A new short film just came out for World Down syndrome Day.
“How Do You See Me”
Some people wildly loved it! Some wildly hated it!
Some people hate this short because they think it promotes disability erasure. That is, that the film is trying to get people with disabilities see themselves as without a disability.
I don’t agree with that perspective. I liked “How Do You See Me.”
My take on it was that it had nothing to do with the woman with Down syndrome wanting to be “normal” or not accepting herself, but rather that she loves who she is. The mirror of image (with the person without Down syndrome) to me is simply a creative way of asking the viewer to examine their prejudice and conceptions about people with Down syndrome.
To me, this is about questioning our stereotypes, not about denying disability identity.
BUT, HAVING SAID THAT, there are so many people whose opinions I respect who did not see this short in the same way as I did AT ALL. Even my Beloved didn’t – he watched it and immediately thought it was promoting disability erasure.
I think if the overall response to it is so divided, it’s not a win. I think something much more clear-cut would be better – like someone suggested, having the camera showing the narrator from the back, so you can’t see her face until the end, so that it always only shows the woman with Down syndrome.
But the one thing that “How Do You See Me” got right was that it certainly stimulated a lot of thoughtful discussion about disability identity, disability erasure, inspiration porn, and what would constitute a great acceptance piece. I am just wondering about the thoughts on individuals with Down syndrome.
Where is the voice of the actress with Down syndrome in all of this? How does she feel about it? What about other adults with Ds? I’m sure that there is likely to be as much of a mix of opinions within the adult Down syndrome community as there is in within the adult deaf community – or the cross/disability community – but it always rubs me wrong (in a sad and feeling-helpless way) that when something like this emerges and there is a lot of discussion on it, we don’t hear from the voices that matter the most on it: the voices of individuals with Down syndrome.
Some other posts on this piece:
The twitter conversation on it
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.
I’m ambivalent myself. I think the ad indicates that the people who made it are missing an entire mode of thinking about disability. I say “missing” because I doubt they disagree with it … my bet is they’ve never thought of it. At the same time, I also doubt that the harmful message many of us see in it (including me, I do see it) really is affecting anyone’s idea of disability in a bad way. At worse, it fails to provide greater insight. It doesn’t promote a bad insight. Like so much “disability awareness,” it’s worst offense is being too simplistic and entry-level in its understanding of disability.