Abigail Lee Six – Ana García-Siñeriz, Esas mujeres rubias (2010): disability, gender, and the medical establishment

Event Date: 21 March 2013
Centre for Creative Collaboration (c4cc)
16 Acton Street
London WC1X 9NG

Part of Royal Holloway’s Trauma, Fiction, History Series, jointly sponsored by the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the Humanities and Arts Research Centre, Royal Holloway, University of London:

Disability and Culture: Whose Tragedy?

As part of Dr Hannah Thompson‘s research on representations of disability, this series of workshops are developing an interdisciplinary and collaborative research project called ‘Disability and Culture’. The first event in this project is a study day to explore how the ‘personal non-tragedy’ approach to disability can encourage us to see disability differently.

Professor Abigail Lee Six (Royal Holloway, University of London) – Ana García-Siñeriz, Esas mujeres rubias (2010): disability, gender, and the medical establishment

Esas mujeres rubias [‘Those Blonde Women’] by Ana García-Siñeriz is a Spanish novel presented as a mother’s first-person account of losing her only daughter, Alma, at the age of fourteen due to a condition called Diamond-Blackfan anemia, characterized by short life expectancy and also extremely fair skin, stunted growth, and abnormalities in the upper extremities (Alma is born with one thumb missing). My paper will discuss three episodes which bear out – indeed, flesh out – current disability theory. The first illustrates how certain issues relating to disability can usefully be viewed as part of a continuum of attitudes to body-image and physical appearance more generally rather than considered in isolation. In that respect, disability and feminist theory intersect and can cross-fertilize. The second explores terrain shared with theories of illness, critiquing the medical establishment and status quo; and the third brings both of these overlaps together as we see how unchallenged gender-stereotyped ideas concerning motherhood underlie some medical and public health policies and priorities. Taken together, these three episodes endorse strongly the contention of disability theorists that to a significant degree, the disadvantage and suffering normally attributed to disability have at their core sociocultural attitudes rather than the unavoidable symptoms of a given condition.

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