Straw Wars: This Controversy Is Proof Of Our Culture’s Anti-Disability Bias


But it’s not the only one

It seems as though it’s impossible to escape the current debate surrounding straws—not least because it doesn't seem like much of a debate at all. As sustainable technology continues to progress, the replacement of plastic straws with more eco-friendly solutions seems like an obvious fix. Because while plastic straws account only for roughly 0.03 percent of the 8 million metric tons of plastic that enter the ocean each year—not a particularly large amount compared to the biggest polluters like cigarette butts or plastic bags—it’s not a meaningless figure. Why wouldn't we want to solve this environmental problem? However, framing the current debate about straws within a solely environmentalist context showcases a common cognitive blindspot, and demonstrates why there aren't any black and white issues when it comes to sustainability and to society's blind spots regarding disabilities.

When you grow up perfectly healthy and able, it can be hard to conceive of a life in which you're not those things, and you don't think of health as a privilege, so much as you do a function of morality. You don't see how using public transportation, walking or biking to work, buying groceries at a farmer's market, or forgoing the use of a straw aren't signs that you're a good, responsible person, but that you're lucky to be able to do those things. While all those activities seem pretty mundane to able-bodied people, they are all things that are emotionally and physically demanding, if not fully unachievable, for many people with disabilities.

The recent fervor for "straw bans" has made it clear that lots of able-bodied people don't value the experiences of people with disabilities, or even care to learn about them. As the anti-straw rhetoric became increasingly hard to ignore in recent weeks, disability activists began to speak out about why a straw ban could be devastating for countless people, but their protests were quickly met with dismissive responses saying that disabled people could simply use non-plastic straws. But here's the thing: Metal, bamboo, glass, pasta, and acrylic straws come with a serious risk of injury for a number of disabled people. They may not be able to control the amount of pressure they place on the straw with their lips or teeth in order to drink, meaning they may chip their teeth or tear up the straw. Conversely, they may have a lack of fine motor skills, which would put them at risk of damage and cutting to the inside of the mouth. Silicone straws look like the best alternative—or they would if they didn’t (reportedly) “taste somewhere between dental dams and condoms.”

The issues with suggested alternatives go further than just material issues—there's an emotional component, too. “It's a very contentious issue for many people who have a special way they bend their straws to use. It's the way they've always done it,” Edith Prentiss of disability advocacy group Disabled in Action tells me the day after New York City’s Disability Pride parade. The day before, a booth at the parade had been set up to allow attendees to try out newer straw options, but the issue of developing a uniquely bendable non-plastic straw is one that hasn’t fully been solved.

Ultimately, though, this is an issue of practicality, and sensitivity to disabled people, for whom reusable straws could present a health risk. As Hannah Street Elliott, associate editor at Brooklyn-based publication The Creative Independent, tells me: "The reusable straws will collect bacteria... I cannot clean my straws and don’t want to have to ask someone to do so.” This is the most commonly cited issue amongst people protesting the bans. If someone has a disability that requires them to use a straw, odds are low that carrying and cleaning a straw is at all practical for them.

“This is not about straws granting disabled people a certain ‘way of life,’” Elliott continues. “We deserve the way of life abled people get by not worrying how they will sip their drink at dinner with friends. It is about people with disabilities being allowed into the same spaces as abled people without being bothered and discouraged to leave their homes, for fear of embarrassment, or being questioned for their needs… Let us drink in peace.”

Unfortunately, this way of thinking, this refusal by able-bodied people to accommodate the needs of the disabled is pervasive. Often without noticing that they’re doing it, able-bodied and -minded people often lampoon or shame people for using products that make the lives of the disabled easier, dismissing them as unhealthy, unnecessary, or a waste.

