Friday, September 26, 2014

Ken Jennings: Another Day, Another Bigot

It is not surprising, tragically, for me to read of another famous person saying another stupid and hurtful thing about people with disabilities. This time it's Ken Jennings who, for no particular reason than the thought that bigotry and prejudice was funny, tweeted this message:

"There is nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair."

There was an immediate, and good for us, and thanks to our allies, reaction. People clearly let Mr. Jennings know that his remark wasn't funny and that it certainly wasn't appreciated. Many of the responses from people with disabilities were filled with more hurt than outrage. The message to Mr. Jennings was clear and unequivocal - apologize and take the tweet down.

For awhile there was speculation that Mr. Jennings' account had been hacked. But as time passed,  that proved to be untrue, as the tweet stayed up and as Mr. Jennings acknowledged writing the tweet in this interchange:

Follower: Probably your best.

Mr Jennings: The Internet does not agree.

In that statement Mr. Jennings acknowledges both that the tweet is his and that he is aware of the reaction that the tweet caused. To be sure some of those who reacted were non-disabled people clearly saying that the joke wasn't funny but many, many, more were from people with disabilities making sure that Mr. Jennings clearly got the message that his tweet was hurtful, untrue and that it expressed attitudes that further the cause of discrimination towards people with disabilities.


Given the opportunity to reflect, he does not apologize.

Given the opportunity to act, he does not take the tweet down.

Let's take a look at what he said:

"There is nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair."

I need it to be clear that he said 'person' not 'woman' because many of the responses seemed to think that he was addressing his remarks towards women. He was not, he was targetting his remarks at we, the people, who have disabilities.

His assumption, clearly, is not an uncommon one. The sexuality of people with disabilities confuses the non-disabled. There are a lot of assumptions about us and what we do with our naughty bits. His tweet simply confirmed a lot of stereotypes:

1) We are non-sexual.
2) We do not have the capacity to be sexual even if we wanted to.
3) Our disability immediately makes us unattractive.
4) We live lives of quiet desperation and loneliness longing for the touch of a non-disabled partner.
5) Disability cancels out 'hotness.'
6) Ugly people deserve to be disabled.
7) Disability makes people ugly.
8) "Hotness" is wasted on people with disabilities.
9) If we are sexual or want to be sexual - ewww, gross!
10) Our sexuality and our attractiveness is a subject acceptable for public speculation.

This tweet, once tweeted, tells us little about Ken Jennings. It simply tells us that he, like many people have confused and archaic views of people with disabilities.

This tweet, staying up in the face of heartfelt protest, tells us a lot about Ken Jennings. It tells us that he does not take our sentiments, even powerfully expressed, seriously. It tells us that he does not value the voices of people with disabilities in the same way he would value protests from other minority groups. It tells us that Ken Jennings bigotry runs deep, like ugliness does, to the bone.

Should you wish to enter into this latest attack on our essential humanity, please tweet Mr. Jennings, or leave him a message on his Facebook page.

I suggest that those of you who wish to, contact Mr. Jennings publisher: Little Simon and let them know what you think of someone with Mr. Jennings attitude towards people with disabilities publishing children's books. The link will take you to the contact page.

I suggest that if someone has the contact information from Jeopardy, you send it to me or put it in the comment section so that I can add it here ... write them and find out how they feel about their show being attached, in every news piece about this story, to Mr. Jennings' name. Why haven't they spoken out?

Mr. Jennings, if you ever read this, be comforted that I am a fat gay dude in a wheelchair - and even at that, I wouldn't touch you even if you had a ten foot pole.


Anonymous said...

well said.
There are some things money can't but like compassion and integrity. Mr. Jennings may have $ but no sense of how to be human or kind.

Anonymous said...


Ron Arnold said...

Knowledge of trivia =/= intelligence.

What is a badly thought out and follishly expressed opinion Alex?

Robin said...

Wonderful analysis. I've been tweeting. Thanks for the other suggestions. I'm going to do them now, since I do have a letter for Ken that I published on his blog. I'd link to it here, but not sure how you feel about people sharing links. The basic conclusion I came to about Ken Jennings is that he's not as smart as he thinks he is.

Maggie said...

Actually, Mr. Jennings, there are few things sadder than a hot public figure with a stupid put-down in his mouth.

Glee said...

Here's another blog written to Ken about this and the link posted on his FB page

Alba Gonzalez said...

It is something that I also have to face, just for being a person with disability, people think I don´t have the capacity (or even the right) to have sexual feelings. However, and from my own experience, I think things are changing, slowly but surely. I wrote something about it, and I am happy to share it with you.

Dawn said...

Oh my. It honestly took me a moment to realize Jennings was speaking of an attractive person, not a person whose temperature was elevated. Living in the dessert, my default for hot is a sweaty person and I was like, huh? Why would a wheelchair make them sadder? Is the seat leather?