Rachel F. sent in a link to a site sponsored by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems that provides a lot of information on rates of children diagnosed as in need of special education services, broken down by race. For instance, this map shows the proportion of African-Americans aged 6-21 who qualified for special ed services in 2006-2007 for all disabilities (you can also select a specific disability). The states are arranged into quintiles (so each color includes 20% of the states):

I always prefer to know the exact percentages, so I clicked on the Tables tab at the top of the page and looked at the Special Education Rates by Race and Disability link. Here are the percentages for the map above (just the first page of the table):

Here’s the equivalent data for Whites (again, page 1 of the table):

The site also provides info on teacher certification (look under the Tables tab). Here’s page 1 of a table of the states ranked by the % of special-ed teachers who are not fully certified in special education:

If you go to the map and click on a state, you can get the trend in certification over time. This shows special ed teachers who aren’t fully certified in California:

Of course, there are all sorts of interesting questions about special ed that this data set doesn’t address. The evidence is pretty clear that boys are more likely to be diagnosed as having a learning disability than girls are, and some critics suggest that behavioral issues like acting up and causing teachers headaches are becoming the basis of a diagnosis that can have life-long consequences for teachers’, parents’ and students’ expectations about how they’ll do in school. Insofar as perceptions of behavior are affected by a student’s race (see Ann Ferguson’s Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity), this could have particularly negative consequences for some groups.

Interpreting rates of use of special ed programs is hard, too. Does the fact that Black kids in Iowa have much higher rates of qualifying for special ed courses than Black kids in Mississippi do mean that there are more disabilities in Iowa? Or that kids there benefit from better screening to identify kids who might benefit from the classes?

Aside from that, thoughts on what might be causing the dramatic differences in rates between states and between race/ethnicities?

A huge number of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) have been devoted to the topic of disability, but capturing disability in 30 seconds is like editing War and Peace down to a novella. You might get the message, but it’s rarely the full picture. But that isn’t to say PSAs can’t be poignant, effective, and positive.

Disability-related PSAs cover a wide range of topics, but generally there are three main categories that the message falls into: how people with disabilities are viewed/treated by society, their value in the job market and society, and what their lives are like. Although these are pretty straightforward messages, there is a great deal of variety in the ways in which these basic messages are presented.

First, there are those that I like to call the “twist ending” PSA, where you see a person doing something difficult or exciting and it is not revealed until the last few seconds that the person in question has a disability. These are a very common form of PSA and they are meant to challenge the assumption that disabled people can’t do things that an able-bodied person can do. They show that disability does not stop people from living a successful and exciting life. The revealing of the disability at the end is meant to get an emotional reaction from the viewer. It’s meant to surprise and to get the viewer to rethink the capabilities of people with disabilities.

Second, there are the “interview gone wrong” PSAs that show the unfair scrutiny placed on job candidates with disabilities. Usually this involved one or more insensitive able-bodied people asking inappropriate or condescending questions to a job candidate. Sometimes it’s presented in humorous way, where the bumbling interviewer unintentionally offends the applicant over and over again. These try to show you the kind of discrimination and misunderstanding that can happen in the workplace (sometimes in an exaggerated manner).

Finally, there are PSAs there are the “just like us” PSAs that show people with disabilities talking about their lives or doing something ordinary. The message is simply to show what it’s like to be disabled. Sometimes these PSAs are used to describe the extra challenges disabled people face from day to day, like inaccessibility or being constantly forced to prove their intelligence and worth. They also show that disabled are pretty much like everyone else and want the same rights and privileges. This is one in a series of animations of real interviews:

This one also shows a person with a disability doing something ordinary, but also shows how the simplest actions are often misjudged by able-bodied people:

Since disability is a broad but personal topic, I am curious to see which style you find most compelling. I feel that the ”twist-ending” PSAs have an unintended negative undertone. I understand that the point they are trying to get across is that people with disabilities can be super successful, skydive, ride a horse, or do anything they want. But I feel the problem here is twofold. First, the “surprise” ending paints the person as a novelty and reinforces the thought that people with disabilities don’t normally do awesome things. They are expecting the viewer to be shocked that the person relating her amazing skydiving experience is blind. Second, it doesn’t take into account that there are people that can’t jump out of a plane or work a traditional 9-5 job. These people can enjoy an exciting and fulfilling life too. So I feel like these types of PSAs are excluding a lot of people.

The ”interview gone wrong” PSAs can help the viewer see how ridiculous the stereotypes can be by making fun of the person who stereotypes the job candidate. But some people may feel that this message trivializes the disproportionate amount of scrutiny people with disabilties face in the job market. I would not be surprised if many suc people have been in a similar work situations and it’s probably not so funny then.

