Examining Discourse On Disability Essay

1781 words - 8 pages

Many disabled writers often visit the topic of their own disabilities, as well as the role of disability in their lives and in American society. This is exemplified in the works of Nancy Mairs, Andre Dubus, and Harriet McBryde Johnson, who not only reflect on their own disabilities, but on how the subject is treated by our culture. They all seem to share the idea that disability is either misrepresented or incorrectly perceived in popular culture, and in Mair’s case, perhaps not significantly represented at all. However their focus differs, as Mairs emphasizes the representation of the disabled in media, while Dubus and particularly Johnson look at it on a more personal level. The latter two focus much more on how the handicapped are perceived on a day to day level, in contrast to Mairs’s assault on how the media represents them. However, Dubus seemingly falls in the middle, as he touches upon both the representation and perception of disability. Also noticeably different is that their outlooks on their own disabilities vary; Dubus believes it has taken a major toll on his life, while Johnson finds it merely to be a superficial adjustment to life, and Mairs then falls somewhere between the two. Despite these differences, their writings overlap in multiple ways.
On a basic level, each of these writers believe that disability is perceived incorrectly by American society. However, as stated, Mairs focuses on media’s treatment of disability, whereas Johnson examines the issue on a more personal level and Dubus falls somewhere in between the two. In fact Mairs starts off by saying that, “[f]or months now I’ve been consciously searching for representation of myself in the media, especially in television.” (Mairs) Thus, it is very clear that the main focus of her essay is on the representation of the handicapped in media. Furthermore, Mairs is very straightforward with her opinion on the matter. She begins by mentioning a television special including a woman with her own disability (multiple sclerosis, or M.S. for short), however, she is dissatisfied by this example, as well as other noted instances, which take, “disability as its major premise” and, “excludes the complexities that round out a character and make her whole… I’m not for instance Ms. M.S. a walking, talking embodiment of a chronic incurable degenerative disease.” (Mairs) She goes even further to boldly declare that the disabled are disenfranchised by asking why is it that though, “[i]n most ways, that is, I’m the advertisers dream: Ms. Great American Consumer”, (Mairs) purchasing the same things as any other woman; but yet, she says, “I haven’t noticed any women like me on television”. (Mairs) She clearly establishes that handicapped people, such as herself, are either not represented in media (particularly television), or inaccurately depicted, often seen merely as a living token of their respective illness.
Dubus takes a very similar stance on the issue as Mairs does, also starting...

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