Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The real story behind cowbell girl

After the Fiesta bowl halftime show, the internet went on a spree about a female college student playing the cowbells. She was dubbed "Sad cowbell girl". Why? Because her expression didn't change when the camera panned the band.

The video was passed around the internet, with comments mocking "sad cowbell girl". There was even a photo of her in "happier times".

And then, someone discovered that this student band member was blind.

The sarcasm continued. There were post headings such as "entire internet hangs head in shame" at Mashable and we are all monsters .

There were, however, no apologies for ignorance.

Had there been one of those inspirational type stories about this band member floating around, then that would have been how she was seen.

The sad thing about this is not cow girl's expression for that moment, but how people still relate to those with disabilities. People with disabilities are seen as inspirational in those genre stories, but it's still open field day when it comes to mockery for some people for what they don't understand. And here's the kicker- some remain ignorant, because when they commit a social mistake and act inappropriately, they feel it's appropriate to chalk it up to "Oh we didn't know".

There was no mention of how it's wrong to treat anyone, disabled or nondisabled, like that.

One writer said that the joke was on everyone because she was blind. That's not true. There's nothing funny about how people continue to distance themselves from those with disabilities to the extent that they can't recognize a blind person unless he or she has a guide dog - and certainly can't imagine a blind student would be in a band unless it's covered in the evening news.

And if it's not, their thinking runs, how on earth can they be expected to know any better?

Give me a break.


Megan said...

It amazes me inconsiderate people are to things/people that they don't understand or choose not to understand. There should be a public apology made but even if it does come, I am not sure if it will be heartfelt or sincere. People don't see anything wrong with their actions. Where's the compassion and respect for all members of our society, regardless of ability. Good post. I enjoy your blog!

Wheelie Catholic said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this,
Megan. Have a great day.

FridaWrites said...

Yes, I am just disheartened by the meanness. My cousin, also a college student, has a similar level of visual disability to this student and was here this evening--I hate to think of her being exposed to public ridicule in this way. I couldn't even tell her about it.

Wheelie Catholic said...

Frida- it is disheartening. Take care.

Anonymous said...

This seems like another manifestation of a dynamic that drives me crazy: the one-up, one-down emphasis. If I'm oriented to supportive comments, there are two ways I can get it: to actually do something beneficial and worthwhile (actually be above average), or to ridicule and call attention to someone who (seems) to be worse at things than I am - so now I'm one-up by making the other person one-down.

People with disabilities can be victimized by this in so many ways. When their disability prevents them from exhibiting some expected behavior (even, if Cow Girl is an example, a facial expression), everyone can get a boost in social position by ridiculing or denouncing them.

Then, if their disability becomes known, the same able-bodied people can get a second boost by patronizing them.

It's one of the most universal, and most insidious, social dynamics around.

Wheelie Catholic said...


Yes it is.

Thanks, Sr. Edith.