Crip Theory

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Why the Use of the Term “Crip”?

The inclusion of the term Crip in this conference was intentional. Crip is considered to be an inclusive term, representing all disabilities: people with vastly divergent physical and psychological differences. Crip represents the contemporary disability rights wave and is an “insider” term for disability culture. Not to be confused with a gang name, the term Crip within the disability community reflects the political reclaiming of the historically derogatory term “cripple,” which not only diminished the person to an image of ugliness but also excluded those with non-physical disabilities from the disability community.

To identify as a Crip or with the Crip community means you identify as a member of the disability community or as an Ally to the disability community, and that you recognize a distinct disability culture. As a Crip, you are also fighting to challenge and reclaim the negative words and terminology historically used to objectify and pathologize the minds, bodies and souls of disabled individuals.

Finally, the term Crip extends beyond the inclusion of all disabilities and encompasses members of other diverse groups historically invisible and ignored, such as disabled persons of color, disabled members with LGBTQI identities, those who are both disabled and linguistically diverse, and many other intersecting identities.

What’s Crip Theory?

Crip theory considers disability to be a viable identity variable to be recognized, acknowledged and celebrated. Crip theory also recognizes the importance of the intersectionality of one’s disability identity with all other identity variables. By doing so, Crip theory acknowledges the historical exclusion of diverse groups within the disability community (e.g. persons of color, gay, lesbian, transgender) as a consequence of internalized oppression within the disability community.

The use of the term “disabled people” is done intentionally so as not to promote the need to separate disability from the person.
Crip theory rejects disability hierarchies (varying levels of value placed on different disability groups over others),which promoted the fragmentation of the disability community, eroded disability culture, and excluded many from full participation in the disability community and society.

For more information, consider looking at the following historical movements:

  • Empowerment theories such as feminism
  • Intersections with heterosexism, and Queer theory movements
  • African American and Latino/a cultural theories,
  • Disability studies’ depiction of the invisibility of disability as an identity variable, as well as the historical emphasis on medical abnormality.

Crip Justice

From a Crip justice perspective, disabled individuals are considered to be an oppressed group, and there exists a need to fight for equity and inclusion. In other words, the presence of disability need not be viewed as negative; something to be pitied, feared, hated or devalued.  Rather, disability should be seen as a valued aspect of human diversity bringing value to the world. Crip justice is a call for action from within, rather than passivity. Crip justice means that the inequities and injustices inflicted on disabled people are violations of human rights that threaten the existence of those who live with disabilities, hence the use of the phrase “demanding Crip Justice” in the title of our conference.

To explain further, please consider the following list of grim realities faced by disabled persons:

  • Every day in the United States and internationally, disabled individuals are abused and exploited (physically, sexually, verbally, medically and financially). And yet, disabled people are less likely to be believed when they try to report such abuses.  Even when they are believed, their reports of abuse are less likely to be acted on when compared to reports from non-disabled people.
     
  • Disabled persons continue to be sterilized against their will or without consent or due process, particularly those cognitively or developmentally disabled.
     
  • Sexual health and sex education is not equally or accurately provided to disabled individuals, leaving them at higher risk to be victimized sexually and at risk for sexual health diseases.
     
  • Finally, sexuality is a part of our human existence and everyone has a right to sexual expression. Disabled people should be no exception; however, disabled people are routinely assumed to be asexual, unable to have sex, and assumed to have “more important things to worry about.” 

Embedded within sexuality are societal paradigms of images of beauty, attractiveness and even normal sexual functioning. These paradigms are exclusive and oppressive to most members of the disability community.

We welcome everyone to this conference, whether you are Crip or disability culture identified or not. Different points of view are encouraged in order for important dialogues to take place. This conference is an opportunity to learn and challenge worldviews about disability, disability rights and sexuality.

If you choose to join us, please enjoy the journey.

Peace.
Julie

Julie Williams, Psy.D., ABPP (RP)

For more information, please check out the following resources:

  • Fries, K. (Ed.), (1997). Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out, a Compilation of Nonfiction, Poetry and Drama. A Plume Book.
  • Kaufman, M., Silverberg, C., & Odette, F. (2003).  The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness. San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press.
  • Longmore, P. & Umansky, L.(eds)., (2001). The New Disability History: American Perspectives. (Essays). New York, NY: University Press.
  • McCruer, R. (2006). Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York, NY: Temple University Press.
  • Russell, M. (2002). Beyond Ramps. Disability at the End of the Social Contract. Common Courage Press.
  • Zames, F. & Zames-Fleischer, D. (2011). The Disability Rights Movement From Charity to Confrontation. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.