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I Am Now Officially a Bitter Crip!
September 7th, 2013 by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

As many of you know, I have been working very hard at being a bitter crip. I critique the hell out of everything. I write about inspiration porn. I analyze media stories about disability. I complain loudly at the merest hint of ableist rhetoric. I even write about people giving me grief at the post office and in the check-out line.

And yet, until yesterday, I’d never been called a bitter crip. Not once. Not ever. After working so hard at it for so long, I’d just never received the recognition I craved. It was all a trial and a tribulation.

I was beginning to lose hope. After all, I’m 55 years old and I’ve been in a state of entirely justifiable outrage deep and abiding bitterness for a long time. I thought, holy crap, if I haven’t made it to bitter crip status at this point, maybe I should just give it up and post cat videos.

But then I wrote a piece about a beer commercial and… Wow! You should see the comments I got! Some of them actually made it out of moderation and onto my blog. Others were in such thorough violation of my simple and intuitive “Don’t be nasty to the blogger” policy that I didn’t let them through. But still! I thought I’d reached the golden pinnacle of bitter cripdom when I received the following comment on Thursday:

“Jesus, you are a fucking miserable person. That was a nice ad with a nice message. I think you’ve expressed your own insecurities far more than you’ve expressed any flaws in the advertisement.”

Being called a “fucking miserable person” is pretty close to being called a bitter crip, but it’s not quite the same. In my desperation, I kept trying to make it the same, but who was I fooling? I felt like such a wannabe.

But then on Friday, I finally made it. I was so excited! Here is the comment that put me over the top:

“OMG!! Are you for real??? Bitter, at all??? This was an incredible commercial. No, ‘regular guys’ wouldn’t be so agile in using wheelchairs to play basketball, but the thought that they might attempt it so that their friend, who depends on a wheelchair can play a legitimate game of basketball with them is the message!!!!!!! You don’t get that???

You must live a very sad, sorry, pitiful life… wheelchair or no wheelchair…”

DINGDINGDINGDINGDING! Bonus points for gratuitous use of exclamation points and question marks!!!!!!

Gosh! It’s such a moment! And so unexpected! I hardly know what to say. I could never have gotten here on my own, that’s for sure. It takes a village to raise a bitter crip, and thanks are due all around.

Thank you to all of my fellow bitter crips for being such INSPIRING role models. OMG! There are too many of you to list here, but you know who you are!

Thank you to all of the people who have left nasty comments on my blogs over the years. You have kept hope alive that, one day, I might enter the ranks of bitter cripdom!

Thank you to all of the people who have told me, throughout the course of my life, that I should just be grateful and shut the fuck up and stop thinking about things so much. Without you, I’d never have dreamed this big!

And finally, to the lovely lady who called me a bitter crip: Thank you! This is a moment that I will cherish forever.

Let the celebration begin!

(You can find the lyrics here.)

© 2013 by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg


17 Responses  
  • Amanda writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    congratulations! 😛
    so inspiring *sniff*

  • Jen writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    Is there a bitter ally category? I might want to throw my hat in…

    In all seriousness, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for being outspoken. Your voice has been one that has helped me sift through my own emotions, my own privilege.

  • Elizabeth writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    Thanks for being real. I don’t have a disability, and read your blog to gain perspective so I (hopefully) don’t offend any of my students. I’m sorry that people are rude to you. It seems sad but true 5hat tolerance for different viewpoints only extends to the point of divergence. I have learned a lot from reading your blog, and it has changed the way I talk to a d about my students. Please keep it up!

  • Claire writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    If you start posting cat videos you will not only be bitter but insane as well. Welcome to the club dear! 😉

  • Stephanie writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    Wow. Congratulations. Dismantling *archies is hard work and when those key dismissal words are flung your way, generally you can rest assured you’ve tweaked someone right in the privilege.

    *patri, kyriar

  • Niksmom writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    I am humbled by your achievement. Bwahahahahahahahahaha!

  • Kirsten writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    You are an amazing person. My daughter says, “Never give up, and stay fierce!”

  • julesinrose writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    CONGRATS!!! I might be joining you soon. Just before I was taken out of my apartment on a stretcher last night, I got an email shaming me for my bad attitude. Nice, eh? I thought I was gonna die on the way to the ER, but it was so heart warming to know that I had a friend who cared enough about me to set me on the path to being a better person!!!

    But enough of me. Congratulations and Mazel Tov on your elevation to the ranks of the Great Embittered!!!!

  • Jesse the K writes:
    July 17th, 202410:16 amat

    w00t! Congratulations on your bitterdom. A packet of alum, rutabaga and lime juice is on its way through the ether.

