Basic Human Dignity

Maybe this is a dumbass question, but, if your daughter has severe cerebral palsy and you’re worried that she would be confused and traumatized by her period, couldn’t you put her on the Pill and just never give her the sugar pill week?  I mean, call me silly, but that seems a whole hell of a lot less traumatic than major, invasive, unnecessary surgery.

A.  Doesn’t it seem fucked up to assume that your daughter, regardless of her situation, is necessarily going to be confused and traumatized by her period?  That seems to me to say more about her parents’ attitudes towards menstruation than the girl’s.  I mean, from the news article, it doesn’t sound like she’s started menstruating yet and I understand that, with severe conditions, it can be difficult to ascertain how a person feels about things, but, damn it, don’t we have an obligation to try?

I don’t know.  I’m not as well-versed on this stuff as I should be.  My whole strategy towards disability rights is to think “What would my Uncle B. have thought of this?  What would I have thought of this had someone tried to pull this shit on my Uncle B.?” but that only carries you so far.

But it seems to me that a fundimental human right is to be treated like a human being.  And part of being treated as a human being means that the people around you have an obligation to not stand in the way of you aging naturally (and I realize “natural” is a loaded term) or experiencing things that other human beings experience–pain, mess, awe, wonder.

Why would we assume that Katie Thorpe would find menstruating undignified?  Does she find peeing undignified?  Pooping?  Having ear wax?  Maybe she’d find it weird.  Maybe she’d find it amazing.  Maybe she’d just assume it was another thing her body does and not give another thought to it.

B.  I don’t like it because I don’t like this idea that a grown woman’s body is inherently in a constant state of disorder, that, because of the processes our bodies go through, we are constantly in a state of there being something wrong with us and that, while most women can handle it, it’s okay to spare a very small few the indignity of that suffering.

First of all, because, in general, menstruating and having hormonal cycles is not suffering.  If you do suffer because of your menstrual cycle, you deserve to have that suffering alleviated, not just ignored because it’s a part of being a  woman.

And secondly, because, again, human beings ought to have an inherent right to be treated as human beings and allowed to have human experiences.  Thorpe is 15.  If she starts to menstruate and her family and doctors notice that she is unduly suffering, it’s at that point that they might want to take steps to alleviate her suffering.

But before then, to take some drastic, preemptive measure against the fact that Thorpe is a human being who is growing older and therefore going through the things that women go through when their bodies mature?

I don’t like it.

I think the spector of the problem of eugenics is obvious, but the secondary problem–of the double-edged sword of treating all women’s bodies as disordered (edge one) in such a way that also allows you to downplay real women’s actual suffering (edge two)–is huge as well and should not be ignored.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with menstruating.

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4 thoughts on “Basic Human Dignity

  1. Considering that the UK is a recent signator to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the US isn’t…our government don’t believe in all this nonsense about fundamental human rights any more), this seems to contravene rather directly Articles 6 and 7:

    http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/convtexte.htm

    I mean, WTF? Are women/children with disabilities to be protected or not?

  2. *snorts* But don’t you know? Girly bits are yucky. Most of us only handle them by covering them up and doing our damndest to pretend that they don’t exist, and if they should happen to be shown to exist, do so in a way such that they never hurt, never get messy, and never cause any sort of inconvenience in anyone else, ever. And then only barely. How on earth could someone with a disability deal with the horror of having a woman’s body?

    *rolls eyes*

    While I’m generally not a fan of the whole “see, all our problems can be reduced to gender” school of thought, situations like this do tend to make me a little sympathetic to the notion. The huge, proximate problem, of course, is the power and disability thing; what can (and should) parents (or other caretakers) do for (or with) their disabled kid (or relatives, wards, blah blah, you get the point)? Where are the boundaries between ‘what makes it easier for us’ and ‘what’s good for the person in question?’

    But what keeps popping up for me in this case (and the Ashley case) is the fact that the way the problem plays out – when and where it instantiates – centers around that bit that B brought up about women’s bodies being a problem. Menstruation might be scary! (or messy, or painful, or gross…) Puberty might entice other people to do bad things! Bodies that change are harder to handle than bodies that don’t change! Which, yes, there’s this thread of truth in all of it, but … I just keep coming back to the question: “Why is this our fault?”

    Mm. It’s definitely one of the clearer intersections, I think. Mostly because the technology and media have only juuust gotten to the point where this is becoming a widespread question/issue. Both sets of problems have been existing and intersecting for as long as we’ve had them, of course, but right this second it’s obvious how they interact (in this context, of course). Which.. is interesting, but not helpful.

    I don’t know. I’m tired and I feel like there’s a way to tie this all up, but mostly I just want to go take a nap or something.

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