6.11.2007

peace claws

Catching up on the news this morning, I saw this headline on truthout: Cindy Sheehan Sells Protest Site to LA Radio Host. When I clicked, the name of the purchaser jumped out at me: Bree Walker! Walker is a smart, strong feminist and disability-rights activist. I lost track of her career over the years, and was thrilled to see that's she still working and successful.

Walker has a condition called ectrodactyly, which fuses her fingers and toes together, making her hands appear somewhat claw-like. When she was younger, she used to hide her hands under prosthetics, but later decided to be proudly herself. When she first "came out," I noticed that in interviews she would fix her hair or otherwise make her hands visible where she could have easily hidden them from view.

Walker's success in front of the camera was hailed by people with disabilities everywhere. It doesn't hurt that she is conventionally beautiful, but then, her disability is thought of as a "deformity". She's not a beautiful woman sitting poised in a wheelchair that you can't see. She's a beautiful woman with lobster hands.

Wouldn't you know it, Walker was publicly criticized for having children - ectrodactyly is genetic - then further criticized for getting her children surgery to help alleviate the condition! File that under one my favourite truisms: if you're a woman, your reproductive choices will be condemned no matter what you do, so you damn well better do what you want.

And guess what? Walker's buying Camp Casey from Cindy Sheehan and turning it into a peace memorial.

6 comments:

James said...

Wouldn't you know it, Walker was publicly criticized for having children - ectrodactyly is genetic

And yet, no-one would criticize someone with a family history of heart disease or breast cancer (both of which have large genetic components) for having children -- even though those conditions actually put the children at risk, whereas the only real dangers from ectrodactyly are social, thanks to the very stigma that accounts for this difference in attitude.

One of my co-workers has a dactyl development condition -- I'm not sure how closely related to ectrodactyly it is -- that gave her some fused fingers and some stunted fingers. It doesn't matter, though, because she's one of the smartest people in the department and very good at what she does. The only impact her condition has is that her typing speed isn't that high -- but then, she's not the slowest typer here, either.

if you're a woman, your reproductive choices will be condemned no matter what you do, so you damn well better do what you want.

Do you think no-one would criticize a man with ectrodactyly for having children? I'm not convinced (though it wouldn't surprise me).

L-girl said...

And yet, no-one would criticize someone with a family history of heart disease or breast cancer (both of which have large genetic components) for having children

Excellent point.

It doesn't matter, though, because she's one of the smartest people in the department and very good at what she does.

As far as I can tell, it's mostly a social disability. I mean, there are finger-intensive activities a person might not be able to do, perhaps certain crafts, but no one does everything. For most things, it seems very compensatable.

Do you think no-one would criticize a man with ectrodactyly for having children?

I'm basing my statement on my own experience as a woman, and from what I've observed from women around me.

People feel very free to criticize women's reproductive choices - too many children, children too far apart, children too close together, children too young, children too old, only one child, (gasp) no children - it goes on and on.

I have not seen people do that to men, nor heard about it. I'm not saying it never happens, but it's got to be extremely rare by comparison.

I think a man with a disability who has children is generally praised for being more of a "real man" - showing he can still do it, despite his physical limitations.

James said...

As far as I can tell, it's mostly a social disability. I mean, there are finger-intensive activities a person might not be able to do, perhaps certain crafts, but no one does everything. For most things, it seems very compensatable.

The stigma reminds me of the argument that it's bad to be gay because you'll be picked on and harassed by those people who believe that it's bad to be gay.

People feel very free to criticize women's reproductive choices - too many children, children too far apart, children too close together, children too young, children too old, only one child, (gasp) no children - it goes on and on.

Does no-one remember that it actually takes two gametes to make a zygote?

Lori's been "lucky" to have that nice graphic surgery scar on her arm to shove in the faces of anyone dumb enough to criticize her for not having children. It's only part of the reasons we haven't, but it makes the point well.

I think a man with a disability who has children is generally praised for being more of a "real man" - showing he can still do it, despite his physical limitations.

Of course, anyone doing so in order to show that he can do it despite physical limitations is probably demonstrating some mental limitations which really ought to preclude him from shaping the minds of young children. :P

L-girl said...

Lori's been "lucky" to have that nice graphic surgery scar on her arm to shove in the faces of anyone dumb enough to criticize her for not having children. It's only part of the reasons we haven't, but it makes the point well.

It's my single favourite part of getting older: no one asks me anymore.

I used to get questions and comments ALL THE TIME. I collected a sample of the crap I used to hear - I should post it sometime. But now, nothing. I've aged out of it.

Many people undoubtedly assume that Allan and I *couldn't* have children. Let them. I'm just glad not to hear it anymore.

Jere said...

I totally remember Walker starting on the Channel 2 News, back in the Jim Jensen, Carol Martin, Roland Smith (Mr. G with weather, Warner Wolf sports) days, and it being a really big deal. I had no idea what ever became of her...

L-girl said...

Yup, I have the same memory! It was so cool to see her name in the Cindy Sheehan piece.