Personally, I think the creature discomfort videos have the most straightforward and effective message. Having real people describe their experiences reveals that they have basically the same desires as everyone else. If the goal of the PSA is to put a human face to disability, then what better way is there to do so than to listen to actual people. Some may think that using animated animals instead of actual people is a cop-out since it avoids engaging the viewer with disability directly. But I don’t think the animals are used just to make disability friendly to the eye (although it’s possible that that plays a role). I’m thinking they used the animals because they are relate-able but very attention-getting, probably more attention-getting than video clips or animations of people.

I am curious to see which style you find most compelling and why.


Lauren McGuire is a SocImages intern and an assistant to a disability activist.  She recently launched her own blog, The Fatal Foxtrot, that is focused on the awkward passage into adulthood.

If you would like to write a post for Sociological Images, please see our Guidelines for Guest Bloggers.

This is the second post using material borrowed from the essay, “Facts and Fictions About an Aging America.”  Our online host, Contexts magazine, is offering some free content, including this essay, now through March 15th.  See yesterday’s post here.

While people in industrialized countries live longer and healthier lives than ever, more educated people enjoy even less morbidity than less educated people.  The figure below illustrates the decline in mental and physical function over time for people with a college degree, a high school degree, and no degree at all:

The figure shows that more educated people experience “excellent health” than less educated at every age, except perhaps 85 and above.  Why might this be?

Well, higher educated people may come from wealthier families who were able to provide their children with health care, good nutrition, and exercise.  Having degrees may also correlate with jobs that are less harmful to the body and offer both health insurance and more free time to exercise.  Lower educational attainment is likely correlated with economic insecurity; a lifetime of struggling to make ends meet could create the kind of bad stress that interferes with both mental and physical health.

Other theories?  Thoughts on these?

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Hermes sent in a link to a feature in The Morning News titled “Men at Their Most Masculine,” in which men were asked about what made them feel masculine and photographed in situations that reflect their masculine identities. Some quotes from men included in the project:

“I feel masculine when I am home, I can take care of myself. I often feel emasculated when I leave my apartment though, with everyone asking me if I need help. I don’t need any help.”

“To be masculine is to dominate in one’s field of study.”

“I want to show that, despite stereotypes, gay men can be masculine too.”

“I feel most masculine when I am lying in bed naked.”

“I am strong emotionally, have always stood up for myself, and fear nothing. I happen to be physically strong but that isn’t where I derive my masculinity.”

“I am masculine because I abandon women after taking their love. Because when you study Freud, you don’t let him study you. Because I study philosophy, not literature.”

Visit at photographer Chad States’s website. He apparently found all of the featured men via craigslist.

The photos and quotes illustrate some interesting contradictions in definitions of masculinity. Several of the men define masculinity in fairly traditional terms, using words like “dominate” or expressing masculinity as the ability to use women and then leave them. There is also an emphasis on being independent and not needing help from anyone else.

In other cases, the men redefine masculinity to at least some extent, such as the gay man who reclaims masculinity for gays, the guy who focuses on being emotionally strong, and the man shown posed in a way we’re more used to seeing with women.

It’s an interesting look at some of the ways men define masculinity at a time when we expect men to be more emotionally available and involved in family life (as opposed to the 1950s emotionally closed-off model) but provide mixed signals by also still judging men harshly if they seem too emotional or don’t meet ideals of what “real” men should be like.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Months ago Ryan emailed us about a video game called Katawa Shouju (sometimes translated as Disabled Girls or Crippled Heart). From the website:

Hisao Nakai, a normal boy living a normal life, has his life turned upside down when a congenital heart defect forces him to move to a new school after a long hospitalization. Despite his difficulties, Hisao is able to find friends—and perhaps love, if he plays his cards right.

A design sketch of the girls:


An article at GameSetWatch refers to the game having a “perverse and contemptible premise.”

Ryan says,

A lot of the discussion about this game seems to be about the disabilities of the girls and how disgusting it is. I don’t really share that opinion personally…I don’t really see what’s wrong with casting a girl with burn scars on her face as a love interest within a game. Or for that matter , what’s wrong with casting a girl with no legs or deformed arms as a love interest? I mean, it’s one thing to fetishize…but on the other hand it might be good for someone who has similar disabilities to feel like they can be desirable.

It’s an interesting point. I suspect there are things about the video game I would find disturbing, and if the girls are portrayed in a ridiculing way, that’s problematic. But some of the reactions to it seem to assume that having a person with a disability as a potential love interest is automatically ridiculing them. But why would that be? Why would it be more “contemptible” to portray these women as romantic/sexual interests any more than other women in similar games? Some of the objections to the game are based on the idea that you must be laughing at people with disabilities if you show them as sexy or romantically interesting. But that’s based on the idea that of course they can’t really be sexy, so it’s mean to portray them that way…which points out some interesting assumptions about people with disabilities and their romantic and sexual lives.


