Growing up, I was also told over and over again my worth was tied to doing Great Things. That lesser people lived ordinary lives…So do I own my complete failure, or do I redefine what it means to do Great Things?
Bridget Allen wrote an incredible piece on her blog that I stumbled upon through the Huffington Post – read “My Value: Autism, Feminism and Poverty” on her blog here.
I’m trying to think of what more analysis I can add to this post – but honestly, Bridget says it best.
Allen is a woman with autism who, due to her disability (she considers autism a disability), she cannot work. However, because she is a mother, she cannot apply for benefits – she’s been told that doing so would cause an investigation by Child Protective Services.
The part in Allen’s story when she explains,
I know this as much as I know anything. I am the best possible mother on earth for those particular children. That is not negated by my sometimes inability to speak, or walk, or work.
made me think of this StoryCorps interview I heard a few months ago between a mother with a cognitive disability and her daughter.
Parenthood isn’t for everyone, and I’m certainly wary of putting too much emphasis on women’s roles as mothers. But judging people – and especially women – as unfit parents is a reflection of our judgement of their value as people. Restrictions on gay and lesbians who want to adopt, convicting poor parents of neglect, taking children away from Native Americans…these are all people who are seen as less than by mainstream, hegemonic standards and people who’s ability to parent has been undermined.
I’d never thought about people with disabilities on this level. But after our class discussion today, reading Allen’s piece, and reflecting on the Brown interview, I’m starting to. Are we afraid to recognize that people with disabilities can be good parents because it means that there are people who depend on them? Recognizing that forces us to change our whole way of thinking about who can be dependent on who.
And it’s not just children who might depend on parents with disabilities. We depend on people with disabilities for friendship, joy, and those intangibles that Allen mentions. It’s just that those things are seen as valuable as some of the physical and material dependencies. We’re all dependent; we all have people who depend on us; and we all have worth.