What Is a Disability?

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 t595745458_16c0ca2bac_mhey 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 handicap-39397_640lack 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.


3 thoughts on “What Is a Disability?

  1. I liked how you defended your argument and the topic you chose. But it has been scientifically proven that men are in fact stronger than women and poses higher testosterone levels. This allows men to with stain more of a physical strain than women, due to the biology of the human body. Because of this women would be at a disadvantage when competing with men in certain sports. If women were competing with themselves then that disability argument would definitely be out the window. I think that the problem is women use this to their advantage only when it benefits them. I agree with you when you said being limited by gender is absurd. But as absurd as it may be that’s the world we live in sadly! Good post though!


  2. While I think you make an excellent point about disabilities not being disabling, I think the idea should have been focused a bit more. I think a focus on the apparent “disability” of being a woman would be useful. For example, how many women’s sports are considered to be inferior to men’s sport. But we can recognize that this is not true, many women’s sports are extremely entertaining and impressive, they just simply differ in playing style than that of men’s sports due to obvious physical differences such as lung capacity and brute strength. Also you mention that lack of talent is a disability that should’t be debated, why is this? I’m not quite sure a lack of talent can’t be classified by some as a disability, such as those severely lacking talent in academics. Overall though, I can definitely relate to the overall reaching idea of a disability being dependent on one’s objectives.


  3. I think your point explaining the importance of viewing disabilities in context is an interesting one. As you brought up, there are different degrees to which the woman-disability-status is perceived (depending on cultural factors). In some regions of the world, being a woman is considered the favorable gender, as their role in the reproductive system is essential to our species continued existence. The concept of a gender being any more superior than the other, as you make clear, is just as ridiculous as it sounds. The sad reality is that women continue to get paid 70 cents to every dollar a man makes in the United States. We all know that each group is equally able of achieving success, though dysfunction systems deeply engrained in our society prevent our culture from reaching a state of total gender equality. You make an interesting point about the lack of talent as a disability. While yes, those blessed with innate physical and intellectual talents are often superior to those without them, I wouldn’t necessarily qualify that as a disability. Talent seldom defines the accomplishments achieved by successful individuals in society; success is purely effort driven. So, I would assert that lack of motivation is more of a disabling factor than the absence of talent.


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