I read this interesting article on Buzzfeed  “The 1970s Feminist Who Warned Against Leaning In” promoting a reissue of Sheila Rowbotham’s book ‘Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World’.

Whilst I found it interesting with some excellent points made I couldn’t help but feel the lack of any discussion about disability was a glaring omission. The issue of work, what is work and who is valued for working are important feminist issues, they are also important disability issues. Just as feminism has  highlighted the repression of women as their unpaid labour is undervalued and exploited under capitalism we need to highlight how disabled people are written off as ‘scroungers’ as we are often unable to work and become ‘economically productive’ (and therefore ‘productive members of society’) in an abled society that makes no or little adaptations to our needs. Feminism has highlighted the importance of women doing the vast majority of care work, such as looking after children and elderly and disabled relatives. But what about those of us who are the ‘looked after’? After all so many of us are women too.

For feminism to be truly intersectional we must consider disability issues, disability is a feminist issue. Many women are disabled. Many chronic illnesses and invisible disabilities affect greater numbers of women and are not taken seriously because of this. Women with disabilities are twice as likely to suffer domestic abuse and violence, disabled people are routinely ‘desexualised’ and this has effects on issues such as pregnancy and parenthood. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on, the way disabled people are expected to be passive, grateful and mostly silent in a role that echoes the restrictive ‘feminine’ role pushed onto women for example.

But back to work, in a climate where benefit ‘reforms’  and spending cuts are disproportionally harming both women and disabled people, disabled women are at high risk. When our very humanity and right to access basic support is debated every day, when we are cast as scroungers for accessing the support we are entitled to, when we are assumed to be faking it and have to jump through an ever increasing number of hoops to prove we aren’t the issue of work and disability is really important. When all this causes a massive rise in disability hate crime, It’s a matter of life and death, yet I can’t honestly remember the last time I saw a general or feminist discussion on capitalism and work which included disability as anything more than a footnote, if that.

I have written previously on how ‘leaning in’ in impossible for many women, including disabled women, and I still remain pretty much constantly disappointed by the lack of inclusion of disabled voices within feminism, even supposedly ‘intersectional’ feminism. Feminism is about giving women a voice, yet why are we leaving disabled women voiceless? We are rightly critical of the idea that women be ‘looked after’ by their husbands and not afforded any independence but where are the loud, critical voices when disabled women are becoming ever more reliant on being ‘looked after’ when our support allowing us independence is being cut? Where are the voices of those who cannot work in this society when we are discussing work, labour and class analysis? If the ability to get out the house and work has been so important to feminism and women’s ‘freedom’ then what about those of us who can’t ? I am a young woman who is intelligent, well educated and capable yet I am far from independent, I rely so much on my family because with chronic illness I am unable to work enough to support myself.


Content note: mental health, self harm, suicide

Today is yet another well meaning but a bit too cosy to be realistic mental health initiative, #timetotalk. It is admirable yet it doesn’t quite get across how hard talking is. It’s not just stigma, it’s the vulnerability. It’s terrifying to talk about mental health sometimes, to open up and to admit you can’t cope, that you hate yourself, that you hurt yourself, that you want to kill yourself. This is something campaigns like this just don’t quite convey. It’s not as simple as having a cup of tea, it’s opening up at your most vulnerable to people you aren’t sure will understand.Even if they do understand it’s terrifying, it’s like being naked, stripped of any outer shell. As if your skin has been rubbed raw and you’re about to face a salt mist. It’s that feeling of being exposed to something raw and painful. Can you really cope with someone you love telling you they harm themselves or want to kill themselves? Because that’s a possibility. Sometimes you won’t be able to help and it can be painful, frustrating and terrifying. If you can’t cope with that then be careful because if you open up the emotional floodgates of someone vulnerable they might not be able to close them. You might trigger painful thoughts, feelings, harmful behaviours, a panic attack. There might be arguments, tears, fights.

Yes it’s admirable to break down stigma and talk about mental health, it shouldn’t be a taboo subject that you avoid talking about; but at the same time some people just don’t want to or can’t talk bout their mental health sometimes. Sometimes it’s too painful, it can trigger symptoms such as an urge to self harm, suicidal ideation, panic attacks – a whole range of things. So please tread carefully and respect people’s boundaries, if they don’t want to talk don’t make them.

