Becky sent me this awhile ago and I’ve been meaning to comment on it. This ad from 2007 was commissioned by Multiple Sclerosis Australia.
The text at the bottom reads “When you have Multiple Sclerosis you never know what will expire next.”
Dear readers, what’s wrong with this picture?
Ok, yes, there is some major photoshop fail going on with her right arm (where did it go?). But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the portrayal of MS. Yes, MS is a progressive, often debilitating disease but I take issue with the “expiration” metaphor. MS can be scary because you don’t necessarily know which parts of your body will develop symptoms, how quickly they will progress, whether or not they will get better during remittance periods, or if you will ever lose certain abilities. The ad does seem to capture some of that fear and uncertainty, but there are a lot of problems with it.
First of all, when you have MS it’s not like you just wake up one day and can’t use your arm. On the contrary, you’ve probably had pins and needles, pain, weakness, and/or coordination problems in your arm on and off and to varying degrees for years. And, yes, eventually your MS might reach a point where you are functionally unable to use your arm, but you would generally have years of relapses and progressively worsening symptoms before you reached that point.
In addition to being rather inaccurate to most people’s lived experiences of MS, I find the “expiration” language to be offensive. Things that are “expired” are dead, trash, not fit for consumption, over and finished with. Just because people with MS may have limited use of some parts of their bodies, or experience pain or other sensory phenomena in their extremities does not mean that their bodies have “expired”.
Their bodies are still human, still alive, still useful, still worthy of respect and dignity.
Also, MS is not a death sentence. This ad paints a doom and gloom picture of the disease and makes it seem as though all people with MS do is sit around in the dark waiting for their arms to fall off. People with MS are out there working, teaching, loving, playing, exercising, and relaxing right now. Everyday. Just like people without MS.
This tendency to act as though any kind of disability is the WORSTTHINGTHATCOULDEVERHAPPENTOYOU is really frustrating and just encourages a culture of devaluing, mocking, abusing, and systematically oppressing the disabled.