I would like to start this blog post by noting that this Tweet is from 2014. The tweet may be 4 years old but disabled people have heard this sentiment their entire lives. The message behind this tweet is just as relevant in 2018 as it was then and it’s important to recognise ableist attitudes that exist in the present and affect disabled people regularly.
So let’s get into this. Starting with some context. Ken Jennings. Ever heard of him? I hadn’t. He is an American game show contestant and author. He is also a very clever individual, apparently winning 74 jeopardy!games in a row. I’m not quite sure what jeopardy!Is but I am sure that his reputation is in jeopardy now that his ableist tweet is making the rounds. It is to my understanding that he has a couple of university degrees. How can an intelligent person with 280k Twitter followers find “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” An appropriate thing to tweet? It baffles me that some people can be so brazen with abliest remarks and find no consequences from spreading hateful messages.
When I first seen the tweet I was immediately reminded of how undesirable I felt being a teenager in wheelchair. Those words were simply echoes of what I used to think of myself and my disability. I hadn’t realised at that point that disability and attractiveness were not mutually exclusive, you can be both. I remember a boy I liked saying to me something along the lines of “I’d date you if you weren’t in the wheelchair” That hurt me quite a bit. Reading the tweet sprung me right back to that moment.
Let’s really think about what Jennings said here. “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” Okay. Is the disabled person sad that they are hot and in the wheelchair? Does Jennings mean because they’re hot they don’t deserve being in the wheelchair? Or perhaps, he is sad because it’s a waste of a hot person? I think this third option is the most offensive and the most likely meaning of the tweet. Frankly any interpretation of the statement is offensive. This bothers me so deeply. First of all who does he think he is? He is not exactly Adonis himself. Secondly I wonder if he even realises the implications of that statement. It may surprise you but some able bodied people go through life never considering how abliest language affects a disabled person. For example the word ‘retard’ is thrown about so freely without any consideration of the actual meaning of the word, it’s not even considered a bad word by some people.
My disability Twitter feed BLEW UP in response to this. I’m not exaggerating, almost everything on my feed was relating to this tweet. However, it was promoting disabled body positivity. The hashtag #HotPersonInAWheelchair was everywhere and I love it.
The #HotPersonInAWheelchair thread on twitter is really empowering. The online disabled community came together (in all its petty glory) and recognised the ableism present in the tweet. Instead of replying aggressive things to Jennings’ tweet, everyone began to share images of themselves with the #HotPersonInAWheelchair hashtag. A celebratory thread appreciating disabled bodies and their beauty, proving Jennings, and closed minded people wrong. Many individuals sarcastically referencing how pitiful their lives are, with images of themselves enjoying life as a big F you to Ken’s reluctance to apologise for the tweet 4 years on, and an F you to the people to think disability and attractiveness are mutually exclusive.
Please check out the hashtag. It’s so satisfying to see the disabled community loving themselves and each other. Spreading positivity and happiness. Thanks for reading! Xoxo