Some of the responses to Molly Meldrum on stage at the Logies this week are symptomatic of something much larger and much more insidious in mainstream Australian culture. It also speaks to the heart of people like Samuel Johnson who have stood by Molly and has supported him since. Well done Sam. But sorry, this blog entry is not about Sam. It’s about Molly and #IstandwithMolly.
Some of the responses to Molly on stage reflect a distinct kind of ableism but also smacks of the plague of Australian tall poppy syndrome and just how sick it is. Add a dash of homophobia and even racism and there you have it. These reactions reveal the underbelly of thought in Australia that even a triumphant recovery from injury cannot be celebrated unless it is by someone who is not gay and more “mainstream”.
I reckon it would be different if he was a straight footballer dating a nice Aussie gal; a lot would be saying how wonderful (even if quirky) it was. And before you start screaming about the footballer reference, I have nothing against straight footballers. I am just trying to illustrate a point.
It stank to be honest and it smacked of “how dare he” self-righteous conservative indignation. How dare Molly recover? How dare Molly mention his Thai boyfriend? How dare Molly take the shine away from an able bodied actor who played Molly in the TV show about his life?
What right do I have to comment?
My blog refers to absent minded for a reason. I spent a good portion of my life recovering from injuries that made it hard to communicate and control my thoughts and my body. But I recovered and I also lost some functions.
It took 6 years for me to make sense of what was going on in my body, mind and around me. Whilst my injuries were not as significant as Molly’s, I get it.
If you think watching him be able to do something on stage that possibly might have been taken away from him permanently was painful, imagine what his recovery has been like; every fucking day.
One of the hardest parts about that recovery was something some Australians can’t seem to get their small minds around. For example, the moment I tell people about my recovery they start to treat me differently and not always in the positive.
All of a sudden I get comments like “but how can you <insert thing that someone with no idea of my injuries think I should not be able to do>”. It’s called rehabilitation and hard work.
There are many things that I cannot do that I sacrifice to be able to concentrate on functions I have rebuilt. I used to have problems with speaking coherently and being able to form sentences. But now I speak for a living in the most part. But the cost is that I don’t talk for long periods in my down time, don’t party anymore, limit my exposure to stimulus in my homelife and I am always working on these functions. I’m also bi-sexual and a performer and heaven forbid, a woman.
Stop treating us like we are damaged and need to be hidden away because it makes you uncomfortable.
Folks, I worked fucking hard to get over my injuries and Molly Meldrum is a testimony to sheer and utter bloody determination. Something you need to celebrate, not castigate.
This is the notion that anyone who is not able bodied should be measured against the notion of able bodied-ness. Just so no one will split hairs here either; able body refers to the whole body (including neurology).
The fact is this; able-bodiedness is a myth of monumental proportions that is not worthy of measuring anyone.
Still don’t get it?
Some of the most achieved athletes in the world have injuries, conditions or illnesses (acquired or otherwise) they manage.
It doesn’t make them less and it doesn’t make them more. It makes them human.
Then there is the type of ableism that has been shown to Molly and here are some that I find disturbing:
- He shouldn’t have been allowed on stage. What? Who made you god of the uncomfortableness police? Has it ever occurred to you that a dose of reality is what you might need? Seriously, the performance by Samuel Johnson was about Molly Meldrum’s life and that includes how he is now. Whether you like it or not.
- He shouldn’t have talked about his Thai boyfriend. Can you hear your homophobia? And your racism too? Again see point #1.
- They should have ushered him off stage. What’s even scarier about this comment is that some have hinted if he wasn’t disabled he would have been ushered off stage. Nope. Not correct. In fact many able bodied actors and stars have waffled on and on. Again, it comes back to the notion that only able bodied people are allowed, but the insinuation that Molly got special treatment is a whole new level of fucked up.
- Drunk, drug affected, blah blah. Oh dear. Besides the fact that he wasn’t; the country with one of the highest rates of alcohol abuse that is considered socially acceptable and defended at any cost is pointing the finger? Really? Again, if he was a recovering addict footballer you’d be cheering him on.
- It was embarrassing. I agree! Your ignorant, uninformed reactions are very embarrassing.
Take your ableism, racism and homophobia and shove it.