Saturday, March 12, 2016

Book Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern: Chapters 21-24

ACCURACY AND/OR PORTRAYAL ISSUES:

Chapter 22:

Amy's Pathway is incorrectly identified as her "Pathfinder" only two pages from the last, correct reference.  I'm very sure it's not something Amy would confuse, even in her drunk state, post prom.

Chapter 24:

After prom and graduation, when Amy has been forbidden to see Matthew again, she has begun sneaking him into the house while her parents are at work.  They go swimming in her pool.  Well, Matthew does.  Amy is reluctant to rely on him in the pool, which is actually a super true reaction.  But Matthew asks and asks, and Amy declines.  Matthew finally does not wait for a response and picks Amy up from the chair "so fast her body had no time to tense up or flinch."

The lack of consent here is huge.  Not only did Amy not say yes to this, by taking her in the pool Matthew is taking her away from her Pathway and leaving her without a reliable way to communicate.

We also have the fact that the author claims Amy had no time to tense up or flinch.  When you have spastic CP, strong emotions (positive but especially negative) impact spasticity.  If Amy was feeling nervous about going in the pool with Matthew (which she clearly was) her spasticity would have kicked in before he even picked her up.  There is no way her legs would remain tension free here.

ABLEISM:

Chapter 21:

At prom, Matthew is musing about Amy's body and how he has finally let himself look at it for the first time.  He is shocked that she really is beautiful.  He knows Amy's feet are her "most despised" body part "because they keep her from walking better."  He says he hadn't minded the one time he had "held her strange foot in his hand."  Seriously, Matthew!  She is a human being, not an alien.  Get it together...

Matthew is also uncomfortable with Sanjay's plan to use Amy's walker to smuggle Vodka into prom.  Matthew asks if they have to drink and Amy jokes that she is "only a conduit." Having remarks like this come from Amy who has CP, it somehow makes it seem okay,  Amy seems so naive, while Matthew is cautious and aware that it's not a good idea.  So we see that the "able bodied savior" trope is still hard at work here.

More evidence of the above is seen when Matthew secretly checks out Nicole's instructions for him.  He says surely Amy's mom could understand how this could be "hurtful" because she is implying that he is taking Amy to prom as a part of his job.  Amy remains passively aware of her mother's doings and not bothered.

Chapter 22:

Amy gets super tipsy at prom and ends up nearly falling over.  Her Pathway (AAC device) gets loose from her walker and dangles.

Sanjay helps her to a table, and then another boy asks if he can finish off the Vodka in Amy's walker.  He doesn't wait for her to respond, just takes her walker and fills up.

When he puts it back, her Pathway is still out of her reach.  She's afraid it's gotten Vodka on it, and tries to tell someone so they can secure it again.  Instead, they can't understand her and assume she is "freaking out."  They tell each other to go get Sanjay.  One asks what Amy's name is again and the other says, "It doesn't matter.  He'll know who you're talking about.  Just go."

As a person with CP myself, it seems unthinkable that Amy would choose to let her walker be commandeered for booze-smuggling.  Something that poses such a risk to the equipment she needs to get around.  By extension, it puts her Pathway at risk, too.  Perhaps she is less worried about her equipment because money has never been an issue for her family and so they could easily replace whatever is damaged, but that would still leave Amy in a vulnerable position until one or both her walker and Pathway are replaced should they be permanently damaged in this fiasco.  The people around Amy don't treat her as an equal at all, or even a person.  No one tries to understand.  No one even knows her name.

Sanjay takes Amy home and her parents take his account of the night over Amy's, wanting to believe the lies Sanjay tells about how many people at prom "talked" to Amy.  He has pictures on his phone of all the popular kids (actually filling up from her walker) but when photographed it looks as if they are actually talking with Amy.  When they arrived, Amy's mom and dad "greeted Sanjay like a hero" and "offered him champagne."  Amy is all but invisible in this portion of the text.

SEXUALITY:

Chapter 22:

It's heavily implied at the end of this chapter, that Amy and Sanjay have sex.  Amy has talked about sex off and on over the whole course of the book so far.  We know it's very important to her.  I think it's safe to say, if she were able-bodied we would see more of this encounter.  As of now, we see none of it.  Usually, scenes revolving around sleeping together are at least covered a little bit, but we don't even see Amy and Sanjay making out.

For a book that claims to be specifically about breaking down stereotypes around disabled kids and sex - specifically, that disabled kids are not interested in it - this plays into another damaging stereotype.  That we can have sexual relationships, but no one should see them or read about them.  It goes right along with the disabled body being seen as undesirable.

Also, we know, based on what happened at prom that Amy is drunk.  This is an issue because a drunk person cannot consent to sex.  So, Amy's first sexual encounter is not only off-page but also one where she cannot consent because her judgment is impaired.

Finally, apparently her parents sleep like the dead because there is no way they would be unaware that she and Sanjay are doing the wild right in her bedroom.  How clueless are they?

Chapter 23:

Amy and Matthew are exchanging angry emails about the fact that Amy went home with Sanjay after hearing that Matthew wanted to give another girl a ride home.  Amy says that she "had to assume that all of [Matthew's] gestures...aren't meant romantically.  How could they be when neither one of us knows what my body would do in such a situation?"  She finishes by saying that if she really is his best friend and wants what's best for him, she has to assume it isn't her.

There are so many issues here, I don't know where to start.  Amy has so little confidence in herself that she just figures that of course his kind gestures were not meant romantically.  What does that have to do with what her body might do in the bedroom?  I'm just so confused. And why wouldn't Amy be "good enough" for Matthew?  I understand there are self esteem issues at play but this just does nothing but play into the assumption that disabled people are broken and insufficient because they are disabled and people obviously wouldn't be romantically interested in them.

The whole tone here is so ableist, it's ridiculous.

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