Rewriting the Stories of People with Disability with Rebekah Taussig
Stories are how we make sense of the world. However, some stories fail to do justice to the complexity of the human experience. Nowhere is this perhaps more evident than in the stories of people with disability.
In this episode, Rebekah Taussig, author of Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body, explains how stories influence policy decisions and shape the experiences of people with disabilities. Discrimination may be less overt, but it remains in the assumptions we have about people we perceive to be different. She shares how to tell more inclusive stories that reflect the breadth of their experience and knowledge.
Tune in to find out how to change the prevailing narrative of ableism through counterstories.
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Find out how stories shape cultural narratives and policy decisions around people with disability.
- Rebekah explains why she thinks ideal body standards are fictional.
- How does Rebekah feel radically loved? Find out toward the end of the episode.
Writing Sitting Pretty
- In 1989, Rebekah was diagnosed with cancer, and the treatment left her paralyzed at an early age.
- In her late 20s, she started challenging beliefs about her identity as a person with disability.
- She read critical theories that explained the relationship between her body and the environment.
- She started an Instagram account, where she documented her day-to-day life and experiences.
- Her book builds on this work and prompts people to ask questions and examine their beliefs about their bodies.
Living in a World of Difference and Disconnection
- Rebekah remains stubbornly hopeful about the current world situation.
- She chooses to believe in the good side of humanity.
- At the same time, she acknowledges that there are backward beliefs threatening all this progress.
- Despite the polarizing environment and compelling evidence from both sides, Rebekah clings to hope and remains optimistic.
The Most Difficult Hurdle
- For Rebekah, the hardest part is the assumptions people make about her as soon as she enters a room.
- These assumptions become the basis of decisions and stories around people with disability.
- But these stories are not representative. They are neither nuanced nor flexible, but they continue to shape our worldviews.
- Inclusive storytelling is the answer, whether it’s through literature, film, or other media.
- If we can change the narrative, it’s possible to achieve real, tangible change.
Why Your Body Is Not Broken
- The conversations and beliefs we have around our bodies are too limiting.
- Unrealistic body standards are fictional since they don’t acknowledge the complexities of women’s bodies.
- It’s a system that punishes everyone. There are no winners in this “body competition.”
How to Create Awareness and Connection
- The act of storytelling helps people move past their biases and prejudices.
- Human-centered stories compel people to explore perspectives other than their own.
- To rewrite prevailing narratives, we need counterstories that reflect the diversity of our perspectives.
Rebekah’s Top 3 Lessons
- Rebekah emphasizes that trying to meet the “ideal” body is a punishing exercise.
- When we bring the entire spectrum of the disability to the light, everyone is better off. There’s a space for everyone at the table.
- Instead of being afraid of changes in your body, embrace that discomfort.
- Accept your body for whatever it is in the moment and whatever it’s going to be next.
5 Powerful Quotes From This Episode
[08:32] “Even when it looks like everything's falling apart, there's something stronger underneath and deeper within humans that we do have a desire to connect, and we want connection and beauty and care and creativity. I have to believe that that's ultimately what we are striving for.”
[25:14] “There's something about stories, human stories, personal stories. They're like the sneak attack. They go underneath that. They're like, taking you off guard by you feeling something you didn't anticipate feeling. And I think that that is how you start to see things differently.”
[26:35] “I think this notion of a normal, ideal body is a fiction. I think it's a punishing fiction. And continuing to strive for or hold that up as somehow the ultimate goal is a punishing exercise.”
[28:26] “When we bring all the disabled bodies to the center, I think that benefits everyone. I think that is the move that creates a more sustainable, flexible, caring, connected world.”
[29:57] “Any sort of transition in a body is, like, a frightening thing for a lot of people, I think. And I would challenge and encourage and hopefully empower us to lean into that.”
Rebekah Taussig is a writer and author from Kansas City who believes stories can change the world. For Rebekah, the words we use and the stories we tell shape the narratives and opportunities available to people in the fringes. When we tell better stories, we can make room for the diversity of our experiences.
Rebekah earned her Ph.D. in Creative Nonfiction and Disability Studies from the University of Kansas. Visit her website or connect with her on Instagram.
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