Critical analysis of “Disability” by Nancy Mairs

Literature / August 30, 2016 /

Author of disability Nancy Mairs who’s a feminist and a cripple, has accomplished a lot in writing and teaching. Her remarkable personality shows in many of her essays especially in Disability which was first published in 1987 in the New York Times. In this essay, Nancy Mairs shows how disabled people are constantly excluded, especially from the media. By giving out facts and including her personal experiences, Mairs aims for making some changes regarding the relationship between the media and people with disabilities. Mairs thesis is shown implicitly in the first and last paragraphs. Her main goal is to show everyone that people with disabilities are just like everybody else and they should be included and accepted in all daily activities. By using irony, intensity, humor and self-revelations, Nancy Mairs succeeds to get her message through.

Nancy Mairs starts her essay by describing herself as a crippled woman with multiple sclerosis. She talks about her condition and how she’s never seen a crippled woman like her in the media. Then she mentions some television shows about disabled people that focus almost entirely on disabilities and neglect the person’s character. Mairs states that although disability changes a lot in one’s life, it doesn’t kill him/her. She for example, can do what every other woman her age can do. And although she’s a great consumer, advertisers never choose someone like her to represent their products publicly; and the reason for that, according to Mairs, is that people cannot yet accept the fact that disability is something ordinary.

The consequences of this situation are hash on disable people, for they might feel like they don’t exist. Finally, Nancy Mairs says that anyone might become disabled. But if one sees disability as a normal characteristic then it won’t be hard to him/her psychologically. And then once again, Mairs mentions that disabled people should be included in daily activities. Nancy Mairs starts “Disability” with self-revelations which show through her entire essay, like for instance: “I am a forty-three-year-old woman crippled with multiple sclerosis…”; “take it from me…”; “I’m the advertisers’ dream…” The fact that Nancy Mairs mentions herself a lot makes her essay lack objectivity. But the reason behind this is that few are the people who can relate to this topic. So no one really knows what this is about as much as Mairs and all disabled people who form a minority do.

This tells us that the author knows what she’s talking about. Since this essay is addressed to people who don’t know much about disability, its purpose is not merely to inform us about the physical disability itself but also about the psychological effects of the constant isolation and exclusion of people with disabilities. This makes the essay persuasive rather than argumentative since the author only mentioned her attitude towards this subject. But what a better way to do it than having a person with disability talk about his/her personal experiences?

Persuading people of Mairs point of view which is that disabled people should be included in the daily activities couldn’t be done by just stating objective facts. This kind of persuasion needs examples. To prove that disabled people are unfairly treated, Nancy Mairs gives an example of a crippled woman who was stopped from doing what she wanted to do, though she was still physically able to do it.

She also gives examples of products to prove that she’s regular consumer and that there’s no reason there’s no reason why people with disabilities couldn’t get the opportunity to appear in the media and represent these products. Nancy Mairs is well known for her style in writing. She uses irony to show that the reason why media always excludes disabled people is ridiculous: “if you saw me pouring out puppy biscuits, would you think these kibbles were only for the puppies of the cripples. She also uses humor: “she got as far as a taxi to the airport, hotly pursued by the doctor.” Intensity is also shown when she says: “advertisers who determine… deny the existence of me and my kind absolutely”.

This intensity is nothing but the result of a strong anger caused by the mistreatment of disabled people. This style gives the essay a kind of vivacity, sparkle and even strength. It shows that Mairs is not afraid of making fun of the advertisers. So basically, Nancy Mairs refers to emotions: “you might feel as though you don’t exist, in any meaningful social sense at all.” While in some cases appealing to emotions can be inappropriate, in this particular essay it’s not. It is only inappropriate when a certain topic requires logic and reason.

Actually getting people to accept disability and people carrying it requires neither logic nor reason. They’re just human beings who deserve to be treated like anyone else. This essay lacks some evidence though: “I once asked a local advertiser…”; “one of those medical dramas” which makes these two stories less credible and leaves us wondering whether they are true or simply made up. But as for the rest of the essay, the information is based on personal experiences and emotions that don’t require much evidence.

As for the audience, this essay is addressed to all people who read the New York Times, while it should have been addressed specifically to advertisers so they can make a change regarding the inclusion of disabled people. Nancy Mairs in her “disability” has done a good job in delivering her message. I believe she managed to persuade the audience that there is no reason to exclude disabled people from the media.

Her information was clear and made sense, her examples were enough to support her thesis and her tone added a certain flavor to her essay. “Disability” can actually make certain changes if it is addressed to its right audience and I certainly recommend it to my friends and anyone who might be interested in this topic.


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