Ableism Is alive and well in 2016 | Charlotte Theriault

Trigger warning for ableism, sexist language, bodily fluids


Following the shocking results of the election, many people took to social media to express their thoughts, fears, and concerns about the bigoted President-elect Donald Trump as well as the majority republican House and Senate. It quickly became apparent that the people of the United States were deeply divided, and that we needed to take a hard look at our governmental and political party systems. One of the reaction videos that was suggested to me on youtube was Glitterforever17’s video with the title “Cutting My Hair Off *TRIGGER WARNING*”

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      As someone who struggles with mental health and has a very complex relationship with the hair own my own head, I clicked the video link. The first thing I noticed was that the video had no captions, which is annoying but common in videos I find on youtube. The video opens with Glitterforever17 saying things like “I would just die if [Hillary Clinton] lost [the election].” as  she’s pretending to watch the election results. After Donald Trump is named president the screen turns black and white and you can hear the phrase “it’s Britney, bitch” with the sexist slur repeating over and over again as Glitterforever17 runs her hands through her hair. Finally, she decides to cut her hair off. The song ‘Gimmie More by Britney Spears continues to play as she cuts of chunks of her hair dramatically. The screen goes white and the words “The Next Morning…” appear. Suddenly we come face to face with Glitterforever17 sobbing, holding her chopped hair. She sobs to the camera, saying that “Hillary was my life, and like, her becoming president was my life… and now that she’d not president it’s eating me alive inside”.

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    She expresses that she doesn’t know what happened last night, and even throws up thick green slime on camera. Crying over the state of her hair and mental health, she says that she needs to go to the hair salon because she is so ugly now that she cut her hair. The video goes white once again with  “…”  displayed across the screen

     Suddenly, Glitterforever17 pops up, in full glam hair and makeup, excitedly saying “Just kidding!” Any traces of her mental breakdown or her being sick are gone, because they were fake. She confesses to lying about having a breakdown over the election, saying “I was just joking! Please don’t kill me!” She goes on to say that she didn’t have an opinion on the election. Then she tells the audience to thumbs up if they voted for Clinton and thumbs down if they voted for Trump, and jokes that that’s how she gets the thumbs up on her (seriously ableist) video.

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     Glitterforever17’s video currently has 72,450 upvotes, and 62,970 downvotes. While I’m sure many people voted based on how they felt about the election, I personally downvoted the video because it was so ableist in nature I felt a direct hit to my mental health. Let me just break down this video and explain why it was so problematic. First of all She made a direct reference  to Britney Spears’ mental breakdown in 2007, where Brittney completely shaved her head. While people speculated that Britney shaved her head to avoid being tested for drug use, others claim Brittney said she shaved her hair off because she was““tired of plugging things into it. I’m tired of people touching me.

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     Britney at the time had been under the micro-management of many people, who were all controlling her image through telling her everything she could or could not do. No one argued that Britney didn’t have a mental break down, because it was very apparent through the act of her shaving her head. Although people made fun of Britney’s decision, she utilized her breakdown as a turning point for not only her career but for herself. Today she is doing much better, but still acknowledges that her breakdown was a huge part of what shaped her as a person today. Glitterforever17’s use of Britney’s mental breakdown not only is ableist because she’s making fun of someone’s struggle with mental health, but because she’s doing it for shock factor and clickbait.

     I personally found it disgusting that she gave her followers a mini tutorial on how to make their own fake vomit. I find it disgusting that she would cut up a wig on camera and make herself up to be mentally and physically ill.

     I do not find it funny in the slightest. Mentally ill people are not here for your entertainment. We do not exist so that you can do something “crazy” and get new subscribers and likes.

     Hollywood has been using disabled people for decades, we’re always the villain, always the monster, the psychopath, the circus freak. Half of American Horror Story’s plotline revolves around the physically and mentally disabled, painting them as dangerous creatures that need to be avoided.

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     As someone who is both physically and mentally disabled, I am constantly humiliated and “othered” by people who make fun of the disabled. The word “trigger” has become a constant reminder that when I have flashbacks because I hear a certain song or read a certain name that they aren’t seen as valid. I cringe when I watch videos like Glitterforever17’s; I am not a character trope, I am not disabled for your entertainment. I am a real person and so are many other’s that have mental and physical disabilities and illnesses. I will not be linking the video because I do not want to give her more views and make her think that this kind of behavior is okay. 

Please remember that disabled people are human. Have a great break and I’ll see you in 2017 Spartans!

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