Tag Archives: medical model

Conflicting ideologies, converging identities: the masculinity-disability dilemma

28 Apr

Source: Wiki Media Commons

It’s been documented by both gender and disability scholars (see: Shuttleworth et al; Shuttleworth; Shakespeare; Gerschick and Miller) that masculinity and disability ideology conflict. To be clear, by disability ideology, I mean the medical view which pathologizes disability as a curative illness or defect of person and considers permanent or chronic limitations to function as misfortune and abnormality. Disability, in this view, is associated with fragile bodies and weak minds and persons with disabilities are assumed to be helpless and dependent. This should be distinguished from the social model which defines disability as a social-historical construction that is, at its core, grounded in fear and misunderstanding of difference, and becomes justification for ongoing material as well as attitudinal barriers to persons with impairments. Despite this being the dominant view held by the disability community at-large the medical model has permeated popular discourse and practice leading some scholars (see: Couser; Murphy; Mairs) to believe that disability, in this view, has the power to trump other identities like gender. In-effect, disability is assigned the position of Other and masculinity, autonomous, able-bodied, and strong-minded, is it’s opposite. Thus it follows, men with disabilities are perhaps confronted by an ultimate contradiction in status which beg important questions about subjectivity, the self and identity expression. My PhD dissertation (though in the early stages) explores these ideas from the perspective of blindness. This blog is the first of a two-part piece based on an interview I had with Will Reilly*, a young blind man living in NYC. Part one will focus on masculinity and disability and part two will introduce the significance of visual impairment, gender and contemporary (visual) culture. Continue reading

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