Perfect, not

January 18, 2011

Ek to ladki upar se apahij – so goes a saying in Hindi, which when literally translated means “first a girl, and on top of that disabled!”

In a society where the birth of a girl is even now largely considered a curse, her being born disabled is nothing less than a double whammy.

I had met with Dr. Anita Ghai, a prominent Indian advocate for the rights of women with disabilities, in Iowa City where she told me about the prevalence of forced hysterectomies in disabled women who are institutionalized. She recounted horror stories of cognitively impaired women whose uteruses were removed on the pretext that they could not manage their own menstruations.

The personal assistants, who are male in most cases, were then free to sexually abuse these women without fear of getting them pregnant.

Reminded me of a scene in Terminator 2, where the female protagonist, diagnosed as having a mental condition, is chained to her bed, while the attendant licks her face.

Such depiction in mainstream cinema — even in the U.S. — alludes to the fact that society assumes such abuse will take place (and accepts it).

So, on the one hand the damaged female body is considered sexually unattractive, on the other it becomes an object for male domination.

Is society sending out the message that it is ok for these women to be abused physically? Is society deeming these women “available” because their physical and mental (in)capabilities limit their ability for self-protection?

Coming back to those hysterectomies … in a society that considers a woman’s body a vessel of reproduction with the ultimate “social goal” of producing a healthy baby, a woman with a damaged body (but a perfectly agile mind) is not considered worthy of reproducing. And if she becomes pregnant, her fetus could be aborted because of the fear that she would pass on the disability to the child — a consequence that directly conflicts with the social responsibility of producing a perfect child.

The same society that views women as metaphors for reproduction, denies disabled women the right to procreate.

If in rare cases, she is able to give birth, she is automatically rendered a bad mother — an inefficient caretaker — by virtue of her disability. (You have to read Nancy’s story to know that is such a huge assumption to make.)

Disability, thus, becomes this evil that somehow needs to be removed from society for the good of everyone — including the fate of the disabled child. But who is society to determine what perfection is? Ask any parent and they’ll say that their child is as perfect as can be.

And yet, if there’s one idea that has transcended geographical boundaries and time, it’s that the female body is supposed to be perfect — in shape and function — flawless, and unbroken.

I think it’s high time that society rose above the idea that disabled women are to be equated with inadequacy and hence “deserve” neglect, abuse, and social ostracism. I think in this day and age disabled women need to be given the right to choose.

But in a world where a little girl plays with a well-groomed and physically fit Barbie, where she grows up to be a subscriber of magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vanity Fair, I find it hard to believe that we will see the silver lining anytime soon.

What do you think, readers? Is there hope, yet?

16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F Perfect, not

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3 Responses to Perfect, not

  1. RACHIT SHARMANo Gravatar on January 19, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Indeed a great post, like always

  2. Sweepy JeanNo Gravatar on January 19, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Great blog, Mansi,and excellent post. Subjugation of women to one degree or another it internationally popular. I think there is hope if people continue to speak out against it and raise consciousness.

  3. Leeladhar KumarNo Gravatar on January 21, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Being a woman are you not selling women. If you are really interested in upliftment of women then please spread education in society for both men and women.


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