It’s too easy to feel guilted by cries of  ‘go on you’ll feel better if you talk about it!’. It can be dangerous to talk if you are not in the right environment, if you don’t feel safe. Sometimes you just can’t talk, I have terrible moods where I can barely string a sentence together, the depression is just so bad I just don’t have the mental and physical strength to hold a conversation.

So whilst I applaud the aims of the campaign it’s worth bearing in mind that sometimes talking can be hard, impossibly hard and it can be dangerous to pressurise people into doing something they feel uncomfortable with.

As well as talking you must respect people if they choose to remain silent. No one should be pressured, directly or by more subtle means of emotional manipulation (for example things like ‘you’ll feel better!’, ‘it’ll be good for you!’ are not always as innocent as they seem) into talking. A five minute chat isn’t a pat on the back moment I’ve done my bit thing, talking about mental health issues can be a very, very hard thing for some people and won’t be anything like a nice cosy chat over some digestives.


‘Passing’ as not disabled & all the conflicting emotions it brings

Society has such a narrow view if disability I’ve found it hard to identify as disabled, despite the fact I live with two chronic conditions that affect my ability to live my life ‘normally’ which fits the definition of disability used in UK law. I feel trapped sometimes.

I have been insulted for calling myself disabled as I am ‘not disabled enough’ and this is apparently an insult to those more disabled than me.

I try to fake it as ‘normal’ and suffer burn out , emotional & physical.

I don’t ‘look disabled’ according to the dominant very narrow view if disability. In the past I have used mobility aids such as sticks & a wheelchair but I don’t need to at the moment. I am a lot healthier than I used to be and aware of the privilege this affords me, but I’m still far from what I’d term ‘abled’ or ‘not – disabled’.

I can’t cope with a 9-5 day, my sleep pattern is fucked & I nap for about 2-3 hours everyday, some days where I have something special to do I can manage a ‘normal’ day but I can’t keep it up on a regular basis & I usually pay for it afterwards, having a few days or even weeks where I am much more fatigued and achey than usual.
In many ways passing as abled is a privilege, I escape the abuse aimed at the visibly disabled. Yet it has it’s problems, if I need extra help with things I often face a lengthy explanation of my health (which isn’t fun as it can bring up a lot if emotions I find hard to deal with especially as I have depression too & emotional resilience is not my forte). So often these explanations end up with a realisation I don’t fit into any if the neat categories of ‘disabled’ we (by ‘we’ I mean  our predominantly abled society in general) are used to dealing with and  thus no one is quite sure what to do with me. The irony of this is, I don’t suffer from any rare conditions; I have m.e/cfs and depression,  illnesses that affect millions in the UK. Yet my history of support, from my interrupted and inadequate education to troubles with employment has been one of ‘falling through the cracks’, with viewed suggestions my situation is  rather unusual and that people can’t possible be expected to deal with it and oh why can’t they just build a ramp and be done with it?  Very few professionals meant to support me have had any clue what to do or have been able to do anything within the systems imposed upon them. So as my health has improved I’ve often found it easier to just struggle on as a ‘normal’ person than to navigate a flawed support system that seems confused by me and that requires extra work from me requiring time and energy I just don’t have. In university it was often easier to struggle with no support than to tire myself out chasing up support with all the extra forms, meetings, phone calls and emails this entailed.

Under Attack

In the last few years I have felt increasingly under attack as someone with invisible disabilities. The war on ‘benefit scroungers’ and the cuts to the welfare state are targeted at people like me. People who claim benefits but are seen down the pub, or walking down the road. We can’t possibly be deserving, after all we ‘look fine’ don’t we?  This is especially troubling when mental health is brought into it and people start spurting out all that ‘just pull yourself together’ crap.

This relentless attack on disabled people has a horrible affect on my mental health. I’m afraid for my future, I’m scared to admit to people I’m on benefits, that I’m ill. I worry that if I fall out with someone they could report me for fraud (99%of claims to benefit fraud hotlines are malicious). I see friends and family going off into the world and having careers, I fear I’ll never have a career, certainly not one I can support myself on. I know that I an intelligent , that I have worth as a person, that I have skills but I know that capitalist society doesn’t value them, I can’t work enough to make money so why should I be educated? I feel wasted and washed up, stuck on a scrap heap and I’m barely 30. All that hurts, really fucking hurts. Reading things like the hashtag for benefits street or any other dehumanising propaganda shit they disguise as ‘media’. Politicians saying you’re ‘not worth the minimum wage’ , the endless attacks from the DWP about ‘fraud’, the judgement from strangers who feel entitled to judge whether you’re ‘really disabled’ based on nothing but ignorant assumptions. The pervasive mindset that because I don’t ‘work hard’  I don’t deserve to be supported. I feel like I don’t matter, because I can’t fit into the structures of a world designed around those without disabilities and  I don’t get much of a chance to prove myself, my talents, my humanity. Mainstream political discourse of all directions sees me as either a nuisance or just doesn’t see me at all. Even those causes and movements that pertain to be ‘progessive’ often castigate me as an ‘armchair activist’, ‘not being a real activist’ or ‘just moaning online not doing anything’ because I can’t fit into their structures. Structures I have spent my life trying to force myself into, breaking myself to fit into other peoples boxes whilst they look on & don’t even consider making the boxes fit me.
I feel like it’s giving up too easily to give up on society but in truth it gave up on me.


Because it’s National Poetry Day 2014, I thought I’d break my blogging silence by posting some of my poetry. And by ‘poetry’ I mean a stream of consciousness of rage and emotion rarely fitting into any neat style, bad spelling and all, just raw words spurting out. So three little poem like creatures:

The Flood

It comes up from nowhere
Wells up breaches all my defences
Deluge inundation
I’m saturated, heavy with sediment
Not life giving
But stagnant red


I used the word existential
Said I must be intelligent
None of your therapy
Got me out if this predicament
Said I wasn’t complying
When I just wasn’t lying
I honestly just couldn’t see
Any reason logically
Any event, any thing
That had me feeling like I did
Even mental illness has to conform
Fit into a small box on a form
In 16 sessions , no more
I see why they call it a revolving door
5 years later I’m here once more

Think I’m just not meant for this world
I see too much, feel too, much get hurt
I try so hard, but can’t describe it in words
It’s in the bit of me that’s primal
Something in here fighting for survival
That predates language & expression & words
So elusive it feels like a curse
That part if the soul, so deep, so old
So much more than I can ever know
I get joy too, but it’s this sadness that shows
That drags me down so far below
Down deep to the centre where magma flows
To the kernel of everything we know

If course I can’t make it easy to explain
Or find a concrete reason for this pain.
You can’t make my soul about targets.

Some Kinda Clarity

As my mind clears I start to write poetry
Blessed relief to feel the words flow through me
After months of a stagnant mind silent inside
A pretence of stability just hiding the misery
Of being cut off from the vitality inside of me
As the fake chemicals reduce , removing the sluice
Letting it all flow loose
Embrace the flood
Renewal – new life from the alluvium
A World springs from the watery nuum
After the flood all is reborn
After the flood creation
Destruction then Personal Cosmogony


I am angry, as I am when the world just gets too much, when all the oppressive shit just seems never ending and you feel hopeless and you can’t quite formulate anything beyond a sort of screaming frustration.

I’d say I’m pretty much apoplectic right now. So I’d like to talk about anger and how I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

Anger is not a bad thing. Anger is a valid emotion. Anger is a response and it’s a lot easier to chastise people for being angry than to look at why they are angry. Especially as it is often the more privileged casting judgment on the less privileged.

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying not to be angry. Believing I should play along with the good girl role I was assigned, you know quiet, shy, reads a lot of books, gets good grades blah blah. The policing of anger is really sneaky and insidious. You get told you’re a ‘good girl’ you shouldn’t be angry, that you’re ‘too intelligent’ (though don’t get me started on ‘intelligence policing’ – when people tell you you’re ‘too intelligent’ and you should dumb yourself down because you’re  just being difficult now and you’ll never attract a man if you keep using long words etc etc, whatever it’s all part of the same silencing crap). I’ve been told that swearing is a sign of a small vocabulary and low intelligence, that no one will listen to you unless you ‘ask nicely’. But it’s all bullshit, or bovine faeces, or dudely cattle droppings or whatever my tiny vocabulary full of un-ladylike profanities decides to call it. Now I’m not saying everyone should go round being mean to everyone, but the whole passive niceness as the ideal way to behave is a form of subjugation.

I’ve realised as I grow older and angrier that actually I have every right to be angry. That the policing of my anger is just that, policing. That it’s designed to stop dialogue. It’s derailing. It’s the imposition of arbitrary standards of politeness that never seem to apply to white, abled, heterosexual cis men, who for the sake of brevity I’ll just call ‘white dudes’ from now on. White dudes have ‘debates’ they’re ‘opinionated’ ‘outspoken’ and all sorts of rugged and wholesome manly adjectives that enforce their status as accepted and listened to.  Everyone else is just ‘angry’. Or we have an ‘agenda’ or we’re ‘hysterical’ or ‘bitchy’ or ‘whiny’ or ‘ungrateful’ or a slew of similar terms designed to undermine not only our arguments but our very humanity and our right to make these arguments in the first place. The whole ‘rational objectivity’ is a white dude concept that’s full of implicit bias; it ignores the fact it’s an enormous privilege that is far from the ‘default’  to be able to debate ‘issues’ in a detached way, because they don’t affect you personally.  There is a tangle of implicit sexism, racism  and classism within the set up of white dude logic. White dudes are the pinnacle of objective reasoning; they don’t get ‘too emotional’, they’re not ‘uncivilised’ they speak ‘proper english’ and they do things ‘properly’ (which as well all know means ‘done by a white dude’). White dude logic pretends to be ‘objective’ but it demands everyone engage with it in an innately white dude way.  In white dude logic ‘taking it personally’ is a bad thing, but what else are you supposed to do about an issue that affects you, as a person?  Why are emotions bad? Does the fact I feel angry about whatever oppressive crap I deal with as a disabled woman mean that I am incapable of intelligent thought? Or is it just a load of crap designed to exclude more diverse voices from a system that benefits white dudes? Why is it so common to hear thing like ‘well YOU would say that’ directed to women, people of colour, LGBT people, disabled people, anyone not on the throne of white dudely privilege? You rarely hear ‘well YOU would say that you’re a white dude!’ in the same sneering tones.

To not be angry is a privilege. I’m angry because I feel under attack. Because I am under attack. From patriarchy, from kyriarchy. From a government and society that sees people like me as a ‘burden’ and ‘scroungers’ , from supposed allies who think that raising our voices is ‘divisive’. I see others under attack too, every day all over the world and being the soppy bleeding heart I am who actually gives a shit about humanity I get angry about that too.

Also as someone who has mental health problems, I am acutely aware that the policing of emotions is a very bad thing indeed. Part of my problems stem from the fact society doesn’t really give you a space to be angry about this stuff, that it enforces some sort of emperor’s new clothes ‘positive thinking’ bollocks on you, ‘Smile or Die’ is an amazing book on this topic, go go go read it.This is something which is especially prevalent with regards to disability and the ‘super crip‘ ideology. I had a youth of endless ‘think positive it’ll help you get better’ stuff thrown at me and I felt I didn’t really have any place to explore and get angry at the fact that being ill really, really sucks. Further more there is even less space to freely vent about how the fact that being ill really sucks is made so so so much worse by all systematic the ableist crap foisted on us by society that is deeply prejudiced against disabled people and sees us as either a costly nuisance or ‘inspiration porn’ for the benefit of abled people.

Basically, having your whole life go to crap is hard. It was always geared towards thinking of ‘when you’re better!’  and less about facing the shit right now. But whilst I am a lot better than I have been, I’m still ill and have been for over half my life,  I don’t have much hope of a ‘normal’ ‘well’ life but I’m ok with that. I think a lot of this stems from societal ableism that views disability and illness as such a bad thing and that we must always be ‘fighting’ it even if it makes much more sense to accept it and live your life as a perfectly valid human being as it is.

In short I feel all this ‘don’t get angry it’s bad, think positive!’ stuff is about compliance. It begs you to be a good, compliant little person who accepts their shitty lot in life and never complains, never questioning the rampant inequality of society. To ‘know your place’, except my place is right here being as angry as I want to be.

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