Abstract

Since Donald Trump's formal emergence on the national political stage in 2015, many of his detractors have argued that Trump somehow belongs outside of American presidential and political history and divorced from the structural inequalities that facilitated his rise. Taking Trump as "abnormal," as the ubiquitous slogan "This is not normal" clearly does, his critics have regularly resorted to a politics of mockery, principally of pathologization, emasculation, and infantilization—fixating on his hair, hands, weight, immaturity, and even his penis size. These criticisms thereby judge Trump against a fictive, masculine, able-bodied standard of American presidential leadership, leveraging language used to stigmatize the very groups Trump's presidency stands to harm the most. The phenomenon of Trumpism, then, appears not only in the president's demagoguery, which deems certain populations suspect and deserving of surveillance, punishment, and perhaps expulsion (or even extermination); it also reveals itself in responses to such demagoguery. The present essay analyzes the ableism implicit in criticisms of Trump's masculine deficiency, physical abnormality, intellectual incapacity, and childishness. We illuminate the stakes and consequences of these criticisms and conclude by advocating for a more inclusive counterpolitics that empowers, rather than stigmatizes, the historically dispossessed groups which will suffer most acutely under Trump's revanchist regime.


During the summer of 2016, large statues of Donald Trump appeared in public squares in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle. The 6'5" statues, unsanctioned installations by an anarchist art collective called Indecline, depicted a nude Donald Trump with a bulging belly, double chin, veiny orange skin, barely decipherable penis, and slight frown. The Emperor Has No Balls, as the piece came to be known, presented an emasculating and repulsive image of then-candidate Trump which, the artists hoped, would expose the ugliness of his character. Spectators posed with these statues, snapping selfies, hugging the figure, and accentuating the grotesqueries of the Trumpian form. Inspired by these initial works, Moishe Mana, a real estate developer and art gallery owner, commissioned two more statues for his own properties in Miami and Jersey City. Speaking to Rolling Stone, he said the statues demonstrated that Trump is "ugly from the inside and out." Mana continued: "All the past candidates were legit. There were differences on issues, but in the end, people could draw their own conclusions. But now we're dealing with a lunatic." 1 Equating physical abnormality with intellectual deficiency, the creators of, and participants in, these public displays sought to underscore the monstrosity of a (potential) Trump presidency, as compared to the "normal" politicians who came before him. "This is not normal" has become a rallying cry of the broader Trump opposition.

Such ableist claims of Trump's exceptional depravity have often leveraged language used to stigmatize the very groups Trump's presidency stands to harm the most. Trumpism, then, appears not only in the president's demagoguery, which deems certain populations suspect and deserving of surveillance, punishment, and expulsion (or even extermination); it also reveals itself in the "resistance" to such demagoguery. Much of the backlash against Trump has turned on the premise that the forty-fifth president somehow belongs outside of American presidential and political history and divorced from the sociohistorical processes and structural inequalities that facilitated his rise. Taking Trump as "not normal," some of his detractors have resorted to a discourse of infantilization, emasculation, and pathologization. These lines of attack, though not historically unprecedented, seem to have reached new heights (or depths) in the Trump era. Demonstrably ineffective—given Trump's meteoric ascent and remarkable endurance amidst blistering attacks—and counterproductive, these criticisms seek to delegitimize the president because he ostensibly carries the stigmatized markers of certain historically disadvantaged groups, namely children, women, nonwhites, LGBTQ people, people who are fat, and people with disabilities. That such critiques generally emanate from the political left and center-left—members of which generally fancy themselves the champions of the dispossessed—only renders them more problematic.

The Trump administration threatens intersectionally subjugated populations in profound ways. At the level of policy, Trump has rescinded Obama-era protections for LGBTQ+ Americans; stripped federal funding for sanctuary cities; accelerated mass deportation and expanded migrant detention practices; worked to institute an Islamophobic travel ban; set out to limit healthcare access, posing an existential threat to many people with disabilities; withdrawn the United States from a critical international climate agreement; and pursued criminal justice measures which will expand the carceral state and exacerbate the inequalities evidenced therein. In his public addresses and tweets, the president has promoted fat-shaming, sexism, lookism, ableism, xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, nationalism, and other prejudices. His constant attacks on the press serve to undermine the transparency of his office, perhaps to consolidate power and evade accountability for present and past alleged crimes—ranging from violation of the Fair Housing Act to the Trump University scheme to sexual assault accusations to campaign finance violations to collusion with Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Further, Republican control of Congress in the first two years of the Trump administration enabled the president's agenda to proceed largely unchecked. It stands to reason, then, that Trumpism worsens and will continue to worsen existing inequalities.

Paradoxically, though, the rhetoric deployed in the service of weakening Trump's agenda has often reified these very inequalities. Such rhetoric traffics in what Tobin Siebers terms the "ideology of ability"—an aversion to and fear of disability, and even a desire to eliminate it. Siebers points out that the culture wars frequently use "disability as a significant register" through which to debate the health of the country, fitness of political figures, and deservingness of human rights for various political subjects. 2 To this end, critics weaponize the stigma of disability to emphasize Trump's deficiencies, and they use his non-normative embodiment—namely his presumed non-normative masculinity, neurological difference, and childishness—as proof of his moral failure and political corruption. Embedded in these critiques is a longing for a "normal" leadership—one that conforms to the compulsory ablebodiedness and ablemindedness expected of "normal" political figures. 3 Lennard Davis argues the "problem" of disability emerges through the enforcement of normalcy, since deviant and undesirable categories erupt from the idea that all people should and can conform to certain norms. 4 As Rosemarie Garland-Thomson puts it, "Stigmatization not only reflects the tastes and opinions of the dominant group[;] it reinforces that group's idealized self-description as neutral, normal, legitimate, and identifiable by denigrating the characteristics of less powerful groups or those considered alien." 5 In an attempt to stall the rise of Trumpism, many of the president's critics have reinforced this ideology of ability, choosing to situate Trump within "deviant" categories in order to undermine his appeal among certain voters.

Some disability scholars have denounced the ableism animating much anti-Trump rhetoric, focusing in particular on criticisms of Trump's physical body and mental state. 6 The present essay not only links scholarship concerning Trump's physical body with the work focused on his intellect but also expands the scope of these arguments, showing how such ableism is inextricably tied to gendered and ageist ideologies. The normal leadership that provides a foil for Trump rests upon a particular conception of an idealized political figure—a heteronormative, masculine, and mature, "adult" male leader. We argue that depictions of Trump's depravity actually bring to the fore the kinds of normative expectations of leadership that undergird patriarchal, ableist, and age-specific systems of power in the United States. We show how many norms—from the expected physical fitness of presidents to an insistence on the patrician performance of "civil" adult leadership—function as mutually reinforcing ideologies that foreclose a more egalitarian society. This piece concentrates on claims of Trump's physical and masculine deficiency, intellectual incapacity, and childishness.

Because our objective is not simply to criticize these criticisms, we conclude by mapping an alternative path for fighting Trumpism: a more inclusive counterpolitics that empowers, rather than stigmatizes, historically subjugated populations. To this end, we harness disability activists Patricia Berne, Aurora Levins Morales, and David Langstaff's "Ten Principles of Disability Justice," particularly their call for intersectional movements led by people with disabilities. In order to contest the calls for a return to normative leadership embodied in "This is not normal" sloganeering, we highlight a counterpolitics that challenges the faulty premise that ablebodiedness (in its gendered, ageist, and other permutations) is a precondition for political participation and leadership.

Unfit for the Presidency

The cover of Newsweek's August 11, 2017, issue depicted Donald Trump slouching in a La-Z-Boy chair—Cheetos littered across his suit, his belly bulging from behind his crooked tie, one arm wrapped around a fast food bag, one hand gripping a Diet Coke can, fast food wrappers and another empty soda can strewn across the floor, and a TV remote in his other hand. "LAZY BOY," the Newsweek cover screamed. "Six months in office. 40 days at golf clubs. Zero pieces of major legislation."

