Cartoon: Touch My Face, Dammit!


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I sometimes read forums for disabled people (ones that are open for anyone to read). One complaint I’ve seen fairly often, which surprised me at first, is that many able-bodied people feel way too free to touch the bodies of disabled people – even disabled people they don’t know. (Not unlike how some white people will touch Black people’s hair).

One specific subgenre of this is sighted people who think that Blind people want to touch our faces – or will even try to force the issue. As one person wrote on Reddit:

I’ve done it only once and I felt awkward during the entire ordeal, mainly because the person just grabbed my hand and was like, here is my forehead, here are my cheeks. Feel them good. Pure cringe.

Another person wrote:

I don’t know where people got this idea that we want to touch their faces or that we even care what they look like, but I’ve always found it really embarrassing. Especially after a stranger grabbed my hand and plopped it right on her face in public. It was extremely gross and weird for me.

Many Blind folks have written that it’s cringy even to be asked. So if this cartoon serves no other purpose, maybe it’ll let sighted people like me that no, Blind people don’t want to feel our faces.


There was nothing especially challenging about drawing this strip, but it was fun. Panel 3 was probably the most fun, because I rarely get the chance to draw two characters actually being physical with each other.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels.

PANEL 1

Two women are on a sidewalk. One – let’s call her “Collar” – has straight shoulder-length hair and is wearing a button shirt with a collar, partly unbuttoned over a long-sleeved tee shirt with red stripes. The other woman – let’s call her “Jeans” – has a long white cane (with a rad portion near the bottom and a black portion near the top) which she’s sweeping over the ground in front of her, has curly hair, and is wearing a hoodie and fashionably torn jeans. Collar has an expression of delight and is looking down towards Jeans’ cane. Jeans looks a little taken aback.

COLLAR: Oh, you’re blind! Would you like to touch my face?

JEANS: Er… no. No thank you.

PANEL 2

A closer shot of the two women. Collar, still smiling, is leaning forward, shoving her face close to Jeans. Jeans is holding up a hand protectively and leaning back.

COLLAR: No, really, touch my face. It’s okay.

JEANS: That’s a myth. Blind people don’t go around touching stranger’s faces.

PANEL 3

Collar has grabbed Jeans’ wrist and is attempting to pull Jeans’ hand to her face (Jeans is still holding her cane in her other hand); Jeans is pulling away, looking angry. Both are speaking loudly.

COLLAR: TOUCH MY FACE!

JEANS: NO! LET GO!

PANEL 4

A change of scene – a comfortable looking apartment. In the background, a short-haired woman is seated on a small sofa, looking up from the book she was reading. There’s a coffee table in front of her. In the foreground, Jeans is stomping in, looking angry and holding her hands away from her body.

SHORT-HAIRED WOMAN: Hi, Honey! How was your–

JEANS (angrily): I NEED TO WASH MY HANDS!


This cartoon on Patreon

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Disability Issues, Disabled Rights & Issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

13 Responses to Cartoon: Touch My Face, Dammit!

  1. 1
    Knowlson says:

    In my experience, any sort of disability brings out the worst in some “normals” because of preconceived notions or just plain immaturity.

    I think the notion of face touching started with some Hollywood screenwriters who thought it could be a dramatic representation of a Blind person wanting to experience sight through their fingers.

    I like this cartoon. And I always enjoy the way you render backgrounds. The house interior, the fence, tree and leaves. Just little details that make your panels interesting.

  2. 2
    bcb says:

    Huh, that is one variation of the touching-bodies thing that I didn’t know about. Dang, we able-bodied people suck.

  3. 3
    Mandolin says:

    Now I *really* want to know the origin of this idea. I tried looking it up and found an article on image depictions of blind people in the Victorian era which was interesting but unrelated.

