The prevailing consensus among the majority of progressives or just generally left-leaning Americans is that the right has some sort of monopoly on bigotry. Although they may be majority shareholders in the enterprises of racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism, the reality is that far more of the people on “our side” are toxic towards marginalized groups than we would care to admit.
There seems to be this misconception among feminists or people who call themselves allies that hurling sexist slurs and insults at someone on the opposing side is perfectly fine, as though the fact that someone like Melania Trump is your enemy makes it acceptable to call her a “slut” or shame her for her past career as a model. This sort of blatant misogyny is even coming from other women, and all progressives should know better.
There are probably thousands of reasons to hate Melania Trump. She’s a hypocrite who claims to be against bullying with her ‘Be Better’ campaign, but stays with a man who is probably the highest profile bully in American history. In the past, she has shown nonchalance towards real civil rights struggles, and clearly supports her husband’s blatant discrimination and bigotry with her silence. Melania Trump is an awful person, but that has nothing to do with her posing nude.
In a similar vein, ableism is even more rampant on social media from basically everyone to the left of Trump. We expect that sort of thing from Trump supporters; they’ve shown time and time again that they on the whole have no empathy for anyone who isn’t another white Trump supporter. They swear they aren’t racist, while at the very least continuing to support a system that is built on the oppression of all people of color, especially Black Americans and indigenous peoples.
But the biggest myth that needs to be dispelled is that making fun of President Trump for the way he walks or drinks water is acceptable because he’s a horrible person. Donald Trump is the worst President in the history of our country; he is pure evil, bigotry, incompetence, and corruption all rolled into one detestable human being. That said, “he uses two hands to drink water” or “look how he struggled walking down a long ramp” is ableist, and all it does is to serve to let every disabled person in your family or circle of friends know exactly what you think of them.
I myself have only been aware of ableism in the last few years. I never had to think about it before; I have always been relatively able-bodied, and have never had to wonder if I was going to be adequately accommodated going somewhere in public. I’ve never had to wonder if someone was going to look at me funny or snicker at me because I used a cane or a wheelchair. It never entered into my mind, and I absolutely have been guilty in the past of using ableist language without even knowing what I was doing.
But that stops now. And it should for you, too. Call out Donald Trump’s political positions all you want. Talk about how his policies put the lives of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+, especially trans people, at serious risk. He deserves to be loudly criticized and ridiculed for this. But a person’s ability to lead and be worthy of respect and dignity should be entirely based on the quality of their character and what they stand for, and not their physical abilities. And disability isn’t something to make fun of, no matter how detestable the man is.
Most of all, just listen to disabled people when they tell you you’re being ableist. Don’t talk over them. Don’t insist “I don’t mean you!” It doesn’t matter who you’re trying to insult. Disabled people shouldn’t have to constantly see their reality being used as a way to demean and dehumanize. We’re supposed to be better than that.
Photo Credit: Emma Harris / The Statesman