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.

Share

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

Targets

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

Share

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.

Share

Inspired by Reni Edo-Lodge’s excellent piece on Feminist Times and the backlash/’debate’ on twitter (I cba to link to it, esp as a lot appears to be ganging up on one woman so fuck ‘impartiality’)  I’m going to share my thoughts on this whole ‘shared girlhood’ and ‘common experience of woman-ness’ ideology that’s been going around.

Yes there are many common experiences many women across all backgrounds face; but do we ALL face them? And do we all face them in the same way? No. I am all for solidarity, I think it is vital women can talk about their shared experiences, I feel there is power in what you could call ‘consciousness raising’ BUT when that gets turned into a reluctance to acknowledge all the experiences facing women, especially those that intersect with other oppressions such as race, gender identity, disability and sexuality, it feels less like solidarity and more like being picked on for being the ‘odd one out. those with experiences outside the white-cis-abled-hetero-middle class experience are shouted down and effectively told we’re not ‘normal’ so our experiences ‘don’t count’ towards the magical ‘shared girlhood’.  It must also be noted that much of the ‘shared girlhood’ and talk of ‘safe spaces’ has been engineered to specifically exclude trans women and comes from a place of transphobic hate, yet in addition to this there are other issues with the concept of ‘shared female experience’ that exclude many women on the grounds of race, sexuality, disability , class etc.

I’ve been questioning the idea of some universal ‘shared girlhood’ from my personal perspectives due to disability etc for a while and acknowledge that different women experience different things or experience the same things in a different way due to various intersecting oppressions yet not once has it ever, EVER been a case of my ‘denying solidarity’ or whatever crap excuse for being racist, transphobic, disablist gets trotted out. It’s just the way I have experienced things.

In my own experience many of those ‘milestones’ of ‘shared experience’ happened very differently for me. Take periods, which are far from a ‘universal female experience’ anyway, in addition to the whole getting used to this weird new thing happening I had speculation about my health; would I be OK now I had my periods? Was my (as yet undiagnosed) M.E ‘just puberty’ and would it be OK now I’d started menstruating? I remember the overheard whispers about it all adding to the weird psychological stuff going along with all the ‘mysterious illness’ stuff.

Likewise street harassment and sexual harassment has been off and on for me, I have experienced it at times as a white cis woman who can pass as abled, yet I haven’t experienced the years or it happening on a constant level or those early interactions through your teens when you’re discovering sexuality, in my teens when I was supposed to be going out partying and ‘discovering’ boys or girls or whatever I was stuck at home. I have also had periods of being visibly disabled due to using aids such as a stick or wheelchair; believe me you don’t get the same experience if you’re being pushed along by your parents. In fact due to disability a helluva lot of my ‘shared girlhood’ or ‘universal female experience’ has been pretty solitary, I didn’t really enter ‘womanhood’ or whatever you want to call adolescence and early adulthood sharing anything much, a lot of that formative ‘shared experience’ for me consisted of being alone.

In talking about the ‘shared female experience’ we need to acknowledge that a ‘shared experience’ may not be universal and it is likely to be experienced in vastly different ways. We cannot assume a baseline of familiarity that is the same of everyone and discussions and shared spaces that assume this are by their very nature exclusive and unwelcoming, besides the fact that many can’t even access them in the first place for whatever reason.  They become vastly more exclusive and unwelcoming when women are harassed, insulted and told they are being ‘divisive’ or that they don’t care about ‘unity’ for questioning the universality of these experiences and demanding their own experiences are allowed space to be shared and discussed too. WE cannot assume that ‘women’s issues’ are  universal for all women; for instance I feel a lot of mainstream feminism and discussions around women in work are as relevant to me, a woman who cannot work full time and will probably never have a ‘career’, as a discussion on the merits of what tent is best to pack for an arctic expedition or a discussion on the place of women in the world of sky diving. Yet I have no problem with women discussing these issues as they are relevant to many women, my problem is when certain issues become seen as ‘universal’ when they are not and when other issues get sidelined and when women do want to discuss other issues  many make it clear that they DO have a problem with this.

I suppose what I’m trying to suggest is that ‘shared’ does not have to equal ‘the same’ and it is ok if we don’t all share everything. A safe space makes space for different experiences, listens and is willing to face up to the flaws of itself and those within it. It does not insist on silence and repression for the sake of ‘unity’. It does not recreate the hierarchies of the systems it claims to be against. Safe does not mean comfortable, and comfort for those with privilege should not come at the expense of those without, and all of us should be willing to acknowledge that we can be privileged and oppressed at the same time; for example asking that we acknowledge cis privilege does not negate or seek to ignore the oppression suffered by women at the hands of patriarchy, it just acknowledges the oppression of transphobia. I don’t have any instant solutions for a magical pop up safe shared space of wonder, these things take work.

Share

It’s International Women’s Day, a day where we celebrate women as well as making a fuss, standing up, raising our voices and demanding an end to oppression.

In celebration here’s a small selection, of some of my favourite songs about women being awesome. In no particular order, from across a variety of genres and decades. Yes it is a small selection, trust me! Once you start making a concuss decision to start listening to more women and sell them putt you find so much amazing stuff. of some of my favourite songs about women being awesome by awesome women. In no particular order and from across a variety of genres and decades.

 

 


Beyoncé ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche – Flawless… by wonderful-life1989

Share
%d bloggers like this: