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Nancy Mairs: Cripple

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    It is easy to look at an individual with a physical or mental disability and subconsciously devalue his or her existence. To express sympathy, society believes that it can justify its behavior by classifying these individuals with euphemisms such as “differently abled”. Nancy Mairs, however, is proud to be called a “cripple” as she demonstrates with her use of comparison and contrast, blunt diction, and confident tone, all of which explain why she truly believes that she falls under the “crippled” category.

    Maris presents three distinct definitions of “disabled”, “handicapped”, and “crippled” and why she believes that she falls in the last. She advocates that the word “cripple” accurately describes her because it’s a “straightforward and precise” way of stating that she’s “lost the full use of limbs. ” On the other hand, “disabled” alludes to “incapacity, physical or mental” and “handicapped” is defined as being “put at a disadvantage. The distinction between the three words is crucial to Mairs’ presentation of herself as individuals have a tendency to categorize “disabled”, “handicapped”, and “crippled” under one brand of rejection. Mairs’ contrast between the three words assists in helping herself differentiate between who she presents herself as and who society assumes she is. Ironically, as Mairs condemns society’s word choice of “differently abled,” she showcases her own diction that comes associated with pride in winning the “cripple” award.

    She wants people “to wince” when they see her because maybe they will “see [her] as a tough customer…who can face the brutal truth of her existence squarely”. This shows how Mairs does not care about how people judge the word “cripple”; it’s simple who she chooses to presents herself to be. Her paradoxical statement, “as a cripple, I swagger”, suggests that even though she has “lost the full use of [her] limbs,” she can still strut with more insolent air than most normal people can. Though she is a “cripple”, she presents herself as somebody who is more secure with who she is than most individuals will ever be.

    Mairs’ confident tone, which shifts throughout the piece, shows her security in her true identity. Her overpowering honesty when she proclaiming that being called “cripple” is “not entirely flattering” reflects her full understanding of the disadvantage she’s positions herself at by naming herself “cripple. ” Once she candidly accepts this, her tone becomes sardonic as she satirizes “the same semantic hopefulness that transformed countries from ‘undeveloped’… to ‘developing’ nations. She maintains that despite society’s use of vague euphemisms in futile attempts to be politically correct, “people have continued to starve in those countries. ” Why should Mairs call herself a name other than “crippled” when in fact, she will still be “crippled”? Her tone finally shifts into an accepting mood as her apathy about how society judges her based on her label becomes evident.

    Mairs presents herself in a outspoken manner when she avows that “[she] would never refer to another person as a cripple. It is the word [she] uses to name only [herself]. This emphasizes Mairs’ acceptance of herself, while presenting her careful consideration for others’ willingness to be called a name that is less vulgar. Mairs’ use of comparison and contrast, honest diction, and prideful tone all affect her perception of herself as a “cripple. ” The allusion of Orwell’s statement reiterates that “foolish thoughts” can easily implement themselves into the mind with simple euphemisms. Mairs believes that being “crippled” is who she truly is, so why should she be called anything else?

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    Nancy Mairs: Cripple. (2017, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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    How did Nancy Mairs become a cripple?
    She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when she was 28, and began using a wheelchair soon after. She wrote several essays on her experiences as a self-described "cripple", including "On Being a Cripple," "Sex and the Gimpy Girl," and the memoir Waist High in the World.
    How does Nancy Mairs feel about the term cripple?
    Nancy feels that cripple is more stronger word than “handicap” or 'disabled.” The word word cripple gives Nancy hope and strength and makes her a strong individual. But her having to go through agony and pain of being called handicap or disabled, doesn't give her the confidence she needs.
    When was Nancy Mairs on being a cripple written?
    Copyright 1986. Arizona Board of Regents.
    Why does Nancy Mairs choose the word cripple to describe herself?
    Out of many others possibilities of names to be called Mairs states that she prefers being called "crippled" because it is more straightforward and precise. In addition she states that she would like to be seen as a tough person whom fate/gods have not been kind to.

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