Punk’s Not Dead. It Just Went Crip. – An Introduction to the CripplePunk Movement

Please note: This post makes use of the term “cripple” in reference to individuals with disabilities. I am using it here as a reclaimed term, used by those within the CripplePunk movement in order to challenge societal views and expectations of persons with disabilities. I understand many have issues with this term and its history as a slur. For that reason, the CripplePunk movement has adopted c*punk as an alternative.  — Also, please note the links in this piece may contain explicit language and possibly triggering accounts of ableism and discrimination.

This semester I have had the privilege of taking a disability studies class at my college. As a person with disabilities, I am very excited to have the opportunity to see what scholarship is out there, learn more about the history of the disability rights movement, and offer my own experience into the discussion.

For our midterm evaluation we were asked to reflect on an event, text, or representation of disability in American culture. It is my pleasure to present this post as my midterm project, presenting the movement of radical self-representation in the disabled community, known as CripplePunk.

Many of the readings in our class thus far have focused on the history of the movement, modern struggles with access and accommodation, and societal expectations of individuals with disabilities. One things I noticed in many of these readings was that lack of representation and misrepresentation contributed greatly to many of the issues.

One of our first readings for the class was a short essay on “Diversity” in Keywords for American Cultural Studies. The piece focused mostly on  the origins of discrimination against disabled individuals. One suggestion was that disability is antithetical to the idea that anyone can lead the perfect life with enough hard work. That you can do everything right and still have the circumstances of life (or accident or illness) ruin that plan. That disabled individuals serve as memento mori to the able bodied, reminding them that death and disease and disability could be right around the corner. To that I say, I am sorry my existence reminds you that one day you are going to die. Except I’m not. I’m not sorry at all. Because that way of thinking is ignorant and prejudiced and holds that disabled lives are at all worth anything less than those of able bodied individuals.

This idea of disabled individuals as frightening and uncomfortable reminders extended into the book “Extraordinary Bodies” by Rosemarie Thomson. In her first chapter, Thomson discusses the representation of disabled characters in literature. It does not take long to think upon the hunchback, the witch with a can, the grotesques, the freaks, to understand the literary trope of using disability as a character trait, rather than an actual lived experience. The gap between representation and reality also moves in the other direction as well. For example, Tiny Tim is never naughty like other children. The tragedy of his disability erases any chance of him acting like a normal child, otherwise he would lose the hypersympathy his character is meant to inspire.

So where does that leave disabled individuals and representation? Especially younger disabled individuals who may be looking to celebrities, television, film, literature, and social media for people like them, people who understand their experiences.

Newer shows such as Breaking Bad and Switched At Birth have done an alright job of representing disabled characters as character traits beyond their disability and having full, dynamic lives. However these shows have still fallen prey to using disability as a plot device at times.

In modern America, individuals with disabilities have to make use of hypervisibility,using humor, charm, etc to mitigate awkwardness and make able bodied individuals more comfortable in their interactions. In a society that places so much focus on individual responsibility, disabled individuals must be constantly fighting, working constantly to overcome their disability, must be a cheery, inspirational presence, must maintain constant vigilance, lest they be seen as bitter, selfish, or lazy. They are expected to to perform at maximum capacity at all times, maintaining the ideology that, even though they have disability and impairment, they can do anything able bodied individuals can do, if they just try hard enough.

Enter the CripplePunk movement.

A quick Google search, or exploration through the #cpunk #cripplepunk tags on tumblr, will produce a flurry of selfies, poetry, and rants by individuals who have taken up with the moniker “cripple punk”. This content, almost entirely generated by individuals with disabilities, aims to raise awareness and visibility of disability and to dismantle societal expectations and standards for disabled individuals.

An article recently published in brokenpencil, authored by Sidney Drmay, an independent magazine, entitled “Up the Disabled Punx: trash the pity party, CripplePunks rise up”, helped find the origin of the movement. According to the magazine, the movement arose from a selfie posted to the tumblr account ffsshh.

Cpunk photo 2

The image depicts a young disabled individual, with their cane visible, smoking a cigarette, with the caption “cripple punk”. After posting the selfie, the user was flooded with negative responses – Drmay noted that “commenters believed they had the right to assume that Tyler’s smoking and their disability were somehow related and judged them accordingly.”

