And Now a Word from the FuckAbility™ Research Council: RJ Mitte In as Presenter at the Palme d’Visage Awards

RJ Mitte Will Present at the 2019 Palme d’Visage Awards, Signaling That The Upside Will Win Most Condescending

Matt Damon, Master of Diversity, Hails RJ Mitte’s Commitment to Avoiding Discussion About The Upside‘s Discriminatory Casting Practices and His Unstinting Support for the Status Quo That Blocks Disabled Actors From Competing for Roles

(Battlecreek, MI) NoVariety announced today that RJ Mitte will present the inaugural “RJ Mitte Award for Most Half-Assed Casting in a Film Depicting a Disabled Character.” Emma Stone will portray RJ Mitte at the March awards ceremony in beautiful downtown Switzerland now that Jennifer Lawrence, who had been a lock, became uncastable after a recent injury left her with difficulty walking.


“I can’t imagine a situation where I’d tell Bryan — who’s been like a father to me — that, while I know he cares about me and wants to help me, I can’t let him use that as an excuse for a business decision that hurts others.”

Mitte has been vocal on social media about his support of Bryan Cranston’s casting in The Upside. “Disability stories need to be told and films like this wouldn’t be made without a star like Bryan Cranston. Conflicting messages about inclusion that reach as many people as we can are how we change mindsets and remove the stigmas around disabilities.  As a disabled actor, I am proud of his performance in The Upside and I can’t wait to see Emma Stone’s portrayal of me presenting him with the award.” Continue reading

And Now a Word from the FuckAbility™ Research Council on “He Won’t Get Far on Foot”: For Your Condescension

Good Will Hunting Matt Damon Hails Diversity in Gus Van Sant’s Narrative, Says:  Don’t Worry, Your Story of Charles Bukowski John Callahan, an Angry, Alcoholic, Tortured-Artist White Guy With an Adoring and Need-Free Girlfriend Who Supports His Artistry Is Totally a Fresh Take and the Janky Wheelchair Is a Genius Casting Choice, Lending Rare Authenticity to the Project, and Giving a Raw Performance of Startling Gravitas Seldom Seen From a Piece of Durable Medical Equipment (DME)

Also: Muffin Baskets of Condolence for the Death of Any Attempt to Cast Disabled Actors or, Like, Even One of the [NUMBER REDACTED] Wheelchair-Using Actors Currently in the Business of Show, May Be Sent to the “Association to Raise Awareness of Disability Awareness in the Entertainment Industry” at Their Offices, Which Are, No Doubt, Located on the Second Floor of a Building Without An Elevator

FOR YOUR CONDESCENSION, we present:

Wheelchair Barfly

DISCLAIMER:  All snark, snottiness, sarcasm, and snappy sardonicism contained therein is directed solely at Gus Van Sant’s directorial choices regarding He Won’t Get Far on Foot (originally titled, My Own Private Solipsism) and not toward John Callahan, who was, in FARC’s opinion, one funny fucker. Even when he was wrong, he was hilariously wrong:
A Callahan greeting card showing a witchy-looking older white woman, hands on her hips, behind a counter with books on it. She's scolding a terrified bald white man: "THIS IS A FEMINISTBOOKSTORE! THERE IS NO HUMOR SECTION!!!

Courtesy John Callahan


FuckAbility™ Research Council (FARC) is a piece of letterhead housed on the Tales From the Crip website. FARC’s mission is to raise awareness of hollywood’s lack of awareness that many disabled adults fuck in groups of one or more. All views expressed are subject to change and denial.

A Crip in Philanthropy: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: This Moment in Disability, Dignity, and Human Rights

A Crip in PhilanthropyAn earlier version of these remarks was shared at Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, California on March 3, 2018. I deeply appreciated their welcome when I was invited to address their community by Anne Cohen, an activist, disabled parent, and board member at the organization where I am Director of Development, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) or, as Anne has dubbed it, “the ACLU of disability rights.” CBJ’s cross-disability access allowed me to take the first step in organizing community support: communicate.
I grew up with a disability, one that is genetic. I have been a plaintiff in an ADA access case here in California. It involved a bathroom. That required a lot of talking publicly about my using the bathroom. For disabled people like me – physically disabled — being disabled means never knowing where your next accessible public bathroom is. Today. Nearly thirty years after the ADA was passed. And keep in mind those 30 years coincide with my fundraising career in social justice non-profits and their philanthropic allies. Those are whole decades of trying my best to use empathy and imagination to shift that stubborn disability narrative that says I receive but can’t give. That disability is a health thing. That I need a cure when a toilet would be preferable. That I am charity, personified, not justice, denied.

