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Metaphorically Speaking: Ableist Metaphors in Feminist Writing

The Ohio State University Libraries
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  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


This article examines the use of metaphors of disability in feminist texts. Starting from an understanding of feminism as a movement to end sex and gender oppression in the lives of all people, a movement aligned with anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-classist and anti-ableist movements, I make connections between sexist and ableist rhetoric in order to expose the political and intellectual repercussions for feminist work that relies upon metaphors of disability. I argue that most current uses of disability metaphors promote an ideology of impairment as a negative form of embodiment. In order to articulate my claims, I provide a close reading of extended disability metaphors used in work by bell hooks and Tania Modleski, identifying the implications about disability and problems that occur in their overall arguments when the metaphors are read from a disability studies perspective. The article ends by offering recommendations for a feminist philosophy of language, calling for a reflective political commitment by feminists to interrogate our theoretical assumptions and consider the effects of our language so as to prevent further marginalization of disempowered groups in general and disabled people in particular.Keywords: metaphor; language; ableism; feminism

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