Disabled Feminism

by Philippa Willitts // 10 November 2009, 17:41

Tags: accessibility, activism, disability, disabled, online, spoon theory

I was very anxious before writing my first post here, but when the comments starting rolling in, I was overwhelmed by the positive messages in response to it.

Firstly, it really helped me. The encouragement that I am doing ok, I am doing good things, and I am making a difference, even if I can't necessarily do the 'outside' things.

And secondly, that it touched so many people. Not especially that my words helped, but that talking about disability and feminism seems such a rarity, and that many people were reading about it for the first time. I'm so glad I could do that, and I'm so glad that it provoked thought for some and reassurance for others, but we need much more!

I mentioned on my main blog that I had posted here, and one of the commenters there said,

Isn't it a shame that writing about disability and feminism and inclusivity is something that is still a remarkable thing?

And she's right! Feminism and activism really needs to catch up, and really address this.

I appreciate that some groups have limited resources, or not much choice of venue, but seriously, if you are a feminist group and you are not meeting in an accessible place, what are you thinking? Would you meet somewhere that excluded other groups of women? Some kind of white-only venue?

You wouldn't, because, even if the founding members of the group were all white, you would know instantly and instinctively that this went against every human and feminist value you have ever held. You would not want to associate yourself with a venue like that, nor would you want to support that venue in any way. If you did meet there, that would give out a message to black women that they were not welcome, so they would not enquire about the group, which might give you the impression that black women did not want to join the group, so it was ok, for the moment, to meet there. This might eventually give you the false impression that actually, meeting in a white-only venue wasn't so bad, black feminists weren't trying to join so it was less of an issue than you had predicted, and after all, the room hire is free.

You know, reading that, that it's wrong! And meeting in an inaccessible venue is the same. Even if no disabled feminists have enquired about the group, this may be because they know they can't use that venue. Or maybe they even turned up, waited outside for a while when they couldn't get in, then went back home. What if one of your regular members becomes disabled? Will they be no longer welcome?

However, overall there was a really positive message from the commenters to my original post, which is that online activism is relevant, is important, and does make a difference. Raising awareness, taking action and sharing stories and experiences can all be done extremely successfully online, and even more effectively than in real life at times. This is a good reminder to me, and to all the women who responded who also have limited spoons, whose uses have to be carefully chosen.

Kitt, in the comments, said

I know disabled feminists have a lot to offer - we have been forced to plumb the depths of our ingenuity to do the things we want to, using as few spoons as possible, and to choose our battles because we simply have to prioritise everything, everyday. Feminism has always benefited from the ingenuity of women - letting disabled people in will only add to this. We are another voice in the choir that will make the song sweeter and stronger.

Comments From You

Laura // Posted 11 November 2009 at 20:36

Hear, hear! Glad your first post had such a positive reception too :-)

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