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I have recently been spending my spare time sitting on my couch, waiting in anticipation for the new “Resident Evil” survival-horror video game to release. I played the demo of the game last week, and it was great! I was tense for many hours after, but it was worth it. I love a good scare, and in video games there is the sweet feeling of starting over again even after failure, so there is usually a feeling of relief. After playing it though, I started thinking about video game characters throughout time, and how they kind of always typically find a way to make everything look good. (more…)

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When my mother first began feeling weak, I remember no one at first took her condition seriously. For the most part, we all took it as a normal aging process since she had just turned sixty-nine and was on medication for a high blood pressure diagnosis. She herself didn’t give it too much thought, I remember her dismissing some of her symptoms as “side effects of my medication.” While away from home, I would often speak to her on the phone, and would ask if her health was improving, but she would always reply yes, only adding that she was feeling “a little weak on my left side.” one day while at work this past summer, I received  a call from her telling me that she had a stroke, but that she was doing fine. When I finally got the chance to visit her, it was immediately obvious that her health was in serious decline despite all that she had told me. What made things even worse for us was the fact that her application for health insurance kept on getting rejected, without any coherent reason. I remember one time driving her to the social workers office with hopes of finally getting a clearer picture of what was wrong with her application, and why it was taking so long for it to be approved, only to return empty handed without any answers, but with instructions to keep in touch with them.

All this time her health remained in steady decline as we could not keep up with follow up appointments and other mounting bills. After waiting in vain for her application to be approved, and because she could no longer perform simple activities of daily living like cooking or cleaning, we decided as a family to move her in with my eldest sister. Because it was a different state, we decided to reapply with hopes of finally getting approved. Because she already had an application being processed, it was demanded that her file be sent over for a reevaluation. A quick review of her old application revealed one small discrepancy; apparently while completing the application she had mistakenly wrote down my father’s social security number instead of hers, and surprisingly, while she was being denied health insurance, no one had the patience of accurately checking her application before forwarding it for approval.

Evidently in not being prompt in their response and professional in their approach to her case, they had neglected their duties and failed to see the disabling effects of their actions on an individual whose advanced age and align health had severely impaired her ability to adequately complete the application process. Though subtle and usually done unconsciously, such oppressive and discriminative tendencies against the disabled especially those with limited mental capacity remains rampant partly because it has not been adequately defined and identified. In the “social model of disability”, Tom Shakespeare accurately identifies “the neglect of impairment as an important aspect of disabled people’s lives.” He furthers this notion by adding that “while other socio political account of disability have developed important insight that people with impairments are disabled by the society as well as by their bodies, the social model suggest that people are disabled by the society, not their bodies.” Though there is unanimous consensus among sociologist that there can never be a world devoid of such oppressive tendencies towards the disabled, until there is some alternate model which properly address this issue people like my mother are bound to remain oppressed by the society. Her ordeal accurately Exemplifies the psychological and physical torture millions of impaired individuals endure before they are fully acknowledged.

After identifying the discrepancy, my mother’s application was finally approved and she could finally get health coverage through Medicare. However, by his time, her health had gotten even worse, and her symptoms were more evident. After visiting with her new physician, her MRI revealed she had Encephalopathy, with early stage Parkinson’s disease. It does appear as though her lack of proper health insurance had landed her an inaccurate or incomplete health care, leading to a wrong diagnosis. When I visited her again in December, she had been prescribed new medications and her tremors were improving. Though she was still quite frail, she was gradually gaining some strength. As always, she blamed everything on the side effects of her medications, but at least I now know what she is going through, and can personally adjust so as not to be disabling in my approach towards helping her meet her daily needs.

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road trip map

This long weekend I went on a three day road trip with my dad. My parents own a furniture store in Columbia. Someone ordered a sectional (large couch) and wanted it delivered to Texas. My parents had to choose between hiring someone to deliver and assemble it or do it themselves. Originally, my dad was going to take one of his employees but then I offered (my mom suggested it and I said yes) to go. (more…)

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My friends joke all the time about wanting huge boobs like me and how I should ‘share’ some of mine with them. Little do they know I suffer serious back pain and life is just more expensive with huge breast. By expensive I mean physical therapy and finding clothes that will actually fit. Trust me, you’d be baffled at how many places wont carry bra sizes and bikini tops that fit comfortably and supportively for DDD breasts, or best yet don’t even sell sizes exceeding past DD’s. Being an athlete my whole life, I always struggled working around my boobs and it became more of an inconvenience the older I got. As a 22-year-old, having large boobs might be ‘great’ to some, but not for this gal. So where does this leave me? Thankfully, breast reductions have become increasingly popular for those who suffer like me. Research has found that breast reduction relived symptoms of back, shoulder, and neck pain, posture problems, and bra strap compression. Best part about the whole thing is that insurance covers most of it. Sounds like a miracle! 

So why haven’t I planned the appointment yet?

