- “Cute Girl in Wheelchair—Why?”Cripping YouTube
Hi I’m Kaley! I am trans and proud! I go to Salisbury University to study Social Work, I’m Hispanic, and I have a muscle degenerative disorder called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In November of 2013 I opened up about being a trans girl! Coming out has been a tough emotional roller coaster and I will do my best to overcome those difficulties. I will give it all I’ve got! I made this channel for others that are going through what I’m going through and show them they are not alone. The show is about me trying to become who I am. We will get to see my progress to become Kaley! I hope you can join me in my awesome journey!-Kaley Kutie’s YouTube “About” Page
Channels like that of Kaley Vides—better known by her channel title, “Kaley Kutie”—are prime examples of young people using YouTube to (re)create the meanings of commonsense notions—of youth, of gender, and of disability—out of their everyday lived experience. Kaley’s channel includes both informative and “silly” videos, ranging from 6 to 36 minutes long, forming a collective archive that often directly addresses her transgender and disabled subjectivities. In addition to documenting the “journey” of Kaley’s “everyday life,” some of her most-watched videos include question and answer sessions about being transgender and about her particular disability, and among the most popular, “Tip &Tricks: Makeup Tips for Physical Disabled Women.”1 Putting these lived experiences at the forefront of a Disability Studies curriculum can make the classroom an interactive space for action, reaction, and for deeper affective understanding of disabled subjectivities.
Kaley, who identifies as transgender and disabled, provides an interesting example of how YouTube vloggers can affectively disorient space online in order to create a physical presence of those who are excluded from normative understandings of “being.” As Kate O’Riordan and David Phillips have noted, the Internet allows us to investigate “the cultural and political economies of places, and the reflexive construction of places and identities” (4). Under close analysis, Kaley Kutie’s YouTube channel allows students to do the work that O’Riordan and Phillips describe. Kaley Kutie’s YouTube channel, and others like it, can be understood as “forms of cultural pedagogy that confront, challenge and redefine knowledge and practice, and mediate altered sensibilities” (Hickey-Moody and Crowley 400).2 [End Page 168] Facilitating such interactions is crucial in classrooms where disability or transgender subject positions often figure as diversity commodities rather than complex identities—if they appear at all. Incorporating YouTube content from Kaley Kutie and other disabled and trans* vloggers, and allowing meaningful interaction to emerge from students’ affective responses to that content, shifts disabled content so that it is intrinsically valued, rather than marginalized as “an instrumental tool for diagnosis and therapy” (Adkins et al. qtd. in Alper 3). Understanding this content from an intersectional perspective also allows that intrinsic value provokes students to see that multiple subject positions affect Kaley’s experiences of the world—and her desire to share them with us.
Cripping the Classroom
Teaching Disability Studies in the neoliberal academy means recognizing that, as Merri Lisa Johnson and Robert McRuer argue, disability identity has become “part of capitalism’s array of target markets,” where certain forms of knowledge about disability are valued more than others (128). To crip is to uncover and explore the nebulous infrastructure of oppressive systems. Cripping the classroom enables those who teach Disability Studies to participate in a collective troubling, rupturing, and questioning of oppressive knowledges and structures. Pedagogically, this requires an intersectional approach to knowledge creation within the classroom, as well as paying attention to disabled people whose claims to self-representation and whose positions as knowledge-creators have been marginalized. Cripping the classroom questions what kinds of knowledge are valued.
In Anastasia’s experience teaching Disability Studies, affect and affective ways of knowing have been a productive tool for cripping the classroom and for “question[ing] what we think we know about disability” (Johnson and McRuer 130). Attention to affect “creates space for embodied...