New blog by feminists with disabilities.

// 14 October 2009

FWD/Forward (feminists with disabilities for a way forward) is a group blog written by a crew of (mostly US and Australian) feminists with disabilities who are interested in exploring the intersection between feminism and disability rights activism. Launched on October 6, the blog will include:

* A disability kindy (pre-101) series for people who are new to disability rights activism

* Disability 101 for kindy graduates

* A series of basic intersectionality posts specifically for feminists who are new to disability issues

* Consciousness-raising posts about identifying as a person with disabilities

* Discussions about how people without disabilities and feminists without disabilities in particular interact with people with disabilities

* Disability news quick-hits on ongoing disability issues in the news

* Link roundups featuring disability news and writing on disability issues from around the Internet

* Discussions about the language of disability rights activism, from differing terminology used internationally to the specific language used by individual groups which advocate for disability rights

* Posts about the disproportionate amount of sexual, physical, and social abuse targeted at women with disabilities

* Posts about people with invisible disabilities and mental illnesses and challenges unique to those groups

* Posts about the relationship between disability rights activism, social policy, and the law

* Discussions of how to be an ally to feminists with disabilities


The blog looks extremely comprehensive and well-organised and the latest post, which explains why disability is a feminist issue, might be a good place to start if you’re new to the subject.

Comments From You

tomhulley // Posted 14 October 2009 at 8:58 pm

I cannot believe they call themselves ‘feminists with disabilities’ implying that disabilities are personal shortcomings rather than forms of discrimination imposed on people.

Ironic that the definitive paper on this was presented in Leeds:

Chally // Posted 14 October 2009 at 9:09 pm

Thank you for the link, Laura. :)

Laura // Posted 14 October 2009 at 9:12 pm


Surely it’s up to the writers to identify themselves as they wish?

That’s a really interesting read though, thanks.

Laura // Posted 14 October 2009 at 9:17 pm

You’re welcome, Chally, I spent all afternoon reading it, fantastic stuff!

Chally // Posted 14 October 2009 at 11:04 pm

tomhulley, as Laura pointed out, none of the contributors are British (thus far!) and the term ‘people with disabilities’ does not have the same connotations in Australia and the US as it does in the UK. It’s part of what’s considered “people first language”. If you go look at the comments on the first post, this is addressed, and someone actually linked the same article you do as a part of the discussion. I think you can trust a group of feminists to define their own experiences and not demean themselves, yeah?

I’m glad you’re enjoying it, Laura.

OuyangDan // Posted 15 October 2009 at 12:34 am

Surely, also, it is OK if we wish to identify as people first, who happen to have disabilities? Certainly, we, as full, and proper people, have the right to determine how we choose to identify ourselves? Is that all right with you, tom? No matter how many papers are written, is it still OK, if I decide how I label myself? Do I have your permission? Or do I need to let society and scholars decide it for me? Should I let them make all of my decisions for me, since I am disabled?

amandaw // Posted 15 October 2009 at 12:47 am

I cannot believe they call themselves ‘feminists with disabilities’ implying that disabilities are personal shortcomings rather than forms of discrimination imposed on people.

Ehm, that’s lovely. Using disability activism as a tool against disabled women doing disability activism??…

There is some discussion in comments here re:person first language, fwiw.

While I tend to like “disabled person” better, I also think it’s rather…interesting to take something that *disabled people came up with* seeking further respect (person first language) and make that into somehow harming disabled people??

Anna // Posted 15 October 2009 at 1:58 am

As I understand it, the model of disability is different in the UK than it is elsewhere. In North America, at least, “person with a disability” is the preferred way, because we go with people-first language. I know in the UK this has an entirely different connotation to it – that the person is the “problem”, rather than the society-based discrimination.

tom hulley // Posted 15 October 2009 at 8:58 am

Yes, Laura, of course it is up to people to define themselves and not be defined by others. I am sorry if I seemed to ignore this in the previous comment.

Admittedly, many people under 40 have grown up in a context of denying community and society and collective action in favour of personal ambition. Despite this, there are still lots of bright and committed activists out there as F-word shows.

It is just a bit depressing when battles won somehow get lost by later generations!

Disabled women like Jenny Morris worked so hard to change things.

Maybe it is inevitable. I see younger feminists having to start all over again on issues that were hot and active not so long ago.

It is great that each generation makes its own history but sad sometimes when the continuity is lost.

I hear people nowadays saying stuff like ‘I have a special needs child’ and I cringe. All children are special, all have the same needs but some have different requirements when meeting those needs.

The trouble with language is that it so easily turns people into things. I am not blaming the ‘feminists with disabilities’ and would rather hear them speak out than not.

lauredhel // Posted 15 October 2009 at 10:30 am

Tom: please don’t make (wrong) assumptions about our ages, our ambitions, our lack of community sensibility, nor about what battles we’ve “lost” or “forgotten”. Your question was answered pretty comprehensively; your reply here seems as though you haven’t actually listened to the answers.

Laura // Posted 15 October 2009 at 10:37 am

lauredhel – I should point out that I published the replies to Tom and his second comment at the same time, so he hadn’t seen them before responding.

polly // Posted 15 October 2009 at 11:37 am

Yup, not everyone on t’internetz is under 40 Tom!. Furthermore I understood ‘people with disabilities’ to be a preferred term in the UK, as it emphasises the ‘people’ part of the description as opposed to horrible terms like ‘the disabled’.

kez // Posted 15 October 2009 at 12:14 pm

As I understand it, the term “disabled people” is preferred by some to “people with disabilities” because it reflects a social model (i.e. some people are disabled by society’s refusal to engage with their specific needs) whereas “people with disabilities” reflects more of an individual model – that a person has a disability and that’s their problem, kind of thing, rather than that society has the problem because it disables some people. (I can tie myself in knots very rapidly when trying to think or talk about this stuff.)

However to me, while understanding the above, “people with disabilities” rings better than “disabled people” because it puts the person first and seems to keep the focus more on the person. I suppose an alternative could be “people who are disabled”.

I’m over 40, by the way. Shall I get my coat?

Rachel // Posted 16 October 2009 at 10:21 pm

In Britain Disability activism developed in a way that emphasised a very specific difference between an ‘impairment’ [the physical ‘limitation’, mental ‘distress’, cognitive ‘difficulty’ etc.] – and Disability which is an oppression. It does so to hold society accountable.

So as it sounds odd to call women “people with sexism” then too it is odd to call someone a “person with a disability” [even if it is yourself].

It’s true that this has not been the case in other parts of the world but I still hold strongly to the wisdom of this point. People have also developed self identified language such as Crip and Ripple but this tends to be ‘in group’ language rater than formal language.

There has been a lot of debate about the Social Model with regards to the way it addresses or does not address the embodied experience of impairment, pain, illness etc. This has been led by Disabled feminists.

However I still find ‘people first’ language odd to my British way of thinking – to me it sounds like ‘gay woman’ as opposed to ‘dyke’…

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds