Editorial Note: This post was originally published on Part Time Monster in 2017. It’s my work, and I’m republishing here with permission from the original host. Post contains some discussion of sexual violence.
I was born with cerebral palsy. I have limited use of my legs and my lower leg muscles are basically nonexistent. When I was three, neuromotor specialists began recommending a daily routine of physical therapy to help maintain my level of mobility.
The exercises I’m supposed to do feel like someone is trying to rip my legs apart on a medieval torture device. As a toddler and young child, I was never given an option to refuse this treatment. I have no memory of anyone explaining the benefits of this therapy.
If you’re interested in diversity and social justice, check out my Feminist Friday blog series. This has been a staple of my blogging on WordPress since 2013. It originally started with a group of bloggers centered around a blog called Part Time Monster.
PTM is currently offline, but I’ve continued the Feminist Friday series here.
I’m a survivor of child abuse and domestic violence. I write a lot about rape culture, disability, and the connection between child abuse and misogyny. I have multiple disabilities, both visible and invisible. So, a fair number of my essays deal with disability intersections.
This is an index post for the Feminist Friday articles on the blog. They run bi-weekly on Fridays, mostly written by me and sometimes co-written by my fellow feminist bloggers.
I know I said that Feminist Friday posts would be running every other week, but this one is important and timely, so I’m making an exception.
In 2017, hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets to march in protest of newly inaugurated Pres. Donald Trump. Lots of them were wearing these pink hats with cat ears, and I heard them called “Pussy Hats.”
I was a little late to the show, since the so-called pussy hat movement had been in the makings for months, and I’d never heard of it. But I knew that it was at least partially a reference to the president’s disgusting brag about grabbing women by the pussy.
My reaction was, “Oh wow, how funny!” I like a good pun, and I thought the hats were cool. I didn’t give it much deeper consideration until I noticed that several of my trans and nonbinary friends were saying that the hats and the ideology behind them were exclusionary and harmful.
I was born 2 1/2 months premature. I have cerebral palsy. I use a wheelchair because I have no real use of my lower body, low trunk strength, and limited use of my upper body. I blog mostly by using a voice to text program called Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Dragon makes everything super interesting. Did you know that it can spell words like “Chewbacca” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” but it can’t remember to capitalize my name unless I tell it to do so with a special command? (My name is a noun, and it always thinks I’m talking about roses when I say my name.)
My disability also affects my vision, visual perception, the clarity of my speech, and my bladder control.
The speech issue is another reason Dragon makes everything more interesting, now that I think about it.
When I started blogging on WordPress back in 2013, I wrote a post called “Christians Don’t Own December.” And I vowed to share it every time a friend or family member posted a “Happy Holidays is Evil” meme on social media.
I shut down that blog last year, so I felt like it was time to write a new commentary on the so-called “War On Christmas.”
Feel free to share.
1. You are allowed to say Merry Christmas. Nobody with half a brain minds if you say Merry Christmas. Nobody with half a brain is going to be upset or offended if you say Merry Christmas.
1b. Lots of people would like it if you were nice to them when they said Happy Holidays to you. They would like it even more if you could stand up for them when people are rude and mean to them about not celebrating Christmas, because that’s the kind of thing Jesus would do.
1c. Lots of people would like it if they could celebrate their own holidays during the winter without having to listen to you gripe about how your special day is under attack simply because they exist and want to have their holidays recognized.
2. If you do happen to meet a few people who seem to be offended or upset when you say Merry Christmas to them, it’s okay for you to be irritated. Those people are stupid. They don’t reflect the attitudes and responses of 99% of people in America.
2b. Optional, but if you really wanted to go the extra mile and be super nice, you could reframe those encounters from the perspective that the worst thing anyone can do to you is give you a dirty look. That makes you pretty fortunate compared to many folks of other faiths in the United States who still fear physical violence when they go to celebrate their winter holidays in public, and who can still face lots of other types of persecution.
2c. As a Christian, you might even say it’s the godly thing to let those encounters go and devote your energy to helping make sure that your friends and neighbors who don’t celebrate your holiday feel supported and safe during this time of year.
3. Christmas is not a “national holiday” in the United States. I hear this one a lot, and it’s not true, no matter how much Christmas is given special significance in secular culture with days off from work or school. It’s unconstitutional for the United States of America to recognize religious holidays. Christmas is a Federal holiday, which only means that federal employees get the day off. It doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not saying”Merry Christmas” is some sort of cultural institution that all Americans have to adhere to.
3b. Even if it was a national holiday, the nice thing to do is still to recognize and respect that some people in America celebrate other holidays during the winter months.
3c. That means, even if you could make an argument that “Merry Christmas” was or should be a standard holiday greeting for everyone because it’s a (secular) national holiday (which it isn’t) some people might still choose to use other greetings, like Happy Holidays, or Happy Hanukkah, because those are also valid ways to give a holiday greeting.
4. And in closing, please remember that there are over 20 cultures and groups who celebrate some sort of holiday during the winter months other than Christmas. You don’t own December, and in fact most of the things we do in America that are codified as “Christmas” customs were appropriated from pre-Christian celebrations of Yule. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying Christmas or finding spiritual significance in Christ’s birth. It would help a lot of if your celebration of Christ translated into some grace for the folks around you who don’t share your faith background.
So far, a lot of the posts in this series have focused on superheroes. I want to be more inclusive, and I didn’t intend to focus so much on one genre, but I’m trying to let the series developed organically around the discussions that my posts create. Part of the reason that superhero stories come to mind so quickly is that they’re one of the few places that consistently show characters with disabilities in prominent roles. That’s a problem in itself, and I plan to address that issue, but since I’ve already talked about Oracle, Professor X, and Iron Man, I think this would be a good time to bring up Daredevil. (the movie.)
Cover via Amazon
Before I start addressing problems, I want to be clear. I think Marvel should get a lot of credit for trying and should be recognized for the simple fact of having characters like Professor X and Daredevil–not to mention making a movie about a costumed hero with a disability.
Ironside debuted in 1967 and ran until 1975. A recent attempt to reboot the series was canceled after only eight episodes. I think Ironside was significant enough to warrant its own post, since it was the first show to have a character with a disability in the title role. I’ll be discussing Logan Cale later on when I talk about romance and disability in the media. This post will look at Professor Xavier and Oracle