Monthly Archives: April 2009

Inglis House Poetry Contest: Disability

Greetings Poets,

This year’s annual Inglis House Poetry Contest began this on April 1. As in the past, there is no fee for entering. You can find the guidelines for the contest at They are also available in the latest issue of Wordgathering, our online journal, at Simply click on poetry contest guidelines. A contest flyer is also attached for those of you who prefer attachments. We hope to be seeing your work. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Michael Northen, Inglis House Poetry Workshop

Category 1 – Open to All
Subject: Disabilities

First Place: $50
Second Place: $30
Third Place: $20

Contest Rules – 
• Any style poetry
• Two Poem Limit
• Each poem on separate page
• Poem length – 75 lines or less
• Name, address & category on each page
• Poem must relate to disabilities

Deadline: June 1, 2009

Category 2
Open Only to Writers With Disabilities

First Place: $50
Second Place: $30
Third Place: $20

Contest Rules – 
• Any subject, any style
• Three Poem Limit
• Each poem on separate page
• Poem length – 75 lines or less
• Name, address and category on each page
• Indicate disability in cover letter

Deadline: June 1, 2008
Mail entries to:
Inglis House Poetry Contest
2600 Belmont Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Email to

Sorry. Poems cannot be returned.

Statement from Little People of America (LPA) regarding the episode of the “Celebrity Apprentice”

This is a statement from Little People of America (LPA) regarding the episode of the "Celebrity Apprentice" that aired on April 5, 2009. 

Little People of America is a national non-profit support organization for people with dwarfism and their families. As a membership organization representing thousands of people with dwarfism around the country, we are deeply disappointed with the episode of "Celebrity Apprentice" that NBC aired on April 5, 2009. Over the past few decades, representation of people of short stature on television, in print and on film has made significant progress. In years past, people with dwarfism were most often portrayed no better than a side show attraction at a traveling carnival or the court jester. 

Today, television, print and film often portray people of short stature as fully developed characters, not defined by their appearance. In addition, increased awareness has challenged and limited use of language such as the word "midget," considered highly offensive by the dwarfism community.

Working against efforts to create a more tolerant, inclusive community, the April 5 episode of "Celebrity Apprentice" repeatedly used the word "midget" and portrayed people with dwarfism more as objects than as individuals. Some of the cast members saw nothing wrong with portraying people with dwarfism as items of ridicule to make people laugh and create a "buzz" for a "viral video" project. Even though, on more than one occasion, contestants recognized that people with dwarfism find the word "midget" highly offensive (Donald Trump, Jr. even raised the question of terminology), the word continued to be used, including by celebrity role members and a mother of four. 

The word was also included in the title of the final product created by one "Celebrity Apprentice" team (the Athena Team). More than eighty percent of people with dwarfism have average height parents and siblings. Like other disabilities, dwarfism can impact any family, making the behavior of contestants on "Celebrity Apprentice" all the more upsetting and disappointing.

As part of the disabled population, people with dwarfism have worked hard to navigate social and physical barriers in order to become full participants and contributors to their communities. Today, people with dwarfism are employed as teachers, social workers, entertainers, lawyers, doctors and scores of other professions. In addition to working these professions, through the work of Little People of America and beyond, thousands of people with dwarfism are striving to
positively impact all communities in accepting and embracing difference. 

In order to reach this goal, the community of people of dwarfism has been challenged with scores of social and physical barriers. We applaud the work of actors with dwarfism whose diligent work to advocate for better roles is helping the community navigate those barriers. Though we recognize the right of all actors to pursue employment, we are saddened that roles demeaning people of short stature continue to be created as a gimmick to gain attention.

On April 5, rather than use an opportunity to present a positive portrayal of people with dwarfism, "Celebrity Apprentice" added another barrier through which the dwarfism community will be forced to navigate. It is the hope of Little People of America that, in the future, NBC, Mark Burnett Productions, Donald Trump and "Celebrity Apprentice" tear down walls of ignorance and discrimination rather than build new walls. We call on "Celebrity Apprentice" to partner with Little People of America, the dwarfism and the disability community in order to create a more inclusive community where all people are allowed to pursue opportunity without prejudice or discrimination.