In political discourse, the physical body of the U.S. president serves as a proxy for the nation's morality and health, evoking ideas of willpower, stamina, vigor, fortitude, and power. These characteristics are often imagined in heteropatriarchal and racially homogenous terms, aligning revered qualities with masculinity, whiteness, and ablebodiedness. Much of the criticism buffeting Trump highlights parts of his body which fail to meet this physical standard, thereby bolstering the notion that manliness and ablebodiedness evidence fitness for political office. This approach not only stigmatizes bodily difference but also contributes to troubling representations of disability as a discrete and individual medical condition or personal failing, rather than a condition premised on political and cultural ideologies or deriving from structural forces.

Anti-Trump commentators have seized upon the president's weight as a sign of his inadequacy and inability to execute the duties of his office. This tactic is no doubt born of a desire to combat Trump's well-documented history of fat-shaming. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Alicia Machado spoke up against Trump's demeaning comments about her weight gain following her victory in the 1997 Miss Universe pageant. Doubling down on his fat-shaming rhetoric, Trump told the hosts of the Fox News program Fox and Friends that Machado had "gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem." Fat-shaming has proven to be a key weapon in Trump's arsenal of insults. Hillary Clinton identified Trump's track record of calling women (especially his preferred target, Rosie O'Donnell) "pigs, slobs, and dogs." During the first presidential debate between Trump and Clinton on September 26, 2016, Trump suggested that the Democratic National Committee leaks may have come from "someone sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds." Through such insults, Trump has contributed to entrenched ideas of fatness that link physical health with moral rectitude and self-control.

As scholar Anna Kirkland explains, "the furor over fat has deep cultural, political, and legal meanings that reach far into basic contests over the values of equality, access, health, and dignity in our society." 7 Indeed, fatness is not a personal failure or choice. Many social, biological, and economic structures determine someone's bodily makeup, and the tendency to understand fatness as a personal failing ignores many factors that influence body types. Importantly, fatness is also not inherently bad or undesirable, as Anna Mollow points out. Fat phobia rests on the idea that fatness should be avoided at all costs. Its purveyors often marshal spurious arguments about the costs of fatness (pecuniary and otherwise), the lack of productivity of fat people, or the links between fatness and a lack of willpower. 8 Fatness is simply a form of bodily diversity, despite the way fatness is often deployed as something to fear, avoid, and judge. Mollow also suggests that anti-fat rhetorics serve to shore up white supremacy by portraying fatness in poor and working-class communities of color as a sign of moral depravity and sickness—thereby justifying policing and state-sanctioned violence. Thus, fatness can hardly be understood as "neutral" or "apolitical." "[T]he furor over fat" works to reify the supposed moral deficiencies of historically oppressed groups, usually women and racial minorities.

Trump's embrace of the ideology of ability has triggered myriad criticisms, many of which reproduce the idea that excessive weight evinces a lack of fitness for office—that fatness is at odds with an able-bodied leadership ideal. 9 For example, in a May 2017 episode of his HBO program, Bill Maher compared Trump's rear end to Kim Kardashian's and derided Trump as "a fat fucking fat fuck" who is so overweight that the "voice[s] in his head are chewing." 10 Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin speculated on Trump's body-mass index and affirmed: "He's got a real issue that isn't going to be cured by a couple days of bed rest." Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe expressed much the same sentiment. "He's 70 [years old]. He's the heaviest president we've had, candidate we've had, since William Taft. There's a legitimate issue." 11 Such healthist conversations have mirrored the Trump campaign's rumor-mongering concerning Hillary Clinton's "fitness" for office. Replicating the pervasive stigmas surrounding fatness and gluttony, journalists have harped on Trump's eating habits on the campaign trail and in the White House. "If You Are What You Eat, What Does That Make Donald Trump?" Julie Thomson asked in the Huffington Post, supplying a list of Trump's staple snacks: Lay's potato chips, hamburgers, meatloaf, McDonald's, cake, and taco bowls. 12 Mark Adams, in a January 2017 Men's Journal article, took fatness as unpresidential—and disgusting: "Perhaps Donald Trump should receive his due as the fattest president to squeeze behind the desk in the Oval Office in more than a hundred years." 13 In contrast to Obama, who Men's Health identified as the fifth fittest president ever (behind Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Ford, and Reagan, and tied for fifth with both Bushes), Trump represented, for many observers, a glutton with an unrestrained appetite. 14 These attacks connect physical health with moral righteousness, reinforcing the notion that poor diets, fatness, and adverse health outcomes signify personal, moral failures.

Alongside his weight, Trump's hair also indexes qualities like virility and masculinity and therefore offers a visual clue about his underlying physical health. During the anti-Trump protests that followed the election, jibes from protesters included "We shall overcomb" and "Trump's hair is illegal," both of which elaborate the notion of a failed masculinity rooted in physical atrophy. 15 The now-defunct blog Gawker even commissioned an extensive tongue-in-cheek analysis of Trump's hair titled, "Is Donald Trump's Hair a $60,000 Weave? A Gawker Investigation." 16 Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Stephen Marche described Trump as "a balding man who owns the most radical comb-over in history" and even implied that male Trump voters are "overcompensating" for their own fragile masculinities. 17 An emphasis on Trump's "radical comb-over" elevates a normalized, masculine (and ultimately fictive) presidential identity that Trump ostensibly cannot embody. His hair has played an outsized role in assessments of his toxic masculinity, symbolizing a fake, fraudulent manliness that stands in place of "legitimate" manhood. Mockery of his orange hair parallels criticism of his orange skin, which signal both failed masculinity and a failed whiteness.

Americans have long understood (men's) physical health as a marker of one's ability to govern. Teddy Roosevelt's environmental excursions and judo fighting, Gerald Ford's daily swimming, Bill Clinton's jogs beyond the White House grounds, and George W. Bush's runs on his Air Force One treadmill—not to mention the publicity and lore associated with these exercises—have all perpetuated the idea that presidents should epitomize normative human fitness and strength. 18 Yet such carefully staged performances of health and fitness can obscure as much as they illuminate. Evan Osnos points out that contemporary observers interpreted John F. Kennedy's tan as a "sign of vigor," even though it was actually a byproduct of "Addison's disease, an endocrine disorder, which Kennedy and his aides hid for decades, and which left him dependent on multiple medications." 19 More broadly, Kennedy's youthful, handsome visage helped camouflage his chronic back pain and a spate of other medical conditions, including colitis, ulcers, and urinary tract infections. The willingness to graft ablebodiedness onto the presidential body reflects the widespread notion that normative, fit men make ideal politicians.

To delegitimize the Trump administration, critics have therefore juxtaposed the president's body against those of other leaders (historical and contemporary). In the wake of congressional debates over healthcare, for instance, one widely circulated meme aligned Obamacare with Barack Obama's svelte torso, while associating Trumpcare with an unflattering image of Donald Trump golfing. Journalists and pundits have also celebrated the looks of Justin Trudeau, who serves (for many in the "resistance") as the presumably progressive, handsome, and healthy Canadian foil to Trump. "Why Can't He Be Our President?" Rolling Stone asked on the cover of its August 10, 2017, issue. 20 When the National Governors Association and Trudeau came to Rhode Island in July 2017, one Providence Journal front page story began: "Feeling blue? Google three words: Justin Trudeau butt." 21 Implicitly or not, these celebrations braid normative masculinity and effective leadership.

In this vein, there is a long and sordid American tradition of disparaging male political and military leaders by comparing them to women—a tactic that stereotypes women as irrational and thus incapable of thoughtful, pragmatic political decision-making. As historian Douglas Baynton notes, arguments against women's suffrage often hinged on the conviction that "women had disabilities that made them incapable of using the franchise responsibly." 22 James Callender, an influential journalist during the 1800 election between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, called sitting president Adams "a hideous hermaphroditical character" who possessed neither the characteristics of a man or a woman. 23 Following the American Civil War, journalists and cartoonists depicted Jefferson Davis (former president of the Confederacy) in a dress to underscore his cowardice. Oliver Stone's ten-part Showtime series The Untold History of the United States insinuated that Harry Truman decided to drop atomic bombs on Japan because of his own gender confusion; Truman's schoolmates had supposedly traumatized the future president with taunts of "sissy," and his mother had reportedly remarked that he was "meant to be a girl anyway." 24 In 2015, US Army lieutenant colonel Ralph Peters, appearing on Fox Business Network, called Obama a "total pussy" on live television. 25 From both the left and right, such narratives posit that only those boasting secure, fixed, and normative masculinite identities can provide effective leadership.

Trump's responses to the bodily insults hurled against him might best be summarized by the CNN headline that followed the Republican presidential debate held on March 3, 2016: "Donald Trump Defends Size of His Penis." This salacious headline came in response to a baffling moment during the debate, in which Donald Trump addressed Florida senator Marco Rubio's jab at his allegedly small hands and presumed penis size. Trump held up ten fingers and asked the audience, "Look at those hands[;] are they small hands? … I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee." 26 His reply illustrated the harm in targeting Trump's body as the core problem of his leadership. Other Trump opponents have made hay of the president's supposedly tiny hands. In his much-ballyhooed 2018 book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey—notoriously fired by Trump in May 2017—apparently sought to emasculate Trump. The memoir recounted Comey's experience meeting and shaking hands with the president. "As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size," Comey wrote. "It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so." 27 At least implicitly, then, Comey set out to degrade Trump, lampooning the president's physical features as inadequate when compared against his own six-foot-eight-inch frame and larger hands.

This biopolitical strategy suggests that the president's body (not his rhetoric, policies, or actions) is really the issue at hand. Mocking Trump's physical form lends legitimacy to his symbolic acts of masculine bravado, which locate power in the visible strength and virility of public figures. An emphasis on hair and a "healthy" physique as markers of "proper" masculinity underscores the desirability of virility in male leaders. These sorts of gendered expectations have enabled, for one, Trump's shameless defense of his "locker room talk," captured on the infamous Access Hollywood tape, as something that "normal" men do.

These critiques capitulate to Trump's distorted perceptions of power, because they locate ideal leadership in physical gestures and representations of the body. They make the physical body the site that proves or disproves someone's capacity to lead with strength and moral character. As Tobin Siebers observes, "The oppression of women, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities, blacks, and other ethnic groups often takes the form of an aesthetic judgment, though a warped one, about their bodies and the emotions elicited by them. Their actions are called sick, their appearance judged obscene or disgusting, their minds depraved, their influence likened to a cancer attacking the healthy body of society." 28 These efforts to evoke disgust for Trump's body do little to disempower Trump and rather reinforce the stigmas swirling around non-normative embodiments. In an attempt to link his physical abnormality with an underlying moral and intellectual depravity, critics have also used his physical body to search for signs of some invisible illness or pathology, tying his physical monstrosity to psychological deviance and difference.

Diagnosing Immorality

Connecting physical and sexual deviance with mental incapacity, medical doctor Steven Beutler, writing in the New Republic in February 2017, speculated that neurosyphilis could explain Trump's erratic behavior. Without any evidence, Beutler made wide-ranging connections between Trump's sexual promiscuity in the 1980s (a time when syphilis cases were on the rise in the U.S.) and the president's currently "volatile" mental state. Beutler offered up neurosyphilis as a probable diagnosis and wrote in closing: "The importance—both to Trump and the nation—of establishing or ruling out this diagnosis cannot be overstated, because this infection is treatable." 29

The tendency to pathologize Trump has emboldened his critics to search for signs of psychological deviance. Greg Procknow writes of "sane supremacy," affirming that the "proclivities of many regressive Leftists that recurrently attack Trump's suitability to assume the mantle subscribe to the sanist notion that 'mad' statesmen/women cannot be President— 'saneness' is then modeled as the 'proto-presidential' norm." 30 The rhetorical move to paint Trump as insane propels two paradoxical ideas: that Trump's madness and deviation from a neurotypical ideal is obvious and that Trump's behavior suggests some nebulous underlying pathology that should be investigated and scientifically confirmed. In Fantasies of Identification, Ellen Samuels discusses the emergence and persistence of the notion that people with disabilities can be physically verified as such through medicalized knowledge, a process that gained currency in the nineteenth century and persists in myriad ways today. These "fantasies" rest on an uneasy logic: Bodily differences are obvious and commonsense, even as these conceptions of difference deploy (often dubious) scientific evidence to validate nebulous, mutable, and abstract ideas about the body. The efforts to pathologize Trump's personality assert the blatant presence of some mental deviance and deficiency, and they also search for some deep and invisible biological explanation that accounts for his neurological abnormality. Indeed, Procknow's writing about "sane supremacy" explicates the normative ideals that inform how people interpret political figures, and we want to push this notion further. In what follows, we show how madness intersects with masculinity, physical health, and childishness.

During his campaign, evaluations of Trump's personality quickly turned to conjecture on psychological disorders fueling his questionable behavior. "The disability isn't laziness or inattention," George Packer wrote in the New Yorker. "It expresses itself in paranoid rants, non-stop feuds carried out in public, and impulsive acts that can only damage his government and himself." 31 Whilst seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, former Florida governor Jeb Bush confessed, "I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist," before claiming that Trump "needs therapy." 32 Credentialed and armchair psychologists alike took it upon themselves to examine Trump's mental state from afar. For instance, Dan McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, penned an article in the Atlantic titled "The Mind of Donald Trump," with the salacious subtitle: "Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump's extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency." 33 Though such studies have often been couched in a desire to predict or understand Trump's behavior, they sometimes collapse any boundaries between impairments and undesirable personality traits. In doing so, they harness the power of psychological diagnoses to stigmatize an individual with unsavory qualities. Such an approach reproduces the trope that people with psychological disorders and disabilities lack moral judgment and pose a threat to society. Duke University's Allen Frances, who composed the description of narcissistic personality disorder in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), has expressed hesitation about labeling Trump in such a way: "He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn't make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder." For Frances, the antidote to Trump is "political, not psychological." 34 Yet in their criticisms, many of Trump's detractors position neurological difference as stigmatized deficiency and weaponize medical diagnoses to make sense of Trump's irrational judgment. As Shayda Kafai points out, madness and sanity are often constructed as binary opposites in discourse, whereby an "ableist culture uses the abnormal, the mad, to reinforce the potency and power of the center, the normal, the sane." 35

The idea that presidents across U.S. history have been "normal" and insulated from the supposed liabilities of mental disorders is refuted by recent scholarship on presidents and disability. Jonathan Davidson, Kathryn Connor, and Marvin Swartz, scholars at Duke University Medical Center, conducted a study on mental illness among U.S. presidents between 1776 and 1974. Based on a review of biographical sources, they found that 49 percent of U.S. presidents exhibited signs of mental illness, which is consistent with national rates of mental illness for men. 36 Complementary studies by Harvard Medical School scholars demonstrate that presidents age more quickly than the general population, while profiles of presidents—such as Joshua Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy—show how invisible impairments might impart upon leaders unique insights. 37 All of these studies undermine an ideology of ability which presumes that presidents represent ideal or normal human specimens, by illustrating that they represent a range of neurological phenomena. Despite the lengthy track record of presidents with disabilities, it is not unusual, given the prevailing stigma surrounding disability, to ignore or suppress signs of disability among these leaders.