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And Now a Word from the FuckAbility™ Research Council on Who Will Win the Palme d’Visage Award: For Your Condescension

Matt Damon, MD (Master of Diversity) Hails Diversity in Film; Would Probably Remember to Include Disability Diversity if Prompted. Diversity.

Tonight, in beautiful downtown Switzerland — the Alps of the louge of suicide, home of the valley of the shadow of dignity, where the hills aren’t really all that alive — the FuckAbility™ Research Council is presenting its coveted Palme d’Visage award for the most condescending portrayal of disability in film.


This year’s nominees amazed us with their ability to FINALLY include disabled characters who fucked in groups of one or more. But, as can so often happen after such sexy-times, we were left in the dark saying to some character we barely knew, “That’s it? Seriously? OK, you know what? Please go.” 


And here are our nominees:

The Shape of Water, originally titled Children of a Lesser Black Lagoon, is about a lowly, lovely woman with no voice who is drawn into an inexplicable relationship with a sea-goblin that everyone is fascinated yet repelled by…but we’re not seeing how this is anything but an embarrassing obvious Weinsteinian fantasy wank.

Breathe is nominated, a film that our UK correspondent, The DisHon. Hilaria Mirth-Sitwell, gave one middle-finger up out of a possible two, because of the “twist” in which our hero decides to kill himself. It reminded us that the only thing more durable than the medical equipment he helped pioneer is the stigma of being dependent on another person.

Now this one is a shame, because Please Stand By‘s director, Ben Lewin, made the very down-to-earth fucking-while-disabled movie The Sessions, and as an openly disabled man, is aware of both disability culture and politics. Would that his earlier directness about interior character shaping responses to living with a disability had dropped by the set of Please Stand By. Because all we got here was a collection of external behaviors in search of a character, all stuck in a script full of strange contradictions and cliches. And there’s a screenplay. So. Was this some hackish meta-comment on how quirky and awkward screenplay-writers are, in general? We may never know. It’s an ouro-bouros of tropes. We do know this movie prompted a great idea for somebody’s future disability studies thesis: “The Role of Random Television References in Portrayals of Characters With Unspecified Neuroatypical Conditions-Slash-Identities: Being There, Rain Man, Please Stand By.”

Christ, this is tiring.

Our final nominee has been roundly criticized for its casting of sighted actors in a movie about blind characters. Ordinarily, we would be outraged, too. But the entire concept for this film is such a piece of shit, it’s hard to care. It began as a flawed pitch complete with a meet-crip — When Mr. Magoo Met Sally — then appears to have struck a highly lucrative deal with The Sunglass Hut that opened the door to Named Unblind Talent, i.e., Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore, and the film’s death spiral began before crashing clumsily into theaters like someone’s stereotypical picture of someone who is Blind.

And the most condescending portrayal of disability in film and winner of this year’s Palme d’ Visage goes to…

Blind!

Not only for the aforementioned casting half-assery but for outstanding condescension in its very bones.

We bestow the Palme d’Visage on the Blind producers who couldn’t see the giant, flashing problems with their movie about being blind.

This is baked-in, reduce to a glaze, from-scratch condescension, folks.  From it’s one-word title — we fucking HATE the phoned-in pretentiousness of one-word titles — that all-too-accurately signals that the movie will be about Doing Stuff While Blind. And not really interesting or terribly real stuff. Walking while blind! Using a white cane while blind! Wearing a blazer while blind! Getting read to while blind! Talking huskily about loss while blind! Because that’s what being blind is. It’s being blind. Being blind all the time. So very, very, very blind. Blind.

And, no, we never actually saw Blind. We figured if the producers could make a movie about people they haven’t seen, why did we need to see a movie before judging it?

Fuck that.


FuckAbility™ Research Council (FARC) is a piece of letterhead housed on the Tales From the Crip website. FARC’s mission is to raise awareness of hollywood’s lack of awareness that many disabled adults fuck in groups of one or more. All views expressed are subject to change and denial.