About Little People of America: LPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocacy and support for individuals of short stature. LPA strives to enhance the lives of its members and their families by providing services and programs that meet their needs. LPA provides information and support to individuals whose short stature is generally caused by one of the more than 200 medical conditions known as dwarfism.

For more information, contact Gary Arnold, VP of Public Relations for Little People of America at 312-640-2199 or Joanna Campbell, Executive Director, at 714-862-4247. 

LPA National Office:
Little People of America, Inc.,
250 El Camino
Real, Suite 201,
Tustin, CA 92780

Jack in the Box Commercial: insults to PWDs go bilingual


The latest Jack in the Box commercial, for their new mini sirloin burgers, features mini cowboys on mini horses, herding mini cattle, to country western style music, (a corrido in the Spanish commercial– someone is working overtime on cultural sensitivity and awareness!)  

The mini cattle of course, are simply scaled down, the mini horses are miniature horses, but the mini people are little people, with munchkin voices.  

While dwarfs,  arguably, aren’t disabled, this type of ridicule is indicative of and consistent with attitudes toward pwds, and  the attitudes toward anyone who does not conform to the specific physical norm.  Discriminatory attitudes have more to do with social constructs and values, then real differences.  (Got wings?)  Apparently laughing at non-normative bodies is good for business!  I doubt that they went to all this effort to reach out the little people market!

you can see it here, in English or Spanish, then contact the company at that link, and let them know what you think of this insulting exploitation of the human condition. 

(Scroll over, Spanish is the las commercial, English is the penultimate one. )

My Union Sister in Vertigo

” Did they ever worry, when they “reacted to Emma” that if they were they wrong, their behavior was cruel and oppressive?” ****


One of my union sisters* has for years, spent much time and energy attacking me and my disability; using my impairment for her own amusement and ambition.  Recently just days after I posted a comment regarding the marginalization of disability within education, and referenced my own case within the union, (without mentioning names),  to the thread on the facebook wall of a mutual friend of ours,  I received two hateful “anonymous” comments  to the opening message of my blog* * (I have, in response set up a criteria for posting of comments, and have offered other insights in a previous post)***

The header,  IP address, as well as other indications are that the sender, and one of the authors of these latest hate rants is no other than the daughter of my union sister, writing from Portugal where she is a PhD student. 

The depravity of sending anonymous messages to someone whose receipt of death threats and hate mail is well known, is a small example of the cruelty that has gone into this multi-year campaign.

The first statement appears, based on writing styles and content, to have been a collaborative effort, mimicking the accusations of my union sister and members of her clique.  The second post with what appears to be this young woman’s own statement, revealed something very new. 

While my detractors, using my disability to attack me, through gossip and innuendo, instead of  addressing real differences, or finding legitimate avenues of disagreement,  have refused to even recognize or respond to the issue of disability as a human right,  this latest communication states:

“Your blog effectually mocks the causes of people who are in the situation you imagine yourself to be in.”

So!  We, people with disabilities,  do exist, even if I am not one of us!?

Hm! Why the change in discourse?

It has come to my attention that my union sister recently, has been complaining of vertigo, and at times has taken up the use of a cane. Vertigo is but one of the many symptoms of fibromyalgia, and in my experience, one of the most devastating.  It is extreme dizziness and imbalance. When hit with it (it comes and goes,)  I can barely walk across the room to the bathroom.  I am limited to bed rest for the duration.

Is it possible, that after years of using disability discrimination to advance her own aggrandizement, my union sister is now stricken?  That those close to her, like the “anonymous” commentator,  are witnessing the howling limitations imposed by this condition, even though when in public, she doesn’t appear to be ill.  Are they,  and she, experiencing the frustration of good and bad days;  having to miss meetings, forced into the isolation of bed rest when one lives alone, or not alone, when the rest of the world goes off to work, or activities or life in general?

Does she suffer the bitterness of people who don’t believe her because she doesn’t look sick or because when they do see her, when she can get out and about, she seems quite capable?  Do they, as she has done, question her intermittent use of ambulatory devices, claiming that her disuse one day indicates a dishonestly on the days that she claims to be in greater need?

