The Ashley Treatment -- another Terri Schiavo case about to explode?

"Parents of a severely disabled girl in the US have revealed that they are keeping her child-sized in order to give her a better life." - BBC News

The Ashley case immediately reminds me of the Terri Schiavo case. When disability and gender intersect, it acts as a lightning rod for society's anxieties about women's, and girls', autonomy and roles.

In some ways, in fact, gender is at the forefront of these cases.

I've read a statement made by the parents at their blog. Here are my initial thoughts.

The first red flag, for me, is the repeated insistence that their child brings unlimited joy and is nothing less than a blessing. This seems over-the-top to me, given that she requires life-long care and attention. It seems much more human to say, "Yes, we love her, but no way did we anticipate having a disabled child, and at times we resent the care she needs."

Acknowledging that caring for the disabled is an extremely taxing job that isn't all joy and rainbows wouldn't mean they didn't love their child; if anything it would remove the taboo for carers to discuss the feelings that aren't publicly admitted. And this would help those who are in similar situations but feel isolated because their feelings carry stigma.

Another red flag is this business about calling her a "pillow angel", which, again, strikes me as making the child overly-sacred, pure, and innocent. Why is this so bad? Because it makes the girl less human and complex, and more of a cutout cartoon figure. This removes her human-ness.

Finally, the name. Naming the series of procedures "The Ashley Treatment" accomplishes several things:

  1. it makes it extremely personal
  2. it ennobles both Ashley and her parents
  3. it normalizes and disguises the nature of the operations

All of the above makes it more difficult to examine the reality of the proecedures and discuss its ethics.

More will be discussed at The Gimp Parade, so keep an eye on it, and if you're interested in this issue you should also visit Women of Color Blog, who has written an excellent lengthy post on this.

Keep reading the blogs.

Link: The "Ashley Treatment", Towards a Better Quality of Life for "Pillow Angels"

Melinda Casino's personal blog is Sour Duck.

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