My FEDup ™Rant: RespectAbility, Class and Race Privilege, and Leveling the Erring Field

 The post shows a picture of George H. W. Bush and links to a news story of him saying he will vote for Clinton. Mizrahi wrote: If Hillary wins it will because of white voters who care about people with disabilities. BTW, this is NOT a partisan thing. The same is true of Republican Sen. Richard Burr in NC who is running as the pro-PwDs candidate there.. THE POWER OF VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES WILL DETERMINE THE OUTCOME OF THE 2016 ELECTION! Remember that George H.W. Bush signed the ADA!

Screenshot of Mizrahi’s September 2016 Facebook post.

FED UP TM Ideas worth ranting about

I’m FEDup with transactional philanthropy that presumes disrespectful behavior can be overlooked if the price is right.

I have now been witness to: RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi making a mistake; the unpleased reactions by disabled women of color; some thoughtful initial responses; Mizrahi’s cringe-worthy apology-type product; the official statement; and now (I’m guessing), The Great Moving On from uncomfortable conversations about ableism,  racism, and disabled people of color within the disability rights community. [2018 UPDATE: Moving on didn’t work out so great.]

Part of me — the part that’s still polite to boundary-busting missionaries who ring my doorbell — initially wanted to say, “I’ve done this kind of racist shit myself. Sadly.” Then I remembered that much of that shit was when I was near the start of my career 25 years ago. When I would have lost my job — and Bi-Pap-providing health insurance — if I kept that shit up in our very progressive free clinic for gyn care. And how I had no safety net if I lost that job.

Everyone makes mistakes but the erring field is far from equal.

Depending on your class, Repercussions, Consequences, & Accountability are either the Three Furies that dog you even when you haven’t screwed up, or they’re the crisis PR firm you consider for damage control.

When you’re poor, unemployed, a woman, a person of color, a disabled person, or all or most of the above, making mistakes is far more likely to lead to words like “unqualified.” You are threatened with unemployment, fired, and/or are cut off from public benefits. In the worst case scenario, you haven’t made a mistake at all but are questioned, blamed, violated, beaten, shot, killed for being the person you are in public, in school, on the road, and at home.

When you’re affluent or “comfortable,” employed, a man, white, not disabled, or all or most of the above, making mistakes is more likely to lead to words like “executive coaching,” and “Let’s bring our communications person in to help.” In the worst case scenario, you “transition out” to what is often a better-paid job, aka “failing up.” If you are in a position to be a volunteer who has significant authority, the usual checks and balances on your behavior can be even weaker.

That’s when I first realized how integral money, class privilege, and power are to this recent incident. I haven’t seen any real repercussions, consequences, or accountability for Mizrahi — except for a bump to her prestige — and that’s just one infuriating aspect of how race and class insulate those with power.

Then I reread the official statement and I hit a whole new level of disturbed.

There’s an odd segue from mentioning a nonspecific action plan to the information that Mizrahi gives to many worthy causes.

“…It takes a deliberate action plan, education and implementation.
“Outside of RespectAbility, I donate to many worthy causes….”

Translation: “Giving money is a transactional arrangement for me; it’s either outright proof that I’m a good person or at least suitable cover when my behavior is criticized as racist.”

You can’t buy back respect. That’s not philanthropy.

Not even when you’ve laid claim to the word “respect” in the name of your organization. This is one place where class privilege hopes so very much to neutralize racism.

Understanding and dismantling my own race and class privilege is a lifetime of work. Being required to clean up my repeated failures was how I learned to act on — rather than merely speak of — these precepts:

  • Transparent processes and equitable systems are far more trustworthy than promises made by an individual.
  • Women of color do not exist to teach white women how not to be racist.
  • Vague reassurances about doing better do not qualify as “accountability.”

Picture it: 1994-ish, the dilapidated second-floor gyn clinic, up from an iron-gated door open during clinic hours to the Upper Haight, San Francisco. A bunch of us staff are in the shabby waiting room with the furniture that will, at one point, give some of us scabies. It’s Wednesday morning, 10:30 or thereabouts, and the gate is closed because we’re having our weekly staff meeting.

Group color photo of a diverse group of women in casual wear in front of a door with a sign that reads, "Women's Needs Center.'As we do every blessed week, we’re doing some kind of diversity exercise.

