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Language and Media, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 749

Essay

Social construction is a term popularized in the field of humanities that apply to everything including emotions, gender, race, sexuality, mental illness, and personal quarks (Mallon, 2008). This means that some ideas are controlled or created by cultural factors, rather than by natural factors. In other words, society predicts which factors or behaviors are accepted as ‘normal’; instead of accepting those factors or behaviors as a natural phenomenon.  Because of social construction certain behaviors are accepted as the norm because it is represented by the majority. In other words, ‘normal’ is a common average. Society ranks according to norms.

For that reason, disability is treated as a social issue. Lennard J. Davis explains in Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body,  that “[a]s a term [disability] is more broadly used to indicate any lack of ability – fiscal, physical, mental, legal, and so on,” (Davis, 1995). Historically, physical or mental disabilities were hidden from society because they have been deemed least acceptable. Davis (1995) attributed the invisibility of physical disabilities as follows:

“It is in these differences, determined by rank and measure, that disability lies. Disability is a specular moment. The power of the gaze to control, limit, and patrol the disabled person is brought to the fore. Accompanying the gaze are a welter of powerful emotional responses. These responses can include horror, fear, pity, compassion, and avoidance,” (Davis, 1995).

In other words, normalcy is determined by social circumstances. In order to understand that which is not ‘normal’, one must consider the ‘abnormal’. In order to understand normalcy in the context of the abnormal, one is dependent on a variety of techniques and experts so that what is abnormal can be measured and corrected. Davis states that

“Repulsion is the learned response on an individual level that is carried out on a societal level in actions such as incarceration, institutionalization, segregation, discrimination, marginalization, and so on. Thus, the ‘normal,’ ‘natural’ response to a person with disabilities is in reality a socially conditioned, politically generated response,” (Davis, 1995).

For that reason a person who is considered to be disabled elicits negative responses from society and is expected to be institutionalized so that he or she is removed from society’s view. Based on the preceding information, a person with disabilities is subject to scrutiny from society because social construction views the disabled as abnormal.

Simi Linton agrees with this argument. She states that: “[a] host of factors have typically screened us [people with disabilities] from public view…. The public has gotten so used to these screens that as we are now emerging, upping the ante on the demands for a truly inclusive society, we disrupt the social order,” (Linton, 1998). Linton states that social construction is directly responsible for the emergence of the disabled into society. Because social construction has regarded the disabled as abnormal, it has bound the disabled together so that those who are labeled as disabled have emerged as a group into society. In other words, despite the efforts of social construction to separate the disabled from the norms of society, it has in fact caused the disabled to become a powerful force within society. Linton explains:

“We are everywhere these days, wheeling and loping down the street, tapping our canes, sucking on our breathing tubes, following our guide dogs, puffing and sipping on the mouth sticks that propel our motorized chairs ….We are all bound together… by the social and political circumstances that have forged us as a group,” (Linton, 1998).

In other words, it is not necessary to reexamine disability in the context of social media so that social construction can be altered to include the disabled as part of the social norm. Social construction is already responsible for that. Based on Linton’s explanation, social construction has grouped the disabled and made them a force that has boldly entered society. Based on the fundamental principles of social construction, that would define the disabled as normal. They are normal because they are no longer separated from society. They no longer repulse society because they are not a separate entity tucked away in an institution. They are people with physical inabilities, who are completely able to function as part of ‘normal’ society. They are normal, despite their physical differences.

Works Cited

Davis, L. J. (1995). Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body [Paperback]. New York: Verso.

Linton, S. (1998). Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York: New York UP.

Mallon, R. (2008, December). Naturalistic Approaches to Social Construction. Retrieved October 4, 2011, from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter Edition): http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2008/entries/social-construction-naturalistic/

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