Disability talk by able-bodied speaker prompts protests
University Police were called Wednesday, Nov. 8, in response to a student protest of television show “American Horror Story” actress Naomi Grossman’s “Disability and Media” presentation at Western.
The activist who spoke prior to Grossman’s presentation, Lulu, identified as a member of the Bellingham Deaf and Disablity Justice Collective.
Another person stood behind her with a banner that read, “Nothing About Us Without Us!”
Lulu said Grossman was not an appropriate person to speak on disability because she is able-bodied.
“She is not an academic in the field of disability studies, but more importantly, she is not disabled. She is merely an actress who has ‘cripped’ up as a disabled character for a role,” Lulu said. “To insinuate that this gives her the authority and understanding to be speaking on this subject makes a mockery of disabled experience.”
In American Horror Story, Grossman acts as Pepper, a woman with microcephaly, a birth defect which affects brain development, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Grossman stated she’s not disabled and never claimed to be.
Lulu said the issue isn’t that Grossman is claiming to be disabled, but that she is speaking on behalf of a community she isn’t a part of.
“This is the first time in my entire career that I’ve ever encountered this sort of hostility,” Grossman said.
The police arrived 30 minutes into the scheduled presentation time, at which point the activists agreed to leave the building.
Of the roughly 90 people who attended the event, about 20 people walked out with the protestors.
Correction made 11/9/17: University Police responded to this incident, not the Bellingham Police Department.