Tyler received a series of messages claiming that if Tyler “didn’t smoke [they] wouldn’t need that cane”, that being handicapped was not something to be proud of, and that there was no sympathy “for cripples who make themselves worse”.

“If you really cared about disabled people, you wouldn’t cherry-pick the ‘good ones’,” Tyler wrote back.

Fellow disabled tumblr users coming to Tyler’s defense. Users started posting their own selfies, tagged #cripplepunk, to show support to Tyler. From here sprung a movement.

The social media lexicon, Urban Dictionary, provides one the most recognized definitions of the CripplePunk movement (note: this definition was directly quoted from Tyler’s blog, found here):

CripplePunk (also known as cpunk)

A movement that is exclusively by the physically disabled for the physically disabled, started on tumblr. It’s about rejecting pity, inspiration porn, & all other forms of ableism. It ejects the “good cripple” mythos.

Cripple Punk is here for the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t “tried everything”.

Cripple Punk fights internalized ableism & fully supports those struggling with it. It respects intersections of race, culture, gender, sexual/romantic orientation, size, intersex status, mental illness/neuroatypical status, survivor status, etc. Cripple Punk does not pander to the able bodied.

The site also displays a list of rules for the those participating in the movement – including: involvement is not conditional on thinks like mobility aids and levels of function, individuals do not need to identify with either ‘cripple’ or ‘punk’ in order to participate, able bodied allies may only ever amplify the voices of the disabled and may never used uncensored slur, etc.

This movement actively fights against the idea of that disabled individuals must always be doing all that they can to get better and be as ‘normal’ as possible, must be happy and hopeful in those efforts, admonishes the use of disabled individuals (especially children) as inspirational tokens, and greatly supports disabled pride.

It fights to take back “can’t” – letting disabled individuals set their own limits, without facing judgement that they’re not doing enough or trying hard enough.

  

It helps establish standards of strength, beauty, and sexuality, that include and celebrate the disabled experience.

It supports individuals who use alternative self care methods, such as one woman who uses tattooing to mitigate her chronic pain.

It creates an environment, a community, in which all disabled individuals are celebrated and understood, not just the ‘good’ or inspirational ones.

The legacy.

So where do we go from here? Where can this movement take us?

Although fairly young, the CripplePunk movement has already inspired many spin-off movements, seeking similar aims, many claiming home under the CripplePunk umbrella.

Once such movement is #hospitalglam. This movement, focusing mostly on chronic illness and other such disabilities that require increased medical attention and hospital visits, brings light to a place no one really talks about: the hospital room.

Using humor, beauty, selfies, and art, individuals have begun to use #hospitalglam to destigmatize the hospital room, to normalize the disabled experience.

