Throughout our visit to the duck, there was a constant thrumming annoyance. To understand this understand that I'm a 64 year old man who, with a little help, is a good decision maker and has input into every decision that's made regarding everything. I'm lucky, I know. So here's the thing, throughout the whole trip people kept parenting me. Like I was not only a child but their responsibility as a reasonable adult in the presence of a child in need of instruction.
"Do you have sunblock on?" they would ask me, with Ruby and Sadie, two actual kids, standing right beside me.
"You need to have a hat on the sun is strong," which I agreed with but I forgot my hat because we left in a rush, not because I can't make a good decision about a hat.
"Careful now, you are too close to the edge," said to me while I was trying to get a picture of Joe and the girls close up to the duck, which I never managed to.
"Do you need me to find someone for you?" said when I was looking for Joe and the girls when briefly separated.
I know, I know, the impulse is to help.
But does that make it right?
If seeing a woman doing accounts at a desk and I said, "Do you want me to help you with that hard math?" I think it would be seen a sexist and inappropriate.
Would my defense that I'm just being nice be acceptable?
I don't think so.
So why is niceness a reason to discount the possibility of ableism or disphobia?
I got a lot of 'nice' on our trip to the duck. I'm not sure that I like it better than those who are openly hostile, it's easier to respond to hostility than it is to 'oppression by nice.'
Overall, I prefer the people who are openly bigots. I can tell them to get stuffed without feeling too guilty. When I share the story with my (non-disabled) friends, they understand why what happened was bad and give me sympathy and moral support.
When someone is nice-nasty, I don't just get hurt by them, I get hurt by being the only one (or almost the only one) who even realises something bad happened. If I tell my friends, they may even side with the nice-nasty person ("they were only trying to help"). Or I don't tell anyone, and then it just becomes yet another of the ways that people make it clear that I'm not considered a full, competent adult now I'm also a wheelchair user.
I am so glad I have your blog to help me feel less alone with this stuff.
I keep thinking about the fact that you couldn't get close to the duck, couldn't take the photos you wanted, because of inaccessibility. Bummer. My daughter-in-law has a new job, something to do with events in TO. I'm going to speak to her, hoping that next time there won't be anyone left out. Someone just didn't think about inclusion. Not okay.
"Oppression by nice" is my least favourite, because of how hard it is to manage. I think being young, female, and looking younger than I already am (thanks, EDS) it's exacerbated. People "parent" me in public all the time. Once, a lady in a public washroom tried to wash my hands for me. When I'm out with my son, I get treated like a 12 year old babysitter who doesn't know what they're doing. It's infuriating. And, inevitably, if I respond with anything less than an angelic smile and gratitude, I'm a "bitch". No, I'm a grown woman who tends to be a bit dry in humour and sarcasm. This wouldn't be remarkable, except that apparently my wheelchair should make me gentle and sweet, and as ladylike as "What Katy Did".
If they see you struggling for a bit with a door, and out of options, it might be appropriate to put themselves where you would be able to see them and ask for help. Maybe.
If it goes on a bit longer, and you are actively looking around as if you wanted help, maybe they could offer once quickly, and back off if you said no. Maybe.
But telling you to put sunblock on is way over the line. Ditto hat. Ergo, sarcasm is appropriate (and your restraint is admirable).
The response is your choice, depending on whether you feel like educating an idiot or upbraiding a bigot. Just stay safe: some of them are actively dangerous.
I wonder if there is a fine line between being helpful and being annoying. I often wonder this. I think I am, by nature, a helper. I always notice people struggling, and of course they mostly aren't disabled. They have small children, or no coins for the carts, or they are puking by the side of the mall, or they are lost. Often times they are embarrassingly grateful for the quarter, or the momentary hand with the children. I don't want anyone to think I am condescending to them, or that I am interfering in their life. I want to see beyond the momentary struggle to the people who need a brief hand. But it is in me to keep an eye out for anyone who might be having difficulty. So yes, my radar is up around situations where there are women or races who may be targeted for trouble, when people have many children, when people are struggling to walk or talk. I am more measured in my responses, however, than I was before I followed your blog. I am trying to be careful not to assume, not to jump in, always to ask. But I'm quite sure I sometimes err on the side of annoying.
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