During this year’s Blogging Against Disablism Day, there was a great submission – “There is ableism somewhere at the heart of your oppression, no matter what your oppression might be.” The essay is exactly what it says on the tin – that every form of systematic oppression has elements of ableism at its core. To better understand what the writer, Mel Baggs, means by that, go read the essay.
Some of the elements of ableism which are embedded in prejudice against asexual people are really obvious. In fact, plenty of people have already discussed them – a few examples are this, this, this, this, and this.
There is also a history, in the vocal asexual community, for some people to declare how healthy and abled they are. This is one way of playing the Unassailable Asexual Game, specifically, trying to become unassailable on the grounds of health / ability.
Per the ideas presented by Mel Baggs, in a certain way, it does not matter whether asexuality really is a disability. If asexuals try to prove their worth by proving that it is not a disability, they will either a) ‘succeed’ and further entrench ableist (i.e. anti-disabled-people) attitudes or b) fail, and further entrench ableist attitudes.
Mel Baggs’ essay also indicates that prejudice against asexual people as it currently manifests itself would not be recognizable without ableism. I think I am 90% percent convinced by this point. In a completely non-ableist society – where people were respected regardless of their bodily and mental abilities – would people still practice prejudice against asexuals? I find a hard time imagining that people who respect the wide range of bodily and psychological diversity embodied by disabled people would *not* also respect asexual people.
On the flipside, is it possible to secure widespread respect for asexual people while sustaining ableism? I think it is possible to significantly improve attitudes towards asexuality without doing much to reduce ableism, but ableism is worth challenging anyways, even if it doesn’t help asexuals. Reducing ableism helps asexuals, not just because some asexuals are disabled, but because reduced ableism creates an environment which is also probably more asexual-friendly.