The Gimp Card

Pulling the Gimp Card

In this episode, we talk about when it’s appropriate to “pull the gimp card,” we discuss the ethics of sexual surrogacy, and we debate whether a bank’s ad showing a disabled woman is inspiring or an evil marketing ploy.

Here are the commercials we mentioned:

And here’s the French ad Jocelyn talked about:


  1. I love these episodes!

  2. First, off I wanted to say “stumbled” across your podcast/website through the CBC Fan Club post, and I’m glad that I stopped by. I started with this 4th podcast and went back to your others. I’ve enjoyed all of them!

    Anyway, to the disability card topic, I have CP myself and I’m of Japanese decent and I’m gay (not that being gay is visually noticeable). I’ve grown up with parents who always treated me normal, and as a result I rarely play or had to played any of my cards. I didn’t realize how important/ powerful they are until recently when I moved back to Calgary from Vancouver, because I lost my underwriting job, and I was in an pedestrian accident that made my CP worse among other things. However when I recovered and I was well enough to job hunt, I found out my disability and ethnicity both hindered me, but they also helped me.

    When I applied for jobs with Smaller companies they never really asked much about your background. If I got to an interview you could tell that some of the interviewers were surprised/uncomfortable. I assume it was because of my disability, it’s the same feeling when children stare and they want to ask but are afraid. Sometimes I felt they’ve even made judgments even before the first question was asked. If it’s true, or not I can’t say for certain, but it feels that way. Like I’m damaged goods.

    In big companies on the other hand, for the most part I’ve seen the optional questions about ethnicity and disability. I’d answered the questions about ethnicity and disability not thinking too much, and it was just a standard, but I realized this past weekend it does matter. As Tod had mentioned it was all about pandering or what in HR terms is Diversity points.

    My company I work for may have played the disability diversity points card with me this past weekend. I was asked by our marketing department to participate in a launch event. Now given the size of company I work for I didn’t think much of it, as we had all sorts of ethnicities, and some of my department coworkers were also invited to participate. According to my supervisor however, I was asked for specifically by them, which was weird. This was a secret event so we didn’t know what we were doing until we arrived there, and as it turns out I was the only one out of the entire group to be chosen as greeter, and part of the hype team which consisted of only the marketing department to go on stage. Since there were other Asians on stage I can’t help wonder if I was chosen for my disability. Not that it’s a bad thing, but sometimes it’s a horse and pony show, that in my case may have worked both ways. I have a job and they get diversity points.

    Anyway thanks for the podcast and can’t wait to what’s to come!

    • Thanks for the comment. Yeah, it’s kind of silly to be picked BECAUSE of your disability.. :-( Thanks for listening!

    • Hey there TK, you have an interesting perspective since you can also compare it to your experience as an Asian person as well as having a disability. There have been times I’ve been put in the spotlight by my employer too (though rarely), and so now I am pretty careful about how I am portrayed and how I’m involved in something, for that very reason. I feel like my disability should never be the ONLY reason I’m asked to participate, though sometimes it gives me a unique perspective that others can’t contribute. It’s a tough line for sure.
      Thanks for listening!

  3. I think the whole rhetoric around gimp cards, race cards, gender cards etc. needs to be abandoned because they are generally used as a shaming tool by people not of the marginalized group. They seem to stem from this idea that minorities are always out to scam the system and any accomodation is unwarranted. This actually ends up resulting in people not accessing or using services they need or may find helpful because of fear that others will think that they are abusing the system or are exagerating their disabilities. I know that I have avoided taking advantage of legitimate services because of discomfort of how I might be perceived (I’m hemiplegic and ambulatory so my disability is not always immediately apparent). It is only recently that I have started taking advantage of services because I no longer give a shit about the opinions of bigots.

    I also think that there is a cultural expectation that disabled people should expend the extra effort to appear “normal” or not burdensome so in those grey area situations where we can decide to expend extra effort or time by not asking for assistance or taking advantage of services that we should abstain because of the idea that it means that we are “defying” or “overcoming” our disabilities. This puts undo and inappropriate pressure on disabled people to be as inobtrusive as possible and creates a hierarchy where those who can get by with fewer services are perceived as better than those who can’t.

    There will always be people who abuse those services because like every group of people some disabled people are ass holes and their bad behaviour should not be used as cultural rhetoric to disempower others. Most of the time when I hear someone claiming that someone has pulled a card. It is in the context of dismissing their personhood like “they only got that job because they are disabled/female/of colour” (because it is unthinkable that such a person could be competent) or as an excuse to not provide a service. I know that I was often accused of playing the disability card if I asked for help (that I legitimately needed) because it’s a way to rationalize our inaccessible world by just believing that the demands are unreasonable and that disabled people just aren’t trying hard enough.

    • Kim – that’s a really great point, and well made. Your comment reminded me of the BBC Ouch podcast, where they often make fun of (and criticize) how disabled people are characterized as “benefit cheats” by greater UK society.
      I totally agree with you about the phrase “gimp card” (or other types of “Cards”) being the product of stigma and negative connotations to accessing supports available to people who are minorities or at some disadvantage.
      I just feel that in situations where my choice to access a limited service I might not necessarily need (or for which my need is not immediate), I tend to think of whether my choice might affect the availability of that service to those for whom it is essential – my decision to then use that service anyway, I would call, “pulling the gimp card.”
      Thanks for the great comment!

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