Is she struggling with the decision to use ambulatory devices, considering deeply the stigma, and the limitations they impose as well?

And what of the shame and humiliation she herself contributed to, so aggressively?  Will people now accuse her of lying, of trying to get attention? Can she be believed after lying about my condition for her own benefit, for so long? 

Regardless of whether or not she is truly sick, she will probably find that there is nothing to be gained from “faking” disability.  Beyond parking placards, it carries very little privilege.  Will her previous lies now blow up in her face, both because of the stigma she perpetuated, and because her duplicity will now be laid out for all to see?  “But you accused Emma of faking her illness when you yourself embody all of the evidence of this “deceit”.”

Perhaps she will be a more convincing victim, that is, play the victim much better than I could.  She is by far more delicate and more feminine in presentation than I.  And femininity by definition and historically has always been linked to weakness and infirmity.  Her stealthy wiles used to attack me, never publicly, and her ability to use others to wage her wars, may make her claims more convincing, than my direct insistence at participation, my own assertive testimony of my daily struggles and my assertion that my personal experience be linked to the greater body politic demanding solidarity and justice, not pity or charity. 

When this union sister in vertigo, approaches you with her sad new situation, please respond with compassion.  Regardless of her dishonesty, she probably is really sick. Admitting it, all the more difficult because of the corner she has painted herself into.

But by all means, learn from the errors of her ways.  The corner you paint, when you dis-dis-ability, may be your own, for it is the one marginalized group, if you live long enough, I promise you, you will join.

And gently (gently) remind her , of her own cruel words;  that you were listening closely, perhaps even believed her, even were complicit with her. How deep they must have stung, how lonely indeed it is to experience what those around one negate and ridicule.  How wrong she was, how wrong, either in silence or in deed were those who supported her in her campaign against another union sister, a sister in struggle, illness and determination, a would be ally had she only allowed for the possibility in the first place.


*She is the UTLA member with the pseudonym, “Camile” under the thread UTLA Human Rights Committee

** A Message to the World both Big and Small


***Policy on Comments

Why The Hostility Toward  Victims


What Is Ailing Black America -Alyson Cole

The New York Times


October 21, 2007

What Is Ailing Black America?

To the Editor:

Re “Tough, Sad and Smart,” by Bob Herbert (column, Oct. 16):

Mr. Herbert says a joint venture by Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint “is nothing less than an effort to save the soul of black America.” In fact, it is a tired recycling of an argument that reaches back to Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “Negro Family” and runs through the pledge last year by Bruce S. Gordon, then the president of the N.A.A.C.P., to end “victimlike thinking” by African-Americans.

In casting victimhood as “the enemy,” we mistake a condition for a state of mind (that dreaded “victim mentality”) and end up blaming the victim. Would Mr. Cosby and Dr. Poussaint have us believe that it is not structured inequality and racism that leave droves jobless, but rather a matter of self-esteem and individual character?

While Mr. Moynihan pathologized the urban poor, he still sought national action. In our neoliberal era of personal responsibility and workfare, we leave victims to battle their victimization on their own.

What black men and women need are jobs, not another pep talk. This applies to disconnected youth, who are out of school and out of work, and, sadly, out of favor among policy makers as well.

Alyson M. Cole
Flushing, Queens, Oct. 16, 2007

The writer is a professor of political science at Queens College, CUNY.

Why the hostility toward victims? By Alyson M. Cole

Emma’s Commentary:

(Statements in italics are direct quotes from two messages sent to me this week in response to my blog; In Bed With Frida Kahlo. For more information about these comments, go to:

One of the most astounding experiences with disability, has been the aggressive manner in which (among others) human rights activists, 1. find that attacking my disability is more effective than engaging in real discourse, that it is strategically better to pick on the “cripple” then argue merit, and 2.  assert that I do not really have a disability, that I am faking it, “begging for attention”, mocking people “who are in the situation you imagine yourself to be in”, offering no proof of this assertion, assuming (with surprising accuracy) that others will join in their mockery, on the face value of the accusation itself.

These are strange accusations from activists, who one would assume had spent a lifetime fighting this very set of assumptions, more aligned with right wing conservative posits than any radical challenge to the status quo.  

