Disability humour is part and parcel of disability culture. If you tell me that I shouldn’t make disability jokes in public, you’re telling me that it’s not ok for me to be who and what I am as a person with a disability. You are trying to stuff me back in the closet that we (people with disabilities) fought so hard to get out of.
A couple days ago I tweeted a disability-related joke. One of my followers took offense. We discussed it a little bit and in the end G3ict said:
Sweethart, you can crack jokes & poke fun at everyone, and laugh at yourself in the mirror = but not in a public forum!
The tone of the message felt patronising, which is something people with disabilities often experience – and which doesn’t help to make us receptive to such comments.
But more than that, my problem is that the implications are we shouldn’t make disability jokes in public.
Dark disability humour is an integral part of disability culture.
People with disabilities regularly make jokes at their own expenses. These jokes may appear offensive to some people. The people who take offense are often people who don’t have a disability. Other people are just uncomfortable with this kind of humour. And maybe that discomfort is a reflection of their general discomfort with people with disabilities at large, I don’t know.
It wasn’t so long ago that people with disabilities were kept at home, behind closed doors. Attitudes aren’t all that changed, not when you scratch below the surface. It was only 10 years ago that I was told by someone "I pay taxes so people like you can stay in nursing homes". I am reminded on "NIMBY" – Not In My Back Yard.
People with disabilities shouldn’t be seen, and if they are seen, they should behave according to what is expected of them – be a good little boy, sweethart.
Well, no! I’m not going back in that closet. I am what I am, get used to it! And that includes me cracking disability jokes. In public.
You may also be interested in reading Wheelie Catholic‘s post on the matter of disability humour – she makes some great points.