Thursday, December 13, 2018

His Place

She is upset. Very upset. She sits down to talk to me during the morning coffee break. She is attending a conference wherein am presenting to staff at an agency in the morning and will be presenting to people with disabilities they serve in the afternoon. I usually prefer doing it the other way round but that wasn't possible this time. She came to speak to me because she wanted to give me a heads up about some of the people they serve.

She told me that 'they don't understand our role' and 'they don't understand that they are disabled and need our support'. Whoa! I asked her to give me an example. She said she could and I noticed that she was getting teary. She told me of an encounter with one of the men that she supports.

His doctor had told him that he needed to lose 20 pounds and had put him on a diet. She had been at the consult with the doctor and when she left she told him that she would help him achieve the goal. He said 'No,' and she thought he was just upset by what the doctor had said. (When in fact he meant what he said 'No.')

He refused to change his eating pattern and she told him that she would 'put him on a program.' He told her that he would go on a program only if she did too. He said that she was a bit heavy too, so if he has to do it she has to do it as well.

She was furious that he had spoken about her body. I asked her if she had ever talked about his body, she said that she had but it was just joking like calling his belly a 'spare tire' and telling him he looked pregnant. She didn't make the connection so I did for her. "Well you made comments about his body and he made comments about yours. In fact I think what you said to him was ruder than anything she had said that he had said."

Then it slipped out.

"He just doesn't understand his place."

His place, HIS PLACE! His place which is obviously to be subservient, silent and submissive. He clearly stated that he didn't want to diet and when pushed said, "I will if you will."

All that needs to happen for someone with a disability to become problematic is for them to become rightfully assertive.

She brushed my comments away and said, "Make sure when you teach them about their rights you teach them about ours too!" She stormed away from me.

Um, no. If I was going to teach that, I'd have to start with her. Having rights is one thing, having power is another, added together many people end up with entitlement. He had called equal in a situation where equality wasn't welcomed.

In a place where equality wasn't welcomed.

With a person for whom equality wasn't welcomed.

Just before I was to start to teach, she reminded me of what she said. My response was 'Good luck on that diet, hope you both do well."


Lauralee said...

Yikes! Some people just don't get it.

That they manage to wind up in positions of power is terrifying.

That I have to work with people like that without any power to do anything about them is the stuff that keeps me up nights.

I'm a year in and still haven't managed to get everyone to believe that the non-verbal people we support do, in fact, communicate and can make choices for themselves. And the program won't fall apart and it won't 'ruin them' if we allow them to choose their own condiments once in awhile.

Or if we find ways for them to communicate their wishes even more effectively.

Ron Arnold said...

"All that needs to happen for someone with a disability to become problematic is for them to become rightfully assertive."

That just made my thought of the day board outside my office. In fact - it might just be the thought right up till Christmas.

When I work with my staff - I try and instill in them that our role is support, empowerment and education. Controlling directives don't enter into the picture . . . .

clairesmum said...

"Teasing" is a code word for verbal abuse, often. If the recipient isn't smiling or laughing, then the teasing was mean, it hurt, and the speaker needs to apologize. He is brave to stand up to her....and I hope the other staff don't join in her retaliation against this man...cuz there will be those subtle ways that are so hurtful.

lexica said...

Oof. That reminds me of the saying that for some people, "treat me with respect" means "treat me as an equal", while for others, "treat me with respect" means "treat me as an authority". With people like this woman, who seem to be in the latter mindset, the work you do is a direct challenge because they'll no longer be accepted unquestioningly as authorities.

Much respect, Dave. Another example of why the work you do is so important.

ABEhrhardt said...

What courage it must have taken for him to talk back to her, and what self-restraint to do it so civilly!

You could not get that woman to understand that, if the situation were reversed, she would want to do even more than he had done!

And you can also point out that the success rate for doctors who prescribe weight loss is something like 2% - and they cause untold misery in the process.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I keep forgetting how easy it seems to be for people to demand that other people 'know their place.'

I wonder if she can ever understand that her 'rights' don't include the right to control his body and make fun of it.