Exploitation according to Encarta Dictionary (2009) is:
“the practice of taking selfish or unfair advantage of a person or situation, usually for personal gain”.
Exploitation usually occurs when two unequal forces [persons] come in contact. Here, the convergence is between females with disabilities and their “able” male counterparts. While the latter perceives themselves as the “more than able”, “enabled”, “capable”, “mentally stable”, “fortunate” and “pace setters”, the former are perceived as being irredeemably disable, mentally and intellectually incapacitated, emotionally unstable, architects of misfortunes and robots.
The exploitation of females with disabilities is of varying forms and degrees. We are exploited socially, economically, physically and sexually from childhood through adulthood.
This exploitation can be attributed to a number of factors.
One of these factors is the existence of structures that promote patriarchy, male domination and male chauvinism in the society. Our society is one that pays an excessive and prejudiced loyalty to the male gender to the detriment of the females. This exaggeration of the males may be owing to the societies’ belief in the biological theory of gender. In that theory (biological theory of gender), two social biologists, Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox assert that biologically, the female is sculptured as a weak, reproductive and domestic being. Thus, meant to be treated unfairly and taken undue advantage of. In the case of the female with disability, she is not only exploited by virtue of her biological make up but “predestined” to have such fate owing to her disability. She is not only exploited by the “able” males but also, her “able” female counterparts. Thus, hers is a double measure of exploitation, shaken together and running over. Ann Oakley however had a different point of view. In her cultural or psychological theory of gender, Oakley states that the exploitation of females (those with disabilities) is a product of society and culture, a social construct.
Our society perceives females with disabilities as anti-social individuals. Rather than being included socially, structures that militate against our being integrated into the society are socially put in place. We are not even allowed to be spectators on the field of play, where we can be seen and heard. We are rather sent to oblivion where we can neither be seen nor heard and where there is no hope of attaining either or both heights. Again, owing to the “social excommunication”, females with disabilities are robbed of their dreams and aspirations of being financially independent. The doggedness of some of us has only resulted to unwanted pregnancies, premature motherhood, single parentage, on and off the street begging, boredom, bitterness and marriages of convenience (for preservation against wants). These in turn have given rise to broken homes and marriages and by extension, a broken society.
According to Enrich, a German-born American psycho-analyst and philosopher,“Exploitation and manipulation produce boredom and triviality; they cripple man and all factors that make man into a psychic cripple, turn him also into a sadist or a destroyer”. Thus, The exploitation of females with disabilities has negative implications on all and sundry. It should therefore be discouraged and completely eradicated. A reorientation of the populace’s perception of females with disabilities will go a long way in the campaign for the eradication of our being exploited.
We need empathy and not sympathy.
Empathize with us and together, we can make our society a better place because we also have a role to play. Many have gone to their graves with their potentials. Be the fulcrums for us is that we also have to account for our stewardship. The gong has just been sounded. Let us all run in unison.
I am Ijeoma Linda Ezelugwu