grumpy-disabled-feminist: {1st Image Description: Photo of me in a Doctor’s office, dark hair in bun, wearing a tight black tunic and dark red leggings, sitting on exam table.  Head down looking away, with one leg folded under me, other leg bent over arm.} {2nd Image Description: Photo of me in Doctor’s office at the same appointment, crouching on exam table facing camera head on.  One is knee under me, other knee rises above my back, one hand grips the table.} I had a really rough doctor’s appointment yesterday weeks ago.  I reported my my new doctor for inappropriate conduct.   I’ve written about what happened here, here, here, and here, but basically we disagreed about mobility aids being useful and he got aggressive, threatened me with removal of medical care, was massively ableist, and seriously triggered my ptsd surrounding authority figures.  The meeting to report him was hugely anxiety inducing, and I narrowly avoided a full blown panic attack while telling the nurse practitioner what had happened. The first image is a shot from when I first started posing, a series where I mostly alternated laying on the exam table and curling up in a ball. This is how I was feeling. I was reporting a huge authority figure for triggering my PTSD regarding authority figures by, among other things, THREATENING TO REMOVE MEDICAL CARE.  I was scared, I felt alone, and I very much was trying not to start crying and run away.The second image is me pumping myself up, trying to force myself to find strength through form. For me, both are a very valuable part of how I experience my disability, and how I interact with the medical world. My personality is to harden, wall off, flee, switch doctors and practices, and never say a word. These images are me finding a reason to stay and work through something, me standing up for myself and calling out mistreatment, and me making damn sure this man gets held accountable for abusing disabled patients.  Hey! @grumpy-disabled-feminist is now  helping manage the #HospitalGlam queue. I’m thrilled they’re here. Welcome! grumpy-disabled-feminist: {1st Image Description: Photo of me in a Doctor’s office, dark hair in bun, wearing a tight black tunic and dark red leggings, sitting on exam table.  Head down looking away, with one leg folded under me, other leg bent over arm.} {2nd Image Description: Photo of me in Doctor’s office at the same appointment, crouching on exam table facing camera head on.  One is knee under me, other knee rises above my back, one hand grips the table.} I had a really rough doctor’s appointment yesterday weeks ago.  I reported my my new doctor for inappropriate conduct.   I’ve written about what happened here, here, here, and here, but basically we disagreed about mobility aids being useful and he got aggressive, threatened me with removal of medical care, was massively ableist, and seriously triggered my ptsd surrounding authority figures.  The meeting to report him was hugely anxiety inducing, and I narrowly avoided a full blown panic attack while telling the nurse practitioner what had happened. The first image is a shot from when I first started posing, a series where I mostly alternated laying on the exam table and curling up in a ball. This is how I was feeling. I was reporting a huge authority figure for triggering my PTSD regarding authority figures by, among other things, THREATENING TO REMOVE MEDICAL CARE.  I was scared, I felt alone, and I very much was trying not to start crying and run away.The second image is me pumping myself up, trying to force myself to find strength through form. For me, both are a very valuable part of how I experience my disability, and how I interact with the medical world. My personality is to harden, wall off, flee, switch doctors and practices, and never say a word. These images are me finding a reason to stay and work through something, me standing up for myself and calling out mistreatment, and me making damn sure this man gets held accountable for abusing disabled patients.  Hey! @grumpy-disabled-feminist is now  helping manage the #HospitalGlam queue. I’m thrilled they’re here. Welcome!

As this young woman notes,

The first image is a shot from when I first started posing, a series where I mostly alternated laying on the exam table and curling up in a ball. This is how I was feeling … I was scared, I felt alone, and I very much was trying not to start crying and run away.

The second image is me pumping myself up, trying to force myself to find strength through form.

For me, both are a very valuable part of how I experience my disability, and how I interact with the medical world … These images are me finding a reason to stay and work through something…

It is this radical self-representation that will help propel the disability rights movement into the 21st Century, as even those who are too sick to join the protest, who are kept out by inaccessibility, who are unable to stand before the laws and institutions that keep them from justice, are able to tell their stories through these movements.


Honorable mentions go to this post about disability parkour, and this one about disability gothic. Keep ’em coming.

Edit: Previously this post said that Tyler’s tumblr was defunct. This is not the case! You can follow them at their new url. Also, it has come to my attention that the UrbanDictionary definition was taken directly from Tyler’s blog. I have noted that credit in my post, and encourage you all to give credit to Tyler, not UrbanDictionary.

It’s Real. Every time.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I interrupt this blog’s normally scheduled content of cute crafts and fun photos to bring you a little nugget of harsh truth. Please be aware (TW) this post will discuss rape culture, sexual violence, sexism, and drunken activity.


Two days ago, the Flat Hat, the longest running and most successful student publication at the College of William and Mary, published an opinion article entitled “It’s a Hookup Culture, Not a Rape Culture”. The author, a male student involved in the Greek system, argues that college campuses do not have a “rape culture”, and that, instead, it is the “hookup culture” in which students drink and make questionable sexual decisions.

Despite the click-bait title, I made the decision to read the article, hoping the title was flare meant to draw in readers. It was not.

Let’s go through it together.

In the opening paragraph the author sets the stage for his argument. He makes it clear that in the context of his article, he is discussing “two people, of indeterminate drunkenness, engaging in sexual activity”. This leads the reader to believe that the piece will be a critique of hookup culture as an institution and its effects on modern relationships and ideas about consent. However what comes next is far from.

