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Abuse and fetishism are the covert side of the macho male gaze.In public, Bartlett is right that the male gaze does indeed blind itself to the existence of women who don’t meet mainstream beauty standards.
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Returning to the reporter’s question, I wondered, could one answer possibly be better than the other? This week, however, the New York Times touts this precise line of thinking in its series on disability with Jennifer Bartlett’s piece “Longing for the Male Gaze.” In it Bartlett explores the ways in which she believes her cerebral palsy has cost her catcalls and compliments from construction workers.
She paints this experience as lonely, contrasting it to Jessica Valenti’s recent autobiography of frequent street harassment, saying ultimately: “I still would much rather have a man make an inappropriate sexual comment than [as a disabled person] be referred to in the third person or have someone express surprise over the fact that I have a career.”Is it safe to assume she is discounting inappropriate sexual comments by abusers and fetishists, both of which disabled people endure at rates far higher than the general population?
Being only 3ft in height, I have come across many awkward moments in my life, one of the most common is being mistaken for a child or spoken to like a child. This includes those who have visible or invisible disabilities.
We are still human, with feelings just like any other able-bodied person. It is perfectly normal for us to think like this, we all do it no matter what size or shape we are, it’s all part of being human and how our brain works when in a nervous or first time situation.
Unfortunately, for disabled people, dating can involve uncertainty and more than a few awkward moments. To help avoid awkward situations with your date, don’t be ashamed to educate them on your disability before actually going on the date.