Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting her privileged little way

I was out yesterday with my sister, mother and nephew in Walmart. They walked away for a moment and while I was alone looking at something on a shelf , a woman pushing a large cart came toward me sideways. Instead of asking me to move, she banged the cart into the side of my wheelchair.

I've seen this type of rude and boorish behavior before. I was in her way and she is - well - able bodied. Never mind that there were half a dozen other people - also able bodied- who could have moved out of her way. She saw the wheelchair and I was the one in her way.

I asked her to wait a moment since I was looking at something. She didn't look at me or answer me, but banged my chair again.

A primitive approach, I thought. But since I am forced by our so called health care system to pay for my own repairs, I turned and began to move on. I just can't swing expensive repairs to my wheelchair.

The able bodied bystanders watched, holding items in their hands, continuing to shop (lucky them!) saying nothing until I was out of *her* way. None of them were asked or expected to move by her. I saw and heard no sign that anyone really cared that I was literally pushed around the store by another customer.

Without a word, she was able to get her privileged little way. It was easy for her. I had to choose between principle and the very real fact that I need my wheelchair intact. And those standing by made their choice too not to say or do anything.

So I have my wheelchair intact. My sister ran over and asked if I was okay. I went back and looked at the item I needed. And some would say this was just a minor inconvenience for me, I suppose, and that it isn't such a big deal. Or that it's not a big deal that when I'm out with able bodied people, I don't get pushed around as much.

Buying into that philosophy, of course, means things don't change and privilege continues.


Anonymous said...

Not sure where you live, but this kind of behaviour is fairly common here in London, i.e. people deliberately imposing on others (disabled or otherwise) in an intimidating way, while others look on and do nothing. It's particularly common on public transport. We have a knife culture among certain elements of our youth and yobs are assumed to be either armed or predisposed to disproportionate violence and people think it preferable to look away or put up with it rather than complain. Then again, I would have thought a woman could get away with more in that regard than a man could.

I doubt her thoughts ran to the matter or privilege or the issue of you having to get your chair fixed; she was just being a bitch and annoying you for the sake of it.


Matt Smith

Ruth said...

I do agree with you that her thoughts didn't run to privilege. Those who are privileged rarely think about privilege - they just assume it.

I disagree with you about the ableism part. This kind of behavior stems from ableism which, by the way, is ingrained both in thought and deed.

But there appear to be a lot of assumptions made in your comment that don't hold true with what happened. It happened in a suburban store by a middle class white woman who was dressed to the nines.

The aisle was full. But here's my point - she didn't treat the people standing around (able bodied) the way she treated the wheelchair user. They were in *her* way too. Did she push her cart at them to get them out of her way? No. Why didn't she push the cart at someone standing there? Because she chose to push the wheelchair user around.

I also agree her thoughts didn't run to me personally or getting my wheelchair fixed. I've found when dealing with ableists that they could care less if my wheelchair is broken and my mobility impaired. Never had one pay for any damages caused in fifteen years of this kind of nonsense.

Terri said...

This stuff infuriates me. Sometimes I think people don't speak up because they are afraid of the bully themselves. But that is probably giving too much credit... (I do that!)

Katja said...

Who are these people? Can we call their mothers, or something?

My entitled woman (I'm having trouble saying "lady) experience this week: To the Woman at the Movie Theater.

Ruth said...

Call their mothers - LMAO!

We just need to keep showing up until they puff and puff and run out of steam.

Thx for linking to your post :)

Katja said...

Half my problem at the movie theater is that most of the people I'm trying to elbow out of the way for the accessible seats are much older than I am, and I have this sneaking guilty feeling that my mother would not approve...

Matthew Smith said...

Pardon my assumptions; where I live, suburban probably doesn't mean what it does in the USA. Pretty much anywhere that isn't the middle of a big town or city is "suburbia" and much of it is pretty grim anyway. The "walk on by" or "it's not my responsibility" mentality is well-known.

We had a particularly awful incident in a 'suburban' Sainsbury's shop very near me a couple of years ago (in Merton, which is the bit of Wimbledon where you won't find many tennis players), in which a woman had a petty argument with a man about a place in a queue, and she called her boyfriend on her mobile phone, and he promptly "came to her aid" and picked on a totally innocent man, hit him hard in the face, knocked him flying, resulting in a fatal brain injury. This is what I was thinking of when I was talking about challenging an inconsiderate female.

I'm not so sure now that the woman who bumped your wheelchair was just being a cow. Some people just have this one-track-minded way of behaving when they're driving or even shopping, so they pick out a route or an end point and think "I'm going there", and no roll-cage full of stock, no baby in a pushchair, no elderly man on a scooter or quadriplegic woman in a power-chair is going to get in their way, and if one does, they have no response except irritation or even rage.

Still, I can empathise since I know how unpleasant it is to have to cave in to a bully like that. I hope this cheers you up even if you won't be copying it!


Matt Smith

Mandassassin said...

Can't count the number of times I've seen and experienced this sort of thing. :( Especially in the mall. Apparently using a scooter makes one completely invisible.
But happily, as I learned today, sometimes karma comes and smacks privileged jerks upside the head.

Ruth said...

That's a great post! Karma and also validating that her ableism extended to even cheating at handicap parking...