A simple example of this is the As-Seen-On-TV product The Magic Tap, which makes it possible to pour drinks from a large container without lifting up that container. While the well-known infomercial may primarily feature messy children spilling milk and juice all over the place, the largest group of people to actually benefit from the development of the product is not parents of young children but, rather, people with disabilities who cannot lift and pour their own drinks. There are a number of reasons disabled people may not be able to do this: severe autism may affect locomotive skills; diabetes and Parkinson’s can cause hand tremors; or, as is the case for many people with varying disabilities, the muscle strength is just not there. However, the product’s usefulness for people who are disabled doesn’t prevent it from being mocked by those who aren’t. And while it would be easy to go after the people mocking it and say that they’re being bigoted and phobic, it’s not quite that simple. The product isn’t directly marketed as being for people with disabilities. Nor is the Easy Feet foot scrubber, or the RoboTwist, which electronically opens jars at the push of a button. Yet, each of these products serves a distinct and necessary purpose for people with limited mobility and physical strength. In the case of each, it’s easy to disregard them as being a symptom of cultural laziness. But, as Prentiss says, “It's silly until you have to use it.”

While As-Seen-On-TV products might be easily dismissed because they seem obscure and specific, there are other products and services that aid disabled people in their daily lives that are much more common but equally stigmatized. Someone who struggles with agoraphobia—a severe anxiety disorder in which the afflicted fears venturing to places that may cause them to panic or feel trapped, and may not be able to leave their house for days on end—might use a grocery delivery service like FreshDirect or InstaCart instead of going to the store. Someone with the same affliction and no in-house laundry, or who is not physically able, may outsource their laundry via a company like Cleanly or Flywheel. And yet often these services are written off as being purely for rich or lazy people. Instead, though, their existence allows for people with disabilities, physical and mental, to lead a life that is, according to Prentiss, “more livable.”

Another product that makes life more livable for people with all kinds of disabilities is the microwave, an appliance about which public sentiment is mixed at best. The internet is chock-full of blog posts about living microwave-free and how microwaves can irradiate your food—despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. But when the concept of microwaves is brought up, Prentiss doesn’t mince words. “I'd be dead without a microwave,” she states. “I haven't even had gas in my apartment for at least 10, 15 years… I get two days' worth of food and then spread it out over a week. It's just so much, even opening a pop-top can, I can't do it. I just don't have the strength in my hands.” But her perspective on this extends past her own disabilities: “I was a geriatric social worker and, believe me, none of my clients would have had stoves if I had it my way. Everyone would have had a microwave of the appropriate size and that's the end of it… They get their meals on wheels, they can pop it in their refrigerator and heat it up later.”

It's exhausting, though, to have to keep speaking up to defend a perfectly reasonable way of life. “The thing I keep coming up against and up against with able-bodied people is that they expect anyone with a disability to go out of their way to appease the able-bodied people. It's never the other way around,” Prentiss says. This is echoed in Elliott’s statements to me, as well as brief statements I received from other disabled peers. Elliott noted she has a hard time riding the bus, while another person noted that their hearing impairment rendered them unable to hear train announcements, making navigation particularly difficult when train kiosks aren’t updated with consistent information. Prentiss had to contact the NYC Department of Buildings in order to get a ramp installed in her apartment building—despite the fact that it should have been there already, as the presence of a ramp is a legal requirement.

So while many people might dismiss the straw debate as being a silly one to get worked up over, it’s a minute piece of a much larger, very important battle. People with disabilities are fighting every day for increased visibility within mainstream society but are frequently met with shaming. While the problem is complicated, the solution is simple enough. Instead of pushing back, abled people can take simpler solutions upon themselves. If you don’t need a straw, don’t use one—ask for your drink without it. If you’re going microwave-free, celebrate your achievements without criticizing those who do use microwaves. Don’t dismiss people who use delivery services as lazy. Moreover, consider in your day-to-day life who benefits from receiving certain services and products. Just because you’re unaware of someone’s disability doesn’t mean they don’t have one (invisible illnesses exist, too), and taking the time to step out of your own perspective can be rewarding. Not just for you, but for the people whose lives you are making easier just by taking the time to remember they exist.

Photo by Imani Givertz

Premiering today via NYLON

Small Talks, aka Cayley Spivey, has come a long way since starting a band, then becoming the entire band herself and forging her own fan base from the ground up. On her recent album A Conversation Between Us, she began to unpack any lingering baggage with one particular song: "Teeth." Today, she premieres the accompanying music video exclusively via NYLON.

"'Teeth' is about my personal battle with letting go of the past," Spivey tells NYLON, admitting that it's easily her favorite song off of A Conversation Between Us.

Watch the video for "Teeth" below.

Small Talks - Teeth (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video)

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.