So, I’m back. The website was down for a while as I transitioned to a web server and got everything all spiffy-looking. Do you like it? The pink cosmo in the header is actually from my very own garden. (Yes, I am shamelessly begging for compliments.)
While I was offline, I’ve been thinking about where I want this blog to go and what kind of activism I want to be doing. I am a feminist and will always write about and fight for women’s rights. I am also a woman with multiple disabilities and I have started to shift my energies into fighting for disability rights. However, as time has gone by, it seems downright silly to me that disability rights are not a core element of the feminist movement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 1 in 5 women in the United States are living with disabilities. Surely an issue that affects 20% of U.S. women is a feminist cause, right?
Well, not really. Disability rights and feminism have historically been separate movements and it’s time to change that.
While other feminists with disabilities have tried to end discrimination and harassment of people with disabilities by focusing primarily on ableist language and privilege, I believe we need to think bigger.
I subscribe to the social model of disability:
The social model of disability, on the other hand, sees disability as a socially created problem and not at all an attribute of an individual. On the social model, disability demands a political response, since the problem is created by an unaccommodating physical environment brought about by attitudes and other features of the social environment.
What this means is that although I may have a hearing impairment (among other things), it is not what disables me. My hearing loss in itself is not what keeps me from fully participating in society. Instead, I am disabled and left on the sidelines of society because there are:
- too many jobs that depend on being able to hear and listen, such as simply being able to return phone calls on a regular basis (I don’t always hear well on the phone, especially if I have to take down information)
- too many restaurants, stores, theaters, auditoriums, churches, and other public spaces with background noise and bad acoustics that make it difficult to socialize, network and simply be with people
- too many unintelligible PA systems in stores, airports, subways, airplanes, and public and private buildings of every sort that provide relevant and important information (I freak out a little on planes every time the flight attendants come on over the PA and I can’t understand a word they’re saying. Are they saying something I need to know, something safety-related, or are they just announcing they’ll be coming along with the drinks cart?)
- too many teachers and professors who don’t talk loud enough, fail to provide written notes/outlines/PowerPoints so I can follow along or simply just talk to the black/white board
Those are just a few of the ways I am disabled by my hearing loss according to the social model of disability. As feminists, I think we need to be doing more to support our sisters with disabilities. Temporarily able-bodied (TAB) feminists need to join the fight to help women with disabilities secure our rights in the following areas:
- Health care (including reproductive rights)
- Economic rights
- Sexual assault and domestic violence
- LGBT issues
- Social Security
- Women in the military and women veterans
This is not an all-inclusive list and I am 100% positive I have forgotten some very important issues. I apologize for that in advance. Also, it goes without saying that all of these issues must be viewed through a multi-racial, multi-ethnic lens. Being disabled is not just about white, middle-class women. It is just about ‘American’ women, either. While I will probably focus more on North American women, disability is an international issue and we need to be mindful of that.
In the coming days, weeks and months, I plan to talk more about all of these things. I hope you’ll join in the conversation.