I have lived with having big boobs my whole life so how do I live without them? Physically, I know that it is the right thing to do for my body, but there’s so many what ifs. What if my breast come out disproportional from each other? What if I choose the wrong surgeon and they botch my reduction? Can I deal with the scars I get from surgery? Yes, I know this may sound vain. But after reading various blogs, I found I’m not the only one with these anxieties or thoughts. Boobs have been apart of my physical identity and changing them could mean changing how I view myself, or vise versa how the world will view me. The Body Reader has a great quote that may explain why I am feeling this, “the proliferation of stylized (ideal- ized) images of the body via the media (advertisements, fashion magazines, popu- lar film, television) constantly and relentlessly inundate individuals like never before. This process reinforces the ideology that if the body is maintained cosmetically, it will reap a number of rewards such as thinness, beauty, increased sexual potency, and overall healthiness.” It truly is hard in todays society not to compare yourself to others. Breasts have become so overly sexualized and me getting rid of some of mine, may make me feel less womanly and unsatisfied with my body. 

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I just wanted to talk to you guys about masculinity and why American society puts such a heavy image on men’s masculinity. I am really in to makeup and I came across a guy makeup artist, James Charles. He is the complete opposite of what the normal masculinity is supposed to be. He is very sassy, not muscular, high pitched voice and loves makeup. He honestly is better than a lot of girls I know with applying their makeup. Men typically have traits of toughness, independence and competiveness. 

As we watched “Murderball” and reading “ Coming to Terms Masculinity and Physical Disability” by Thomas Gerschick, it made me compare men I know to what I have learned from the two. I learned a lot about Paralytic disability and how it counter reacts to masculinity. Paralytic disability men aren’t typically fast, strong, active or independent. Although, in “Murderball” , these men were very active and touch while playing rugby.

My mom’s friend’s husband is paralyzed from the waist down because he wrecked his motorcycle when he was younger. He reminded me a lot of the guys in the movie because he acts the exact same way. He is extra loud and tries to be extremely aggressive towards others because he is upset about his disability. I can understand why he is upset but like they stated in the movie, you can either move on from it or don’t.

Comparing the make-up artist to my mom’s friend there is a huge difference, which means that all men don’t have to fit this perfect role of masculinity. The men in the movie and my mom’s friend both fit the role of hegemonic masculinity. They want to really prove themselves because that’s the one way they think they can. If a guy who is paralyzed wanted to makeup, I personally think that would be inspiring and awesome to see. I hope one day we as a society can put less norms on things like masculinity.

The movie “White Chicks” is very relatable, as well because it’s two men, who are super masculine and have to fill a part of two women. It’s very funny how masculine men tend to act in a less masculine way. As females I feel like we also have a role to fill but it’s not as strong as a man. I’m not sure why society is the way it is.  

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“Runway of dreams”

When you look in your closet how many favorite shirts do you have? How many favorite stores do you shop at when your looking for new outfits? You may not realize how lucky you are to even have a favorite outfit or store to go to.

The reality of many adults with disabilities is the obstacles and embarrassment they face when trying to find clothes that suit their body type. We recently saw on the movie “Murderball” a brief excerpt of one of the men attempting to change his pants while sitting in a wheelchair. The struggle to coordinate his body movements to take off his pants was discouraging to watch.

Who is Mindy Scheier?

Minda Scheire is a mother of a disabled son who was confined to a wheelchair due his debilitating rare form of muscular dystrophy. Shopping in the mall was an obstacle that was becoming increasingly draining and unmanageable over time. After experiencing the daily struggle’s with her son to get him dressed in the morning before school and watching his disappointment as his favorite jeans slowly became impossible to fit over his braces, she knew something had to be done.

Schiere understood the importance of clothing and how it could influence a person’s overall confidence. Come to find out, scientists have even developed a name for this called “enclosed cognitive recognition which refers to the symbolic meaning of clothing and the physical experience of wearing the clothing, that have a direct correlation on how you feel about yourself” (Ted Talk, 2017).

It took a lot of time and research to understand what needed to be changed to make clothing adaptable to the “differently-abled.” She located a foundation that supported mainstream fashion called The Runway of Dreams. Her contributions to this clothing line has developed modified clothing to alter closures (buttons, snaps) and replace them with magnets, waistbands were now made with elastic and she created various ways to put on the clothing that differs from the traditional way.

Her creativity and willingness to educate the fashion industry created a social space for people with disabilities to be included. The disadvantages and restrictions that Tom Shakespeare discusses in “The Social model of disability” dealt heavily with the exclusion of people with disabilities. The structure of the fashion industry only targeted the “normal” functioning population. We need more likeminded people similar to Minda Shiere who are willing to go the extra mile to limit the isolation that people with disabilities experience and include them in mainstream social activities, such as shopping, that Shakespeare describes.