UPDATE: Reader Magnetic Crow says,

I think what bothers me about this is the premise of a “school for disabled kids only”, the fact that the girls are ‘othered’ from the get-go by this isolation, and the fact that this is probably being made to play to an exploitative fetish. Were it any other dating sim, and one of the girls available for dating just happened to have been born with no arms, or had lost her legs in a traffic accident, I would feel a lot more comfortable.

Other posts about video games: Evony’s boob ads, gender and race in RuneScape, Border Patrol game, Miss Bimbo and Sexy Beach 3, Rape Simulator, My Life, Medal of Honor’s all-White military, a game called Battle Raper that is exactly what it sounds like, blaming moms for video game addiction, sales of Grand Theft Auto, and “military entertainment.”

We also have a posts of a girl with a limp as an ugly friend, Goodyear ad featuring a sad kid in a wheelchair, nude calendar of Paralympic athletes, dolls with Down’s Syndrome, models with disabilities in a British Top Model show, representing people with disabilities, what is an “alt model”?, and amputee model Viktoria.

Kristin W., Brad W., and Deb G. sent us the Bacardi Breezers “Get an Ugly Girlfriend” ad campaign, discussed over at Jezebel. The message? Ladies, if you want to look better, get an ugly female friend to stand next to:


There are profiles of the various ugly girlfriends you can get:





Of course this ad campaign suggests to women that the most important thing about them is how they look. But, more insidiously, as Sweet Machine points out, it places women “in competition with other women for male attention” in a world where “self-esteem is a zero-sum game.”

This is how patriarchy creates in-fighting among women: If men have the power, and the only way to get power is to get men, then women feel compelled to try to get (the attention of) a man (or men).  Other women are their competition.

Women are stereotyped as bitchy and catty as if it is an inherent feature of femininity when, in fact, women’s subordination to men creates the conditions that force them into competition.

We see it happen live in this horrendous clip from Battle of the Bods.

More examples of cultural endorsements of the idea that women and girls are always in competition with one another here, here, and here.

UPDATE: Commenter Joanne pointed out an update, via Shapely Prose:

Sean-Patrick Hillman of bacardi.com comments below:

June 21, 2009

Thank you for taking the time to post your story regarding Bacardi Breezer.

The campaign you are referring to ran in 2008 for two months in Israel. Even though Bacardi Breezer is not sold or distributed in the United States, we immediately notified the appropriate Bacardi affiliate and had this website shut down.

Bacardi proudly celebrates diversity and we do not endorse the views of this site.

We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this site and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

I’m a bit confused, though–I did a quick google search, and Bacardi Breezer seems to be sold in a lot of places, including Canada and the U.S., but maybe they’re imported by a third party and not directly by Bacardi? I know I’d heard the name Bacardi Breezer before I saw these ads. Apparently I’m going to have to go on a tour of local liquor stores to see. What a horrible life I lead.

And I also agree with several of the other commenters–how awful must it be to be cast as an “ugly” person?

Wheelchair use equated with terminal misery (click to enlarge):

Wheelchair use will keep you from EVER having fun. So implies this ad for Goodyear Tires from the August 2, 1937 issue of Life. Everyone looks depressed about the fact that the boy’s in a wheelchair, from the boy himself to his sister and even the dog. I’d be kind of depressed too if I were teetering on the edge of a porch [notice that Sis has one leg up on a step] without a guard rail. This image could be used in a discussion of how perceptions of persons with disabilities have changed over the years…and also how they have stayed the same [witness the stubborn popularity of “wheelchair-bound” as a descriptor for wheelchair users].

Thorsten S. alerted us to a calendar illustrated with black-and-white nude photographs of Germans who have competed in the Paralympic Games. On the Web site of the photographers, Huenecken & Inselmann [link NSFW!], subjects include people in wheelchairs and people who use lower-limb prostheses.

Compare these portrayals of persons with disabilities to the portrayal of fetish model Viktoria, who was a Bizarre mag cover girl, apparently in part because she has a below-the-knee amputation. Do these calendar photos highlight the German athletes’ disabilities in the same way that the shoot of Viktoria fetishizes her disability? Alternatively, check out our earlier post about Disaboom, a community site whose ads for its dating service feature muscular and attractive people with disabilities. Do these calendar photos challenge the mainstream stereotype that people with disabilities can’t be sexy or strong?

By the way, how do gender expectations and stereotypes play out in these photos? If you go to the gallery linked early in this entry, you can see a man holding a gun in a position that clearly makes it analogous to his penis. You can also see an especially objectified [decapitated = identity erased] woman on horseback, as well as a woman in a stereotypical beach bunny/pinup pose. The tendency of the calendar to revert to dull assumptions of how men and women should be posed and photographed complicates any radical agenda of celebrating the bodies of people with disabilities.

Pictures with artistic NSFW nudity below the cut.