One wonders, who else “plays victim” in their book: welfare “queens”, members of the labor aristocracy who demand higher wages?  teachers who complain about class size?  women who accuse their dates, husbands, fathers of rape?  the growing number of people incarcerated who claim their innocence? 

Who are these arbiters of merit?  On what credentials do they base their assertions?

What are the dangers to movements for social change if activists perpetuate these stereotypes, these images of people who speak out, who dare to define our own experience, who dare to demand an equal place in the world?

-Emma Rosenthal


Why the hostility toward victims?

Monday, November 27, 2006

IN HIS election-night tribute to the defeated senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, Republican pundit William Bennett waxed eloquent about the senator’s concern for victims — of AIDS, autism, partial-birth abortion, and those in Darfur.

“The poor, the dispossessed, the helpless, the unborn, whether it be here in the United States or abroad,” he proclaimed, “have lost a champion in losing Rick Santorum.”

This assemblage of the weak and vulnerable is rather remarkable in and of itself, but the real irony is that William Bennett delivered this encomium. For more than a decade, Bennett has been at the forefront of the campaign against the “victims’ revolution.” He even blamed “the victimology mongers” for rendering the United States susceptible to evil-doers on 9/11. Indeed, Bennett, among others, is responsible for the doublespeak that warped how Americans have come to think about suffering and sufferers.

Without precedent or much public notice, “victim” has become a term of derision, deployed to dismiss, ridicule and condemn. This sentiment congealed in the early 1990s, when politicians and analysts — like Bennett — instigated an alarmist crusade alerting Americans that an excess of grievances imperiled the nation. Anti-victimists cast those who allege to be victims as shamefully passive or as cynically manipulative. As a result, seeking recognition of one’s injury indicates a deficient character, or even symptoms of a pathology (the dreaded “victim mentality”). Individuals now must use other designations to avoid stigma. The brutalized Central Park jogger accordingly emerged from seclusion to insist that she is not a “victim” but a “survivor.” Similarly, those who died on Sept. 11, 2001 are not “victims” in our collective vocabulary as much as “heroes,” posthumously conscripted as soldiers in the “war for freedom.”

The language of victimization has not so much disappeared from public discourse as recirculated, for it is now routinely invoked to drive attacks on affirmative action, welfare, and even terrorism. Welfare programs, for example, supposedly present a punishing burden on national resources and constrict American freedoms. In this way, victimism injures, indeed victimizes, American society. Though this rhetoric was forged during debates over domestic policies, President Bush applies it to characterize America’s enemies abroad. He postulates that a “culture of victimization” in the Muslim world causes terrorism. Others have gone further, comparing Islamist radicals in Europe to the American “welfare queens.”

Even though conservatives attack racial politics, feminism, and similar movements as “victim politics,” the anti-victim sentiment is not unique to the Right. The Democratic Leadership Council devoted an entire issue of “The New Democrat” to the theme of “Getting Beyond Victimization” in 1993. More recently, in the summer 2006, Bruce Gordon used his inaugural address as the new head of the NAACP to denounce “victim-like thinking” among African Americans.

Paradoxically, critics of the “culture of complaint” also exalt ideal types of absolute innocence and sacrificial suffering — a veritable cult of true victimhood. Like those connected to Santorum’s revered causes, true victims may include the terminally ill, individuals harmed by violent crimes or atrocities enacted by other nations, and, especially, fetuses. The criteria for inclusion have less to do with the veracity of claims or the facts of injury, than with the sufferer’s personal qualities, her character and purity.

The ultimate purpose of the cult of true victimhood is to suppress most victim claims. It implies that the good victim is one who refuses to be a victim. So when in the wake of the midterm elections Republicans resurrect “compassionate conservatism,” it is important to understand how an anti-victim rhetoric scripts public deliberations about suffering, injury, and injustice, and in doing so, preempts these debates altogether.

Alyson M. Cole is a professor of political science at Queens College of the City University of New York. She is author of “The Cult of True Victimhood: From the War on Welfare to the War on Terror.”