The 1964 presidential contest between Barry Goldwater and incumbent Lyndon Baines Johnson revealed the alluring power of ableism in the realm of presidential leadership. During the campaign, Fact magazine interviewed members of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), who diagnosed the GOP candidate as "paranoid schizophrenic" and "warped." The magazine published these assessments under a salacious headline exclaiming, "FACT: 1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to Be President!" The Fact article also insinuated that Goldwater's father was gay, at a time when homosexuality appeared in the DSM as a diagnosable disorder. 38 Goldwater responded by suing the APA in 1966. The ensuing legal kerfuffle led to the "Goldwater rule," instituted by the APA in 1973, which forbade association members from issuing diagnoses without an in-person evaluation. 39

In spite of the "Goldwater rule" and a history of presidents with mental impairments, wild speculation has surfaced ascribing Trump's actions to various clinical psychological disorders. Over seventy thousand mental health professionals signed a Change.org petition rendering a "professional judgment that Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States." 40 In May 2017, former Republican congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough told his television audience that his "mother had dementia for ten years," and Trump's rhetoric "sounds like the sort of thing my mother would say." The liberal feminist blog Wonkette relished in Scarborough's armchair psychiatry. "HOLY SHIT, 'MORNING JOE' WAS SO GOOD TODAY," Wonkette's Evan Hurst proclaimed. "Joe and Mika came back to the subject of Trump's possibly failing mental health constantly during the three-hour broadcast." 41

Various political commentators have not only pathologized Trump but have also cited the president's perceived illness as a reason to remove him from office. The not-so-subtle implications of this proposed action are twofold: first, that people with psychological impairments are not fit for public office; and, second, that earlier and idealized presidents were "normal." Conservative columnist George Will, in a Washington Post editorial titled "Trump has a dangerous disability," urged "the public to quarantine this presidency," conjuring the history of forced sterilization and segregation of people with disabilities. 42 New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, also a conservative, charted a course for ending Trump's presidency. Douthat insisted that "one needs some basic attributes" in order to occupy the Oval Office—"a reasonable level of intellectual curiosity, a certain seriousness of purpose, a basic level of managerial competence, a decent attention span, a functional moral compass, a measure of restraint and self-control. And if a president is deficient in one or more of them, you can be sure it will be exposed." For Douthat, "Trump is seemingly deficient in them all," and given this unique historical circumstance, the president must be driven from office via the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Douthat admitted that Trump's "deficien[cy]" "is not exactly the sort that the amendment's Cold War-era designers were envisioning," since he has not "suffered a stroke or fallen prey to Alzheimer's." 43 In fact, the amendment emerged in response to John F. Kennedy's assassination; its architects had hoped to enshrine contingency protocols in the event of a similar crisis, particularly one in which the president survived, albeit with diminished capabilities. The Twenty-fifth Amendment, as Jeffrey Rosen of the Atlantic has shrewdly observed, thereby "makes presidential disability a political question"—a particularly thorny one at that. 44

Some elected officials have endorsed this worrisome critique, publicly declaring Trump mentally and intellectually incapable of presidential leadership. Democratic congressman Ted Lieu, representing California's thirty-third congressional district, announced plans in February 2017 to propose a bill requiring the presence of a psychiatrist in the White House. Like Douthat had, freshman U.S. congressman Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, gestured to the Twenty-fifth Amendment as justification for the establishment of an "Oversight Committee on Presidential Capacity" comprised primarily of psychiatrists and psychologists. As of December 2018, Raskin's bill had sixty-seven cosponsors. Taking much the same tack, U.S. congressman Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, too embraced the Twenty-fifth Amendment, specifically the power it grants Congress "to create its own body that can declare the president's unfitness for office." In April 2017, Blumenauer introduced a bill which "would establish that body, comprised of all living former presidents and vice presidents." 45

Yet these speculative diagnoses have done little to thwart Trump's rise or undercut his popularity, and the principal victims of such rhetoric—whether utilized by Trump, his critics, or others—are likely to be people with disabilities themselves. Politicizing psychiatric diagnoses reifies the stigmas that swirl around bodies deemed disabled. As Christie Aschwanden has indicated, "Both Russia and China have used punitive psychiatry to silence political dissidents in recent history." 46 For instance, Trump's convulsive gesticulating onstage in South Carolina in November 2015—mannerisms aimed at mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski's arthrogryposis—underscores the power of using disability stigma to discredit political adversaries. Likewise, in his 2015 book Crippled America, Trump paints a sordid portrait of a deformed nation that he intends to return to ablebodied greatness. How to Make America Great Again, the subtitle reads. Politicizing and demonizing disability, in these and other ways, proves particularly deleterious for those living with disabilities. On the policy front, Trump's presidency presents an extreme threat to people with disabilities, especially in light of proposed Medicaid cuts which may be a death sentence for those dependent on the Great Society program. Ridiculing Trump by reinforcing the stigmas surrounding disability reinforces an ableist imperative in politics that celebrates neurotypical leadership and posits psychological disability as a rare and profound liability.

"A Child Monarch"

Discussions of Trump's presumed bodily and psychological abnormalities feed conceptions of his perceived underdevelopment and deficient humanity and masculinity. Critics not only depict the president as different but also as a not-fully-formed adult, reinforcing a problematic alignment between irrationality, disability, and childhood. The critique of Trump as a child offers critics another reservoir of metaphors and prejudices by which to emphasize his inadequacy, while also papering over distinctions between disability and childhood—that is, harping on the troubling notion that people with disabilities are not fully formed humans. Jennifer Stevenson writes: "Adults with disabilities in general, and those with developmental disabilities in particular, have long been treated as childlike entities, deserving fewer rights and incurring greater condescension than adults without disabilities. The stereotype of the 'eternal child' has burned a disturbing path through history." 47 The infantilization of Trump couples with ableist insults to present a picture of Trump as an incomplete and underdeveloped human, in ways that do little to check his authority. This rhetoric absolves Trump of adult responsibility and trivializes his power.

On both the right and the left, the president's critics have fixated on his supposed infantilism. Because Trump ostensibly rules as "a child monarch," in the words of New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait, he possesses neither the intellectual capacity nor the temperament to occupy the Oval Office. 48 Reinforcing ableist and gendered critiques of his body and mind, the "child monarch" argument privileges a normative, adult, and masculine standard for U.S. presidents and locates Trump's faults within some sort of biological, developmental problem. In this rendering, Trump's challenges pertain to behavior, psychology, and/or comportment—an inability to act "like an adult"—not to politics or ideology. Comparing Trump (who was, at the age of seventy, the oldest individual ever elected to the American presidency) to a baby, child, or toddler reflects an investment in the mutually reinforcing categories of adulthood, rationality, and normative masculinity.

As Trump secured not only the Republican nomination but also the presidency, critics positioned him as a "boy"—and thus a depleted or inadequate man. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, writing just a few weeks after Trump's inauguration, noted: "Lots of men have failed as presidents, as Trump surely will, but few fail so dismally as role models. He's a boy's idea of a man. He's a man's idea of a boy." Because, in Cohen's eyes, Trump is just a "boy"—not to mention a "bully," a "braggart," and a "liar"—the president has undermined all the lessons that fathers and other male role models might confer upon boys and young men. Trump's childish performance of masculinity, Cohen insisted, had dismantled the "manly virtues" of American fatherhood and leadership. 49 The president faced similar opprobrium in July 2017 following his controversial speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. "There's No Mistaking Trump for a Boy Scout," read the headline of one Eagle Scout's New York Times op-ed. 50 Likewise, longtime CBS anchor Dan Rather called Trump's Jamboree address "disgusting" and decried: "A grown man who is so insecure as to seek affirmation in a group of teenagers is not a man with the maturity to lead a nation." 51

This facile fusion of "manhood" and "leadership" reveals the gendered dimensions of the "child monarch" criticism. Rhetorics of childhood have long served to brand women and gender-nonconforming individuals as improperly (or only partially) developed. Infantilizing and ableist images and discourses have historically circulated around populations deemed inferior, often in imperial and internal-colonial contexts. During the Spanish-American-Cuban-Filipino War, for one, depictions of Cubans, Filipinos, and Hawaiians as hyperracialized, effeminate, and feckless children worked both to gin up and tamp down support for American interventionism. 52 A masculinist impulse to "civilize" emasculated, infantilized subjects in the Philippines and elsewhere also motored the project of U.S. empire. Much the same logic underpinned settler-colonial policies and practices directed toward American Indigenous and other nonwhite peoples. American chattel slavery, of course, relied in part upon a racial paternalism which entrusted whites with the "responsibility" of caring for infantilized, emasculated, and dehumanized enslaved persons. Eugenicist immigration policies often grouped together children, women, and people with disabilities, pitting them against what people imagined to be complete, productive, and industrious members of society (i.e., ablebodied men). 53 To these ends, because the exertion of state power—specifically military force and penal control—conveys (and, some might say, requires) masculine, paternal, and adult strength, it is no wonder that Trump's detractors have sought to emasculate, infantilize, and thus delegitimize him. 54

From the outset of the 2015–16 Republican primary season, political insiders and outsiders targeted Trump's language and decision-making as childish, hitching normative, "adult" political discourse to rationality and reason. In a September 2015 debate, for instance, New Jersey governor Chris Christie implored Donald Trump and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina to "stop the childish back and forth," referring to the pair's onstage (and offstage) ad hominem attacks. 55 Trump regularly entered into such "childish" spats with fellow presidential contenders. Most notably, perhaps, Trump exchanged blows with Florida senator Marco Rubio in what Vanity Fair described as a "childish tit-for-tat." 56 To use Time magazine's term, the "schoolyard insults" lobbed between Trump and Rubio inspired Ohio governor and presidential candidate John Kasich to position himself as "the adult in the room." 57 Kasich employed this phrase with some frequency in the early months of 2016, as Trump racked up delegates, and his Republican detractors grew increasingly desperate to block his path to the GOP nomination. Yet Kasich's strategy foundered, as primary- and, later, general-election voters seemed quite comfortable casting their ballots for a candidate who "doesn't reason like an adult," in the words of Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos. Indeed, for Sumner, "persuading Trump to alter any position is even less productive than reasoning with a toddler." 58

The "Trump as toddler" critique reflects a core tension within normative insults concentrating on Trump's bodily or mental inadequacy: He is deemed, at once, innocuous and dangerous on account of his incompetence and abnormality. "Donald Trump is a petulant, whiny man-child," screamed the headline of Sumner's aforementioned Daily Kos article, "and treating him like an adult just cost the world." 59 This alarmist, ad hominem take blamed the end of the world—which, as of this writing, has yet to occur—on Trump's childish character flaws and status as a "man-child." Similarly, during the June 2018 "Group of Seven" (G7) summit in La Malbaie, Québec, commentators contrasted Trump's childish behavior with the serious "adult" leadership of German chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. A widely circulated photograph, snapped by Jesco Denzel at the G7 meeting, depicted a recalcitrant Trump (with arms crossed) surrounded by a seemingly exasperated Merkel, Abe, and French president Emmanuel Macron. The image, along with other accounts of the summit, prompted widespread denunciation, with many observers deriding Trump's behavior as juvenile. Model Chrissy Teigen, for instance, remarked on Twitter: "baby go wah, want to go home !! [sic]." 60 In response to a New York Times report, which detailed the president's apparent desire to skip the conference, Slate contributor Jamelle Bouie indicated that Americans had "a boss baby for president," a reference to the 2017 animated film The Boss Baby. 61 After the U.S. missile strike against Syria in April 2017, furthermore, Slate's Osita Nwanevu simultaneously interpreted Trump's childish proclivities as trivial and as threats to global peace and stability. The president, Nwanevu observed, reveled in the accuracy of these unmanned missiles. "It's so incredible. It's brilliant. It's genius," Trump awed, to which Nwanevu replied: "It's war described in precisely the manner a schoolchild would relay the details of a field trip to a science museum. Food, of course, figures largely" in Trump's account. Indeed, the president authorized the attack during a dinner with Chinese president Xi Jinping—replete with, in Trump's words, "the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen"—at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. "Our Kid President," Nwanevu's headline read, "Ordered Syria Strike During Dessert." Nwanevu's piece brimmed with the anxiety that a "Kid President," one presumably unable to prioritize warfare over chocolate cake, now controlled the world's most expansive nuclear and military arsenal. 62

Likewise, for New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, Trump exhibits "a basic childishness" and a set of "kinglike qualities" which may or may not touch off nuclear holocaust. "A child cannot be president," Douthat declared. "I love my children," but "they cannot have the nuclear codes." 63 By comparing Trump to his own beloved children, Douthat placed the president in a position of subservience and dependency—thereby eliding Trump's agency and power and the ease with which he has abused both. In a similar vein, New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait has argued that Trump requires constant attention and appeasement, lest he instigate World War III—or simply throw a mild tantrum. The president "watches far too much television, sometimes shouting angrily at the screen," Chait insisted. "His butlers are instructed to give him two scoops of ice cream while White House guests receive just one. … He is surrounded by patronizing advisers who fearfully monitor his turbulent moods, please him with flattery, steer clear of upsetting news, and try to talk him out of impulsive actions." Chait's sketch fixated not only on Trump's fragile ego and childish tastes, but also the dangerous flippancy with which he treated military action.

The anti-Trump "child monarch" critique shields Trump from adult responsibility and simultaneously fuses childishness with femininity, deviance, and disability. The strategic, pejorative deployment of childhood more often than not elaborates a paternalistic and ableist logic, with the target relegated to a position of inferiority and incapacity. These criticisms draw on childishness to augment arguments revolving around Trump's failed masculinity and physical and psychological impairments. The act of calling him a child conjures the worst—or failed—aspects of non-normative youth: improper development, sexual deviance, and a lack of idealized innocence. These insults partake in "brutal hierarchies of sentience," in Mel Chen's formulation. Chen argues that language shapes the ideas of sentience, humanity, and the liveness of bodies, endowing privileged bodies with a full capacity for life and the "status of [a] thinking subject." 64 By dehumanizing Trump and harping on his failure to attain the status of a thinking and rational subject, critics cull together stigmatized bodily differences—underdevelopment, neurological difference, physical monstrosity—as aggregated markers of non-normative adulthood. This strategy aligns various structures of alterity, placing all of them at odds with an idealized normal leadership.

The inefficacy of these critiques reveals the paradoxes of childhood. As Elisabeth Young-Bruehl has shown in her theorization of the term childism, "prejudice is built into the very way children are imagined." 65 Childhood often works to sustain a collusion between ableism and white supremacy by idealizing certain types of young people and bestowing upon them protection and adulation. In the words of literary theorist Kathryn Bond Stockton, "It is a privilege to need to be protected—and to be sheltered—and thus to have a childhood." 66 Calling Trump a child imbues him with this kind of white innocence and affords to him its attendant perquisites. This approach also absolves the president of responsibility, ascribing his actions to his paltry willpower, rather than a will to power. At the same time, these criticisms also marshal the worst aspects of childhood—excessive emotions, lack of self control, and irrationality—to align Trump with the stigmatized characteristics of minority, feminized, and disabled groups of people.

Conclusion: Toward a Non-normative Resistance

The premise of the chant, "This is not normal," is not necessarily wrong. Trumpism is aberrant insofar as it has reinvigorated (and validated) extant ableist and white-nationalist forces and elevated to the presidency a compulsive liar and bully with little understanding of, or respect for, systems of democratic governance or the human rights tradition. But the suggestion that Trump is not "normal" encourages his critics to weaponize their prejudices (latent or not) in the service of a masculine, ablebodied leadership ideal. Americans have long yoked the presidency to a set of lofty values and a corresponding collection of normative images, which now work to illustrate Trump's perceived divergence from "the norm." Yet this tactic subsumes Trump's politics and ethics under the banner of personal and physical deviance, largely exculpating the president himself and rooting his power and performance in pathology instead of agency. Much the same strategy animated "birthers" (who operationalized racism, xenophobia, and Orientalism in a bid to banish Obama from the Oval Office) and Hillary Clinton's opponents (who used sexist and healthist tropes to delegitimize her). 67 In these and other instances (including much of the anti-Trump "resistance"), the undesirable qualities ascribed to public figures flow from deeply held prejudices against people with disabilities, against populations typically excluded from elected office (namely women, people of color, and those with disabilities), or against those espousing unconventional political ideas.

Of course, Trumpism has been confronted by a complex and multifaceted resistance. The January 21, 2017, Women's March on Washington—perhaps the crowning achievement of the "resistance" thus far—brought forth many forms of protest. Claims of Trump's abnormality, marking the arrival of an aberrant moment in U.S. history, seemed especially prevalent at the Women's March. Facing down a populist wave of white supremacy, ableism, xenophobia, and sexism, the assertions of "This is not normal" named and decried the depravity of Trumpism. Yet while the sudden visibility of these problematic structures of alterity awakened a political activism for many sectors of society, others found these forms of oppression to be all-too-normal in their everyday lives. Commenting on the Women's March, Black Lives Matter activist Aurielle Marie Lucier put it this way: "White women were not called to action by the voice of intersectional resistance. They weren't hoping to lift the burden of resistance that Black women have been carrying in concentration for the past three years. No, they were simply mobilized by the fear that something had gone awry in their lily-white world of privilege." 68 As LA Kauffman put it, "The millions who have marched over the last year and a half are moving in the right direction, but if we want to win, we'll need to do much more than march." 69

Calls for civility and a measured response to Trumpism can seem dreadfully tame. Some "resistance" proponents often pine for the status quo before Trump—a fictive civil society with polite disagreements and well-intentioned governance that moves toward progress and diversity, but only insofar as those forms of liberation occur through the market and through the proper channels of political reform. Quoting Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," historian Thomas Sugrue cuts against this kind of civility fetishism. "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner," King wrote in 1963, "but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice." 70 Sugrue insists that calls for civility and moderation should be met with suspicion, as they generally favor incremental (and symbolic) change over any disruption of entrenched systems of power. As Tavia Nyong'o and Kyla Wazana Tompkins write, "Civility discourse enforces a false equation between incivility and violence that works to mask everyday violence as a civic norm." 71

The perspective offered by Patricia Berne recognizes that disability justice remains linked to all forms of social justice—what she calls "collective liberation" and "collective solidarity." 72 Disability justice must be an intersectional, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist movement "led by those who know the most about these systems and how they work." For example, within and against a "resistance" that longs to return to the "normal" invisibility of everyday structural oppression, other forms of resistance emerged. Bringing together approximately forty-five thousand people with disabilities, the Women's March in Washington D.C. became quite possibly the largest physical gathering of people with disabilities in U.S. history. 73 Over three thousand people also took part in an online component of the Women's March, reshaping the ableist contours of "marching" itself to build digital alliances and momentum. Benjamin Mann writes about the digital Disability March (DM): "Specifically, DM not only allowed disabled [protesters] to respond against threats to their health posed by the Trump administration and join in solidarity with the Women's March, but it also allowed each protester their own space to share a protest message, which centered disabled individuals in a way not normally associated with cyberprotest. These messages, which included narratives about disabilities, the relationship between disabilities and other aspects of social identity, and support of human rights, among others, allowed each [protester] to be part of a larger movement while also articulating their own unique experiences." 74 The digital Disability March does not simply offer an alternative option for protesting Trump; it crafts a new model for the resistance, one that embraces bodily difference as inherent in humanity and not aberrant and worthy of demonization. In the wake of these protests, ADAPT (American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today) opened ten new chapters, organized nearly three protests per day in thirty states over the summer of 2017, and nearly doubled the size of its donations following Trump's election. 75 People with disabilities staged sit-ins and die-ins in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office on June 22, 2017, as well as in the offices of senators across the country, in order to oppose cuts to Medicaid that would segregate and severely inhibit the lives of community members with disabilities.

The sudden recognition of the forces that gave rise to Trumpism can invigorate positive political activism, even if people remained relatively unconcerned with these systems of oppression beforehand. This kind of counterpolitics should be led by activists, people of color, and people with disabilities. Those with embodied privileges should support the work of political resistance and incivility that these groups have been performing long before the ascent of Trumpism. While resistance to Trumpism can sometimes craft new coalitions that simply recenter the privileged status of middle-class and heteronormative whites who seek a restoration of what came before Trump, a proper counterpolitics should be a call for these groups to acknowledge the perspectives and structures they have long ignored.

And such newfound political energy should work toward a new political formation rather than a return to the old one. Dean Spade contends that "legal equality or rights strategies," like those championed in the normative "resistance" campaign, "not only fail to address the harms facing intersectionally targeted populations but also often shore up and expand systems of violence and control … by mobilizing narratives of deservingness and undeservingness, by participating in the logics and structures that undergird relations of domination, and by becoming sites for the expansion of harmful systems and institutions." 76 Similarly, Robert McRuer calls for disability justice that "moves beyond mere rights-based and nation-state-based strategies" and that can create "anti-neoliberal coalitions in the interests of a global crip imagination." Doing so would enable activists to "invent new ways of countering oppression and generate new forms of being-in-common." 77 The counterpolitics that propels a resistance to Trump should not long for the past, a time of normalcy, in the ways that "MAGA" supporters yearn for a fictive, bygone American greatness. Strategies for resistance should destroy the norms that undergirded Trump's rise. This means working toward the kind of coalition Alison Kafer imagines, one which forges alliances between feminist, queer, and crip communities and rejects Trumpism's white supremacy, ableism, patriarchy, and reactionary market fetishism—in their banal and flagrant manifestations alike. 78

The slogan "This is not normal" can attempt to tarnish Trump's image by marking him with the very characteristics he demonizes in other subjugated groups, but it can also offer an opportunity to reshape the normal terrain of political discourse. The president's embodiment of white rage, of men's unfettered access to and control of women's bodies, of toxic masculinity and ableism, of labor exploitation, of corporatism, of environmental degradation, of crushing heteronormativity, and of other ills is a logical outgrowth of longstanding structures and processes. A viable response to Trumpism cannot ignore such structures or their disproportionate impacts on specific subjects. On the contrary, a fruitful counterpolitics will target these structures—taking aim at the poverty, hunger, and educational inequalities inordinately visited upon children (and especially youth of color); at the market-conforming healthcare system that penalizes non-normative bodies, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and the poor; and at the sprawling carceral apparatus which disproportionately polices and cages nonwhite, disabled, and queer folk. The response to Trump can author a broader resistance which challenges the oppressive norms that predated and helped build Trumpism, which are, after all, too normal.

