You’re frightening me
Philippa Willitts // 4 December 2011
It started with a blog post, where David Gillon challenged 38 degrees about why, despite a disability benefit cuts campaign receiving lots of votes, it never reached the ‘call to action’ stage.
Then there was an article (now amended) which described an athlete’s move from Paralympic to Olympic competition as a “move up”.
I then read in Jezebel about a sex worker who is awesome because she works with disabled clients, which apparently makes her intriguing.
And I started to wonder, what do you think of us? Of me? In these three stages, the mainstream, and the left-wing, tell me that I am inferior, and I am other. So very, very other.
Then Lisa Egan wrote a post (trigger warning) about suicide, and her despair at the lack of support from even campaigning organisations, and I still, somehow, didn’t cry.
Then, finally, the article that did make me cry, in which I learned that 2/3 of people avoid disabled people because they don’t know how to act around us. In addition,
A third of those questioned demonstrated hardened negative attitudes towards the disabled. Reasons cited for this ranged from disabled people being seen as a burden on society (38%), ill feeling around the perceived extra support given to disabled people (28%), and the personal worries and sensitivities which rise to the fore during a recession (79%).
It went on,
Some 60% of Britons admit to staring at disabled people because they are different, with more than half of people (51%) admitting they feel uncomfortable when they meet a disabled person for the first time, with more men (54%) admitting to being uncomfortable compared to women (50%).
At a time when cuts are actually killing disabled people, we are also experiencing more negative attitudes, perceptions of being a burden, an additional cost, especially during a recession. How very inconsiderate of us to not wait to attain crippled status until the economy is fixed.
If you’re questioning whether this is a feminist issue, then the point is being missed. I am a woman who 38% of people polled consider to be a burden. I am a woman who 2/3 of people polled admit to avoiding for reasons of prejudice. I am a woman who 50% of women polled admitted to being uncomfortable to meet. I am a woman who is witnessing her friends become more and more afraid to leave the house, for fear of government- and Daily Mail-inspired abuse in the street. I’ve experienced it myself.
There are so many issues at the moment which are putting us all into a state of crisis. This is one of many: people are starting to frighten me. Is the person I’m talking to one of the 38%? Or the 50% Or the 65%?
Given that women are the hardest hit by spending cuts, and disabled people are the hardest hit by spending cuts, disabled women are being overlooked, avoided, resented, marginalised and othered. It takes non-disabled people, at this stage, to make some of the changes that need to happen.
[The image is a photograph of handmade print next to one of the stencils. They read “FEAR MORE HOPE LESS”. The photograph and artwork are by Ben Murphy and are used under a Creative Commons Licence]