The great Stephen Hawking passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76 from complications due to aprogressive neurodegenerative disease, and people all around the world, from all walks of life, took a moment to stop and thank the brilliant theoretical physicist and cosmologist whose work and life inspired so many. One of these remembrances was from Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot. However, Gadot’s well-intentioned attempt at making a sweet remark about Hawking also managed to offend some people on Twitter.
Gadot’s sentiments about Hawking were labeled as “ableist” by many individuals — specifically, the phrase “Now you’re free of any physical constraints.”
Rest in peace Dr. Hawking. Now you’re free of any physical constraints.. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever ✨ pic.twitter.com/EQzSxqNTuN
— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) March 14, 2018
Twitter bristled at the implication that death was any sort of relief from living with a disability, and many said that such thinking reinforced outdated stigmas about people with disabilities.
I think you’re fantastic Gal but this tweet is very ableist. His physical constraints didn’t stop him from changing the world. People with disabilities don’t wish for death to be free of their challenges. We wish to be valued for what we CAN do, not pitied for we can’t.
— Adam B. Zimmerman (@ABZimm) March 14, 2018
Yes!!!! Thank you. Stop making death seem like a positive alternative to being disabled!! It’s that attitude more than anything that makes disabled ppl’s lives difficult.
— Nina Fiore (@NeedsNYC) March 14, 2018
Gal I am chronically ill. Can’t shower or even get myself out of bed. Lost 18 years thus far. But I ran a charity funding research for my illness #ME and advocate for Change. All from my bed. Is my life not important? Disablement is not shameful, bigotry is. Watch @unrestfilm pls
— amara campbell (@amaracampbell) March 14, 2018
Ms. Gadot, he will always be remembered for his brilliance and humor despite his physical condition. I must disagree however, with a mind like his, he had no physical constants. He took trips through space, time and dimensions that we could not even imagine. May he Rest In Peace.
— Rev. Gary Conkle (@nthdeegree) March 14, 2018
So what we’re NOT gonna do is talk about Stephen Hawking’s disability like it was a tragedy. Because it wasn’t. Disabilities are not tragedies. Abled people can go away. https://t.co/e1PB6TB79F
— Ophelia Brown (@bandaidknees) March 14, 2018
People expressed similar criticisms about the general media coverage surrounding Hawking’s death, which often focused on the “heroic” nature of simply living with a neurodegenerative disease.
for the love of dog and all things holy, please don’t describe stephen hawking as having overcome his disability, or his disability as inability, or any number of boring, ableist tropes that take away from what an utter badass he was and how the world was better for him in it.
— ace ratcliff ♿ (@MortuaryReport) March 14, 2018
Dominick Evans, a filmmaker and activist who has spinal muscular atrophy, told HuffPost that while comments such as Gadot’s are well-intentioned, it’s important to remind ourselves that this language belittles people with disabilities, making them “less than.”
“Do I think people mean something harmful when they say this?” he says. “No, I think they believe they are being kind, but the long-term implications of reinforcing Able Normative Supremacy in this world has direct implications and effects on disabled people ― especially with how we are viewed and treated.”