    IDK if it’s super helpful to frame this as able-bodied people suck? (Also, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having done so, bcb – I’m not trying to be critical of you, just thinking). Because I bet there are non-blind, non-able-bodied people who do this. I’m able-bodied-ish (I don’t think my lovely migraines that incapacitate me about 30% of the time count as non-able-bodied but IDK?) but I’m definitely neuroatypical and it doesn’t stop me from being able to participate in shittiness toward, for instance, schizophrenic people. I try not to, of course! And my neuroatypicality may give me empathetic insights that help me avoid it. But I’m also *definitely* not insulated from being shitty toward people with other disabilities, and it’s not helpful to me or them to assume I am. Not helpful to me because it allows me to avoid self-improvement. Not helpful to them because it can imply they’re wrong if they feel upset by something I’ve done.

    It also implies that the suckiness of able-bodied people is inherent and unavoidable. I don’t think that’s true! It excuses people who participate in bad behaviors by saying “hey, that’s just inevitable.” It’s like, yes, colonialism of the Americas was aided by guns, germs, and steel, but it was also aided by cultural choices that made colonialism an essential part of those cultures’ economic development! You can’t just hand guns, germs and steel to anyone in a void and get colonialism; it exists because of other things. Able-bodied people who do this are not respecting the autonomy of blind people. The fault isn’t in being able-bodied, it’s in not respecting the autonomy of blind people.

    I definitely get why people who are in marginalized groups need to blow off steam sometimes. Totally legitimate need.

    I also definitely get why people self-deprecate. I do it, like, a lot. It definitely can make me more comfortable to get ahead of people by saying, “Don’t worry, I already know I’m terrible so I’ll say it first.” It’s not the worst thing by any means and if it helps you, yay. I’m just feeling meh about it right now in that I’m not sure it’s the most helpful rhetoric globally. (But not every comment has to be the most helpful globally!)

  4. 4
    dragon_snap says:

    good cartoon!

    it’s totally (or at least mostly?) a matter of personal preference but (especially as an earnest, enthusiastic person ) I don’t really like the word cringe as a noun or adjective

    I have kind of a funny story about that but I’ll put it in the open thread perhaps :)

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    I like this cartoon. And I always enjoy the way you render backgrounds. The house interior, the fence, tree and leaves. Just little details that make your panels interesting.

    Thanks, Knowlson! That’s especially nice to hear about backgrounds, since while I’m doing something like drawing leaves on a sidewalk I often think “will any reader ever notice this stuff?” :-p

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    it’s totally (or at least mostly?) a matter of personal preference but (especially as an earnest, enthusiastic person ) I don’t really like the word cringe as a noun or adjective

    I like it a lot – I can’t think of a better word to describe the way I personally recoil from some particular types of comedy, for instance. But I agree that it’s overused and some uses of it – I’m thinking of “cringe compellation videos” – are really nasty.

  7. 7
    Knowlson says:

    I want a framed portrait of Wimpy enjoying a hamburger so I can hang it behind my living room chair. And I want a striped chair like that. It looks like a comfy little love seat.

    I enjoy the little details in these cartoons.

    I wonder if the “face touching” meme started with the “Miracle Worker” movie. Didn’t Patty Duke touch everybody’s face?

  8. 8
    Douglas Scheinberg says:

    I wonder if it has anything to do with the music video for “Hello” by Lionel Richie? (Relevant scene starts at 4:50.)

  9. 9
    Petar says:

    Oh, it definitely did not start with Hello. I remember watching some stupid SciFi series with a guy who had a gizmo that made him invisible. He met a blind woman who mapped his face by touch in a train compartment, and later rescued him from the rails while he was invisible, deactivating the gizmo in the process.

    I watched that in the 70s. Hello is from the 80s.

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    Amp, have you ever heard of a Facebook group called “More Perfect Union”? They’ve published one of your recent cartoons. There are hundreds of comments on it.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    And they even left my credit on! :-D

    I wish I got that many shares when I post my cartoons. Nice to see, though.

  12. 12
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Also here, but without attribution…

  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    Jacqueline:

    Alas! And a shitty blurry copy too.

    To be fair, I don’t know who wrote that one. It was a commission for a union, years ago, and they gave me the script without telling me who wrote it. When the job was done I asked them if they minded me using it as one of my policartoons, and they were like “sure, fine, whatever.”

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