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jungle

I’ve had a lot of nicknames, more than most, I think. Sonja boi, J, Gerber, Jaskinky, Keeks, Jas. But one of the worst nicknames was The Jungle. I had this nickname in middle school because I didn’t (and still don’t) shave my legs (and armpits too). Matthew Immergut states that body hair is seen as a manifestation of a nasty and wild nature so ‘The Jungle’ is probably accurate nickname for a hairy twelve-year-old. (more…)

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Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner’s shocking transformation was no secret in the industry as it spilled into the tabloids and the media. As a public figure, olympic medalist and father she was in the lime light and had to endure a mass amount of public judgement. As spade discussed sex reassignment surgery has a lot to do with the desire to meet “gender-coded structures” by transgender individuals Caitlyn Jenner has reached her goal. These structures are only defined by what our culture considers normal.

Man staring nervously at piles of folders

We all know the Kardashian and their glam life style. They portray themselves as being flawlessly and effortlessly perfect. This transformation brought reality into perspective for them and for all of their fans. The perfect family image wasn’t so perfect anymore.

Caitlyn went under a series of surgeries including sex-reassignment surgery. I think it is important to understand that her status and financial resources had the ultimate decision in her ability to make such a drastic transformation.

As Caitlyn discussed in some of her interviews post-transition she discloses that she had felt this way for a very long time. I think Spade made a valid point when she stated that transgenders are very invested “in dichotomous gender categories” and being able to identify with their true self-identity.

I don’t think there was any perfect time for Caitlyn Jenner to make this transition, but I think It was important that the Kardashians went through this publicly on television and social media to show the world that there is no such thing as being perfect.

Related Material: Caitlyn Jenner, The Secrets of My Life

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Image result for embarrassing bodies tweetsCircus Water Act

 

Netflix now carries the British series: Embarrassing Bodies, a show about three doctors who travel through Britain, opening pop-up clinics for passersby seeking cures for a wide array of ailments or deformities.  The show documents one-on-one consults, large group Q and A sessions on specific health-related topics (these are often set in schools, pubs, or other common public gathering places), street interviews on topics such as “baldness” or “boobs” and exhibits set up outside the medical tents where people can learn more about the inner workings of the body.  All of these interventions are designed to make people less worried about their bodies, while setting up expectations about what is “normal” versus what requires medical intervention.

It is hard to think of an American equivalent of this show, though there have been other international spin-offs: Wikipedia lists Embarrassing Bodies Down Under, Dit is mijn lijf (This is my body) in the Netherlands and the strikingly named  Я соромлюсь свого тіла (“I’m ashamed of my body”) in the Ukraine.

(more…)

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Who is S-he.

Transgender has become much more common today than it was ever publicly recognized in the past. I am a lucky friend of a very unique individual. My experience with her has shaped my belief and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community and how I treat people today. This narrative surrounds the experience of he who is she, a very brave individual.

Growing up my best friend looked like your ordinary young boy, except that she liked to do everything I liked to do as a young girl such as jump roping and playing with hula hoops. I was only 8 at this time and I did not think twice about it I thought it was great! However nearing the end of elementary school our classmates began to pick on her. A defining moment I remember was when someone asked her if she was GAP (gay and proud). I didn’t know what this meant so when I went home and later asked my sister and my mother who then told me. My mother sternly told me that she is my friend and that everyone deserves respect. I didn’t understand what she meant until years later.

The summer before 6th grade my friend began switching up her style of clothing to resemble my girly outfits. At this time she disclosed to me that she was gay and I simply said okay. The unspoken subject becoming spoken was a strong moment in our friendship. This was a very dear secret to her that she thought no-one knew, even though they did. I vowed to never disclose her secret until she was ready.

Throughout high school she was teased and when she went through her dark times, I almost felt like I did too. During out 9th grade year is when he began referring to himself as she. I think this gave her more power and the ability regulate herself within the public eye. In Susan Strykes article when she describes her feelings, “I can never be a woman like other women, but I could never be a man,” I think she speaks for herself and the transgender community as a whole. My friends was often conflicted on how she should portray herself and what was defined as “too much”, but I encouraged her to be herself. We would go shopping together, try on different kinds of makeup and even stroll through the jewelry and hair shops. I believe it was the inclusion of me and our close friends group that helped her to feel less like a the “monster within” that Strykes describes and allowed her to move more freely.

Today she has gone through hormone replacement therapy and fully identifies herself as a young woman. Many people can’t tell the difference but when they do you can see the looks and hear the whispers of their confusion or disgust. I commend her for always being the bigger person and learning how to not take it too personally, even though after all it is very personal.

When Foucalt discusses his theory of power. I believe that the idea of there being other forms of gender identities within our society threatens our understanding of males and females socially, culturally and politically. This is a very debatable topic but I encourage you to educate yourselves. For instance what do you think about transgenders using public bathrooms, or dressing rooms? Should there be restrictions or acceptance of this type of access? Is it because of the unknown, what if they were a friend or family member?

I think Transgender needs to be assessed in a different way other than as a disorder in order for it to be perceived differently.

To learn more about Transgender and their personal experiences please watch “How To talk (and listen) to transgender people”.

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