At first glance, the title of Professor LaVaque-Manty’s chapter from his piece, Playing Fields of Eton, “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities” seems a bit harsh. To some individuals, they may take this as our professor implying the inferiority of women by stating through this title that womanhood is a disability. However, the interpretation of this title is entirely dependent on what a disability is, not what the reader thinks a disability should be.
If LaVaque-Manty stated an inherent, natural difference between the status of sex’s in his work, then yes, I wouldn’t blame anyone for being angered by this title; however, he essentially does the opposite, as he establishes that women have been unjustly treated as inferior for countless years too many. Now, he does obviously state that being a woman can and has been a disability women in the past, and once one gets past the discomfort he or she may feel from the politically-incorrect-sounding title, LaVaque-Manty’s statements begin to make a lot of sense.
When you think of a disability the first thing to come to mind may be a person in a wheelchair. Yes, obviously physical impairments can be and frequently are disabilities to individuals, but in other instances, are they really disabilities? A disability is entirely dependent on one’s intended objectives. Stephen Hawking is indeed physically impaired, but is he really disabled when it comes to what he seeks to achieve and already has achieved? With the same idea in mind, a perfectly healthy, brilliant woman can indeed be disabled in many societies, both in the past and present, if her objectives lie in a realm where discrimination also resides. With that being taken into consideration, Lavaque-Manty’s title choice seems to make much more sense.
Disabilities are not always physical, and perhaps are even more often not. Sports, which Professor Lavaque-Manty primarily uses as his example, are just one of the many areas in which physical impairments have not and are not the only form of disability. If a deaf man aspires to be the greatest painter of his time, his physical impairment is not a disability in that part of his life. However, if the same man seeks to listen to a friend’s musical composition, he is certainly disabled (maybe Beethoven’s an exception).
There are disabilities that should not be issues of debate. Chief among these being lack of talent. The issue of womanhood is an entirely different topic. Having two X chromosomes, as some might say, should not be a disability, yet it has been and still is in an alarming number of settings. The idea that 50% of the population is limited by or entirely restricted by their gender is absurd. Ideally, the only disabilities that exist should be justifiable and not based on prejudice; however, as of right now (and even more so in the past), far too many individuals find themselves entirely disabled in the pursuit of their goals for reasons that should have little to no affect on their reaching of their objectives. This needs to change.