A piece of fantastic language out of the dissent in a Supreme Court case. Dothard v Rawlinson, 433 U.S 321 (1977)
“Once again, the pedestal upon which women have been placed has, upon closer inspection, been revealed a cage.” (internal quotes not indicated)
An entirely too true statement; so often, women are trapped by the supposed pedestal that they are placed on. I’ll admit, it makes me smile that these words come from Justice Marshall, a man who was amazingly consistent in his championing of the cause of equality.
I think this can be true of the way PWDs are treated as well; especially on topics like token assistance. I believe I’ve mentioned token assistance before – it is the type of assistance where a person who is AB does a small act, one the PWD can usually manage for themselves, and it is usually motivated by this need to feel good about doing a favor for a person they believe obviously requires the assistance.
You hold the door open for me because you do not think I can manage it on my own, or that I ought not have to struggle with it. Yet, please, consider – if you do not allow me to practice my adaptations, like using my service dog to pull doors open, how much more I will struggle when there is no hovering over-helpful person to ease my path? And if you do not consider me capable of doing simple things like opening doors, how much more do you decide I am incapable of because you have noticed I have a disability? It is a delicate balance between making necessary accomodations and assuming that a PWD is incapable of doing things for themselves. The balance, I find, is often best served by asking if a person requires assistance and being willing to render what they ask for, even if it is not what you expect – sometimes the best assistance is letting me do things for myself.
(For those of you interested: the case was involving a refusal, in Alabama, to hire women for ‘contact positions’ inside of prisons – that is, any position in which the person would have contact with prisoners. The claim was that there were sex offenders in there who would offend again if given access to female guards, and the lack of a ‘normal heterosexual atmosphere’ would drive other prisoners to assault female guards as well. The violent conditions, crowding, and understaffing, admittedly in violation of the Constitutional safeties that were supposed to protect prisoners, were deemed such that they would put female guards at constant risk. I find it a source of embarassment that this decision was handed down the US Supreme Court. As Justice Marshall so aptly said, the analysis sounds distressingly like saying two wrongs make a right. He was a very wise justice, Marshall was.)