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The Fine Line

December 5, 2010

After reading Professor LVM’s “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities”, I spent the rest of the day deep in thought about many of the things he discussed in his paper. What struck me first and foremost was the discussion of those with disabilities competing in marathon type races. The complaint from those competing with handicaps had been that they were stopped during the race and were not truly included as competitors. While they were often stopped for safety reasons, those in wheelchairs were upset that they were not being treated as regular competitors.


The question here is whether or not participating in these “leg races” is something that people in wheelchairs should do. LVM made the excellent point that we need to rethink excellence in sport. He writes, “My argument, in other words, isn’t about dumbing down excellence in sport but simply about showing that disability can be perfectly compatible with that excellence,” (p. 138). I feel like this quotation could be applied to many things other than sports.


Any kind of disability- gender, physical ability, mental ability, race- ought to be made compatible with standards of society, whether those standards apply to sporting events, job offers, or politics. Why can’t we all participate in the marathon of life together? Why must our handicaps result in our being stopped to ensure the safety of others, or in the creation of a division separate for those with disabilities? Professor LaVaque-Manty even addresses this at the conclusion of this section of his paper, “…the next step of the argument requires that we turn to questions of the equality of opportunity,” (p. 138).


This reading brings up topics that I rarely think about given that I am 1) able bodied and 2) I have not faced any prejudice thus far in my life as a woman. It’s interesting to think about these how I would approach these situations if I was faced with a struggle such as the handicapped participants of the marathon. It’s something worth thinking about, in my opinion. There’s a fine line between what is morally right and what makes sense.

  1. Meredith Ambinder permalink
    December 5, 2010 7:48 PM

    This post extended my thought of this subject as well. It is difficult to create a balance between equality and competition, particularly because competition is all about imbalances. If everyone were of equal ability, there would be no winner. However, I think your post certainly does highlight the importance of the divisions of competition as mentioned in other blog posts. These divisions somewhat create equality in potential, yet maintain the imbalance in ability (ultimately maintaining the competition).

  2. awodarczyk permalink
    December 5, 2010 7:54 PM

    Interesting post. I also enjoyed professor’s book, and it made me think too about issues I barely question or explore. I likes how you summed up a major part of professor’s writing, and hit the main points. The situation with the marathon and the wheelchair athletes, was something I was unaware about until reading the book. It astonishing that handicapped athletes are looked down apon although they strive for excellence as much or even more than most althetes. To think they were unable to participate equally among the athletes is unbelieveable and somewhat angers me. The desire that the disability athletes have toward nearly everything is remarkable. Something that might take a normal man to accomplish or finish might take a handicapped person double that time or possibly never accomplish a specific task. It is unfair to think they aren’t striving for some excellence.

  3. Jeff Safenowitz permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:10 PM

    After reading this post, I started to think about the notion of people with physical disabilities competing in competitive intercollegiate athletics against able bodied athletes. Recently, on Sportscenter on ESPN, there was a segment about two young men with disabilities competing within the NCAA. One young man who plays for Cal State Northridge , Michael Lizzaraga, is currently the only completely deaf basketball player in the NCAA. The other young man is named Kevin Laue and he recently received a division one basketball scholarship to Manhattan College. It is really cool to see these two young men competing at the collegiate level against people without disabilities. This goes to show that whether or not a person has a disability, does not need to influence whether they can succeed or not.

  4. Kelsie Breit permalink
    December 5, 2010 9:59 PM

    This was a very interesting post and actually overlaps with my current women studies course I’m enrolled in.
    I was a little caught off guard when the post corresponded disability with race and gender. Yes, the title of the chapter from the book is “Being a Woman and Other Disabilities”, but is it really considered a disability?
    In my women studies course we discuss oppression of race and gender , but I wouldn’t consider it a disability and I’m sure if a feminist were to read it, he or she would feel the same way.
    I don’t consider myself a feminist, but i don’t necessarily feel disabled by being a woman. We do face hardships and receive less pay and less recognition for things, but that’s just gender biases of society today. Women are not any less excellent than men or achieve less things; the recognition just isn’t as frequent as it should be yet. The key word being yet. It will happen eventually; society just has to learn to see past the ways in which it has been taught to perceive women.

    As far as the wheelchair controversy, I was also in the dark that it is such an issue still today. I always had the perception that athletes with disabilities were held above the rest in some sense. They don’t get as much national attention, but they do get more sympathy than any other athletes competing in a sporting event from spectators and media. I do agree with all of the comments and the post that you can still achieve excellence even with such disabilities and everyone should have an equal shot.

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