The prevalence of this type of sexual assault nationwide has given rise to several prominent narratives which try to identify the origins of this disease, namely the notion that we, as college students, are a part of a broader “rape culture;” a culture prevalent in and promoted by the media, judicial processes and public attitudes. I want to suggest that the rape culture narrative is not only wrong, but completely off the mark.

The author suggests that this “type” of sexual assault, referring to what I can only assume are individuals who have reported sexual assaults that occurred while they were intoxicated, is not the result of a larger societal problem regarding the nonconsensual sexualization of women. He goes even further, stating that this problem, known commonly as “rape culture”, does not exist.

I must say, Mr. Briggs, that you are terribly, terribly misinformed.

Not only do your remarks invalidate the experiences of women across the country, your argument saying that other places have “real” rape cultures, suggests that the experiences of sexual violence in our culture are not “real”.

Mr. Briggs, these experiences are all too real. And by suggesting that because an individual was drunk or is not from a country with a more oppressive regime their experience is less legitimate is directly contributing to the problem.

You argue that in other places, with “real” rape cultures, “A victim is held at fault; the victimizers are held in acclaim. Not only by isolated groups, but by significant portions of society and its government”.

Have you already forgotten the defamation Jackie faced after taking her story to Rolling Stone? Have you forgotten how Vine-star Curtis Lepore managed to avoid conviction on rape charges, brag about it on social media, and maintain one of the strongest followings on the platform? Does society not still hold Bill Cosby up as a symbol of family values and wholesomeness, despite accusations of sexual violence from over 50 women, despite confessing to at least some of accusations?

This is not juts a problem others have to deal with in far off countries under oppressive regimes.This is problem that is very real and very present in our own society.

Obviously the fact that other countries have it worse does not mean we do not have it at all. But everywhere I’ve looked, I cannot seem to find it.

To this statement, I must say I am happy you have not found “it”. I am happy that you have not had to hold a friend, as they sobbed, confessing what happened to them,  how it’s destroyed them. I’m happy you don’t hold your keys tight in your hands, don’t look over your shoulder, don’t jump when you hear your attackers voice across the dining hall. I’m happy you don’t have to worry about that guy hitting on you at a party, half a foot taller than you, twice your weight. I’m happy you don’t have to think about what it would take to get away from him if you decided to say no.

But just because you have not experienced it does not mean it isn’t real.

“What aspects of our society lie within the realm of a rape culture?” You ask.

You say, “There is simply no systemic tolerance for rape”, yet in 15 states there are no protections for women who become impregnated through rape, and in 35 states the rapist must be convicted in order for parental rights to be severed. You say there is “no prosecution of victims”, yet Emma Sulkowicz of Columnia University, “Mattress Girl”, may be facing a lawsuit from the man she accused of raping her.

You argue that the media does not promote women as sexual objects and does plays no part in the promotion of rape, but rather that it shows “young adults bombarded with suggestions — no, coercions — to “let loose,” to drink, to lower boundaries and to not worry about what might happen tomorrow”.

Embedded image permalink

Does this ad depicting gang rape not constitute rape culture?

Calvin Klein, 2010.jpg

Or how about this one?

Or how about this video about questionable consent?

However, what I think truly disturbs me the most is your suggestion that the “abundance of ambiguous rape cases” is based on a “disregard for personal responsibility”.

Mr. Briggs, it is not my responsibility to not get raped. It is not my responsibility to watch my drink. It is not my responsibility to not walk alone at night.

Mr. Briggs, when I read your article I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to, quite frankly, wanted to punch you in the face. I have to ask what possessed you to write this piece. At this time. Between the Orientation training SNAFU, the College’s statement on Bill Cosby’s honorary degree, and the delayed release of the final report of the Sexual Assault Task Force this community has seen enough antagonism and denial of the problem of consent and rape that permeates our society.

We are a system trying to heal. The Haven just celebrate it’s one year anniversary. The Red Flag campaign hosted it’s very first poetry slam, discussing both health and unhealthy relationships. Information on legal, medical, and counseling resources are finally readily available through a very effecting flyering campaign.

Unfortunately your article is a sad reminder of just how far we have to go.


If you are a survivor, know that it is not now and will never be your fault. Know that there are people here that will always care for and support you. Know that we are on your side. We are always on your side.

Counseling Center 757-221-3620

The Haven 757-221-2449