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September 8th, 2008

Woefully Afflicted?

In the Victorian era, society assumed that people with disabilities were "woefully afflicted" in that they had a horrible lot in life and were woeful and sad about it all the time. They used disability in novels as a way to escape from reality. Disability was supposed to be such an emotional thing. It was supposed to make you feel like whatever struggles you faced in the new Industrial Age were not that bad. Hence Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. We don't know why he limped, how it happened, or how he felt about it. All we know is how it impacted Scrooge. When Helen Keller was little, someone wrote that she didn't exhibit the characteristics of other people with disabilities because she didn't seem sad at all. When these people didn't conform to the "woefully afflicted" image, society thought there was something even more wrong with them.

Fortunately, although at times unfortunately, I was raised in a family and a community that had absolutely no interraction with PWD. I was never treated like I was afflicted, except in church I think. Teachers and family never let me feel afflicted, even though I rarely wanted to. When I did want to, though, they refused to let me which was not good. I mean, everyone has those "pity party" moments where they just want to feel sorry for themselves and have someone else support them. I never got that. My family, especially my mother, is completely devoid of the idea of how hard it sometimes can be. They just think I'm whining on the rare occassion that I do get a little down in the dumps. So in a way, my life has been the exact opposite of the "woefully afflicted" stereotype.

Do you guys ever feel like people expect you to be afflicted and sad about your life? Or do people act the exact opposite way? Or something in between? 

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For the History of People with Disabilities

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