In My Language, By Amanda Baggs

I just discovered Amanda Baggs on youtube.  Also the blogger, at,  

Her writing and videos are creative, human and speak to the experience of people with disabilities in general, people with autisism specifically.  

She dedicates an entire page to her medical documentation, for those arrogant members of “normal” society, who can’t believe that someone can be disabled and also extremely brilliant and articulate.  


This speaks to my own thesis; that we all benefit from full inclusion, the insistence that each human being has value and her existence and work (paid or otherwise) contributes to our greater humanity.

This is a very important utube film about language, humanity, communication.  Please note, that this film maker chose to close caption her video so more people could have access to the information.  Few youtube videos provide this service, denying this service to people who don’t fit within the  auditory or cognitive  norms  of society.  

The Problem With “Think Positive”

Dialectical Materialism and Disability

a praxis for radical healing

Emma Rosenthal

Current popular ideology asserts that positive thinking alone can improve the individual condition.  Unlike Marxist material dialectics, which recognizes social, natural and physical forces on the individual, group, society, and history;  this mandate blames the subject for conditions in her life, going so far as to accuse those who speak honestly about their doubts, frustrations, marginalization, humiliation and discrimination, of “playing the victim.”

But within the tyranny of “positive thinking”  is the  insistence, not that the subject stop being a victim;   (because victimization is always external to the subject!) simply that she become the kind of victim society is more comfortable with: one that doesn’t complain, doesn’t demand and doesn’t speak out!

Like many solutions and analyses not rooted in theories of radical social transformation, this one too, fails to look at illness and disability in the larger social context.   Certainly;  while focusing on positive aspects of life can make even the most unbearable situations better,  the spiritual tyranny (what i call spiritual fascism) of constantly being told to “be positive” is extremely oppressive.

In her last weeks, activist, Barbara Franklin, as she died of incurable cancer, told me she thought she hadn’t been positive enough to fight the disease. This missive “be positive” only added to her stress and self-loathing, as her body was consumed by rogue cells.   This discussion was one of many we had in her final days, around a language of infirmity, which we found we could share with few other people.  

Healing is the process of transformation regardless of the outcome, while cure is the eradication of the condition. The former is always possible, while the latter, may not be. The truth is, we will all die.  There is no positive thinking protocol that can override that fact.  

Illness is its own epic voyage that involves despair as well as revelation.  To limit the process to the narrow realm of “positive thinking”  serves only the status quo and does little to really illuminate the larger and more significant journey.  Nor does it inform the subject in navigating the new landscape that the condition and social obstacles impose.  

Part of the healing process involves an empowering understanding of illness, disease and marginalization. The missive to be positive, makes the illness experience easier on the people around the subject, but may only provide the most superficial of solutions to the actual challenges of healing. And, in as much as the insistence to present an affect that is dishonest, isolating and counter-intuitive, may in fact do great harm. For social transformation to occur, one must speak truth to power. How does one do that if ignoring those forces   (and symptoms?) acting against oneself? And with illness and disability, in our society, the forces outside of the individual (access to health care, attitudes of loved ones, the health care gulag, discrimination, etc.) may be greater than the disease or condition itself. Thinking positive sadly, often results in self-blame and self-loathing. Whereas critical thinking, which doesn’t preclude gratitude, but includes assessment, activism and empowerment is a much greater healer.

Even better, if the subject can connect her inner process of infirmity or disability within the context of larger social constructs and movements for social change; that is, develop an understanding of illness, disability and infirmity within the larger body politic.

More powerful if she can find allies along the way and communities of inclusion that also don’t see illness and disability as personal, individual problems that don’t have a place in the public discourse beyond the scrutiny applied by those not subject to the conditions.

For the subject, the challenge is to seek out and find community and support that doesn’t dismiss the experience behind popular platitudes that lay blame by maintaining the individual nature of the situation;  but rather, can bear witness to the journey and explore and address the social injustices and indignities and provide empowered and informed advocacy.

For activists who have  never addressed these issues within a social context, the challenge is to listen and to advocate, as well as  to understand the radical value of bearing witness; not dismissing the experience, but rather, using it to name, address and define the experience in a language of self-definition, self-determination and empowerment.