Thursday, 4 August 2011

Did you hear the one about Heather Mills McCartney?

Anyone who knows me is familiar with the fact that I’m a fan of Twitter. Social networks in general but Twitter in particular. I can’t get on with facebook quite as well because I’m old and need things which are understandable within 140 seconds let alone 140 characters.

There has been much written about the evils of social networks but for someone like me it’s key. Disabled people and carers like me, can often find actual social networks spectacularly diminished so the accessibility of virtual online friendships is very comforting.

Unlike face to face relationships there’s no tedious explanation required.No value judgements placed on your face or figure(unless you choose to post this type of photo) no ill informed comments on your impairment or sympathy on the “burden” of your child’s disability.

You can be as anonymous as you wish. However that can also be the problem. Yesterday a news piece surfaced about Heather Mills McCartney.

She deeply polarises opinion it seems. I don’t know her, neither do millions of others but this didn’t stop them criticising her. My problem was that apparently in these days of equality the aspect of Heather Mills which drew the fastest and foulest “jokes” was the fact that she has a prosthetic leg.

The tweets and RT’s about her disability went back and forth. I became aware of it because Sally Bercow called for a halt when she tweeted a measured plea for this to stop. I checked out the hastag timeline which quickly established Heather Mills as a trending subject. The jokes were predictable.

Ironically it transpires that when the subject of hacking is one who is loathed, the morality of this dirty business of invasion of privacy becomes less clear.

Two people were harmed by this hacking Paul McCartney and his former wife. You may feel huge love and sympathy for the former and brand the latter as a gold digger, but that doesn’t provide justification for mocking jokes about her disability.

Tweeting this lost me followers. Tweeting this drew “well she deserves it” comments from people who know my feelings on disablist abuse.

No-one deserves it. The same people were disgusted by the treatment of disabled people bullied and physically abused in the Panorama expose of the private hospital Winterbourne View.

This mocking of Heather Mills disability stems from exactly the same place as that disablism. The fact that she was married to and then divorced from a national treasure is no license to mock her disability. In doing so you sanction bullying of all disabled people. There is no good disablism and bad disablism. It’s always wrong.

But I think it also calls us to re-evaluate again our knowledge and treatment of disabled people. Heather Mills whether you love her or hate her is a good example of how we want our “crips” and “carers” in nice tidy boxes.

Brave little heroes, stoic little carers.

Any deviation from the perceived norm is far too challenging for many to manage. With little exposure by our media to positive representations of disabled people, an increasingly narrow range of disabled stories being peddled as “misery porn” we are spoonfed the myth of disabled “victim,” benefit “cheat”, or “burdened” carer.

The truth is simple. The truth as they say is out there.

Some disabled people are nice and some disabled people are nasty.Some carers are nice and some carers are nasty. Disabled people and carers are just as flawed and fucked up and lovely and generous as the rest of us.

Disabled people and carers are humans, someone should put that breaking news on Twitter


  1. Well said! Get out of your boxes people we are all the same. Move away from this group generalization of humans; old people are lovely and always right; young people are morons and always wrong; disabled people are all angels and their carers are all heroes. Well my daughter and her son would knock that one on the head!

  2. Thanks Nicky for posting this blog. I lost followers too when I spoke out for Heather Mills. Nobody who speaks badly of her knows the real her. Neither do I but to use someone's disability as a means of abuse is dispicable. It is also sad that none of these people ever consider all the good she has done. It seems she is an easy target and so is her disability. Shame on them.

  3. I find Heather Mills really hard to like. I find her brand of self-publicising, duplicity and economy with the truth hard to warm to.
    However, someone with a disability has the absolute right to be unpleasant without it being attributed to, connected to or falsely explained by their disability. They have the right to be unlikeable without their disability being mentioned or used as an insult, joke or issue of ridicule. They also have the right to be disliked in spite of their disability; especially someone like Heather Mills who has many skills and qualities valued by society and doesn't need to be given any kind of latitude.
    I don't, obviously, know the real person. My instinctive dislike comes from "words wot she's said" and probably is far from the truth. However it's not borne from her disability nor from her (as seems to have been mentioned nearly as much on twitter) gender.
    Its the worst form of lazy prejudice to dislike a person and then mock them for those aspects; gender and disability, that they can neither affect nor that contribute to the reasons they dislike them.
    It's a revealing thing. Not, unfortunately, in anyway that makes me proud of my fellow (wo)man.
    Great blog Nicky.
    Still don't like her... ;)

  4. My blog about Heather renting out her house has generated mostly positive comments. Have the public changed their mind in her favour following on from the Paul/Nancy union?

    I'm intrigued.