum. A commenter also gives a link to Degner's commentary on the matter at Psychology Today.

While both of Degner's articles are worth reading in full, I call your attention to this sentence from her Psychology Today piece: A democratic medical establishment does not alter people's bodies to fit regressive social norms; it advocates for patients by demanding the social body get its act together.

This, this, this. This is why the attacks on people with severe disability, the failure to respect basic bodily integrity and human rights, are not an attack on just people with disabilities. It's convenient and self-assuring to assume that what happened to Ashley X, the maiming of her body for her parents' convenience, is something that only happens to a special class of people for whom it somehow a "good." But it shouldn't be so hard for people to understand that there are a whole lot of groups of people who aren't convenient. As David said "Ashley is me. I am Ashley. And you are Ashley, too." (Sorry, I lost the link to David's blog post and now only have this CNN article.) And now a medical "cure" to fix the main problem of being inconvenient!

This is much in keeping with the historic "destroy the Indian in order to save him" tactic of late nineteenth century US humanitarians (and, I understand, the practice of forced deculturization also has been done by Australians against native peoples there). "Of course," they say with a patronizing tone, "nobody actually hates the _________ (disabled, blacks, Indians, women, gays, etc.). This is for their own good. Because we care!" And, yes, I suppose it is a better approach than Phillip Sheridan's "nits make lice" genocidal one. But, my dears, it is the same damnable attitude. If the "other" is acceptable only when made convenient, the "other" isn't acceptable at all. And what of those who can not be made convenient under any circumstance? Then there is Sheridan's approach, which the patronizing will let happen while they wring their hands over how sad it all is.