Ableism Explained

This week on The Slut Show host Ellen Moore is joined by the beautiful, blue-eyed brunette and blind bombshell: Sally (she / her). They’ll dive into Sally’s diagnosis with juvenile macular degeneration cone rod dystrophy and how this eventually led to her going completely blind. Sally opens up about her struggles living in a world created by - and for - people who can see, spilling the tea as she answers all of your questions about blindness, dating, sex, pegging and WAY Mo(o)re! This week’s Slutty Science discusses ableism.

Please note: this article contains information about ableism, which may be triggering for some readers.

Having a disability can impact every single aspect of life. Yet, due to the large range of different disabilities, there is no one size fits all kind of "solution." However, it tends to not so much be the disability itself, which is the most disabling, but rather the world in which we live that complicates the lives of disabled people. In order to improve your understanding of the matter, allow me to refresh your memory in regards to privilege.

Privilege can be defined as an advantage or benefit a person or group has over another person or group. The majority of privileges are gained at birth. Privilege can be the result of the color of your skin, what genitals are in your pants, the socio-economic situation your caretakers find themselves in and even the geographical location in which you came out of the womb.

Lack of privileges leads to discrimination. In the case of skin color, the lack of white privilege tends to lead to racism. In the case of sex, having a vulva tends to lead to sexism and similarly in the case of ability, being disabled tends to lead to ableism.

Defining ableism
Disability Inclusion Training Specialist Ashley Eisenmenger did a fantastic job describing what exactly it is, defining ableism as: ‘the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require fixing” and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as “less than, and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities.’

There are a variety of different types of ableism.

  1. Ableism can be institutional - meaning it is an institution which undermines disabled people.
  2. Ableism can also be interpersonal - meaning it is a person who undertakes ableist action.
  3. But ableism can also be internalized - meaning it occurs within an individual's inner world.

Institutional ableism
Institutional ableism is found across a variety of institutions. For starters, such ableism is found in education. The occurrence of ableism in education can have detrimental outcomes for disabled individuals. It can deny people access to education, because of mere practicalities like being unable to get to the faculty due to inaccessible public transportation, being unable to follow classes, because of the inaccessible nature of buildings - think about buildings with stairs that lack elevators, but also unwillingness from faculty employees, like teachers, to adapt their classes to allow people of all abilities to participate.

Research shows that being disabled makes individuals less likely to both start and complete any type of education and it makes people less likely to learn how to read and write. That same study demonstrated that ‘women with disabilities are often less likely to reap the benefits of a formal education than disabled men – marginalised not only by their disability but also by their gender. In most countries, men with disabilities have higher literacy rates than women with disabilities.’

Ableism & job opportunities
Secondly, institutional ableism is found in the working field, where it negatively impacts job opportunities for disabled people. According to the bureau of labor statistics in the United States, in 2022, 21.3% of disabled individuals were employed compared to 65,4% of non-disabled individuals. They found that people with disabilities, of all ages, were less likely to be employed than non-disabled people and those disabled individuals who were employed were more likely to be self-employed.

Ableism & healthcare
Additionally, institutional ableism is found in healthcare. Amongst 18-44 year old disabled individuals in The States, 1 in 4 don’t have one regular healthcare provider. Amongst that same demographic, 1 in 4 disabled individuals have additional healthcare needs which are left unmet as the result of prior healthcare expenses incurred in the previous year. By the same token, 1 in 5 disabled Americans aged 45-64 did not get their routine check-up in the past year.

In addition, disabled adults - when compared to their able-bodied counterparts - are 12% more likely to be obese, 11% more likely to smoke, 6,2% more likely to suffer heart diseases and 8,3% more likely to suffer diabetes. 

Although - admittedly - these statistics may in part be the result of the inaccessible nature of American healthcare systems, ableism undeniably impacts every single domain of healthcare, across every single country on this planet.

Interpersonal ableism
From paternalistic to condescending, to benevolent, to hostile, to envious, to dehumanizing, to fear-based - interpersonal ableism can manifest in countless ways...

(1) Unwanted help for which the person in question never asked, (2) infantilizing speech behaviors, (3) constantly getting peoples pity, (4) invalidating statements like “you don't look disabled” or “you are SO faking it”, (5) extreme overprotectiveness of family, (6) getting told by complete strangers your mere existence inspires them, (7) being accused of exploiting economical invalidity benefits, (8) being told by able-bodied people they would rather kill themselves than be disabled, but also things like (9) expressions of fear to get a disability by being in close proximity to disabled people - as if it is infectious - and (10) expressions of fear regarding passing disabilities onto future generations. The list goes on and on.

Ableist language
Terminology like lame, spastic, insane, crazy and retard are all ableist ways of expressing oneself and admittedly, I too have used most of those words in the past. But with a staggering 27% of adults in the United States suffering some type of disability, we urgently need to change the discourse around the topic.

Let it be known that there is no such thing as “looking disabled enough” and that others may have it worse is, quite frankly, irrelevant. With sidewalks too small for a wheelchair to fit onto it and curbs lacking a ramp that allows wheelchair users to roll onto the street without being thrown out of their wheelchair, with comedians consistently continuing to mock and imitate disabilities and so-called “friends” who deliberately hinder disabled people by hiding their glasses, meds, wheelchair, white stick or purposely put things out of their reach - we still have a long road ahead.

So how about we stop calling disabled people lazy for not working and let’s begin to consider how their so-called laziness may in fact not be laziness at all, but a consequence of their disability. Let us stop disregarding the struggles of disabled people as dramatic, overreacting, whining and attention seeking. Let us stop calling disabled people brave, for doing every-day things. Disabled people are not your inspiration porn. And for fucks sake, let us able-bodied people stop using resources reserved for disabled individuals.

Interested in hearing more? Check out the full episode of The Slut Show on your favorite podcast platform, by clicking here! Or head over to our Instagram @TheSlutShowWithEllenMoore for your daily dose of intersectional feminism. Want to send in questions for our mail-segment? Want to be on the show yourself? Know someone who should or want to request an episode about a particular subject? Don’t be a stranger. Our DM’s are always open ❤

We hope to see you on our socials and for now, sluts out!

Lots of love,

Ellen Moore

The slut show is about way more than sex. It is about breaking taboos, asking questions and fucking the patriarchy, by having real, raw, uncensored and heartfelt conversations about topics that matter. In a safe space we aim to make room for the voices of marginalized folks, creating a place to listen to the pain, sorrow, hopes and dreams of those who came before us. Found in & by intersectional feminism, we believe that everybody should have the same opportunities and get treated equally - regardless of the color of their skin, the size of their body, the gender they identify with or the people they choose to love. Let it be known that the feminism we know today rests upon the foundation black, indigenous, people of color & the queer community built for us. May the battles they fought and the struggles they overcame keep the raging fire in our hearts alive, to make sure that they - nor their legacy - will ever be forgotten.



Leave a comment