The Power of She

Ever been talked about as if you weren’t standing right there? Disabled people are more than familiar with this experience. Our companions are directed where to take us, given things intended for us, and asked what we want as if they have a direct line to our brains. It’s annoying. In the extreme.

The word “she” has the power to totally alter reality. “She needs to go over there.” “What does she want?” I become a body that is unable to interact with the world. I become unnecessary in the conversation. Three letters – one syllable – and I vanish.

Lately, this has happened so much that I have wanted to wear a sign that says, “She Can TALK!” Instead, I keep saying, “Where do I need to go?” or “I want…” You would think this might clue the person “she”ing me into nonexistence that I possess the ability to communicate, but no such luck.

When the “she”ing happens, some of my friends play dumb, others pointedly look at me, and every so often one will say, “I don’t know what she wants. Maybe you should ask her?” Often this has more corrective power reinforcing the fact that my presence is irrelevant.

I am most likely to be “she”ed in medical settings where disability is constructed around the physical limitations of the body and corrective intervention. This focus on what cannot be done probably causes medical professionals to have a keen awareness of my deficits as opposed to either my strengths or ways to work around my limitations.

Right now, as I deal with the medical establishment seemingly constantly, I lack the patience to understand the factors that contribute to this “she”ing behavior. I care not a wit as to what socially-perpetuated beliefs about disability have shaped individual behavior. I have no compassion for ignorance. I just want to be treated like a person not disappeared by simple word choice. Because, well, it isn’t simple word choice. It’s an indication of a pervasive, flawed perception of me.

I am having yet more surgery. It seems my right eye socket is jealous of the left and has decided to evict it’s occupying eye. The blog will be dark until the first week of August. All positive thoughts are welcome and appreciated.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

One thought on “The Power of She

  1. Best of luck with the upcoming surgery – I’m sorry that it needs to happen.

    On the “she” front, does even more pointed sarcasm have any effect? I.e., rather than your friend saying “I don’t know what she wants, why don’t you ask her?”, your friend could say, “Jen, this nice man” (and here “nice man” is a euphemism for truly clueless person) “wants to know if you want {fill in the blank}…”

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