Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

http://www.nytimes.com/1984/09/09/books/hysteria-was-for-women-neurasthenia-for-men.html

In “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History,” Baynton explains how disabled people, physically or mentally, are treated as weak, useless, and not humans.

This article relates to idea of prejudice and social anxiety created by social construction. As Baynton discusses, people see disabled people as different and unable to perform human activities. Even if someone is not on a wheelchair or crutches, they are unfairly discriminated against and treated differently for no reason. This also relates to a topic that we discussed in class. In the 1800s, doctors were diagnosing black slaves with Neurasthenia, a disease that results in loss of determination to work and laziness; this derived from the idea that blacks were inferior to whites.

Do you think that this type of prejudice is still prevalent in America? If so, what could our country do/ don’t do to help dissolve this issue?

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One thought on “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

  1. I believe you have confused two very different terms. The first, “”Dysaesthesia Aethioopis” is a bogus disease attributed to slaves and blacks….so historically it would be pre-1860 or so. It is a condition that is a “desire to avoid work and engage in mischief.” It is also “accompanied by physical signs or lesions of the body.” (All in Baynton). The other condition is neurasthenia. This was a psychological ailment that was particular to white, urban, bourgeois men of the Victorian era. It was described as a general lack of vigor, and its cause was attributed to the dislocating influence of modern, industrial life. White males, on the top of the social hierarchy, were dominant, and thus identified with vigor or manliness, the loss of which was seen as something needing to be fixed — hence the electric belts. (de la Pena’s article).
    So, these two conditions are really opposite of one another. One is attributed to slaves — chattel whose sole purpose was to work — and their tendency to get out of work. It was specifically for blacks and was a “scientific” justification to keep them subordinated (the lesions on the body being more probably the after effect of whippings rather than a symptom of a bogus disease). The other, neurasthenia, was a specifically white, urban, upper-class male condition, a condition not innate, but environmentally brought on.

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