The Voice Final and why people depress me
It is not usual for me to feel compelled to write about a TV program. But things happened on Twitter this eve that have made me want to say something.
As a disabled woman I find the comments that I have seen on twitter this evening depressing and disgusting. Even Will.i.am tweeted his dismay that anyone could dare choose Andrea over his precious Leah. This I believe was both unkind and lacking humility. Granted Leah could sing, they all could.
I personally did not vote for anyone but I felt that either Andrea or Matt deserved to win. I do not think that Leah is a new musical Messiah sent to save us all from mediocrity. I do not like her style, I know many do but not me. That however does not mean that if she won I would have taken to twitter to moan and shout out that she only won because she was white, able bodied, Irish, Two tone hair colour, etc….. take your pick of any way I could possibly be cruel or begrudging of her obvious talent.
In fact I do not think that this would of happened had Leah, or anybody else won.
So why then did it happen because Andrea, a partially sighted (10% vision) girl from Northern Ireland won. You may not have thought she was the best, you are of course free to express this thought in any place you choose. And yes, maybe a couple of people voted because they felt that a disabled artist deserved a break.
That does not mean that you should then castigate her victory as being merely the result of a pathetic nation who will always back a lame duck. Which is essentially the tone on Twitter this evening.
Some of the language used to discuss her winning was cruel and bullying in nature. I saw tweets calling The Voice UK, The Charity UK. I saw countless tweets saying “…we all know why she won” and then I saw #sympathyvote trend and then my heart sank.
People with impairments are the only people that the majority think it is ok to be openly prejudiced about. People may cheer on our Paralympic athletes at the Paralympic Games 2012 and then TV heralds a new attitude to those with disability but the shocking truth is that most recent figures (2011) show hate crimes against disabled people being up 33% (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/09/13/hate-crimes-against-disabled-people-acpo-police_n_1880733.html).
This rise in hate crimes against the disabled, particularly those with learning disabilities is backed by a spate of funding cuts by this Government and the use of hyperbolic language to assuage their guilt and convince everyone that there is a tidal wave of benefit scrounging scum among the disabled ranks. A claim largely backed up and exploited by the press (particularly the right wing press), who seek to prove that all people on any form of benefit are really cheats, illustrated by the use of pretenders who have many children by many fathers and openly declare their ripping off of the state to anyone who will listen, or pay them an interview fee. Guess what? These people are in tiny minorities.
This mythology played out on TV screens, on monitors and in newspapers throughout the land is particularly disastrous, as most disabilities are invisible and so sufferers who rely on Government assistance, even if they work, are mistakenly labelled as “lazy” or “scroungers”.
The problem with disability is that because there is the possibility that someone could be faking it, even though very remote (I will never forget the depressing moment I saw Griff Rhys Jones talking about the Lou and Andy sketch in Little Britain when he said something along the lines of it’s funny because that’s what we secretly all think they’re like) we are allowed to denigrate the accomplishments of disabled people.
We are not allowed to just be talented, it must be because it’s a sympathy vote. We aren’t just trying to get on with our lives, we’re “brave”. We aren’t allowed to talk for ourselves, or have brains (particularly if we’re in a wheelchair: I have an MA degree and yet still my husband gets talked to instead of me, even when I’m the one who’s asked the question). We are to be pitied or admired and then forgotten.
Of course people do not even realise they are doing it. Most people like to sign petitions about autism bullying or cuts to welfare. They like to donate money to disabled children once a year when it’s on TV and feel good about themselves for a while. They like to think that they are open minded and caring…..
That is unless we come out of the shadows of disabled land and win a TV talent show in which case we are allowed to be bullied and belittled on social networks.