Thursday, January 17, 2019

You Can’t “Culturally Appropriate” a Weighted Blanket

Ashley Fetters’ recent Atlantic essay about the “problem” with weighted blankets as last year’s hot holiday trend felt like a reminder. A reminder that I’ll never be part of the “meditation-app-using, Instagram-shopping masses” Fetters’ piece bemoans, regardless of whether I actually use Instagram or meditation apps. Why? Because to Fetters, I’m “special.” Actually, I’m not just “special.” I have “special needs.” And I am, by her essay’s reckoning, under attack. Because nondisabled people are buying weighted blankets, I am having my “special needs” culturally appropriated.
As an autistic person, did I ask for this defense? No. But I sure got it. Fetters’ piece traces how weighted blankets went from a product primarily crafted for and used by autistic people to their new mass-market life as “blankets that ease anxiety.” She points to the Gravity Blanket brand and its almost–$5 million Kickstarter haul in 2017 as a turning point. To some longtime blanket producers, Fetters contends, “the Gravity Blanket and many of its new contemporaries sounds more like a story of appropriation—a story about the sale of the special-needs community’s promise of life-changing comfort to the”—wait for it!—“Instagram-shopping masses.”