Everyone takes a turn, everyone complains.

Nobody gets out of it.

Everyone is deeply offended and affirmed at some point.

It was during one of those weeks that I got religion, disability-rights-wise, and that was liberating but lonely because I was the only one crip who was out. It was where I became visible to myself and then to others. But it was the example of the women of color and/or queer women who showed me how to show up. I had to follow before I could lead.

Our Director had talked our CEO into funding a 2-year Diversity Specialist consultant who will work with our whole staff. Our goal was to improve our healthcare delivery for a diverse group of women. The weeks when she is with us are rough and there are relationships that are strained and sore afterward.

We do it. We keep doing it after the funding is gone. We bake what we’ve figured out into clinic procedures, position qualifications. It’s not about us individuals, our emotional reactions, anymore. We went beyond ourselves to build a better system.

We did what we could to level the erring field without limiting the heavy labor to the women of color who were involved.

Given that Mizrahi may be Too Big To Fail, here’s my (unsolicited) action plan for RespectAbility:

  1. Do not put Mizrahi in charge of the action plan.
  2. Do not put Mizrahi on the team in charge of the action plan.
  3. Accept that Mizrahi’s leadership position is another ethical hazard waiting to happen, and could be in conflict with the mission of the organization. (When reducing disability stigma and advancing employment best practices are part of your mission, your President’s ableist statements and expectation of unpaid labor from women of color with disabilities constitute conflicts.)

Yup, that’s the plan. You’re the board. Figure out the action plan for the organization.

Too drastic? Way harsh?

This is awkward necessary to say: Mizrahi is an affluent white woman executive whose manner in asking for help was that of someone Summoning The Help. The very people she had just offended. And when disabled women of color didn’t come a’runnin’, she was publicly resentful. That behavior was out of bounds.

Again:

  • It is not the job of women of color with disabilities to educate a white, affluent executive with a disability about racism.
  • If it is a job for women of color with disabilities, pay them for it. Budget for it.
  • If it’s not a job, then be honest and admit it’s not a serious commitment.

In 2016, How To Relate To People Who Don’t Look Like You is an essential qualification for any job — paid or unpaid — in disability rights. Period. If you’re not prepared, it’s on you to get prepared.

It’s not quick or easy to truly understand intersectional oppression, nor does it make you perfect. It makes you a better imperfect person. I know because I was willing to do the work.

So. Get to work.

And Now a Word From the FuckAbilityTM Research Council on the Film “Me Before You”

BONUS UPDATE ACTION ALERT!
From the FuckAbility™ Research Council:
“In response to movie theaters handing out Kleenex to ‘Me Before You’ ticket buyers, FARC calls on our sacrificial viewers to proceed to theaters carrying rolls of toilet paper. When offered the Kleenex, counter-offer your TP, and explain, ‘You’re gonna need it – Me Before You is full of ableist shit.”
FuckAbility™ Research Council Celebrates May As Masturbation Month By Telling Palme d’Snuffilme Winner Me Before You To Go Fuck Itself

Matt Damon hails film’s commitment to diversity

(Cannes’t, OR) Did you know that [INSERT NUMBER] people don’t know that there are [INSERT NUMBER] people with disabilities fucking RIGHT NOW? And that it’s unlikely that even one of those fuckings is a prelude to an assisted suicide?

That’s fucking outrageous. But even more outrageous is the idea that a young man would rather commit suicide in Switzerland than get laid in England. Because WHEELCHAIR.

“He helped us realize that you can’t just pick and choose who you exclude – you have to exclude everyone. In that sense, we are incredibly proud of how inclusive we are of people with disabilities.”

Yet it seems that the clichéd meet-cute that signals death-defying romance for the apparently undisabled becomes something very different – a meet-crip – when one of FuckAbility™ Research Councilthe partners is apparently disabled.

When the characters meet-crip, the romance becomes life-defying.

We spoke to the film’s Medical Advisor, [INSERT NAME HERE], on the movie’s messages about spinal cord injury rehabilitation and quality of life. “’Diversity’ was a word the producers said a lot. I’m very proud of the message of diversity this movie sends about what it’s like to be white, wealthy, male, and doomed to a romantic future with an employee who doesn’t understand sexual harassment.”
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