Endnotes

  1. Elisabeth Garber-Paul, "Mega-Developer Backs New Naked Trump Statues," Rolling Stone, September 14, 2016, rollingstone.com/culture/news/mega-developer-backs-new-naked-trump-statues-w439701.
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  2. Tobin Siebers, Disability Theory (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 7. https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.309723; Tobin Siebers, "What Can Disability Studies Learn from the Culture Wars?" Cultural Critique 55 (2003): 185. https://doi.org/10.1353/cul.2003.0051 See also Andrew Hartman, A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226254647.001.0001
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  3. Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence," in Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, ed. Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell, and Sharon Thompson (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983), 177–205. https://doi.org/10.1086/493756
    Robert McRuer, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 2.
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  4. Lennard Davis, Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body (New York: Verso, 1995).
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  5. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 31.
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  6. Andrew Harnish, "Ableism and the Trump Phenomenon," Disability & Society 32, no. 3 (2017): 423–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2017.1288684;
    Greg Procknow, "Trump, proto-presidency, and the rise of sane supremacy," Disability & Society 32, no. 6 (2017): 913. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2017.1311071
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  7. Anna Kirkland, "What's at Stake in Fatness as a Disability?" Disability Studies Quarterly 26, no. 1 (2006). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v26i1.648
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  8. Anna Mollow, "Unvictimizable: Toward a Fat Black Disability Studies," African American Review 50, no.2 (Summer 2017): 105–21. https://doi.org/10.1353/afa.2017.0016
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  9. Zoë Meleo-Erwin, "Disrupting Normal: Toward the 'Ordinary and Familiar' in Fat Politics," Feminism & Psychology 22, no. 3 (2012): 388–402. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353512445358
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  10. Allison Sadlier, "Bill Maher Calls Donald Trump Fat as Fuck & Compares His Butt to Kim Kardashian's," Hollywood Life, May 13, 2017, hollywoodlife.com/2017/05/13/bill-maher-calls-donald-trump-fat-kim-kardashian-butt-video.
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  11. Mark Hensch, "Ex-Obama campaign manager: Trump's weight an issue," The Hill, September 14, 2016, thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/295851-ex-obama-campaign-manager-trumps-weight-an-issue.
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  12. Julie Thomson, "If You Are What You Eat, What Does That Make Donald Trump?" Huffington Post, June 30, 2017, huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-eating-habits_us_5954f4bbe4b02734df305f6e.
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  13. Mark Adams, "We Know He's Huuuge, But is He Obese?" Men's Journal, January 2017, mensjournal.com/health-fitness/articles/is-donald-trump-obese-an-investigation-w462910.
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  14. Lou Schuler, "Who Was America's Fittest President?" Men's Health, February 15, 2017, menshealth.com/fitness/fittest-american-presidents.
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  15. L. V. Anderson, "All the Chants I Heard at Saturday's Anti-Trump Protest in NYC, Ranked," Slate, November 13, 2016, slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/11/13/all_the_chants_i_heard_at_saturday_s_anti_trump_protest_in_nyc_ranked.html; Darin Graham, '"We Shall Overcomb!' Say the 100,000 Marching Against Trump in London," Huffington Post, January 25, 2017, huffingtonpost.com/entry/we-shall-overcomb-say-the-100000-marching-against_us_5888bf29e4b05a82fd5b30b3.
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  16. Ashley Feinberg, "Is Donald Trump's Hair a $60,000 Weave? A Gawker Investigation," Gawker, May 24, 2016, gawker.com/is-donald-trump-s-hair-a-60-000-weave-a-gawker-invest-1777581357. For the gender politics of hair, see Rebecca M. Herzig, Plucked: A History of Hair Removal (New York: New York University Press, 2015); Christopher Oldstone-Moore, Of Beards and Men: The Revealing History of Facial Hair (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226284149.001.0001
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  17. Stephen Marche, "Donald Trump is a parody of American manhood—and that's what lifts him," Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2016, latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-marche-trump-masculine-overcompensation-20160527-snap-story.html.
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  18. Stephanie Hayes, "The Unfit President," Atlantic Monthly, April 3, 2017, theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/04/trump-is-relatively-unfit-to-serve/521121.
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  19. Evan Osnos, "How Trump could get fired," New Yorker, May 8, 2017, newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/08/how-trump-could-get-fired.
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  20. "Rolling Stone cover asks why can't Canada PM be US president," July 26, 2017, https://apnews.com/2edbb2b8f14f48269ccb3cafd2d8e6c9.
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  21. Jacqueline Tempera, "Trudeau's politics, star power play well in Providence," Providence Journal (RI), July 13, 2017, providencejournal.com/news/20170713/trudeaus-politics-star-power-play-well-in-providence.
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  22. Douglas C. Baynton, "Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History," in The New Disability History: American Perspectives, ed. Paul Longman and Lauri Umansky (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 23.
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  23. Libby Copeland, "Stuck in the Muck," Washington Post, October 13, 2008, washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/12/AR2008101201966.html.
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  24. The Untold History of the United States, dir. Oliver Stone (2012).
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  25. "Ralph Peters calls Obama 'a total pussy' on live television," Washington Free Beacon, YouTube, December 7, 2015, youtube.com/watch?v=mfzSlldIUHQ.
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  26. Gregory Krieg, "Donald Trump Defends the Size of His Penis," CNN, March 4, 2016, cnn.com/2016/03/03/politics/donald-trump-small-hands-marco-rubio/index.html.
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  27. James Comey, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (New York: Macmillan, 2018); Jacqueline Thomsen, "Comey jabs at Trump's hands, 'orange' skin in new book," The Hill, April 12, 2018, thehill.com/homenews/administration/382942-comey-jabs-at-trumps-hands-orange-skin-in-new-book.
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  28. Siebers, "What Can Disability Studies Learn from the Culture Wars?": 185. https://doi.org/10.1353/cul.2003.0051
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  29. Steven Beutler, "A Medical Theory for Donald Trump's Bizarre Behavior," New Republic, February 17, 2017, newrepublic.com/article/140702/medical-theory-donald-trumps-bizarre-behavior.
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  30. Procknow, 913.
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  31. George Packer, "Holding Trump Accountable," New Yorker, February 27, 2017, newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/holding-trump-accountable.
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  32. Beutler, "A Medical Theory for Donald Trump's Bizarre Behavior."
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  33. Dan P. McAdams, "The Mind of Donald Trump," Atlantic Monthly, June 2016, theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/the-mind-of-donald-trump/480771.
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  34. Allen Frances, letter to the editor, New York Times, February 14, 2017, nytimes.com/2017/02/14/opinion/an-eminent-psychiatrist-demurs-on-trumps-mental-state.html.
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  35. Shayda Kafai, "The Mad Border Body: A Political In-betweeness," Disability Studies Quarterly 33, no. 1 (2013). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v33i1.3438
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  36. Jonathan R. T. Davidson, Kathryn M. Connor, and Marvin Swartz, "Mental Illness in US Presidents between 1776 and 1974: A Review of Biographical Sources," Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 194, no. 1 (January 2006): 47–51. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.nmd.0000195309.17887.f5
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  37. Andrew Olenski, Matthew Abola, and Anupam Jena, "Do heads of government age more quickly? Observational study comparing mortality between elected leaders and runners-up in national elections of 17 countries," BMJ 351 (2015): H6424. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6424; Joshua Shenk, Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005).
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  38. Christie Aschwanden, "Diagnosing' Trump is More about Politics than Mental Health," FiveThirtyEight, August 8, 2017, fivethirtyeight.com/features/diagnosing-trump-is-more-about-politics-than-mental-health.
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  39. Sharon Begley, "Psychiatry group tells members they can ignore 'Goldwater rule' and comment on Trump's mental health," STAT, July 25, 2017, statnews.com/2017/07/25/psychiatry-goldwater-rule-trump.
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  40. John Gartner, "Mental Health Professionals Declare Trump is Mentally Ill and Must Be Removed," Change.org petition (2017), change.org/p/trump-is-mentally-ill-and-must-be-removed.
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  41. Evan Hurst, "Joe and Mika Just Asking if MAYBE Donald Trump Fucked in His Brain," Wonkette, May 2, 2017, wonkette.com/616492/joe-and-mika-just-asking-if-maybe-donald-trump-fucked-in-his-brain. Emphasis in original.
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  42. George Will, "Trump has a dangerous disability," Washington Post, May 3, 2017, washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-has-a-dangerous-disability/2017/05/03/56ca6118-2f6b-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.ed198d424eb8.
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  43. Douthat, "The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump."
