Hello blogging world!!!
I have been missing in action for a while now. I had some serious writers block but I am so glad my writing mojo is back.
In the last few weeks i have been pondering on why society mistreats and discriminates against people with disabilies. What exactly is it about us folk that makes able bodied people hate us so much? Ok hate is too strong a word maybe dislike is more like it. I have been thinking about this a lot and i just don’t get it!!! Are human beings born with an inclination to dislike or discriminate against people with disabilities? Even when you look through the Bible people with disabilities were treated badly. No matter where one is in the world as long as they have a disability, they are going to be treated badly.
One of the conclusions i have reached is the language used to describe or speak of people with disabilities is partly to blame. It makes sense though, when a society uses derogatory terms for people who are “different,” it leads to the mistreatment and discrimination of that particular group of people.
On the 22nd of May a Zimbabwean newspaper published an article with the above headline. I together with other people were outraged by this headline. Firstly the journalist used negative words such as disabled and dumb to describe the child. Both these words have negative connotations. Disabled child places emphasis on the child’s disability not on the child. Dumb implies that the child is stupid as the word is usually associated with all things stupid. Secondly the whole article centred on the child being to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. To summarize the story, a man got a woman pregnant, lived with her during the pregnancy but when she gave birth to a child with a disability he told her to kill the child as condition for marrying him. When she did not kill the child, the man then left.
What really outraged me about this article is the headline and the negative portrayal of the child. How does an innocent child ruin a marriage yet she is a product of that same marriage she supposedly ruined? The marriage existed before she came into the world. The marriage breakdown had nothing to do with the child but everything to do with the man who decided to abandon his wife and daughter. The journalist clearly failed to bring this message across.
The negative language used in the article adds fuel to the discrimination that children with disabilities face in Zimbabwe. The message of this article was children with disabilities will “ruin” your marriage, they are not worthy to be looked after and they are not worthy to be part of a family. Now how will a pregnant woman who read the article feel if she gives birth to a child with a disability? There is potential that if she finds herself in a similar situation as this woman, she might grow to hate the child. Also the article validates men that when your wife gives birth to a child with a disability, it is OK to abandon the family. Of course we all know this is wrong and should never happen.
I am still failing to understand the point of writing such a negative article. Some people might argue that it was just a headline. It was just an article. It was harmless BUT it wasn’t just a headline, it wasn’t just an article. It was a clear example of how language fuels discrimination. The language we use when addressing people with disabilities affects the way in which society sees them. If the article had been written to highlight the issues children with disabilities face ie being abandoned by their parents, not being wanted, not having access to the services that they need amongst other things, then it would create awareness of the plight of children with abilities. However all the article did was blame the child for the breakdown of her parents’ marriage thereby creating a negative stereotype of children with disabilities.
When a society uses derogatory terms for people who are “different,” it leads to the mistreatment of that particular group of people.