    Oh, since the inciting event concerned beer, have some bitters as well.

    Lead on!

  • Emily Ladau writes:
    July 17th, 202410:17 amat

    I wrote a well thought out and rational post on the commercial, and an anonymous commenter insulted my education and told me to get a life. It’s tough to speak your mind. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my views, but basic politeness and human decency shouldn’t be too much to ask. Do you take the attacks on your character to heart? I’m going to have to learn not to do that if I want to say anything that might be deemed even remotely controversial.

    • Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg writes:
      July 17th, 202410:17 amat

      Hi Emily,

      No, I don’t take these comments to heart, especially on my blog. I know that they’re not about me. As a friend of mine once said, “Whether people speak well of you or not, they’re talking about their experience of you, not about you.” If complete strangers want to launch an attack, it’s about them and their own experience of whatever I’ve written about. They don’t know me and they have no basis on which to make a judgment about my character. If they get nasty, I figure that something I wrote triggered something in them that they don’t want to look at or don’t know how to handle.

      But on the Internet as a whole, I choose my battles wisely. For the sake of conserving my own energy, I now stay away from commenting in venues in which people attack one another as a matter of course. I figure that anything I have to say there simply won’t be heard amidst the cacophany, and it really hurts me to watch people having at one another. If I comment in a venue in which there is some nastiness among some of the people and I don’t want to get involved in it, I make my comments solely for the sake of people who might be listening in and need to hear a voice of reason. I just say my piece and move on. I don’t stay to argue, because most of the time, it’s not really worth it. I’d rather spend my time in a good discussion with people who want to listen to one another. I think what upsets me in most venues isn’t an attack on my character so much as the idea of wasting time arguing with someone who really isn’t arguing in good faith.

      Basic politeness and human decency shouldn’t be too much to ask, but on the Internet, they’re in short supply in a lot of places. So tread carefully.

      • Emily Ladau writes:
        July 17th, 202410:18 amat

        Thank you for your reply, because goodness knows I needed to hear some reason! I hadn’t thought about it the way your friend put it to you – that people comment based on their experience of me. And of course, if someone disagrees, it may lead to a bad experience. I’m going to remember your advice as I move forward. I’ve followed your blog for quite some time, but only recently started my own blog and started putting my voice out there. You’re a role model for actually speaking your mind and sticking to what you believe in.

  • wjpeace writes:
    July 17th, 202410:17 amat

    Well as the one and only bad cripple routinely taken to task for being angry and bitter welcome to the club. The charge of bitterness is designed to assert dominance or superiority in the face of inconvenient truths. In this case a bad beer commercial. See Business Insider for a rave reviews. People do like to have people, especially crips piss on the parade.

  • Eric writes:
    July 17th, 202410:17 amat

    I’m not a regular reader of your blog — in fact, I came across your piece when I came across the commercial and went looking to find out how people in the community felt about the commercial.

    Thank you for writing the piece — I haven’t found much else on the subject yet.

  • Glenda Lee writes:
    July 17th, 202410:17 amat

    Bitter gets me further than bloodywell “nice” ever has. Yay for bitter cripples 🙂

  • Grateful writes:
    July 17th, 202410:17 amat

    Your analysis was awesome and very much needed. Sad to see so many willfully ignorant comments from people drinking the kool-aid but i’m glad they didn’t put you off. This ad has been described as “heartwarming”, “inspirational”, “revolutionary”! It does nothing but maintain current systems of oppression and it’s all the more insidious because it’s done under the guise of “diversity” and “progress”. People are racing to defend corporate beer ads – this is what hegemony looks like and this is why readings like yours are so necessary. All the best!

  • Kate writes:
    July 17th, 202410:17 amat

    I came across your article about the Guinness commercial after posting a similar Facebook status and receiving similar backlash. First of all, I loved your article and while some of the points just made me laugh, the one about inclusion being simple human behavior was the one that really made me shake my head in agreement. I made the same argument in my post (albeit not as well as you) and for some reason it made some able bodied people very angry. As a newly disabled woman, I find it so hard to have an opinion anymore. When a woman has strong opinions, she’s a bitch. And I’ve been called a bitch almost my whole life. I’ve come to embrace the insult and instead view it as a compliment. But now, as a disabled woman, when I express an unpopular opinion or anything remotely negative, I’m not only a bitch but also a bitter crip. I’m still coming to terms with the bitter crip “insults”. I’ve only been disabled for a little under two years. So I’m sure I’ll come to embrace it the same way I have embraced being called a bitch.
    Anyway, I just wanted to say that your blog is one of my new favorite reads and I’m really glad my friend shared the link with me.


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