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  44. Jeffrey Rosen, "The 25th Amendment Makes Presidential Disability a Political Question," Atlantic Monthly, May 23, 2017, theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/presidential-disability-is-a-political-question/527703.
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  45. Jennifer Bendery, "Congressman to File Bill Requiring a Psychiatrist at the White House," Huffington Post, February 8, 2017, huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-mental-health-ted-lieu_us_589a4b70e4b0c1284f2930cd; Ashley Killough, "Dem proposes panel to remove President if unfit to lead," CNN, July 3, 2017, cnn.com/2017/06/30/politics/jamie-raskin-bill-panel-remove-donald-trump/index.html; US Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Rules, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, HR 1987, Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act, 115th Congress, first session, introduced April 6, 2017; Gordon R. Friedman, "With Trump in mind, Oregon's Blumenauer introduces bill to ease presidential impeachment," Oregonian, April 19, 2017, oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/04/with_trump_in_mind_oregons_blu.html; US Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, HR 2093, Strengthening and Clarifying the 25th Amendment Act, 115th Congress, first session, introduced April 14, 2017.
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  46. Aschwanden, "Diagnosing' Trump is More about Politics than Mental Health."
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  47. Jennifer Stevenson, "Infantilizing Autism," Disability Studies Quarterly 31, no. 3 (2011). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v31i3.1675
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  48. Jonathan Chait, "Trump Has Sparked the Biggest Political Crisis since Watergate," New York Magazine, May 15, 2017, nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/trump-firing-comey-biggest-political-crisis-since-watergate.html.
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  49. Richard Cohen, "Trump is a Boy's Idea of a Man," Washington Post, February 6, 2017, washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-a-boys-idea-of-a-man/2017/02/06/c67be2bc-ec94-11e6-9973-c5efb7ccfb0d_story.html?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.cf88825d87bf.
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  50. Jonathan Hillis, "There's No Mistaking Trump for a Boy Scout," New York Times, July 25, 2017, nytimes.com/2017/07/25/opinion/donald-trump-boy-scouts.html.
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  51. Dan Rather, Facebook post, July 25, 2017, facebook.com/theDanRather/posts/10159072320585716.
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  52. Eric T. L. Love, Race over Empire: Racism and US Imperialism, 1865–1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
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  53. Douglas Baynton, Defectives in the Land: Disability and Immigration in the Age of Eugenics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016). https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226364339.001.0001
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  54. For the "muscular" neoliberal state, see Loïc Wacquant, Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009). https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822392255; Jonathan Simon, Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); David Garland, The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226190174.001.0001 For criticisms of this interpretation, see Elizabeth Bernstein, "Carceral Politics as Gender Justice? The 'Traffic in Women' and Neoliberal Circuits of Crime, Sex, and Rights," Theory and Society 41, no. 3 (May 2012): 233–59, especially 236–40. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-012-9165-9
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  55. Alana Wise, "Ugly. Childish. Bankrupt. When debaters attack," Reuters, September 17, 2015, blogs.reuters.com/talesfromthetrail/2015/09/16/ugly-childish-bankrupt-when-debaters-attack.
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  56. Emily Jane Fox, "Donald Trump Assures America He is Well-Endowed," Vanity Fair, March 3, 2016, vanityfair.com/news/2016/03/donald-trump-defends-hand-debate.
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  57. Tessa Berenson, "Here are Trump and Rubio's Best Schoolyard Insults," Time, March 1, 2016, time.com/4242827/donald-trump-marco-rubio-insults; "The Adult in the Room" ad, Kasich for America, May 3, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du1346K0-AE.
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  58. Mark Sumner, "Donald Trump is a petulant, whiny man-child, and treating him like an adult just cost the world," Daily Kos, June 2, 2017, dailykos.com/stories/2017/6/2/1668186/-Donald-Trump-is-a-petulant-whiny-man-child-and-treating-him-like-an-adult-just-cost-the-world. In a similar vein, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau's former policy adviser called Trump a "pathetic little man-child" in the wake of the 2018 Group of Seven (G7) summit in Québec. Christina Zhao, "Trump is a 'Pathetic Little Man-Child,' Says Former Trudeau Policy Adviser," Newsweek, June 11, 2018, newsweek.com/trump-pathetic-little-man-child-says-former-trudeau-policy-adviser-968996.
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  59. Ross Douthat, "The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump," New York Times, May 16, 2017, nytimes.com/2017/05/16/opinion/25th-amendment-trump.html; Jonathan Chait, "Trump Has Sparked the Biggest Political Crisis since Watergate," New York Magazine, May 15, 2017, nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/trump-firing-comey-biggest-political-crisis-since-watergate.html.
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  60. Chrissy Teigen, Twitter post, June 9, 2018, 9:18 a.m., twitter.com/chrissyteigen/status/1005484242283855872.
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  61. Jamelle Bouie, Twitter post, June 11, 2018, 4:34 a.m., twitter.com/jbouie/status/1006137557799915520; Peter Baker, "Escalating Clash with Canada, Trump is Isolated before North Korea Meeting," New York Times, June 10, 2018, nytimes.com/2018/06/10/us/politics/trump-trudeau-summit-g7-north-korea.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.
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  62. Sumner, "Donald Trump is a petulant, whiny man-child, and treating him like an adult just cost the world"; Osita Nwanevu, "Donald Trump, Our Kid President, Ordered Syria Strike During Dessert," Slate, April 12, 2017, slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/04/12/donald_trump_our_kid_president_struck_syria_over_chocolate_cake.html.
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  63. Suzanne M. Bianchi, "Feminization and Juvenilization of Poverty: Trends, Relative Risks, Causes, and Consequences," Annual Review of Sociology 25 (1999): 307–33. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.307; Yang Jiang, Maribel R. Granja, and Heather Koball, Basic Facts about Low-Income Children: Children under 18 Years, 2015, National Center for Children in Poverty, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, January 2017, nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_1170.pdf.
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  64. Mel Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012), 43. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822395447
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  65. Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Childism: Confronting Prejudice against Children (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 5.
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  66. Kathryn Bond Stockton, The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), 31. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822390268 See also Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (New York: New York University Press, 2011); Robin Bernstein, "Let Black Kids Just Be Kids," New York Times, July 26, 2017, nytimes.com/2017/07/26/opinion/black-kids-discrimination.html; Lucia Hodgson, "Childhood of the Race: A Critical Race Theory Intervention into Childhood Studies," in The Children's Table: Childhood Studies and the Humanities, ed. Anna Mae Duane (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013), 38–51; Sophie Bell, "'So Wicked': Revisiting Uncle Tom's Cabin's Sentimental Racism through the Lens of the Child," in The Children's Table, 89–104.
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  67. Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).
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  68. Aurielle Marie Lucier, "Women's March on Washington: To White Women Who Were Allowed to Resist While We Survived Passive Racism," Essence, January 23, 2017, essence.com/news/white-women-racism-womens-march-washington-privilege.
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  69. LA Kauffman, "Dear resistance: marching is not enough," The Guardian, July 3, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/03/dear-resistance-marching-is-not-enough.
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  70. Thomas Sugrue, "White America's Age-Old, Misguided Obsession With Civility," New York Times, June 29, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/29/opinion/civility-protest-civil-rights.html.
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  71. Tavia Nyong'o and Kyla Wazana Tompkins, "Eleven Theses on Civility," Social Text online, July 11, 2018, https://socialtextjournal.org/eleven-theses-on-civility/.
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  72. Patricia Berne, Aurora Levins Morales, and David Langstaff, "Ten Principles of Disability Justice," Women's Studies Quarterly 46, nos. 1–2 (2018): 227–30. https://doi.org/10.1353/wsq.2018.0003
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  73. Abigail Abrams, "'Our Lives Are at Stake.' How Donald Trump Inadvertently Sparked a New Disability Rights Movement," Time.com, February 26, 2018, http://time.com/5168472/disability-activism-trump/.
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  74. Benjamin W. Mann, "Survival, Disability Rights, and Solidarity: Advancing Cyberprotest Rhetoric through Disability March," Disability Studies Quarterly 38, no. 1 (2018). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v38i1.5917
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  75. Abrams, "'Our Lives Are at Stake.'"
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  76. Dean Spade, "Intersectional Resistance and Law Reform," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 38, no. 4 (Summer 2013): 1032. https://doi.org/10.1086/669574
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  77. Robert McRuer, Crip Times: Disability, Globalization, and Resistance (New York: New York University Press, 2018), 24. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1pwt9nj
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  78. Alison Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), 17.
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