Elizabeth Barnes in Philosop-her:
I didn’t expect to feel so angry. A few years ago, having established a certain amount of professional security, I decided to start doing more work on social and feminist philosophy – especially philosophical issues related to disability. I’d always done some work on the topic, but I considered doing lots of work on it a professional luxury that had to be earned. When I began to focus more of my research on disability, I expected plenty of things – a deeper sense of fulfillment from what I was doing, a fair amount of side eye from colleagues, worries that the topic was too niche to be of general interest – but I didn’t expect the emotional drain that the work would be. I feel angry – more than I could’ve anticipated and more than I often care to admit – when I write about disability. And I also, at times, feel so, so sad.
I have sat in philosophy seminars where it was asserted that I should be left to die on a desert island if the choice was between saving me and saving an arbitrary non-disabled person. I have been told it would be wrong for me to have my biological children because of my disability. I have been told that, while it isn’t bad for me to exist, it would’ve been better if my mother could’ve had a non-disabled child instead. I’ve even been told that it would’ve been better, had she known, for my mother to have an abortion and try again in hopes of conceiving a non-disabled child. I have been told that it is obvious that my life is less valuable when compared to the lives of arbitrary non-disabled people. And these things weren’t said as the conclusions of careful, extended argument. They were casual assertions. They were the kind of thing you skip over without pause because it’s the uncontroversial part of your talk.