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.

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I came across Unison’s ‘Decent Jobs  for All’ campaign today after seeing it mentioned in the letters pages or something like that. Whilst I applaud the aims of the campaign I can’t help but feel ignored. There is so much political focus on work those of us who can’t work get ignored, our status as unable to work seen either as faking it and thus we should be forced to work (or gently guided if you see yourself as more of a fluffy lefty, but it usually amounts to the same) or charity cases who deserve pity.

This  line from Unison boss Dave Prentis is especially stinging: “It ends discrimination against women, young people and migrant workers. Decent work with decent wages means people can live with dignity.”

This may be true but what about those who can’t work? Those who face ever increasing discrimination and demonisation from across the political spectrum? Where do we fit into this? Where is our equality? The citizen’s income is an idea I support as it places those unable to work on a more level playing field, with equal entitlement to the same basic income as those able to work, no special pleading for special benefits. Though those who need help with extra costs due to disability will be entitled, but the key point remains that everyone is entitled to the basic income, there is no marking out of the ill and disabled as ‘special cases’  who have to plead and jump through dehumanising and increasingly Kafkaesque hoops to be granted even the most basic levels of subsistence. I also question the necessity of paid employment, something which is outlined excellently by Latent Existence. Until more political movements, including feminism, move beyond the idea that everyone can and wants to access work and that work is what we should be aiming for,  I will feel ignored, erased. If we continue to present being in paid employment at a level you can support yourself without state help, part time work is stigmatised and people are encouraged to ‘find more hours’ or risk loosing benefits payments, and the limits for ‘permitted work’ whilst claiming disability benefits are strict and inflexible, further asserting that fact that work is something you should do all the time or be grudgingly supported if you can’t work. The reality for many is that work is something you want to do WHEN you can manage it, which is often sporadically, the choice of being able to work when you can and to be supported when you can’t is not an option.

When work is seen  as the marker of a ‘good’ citizen who ‘contributes’ to society, when work is seen as both a financial and moral necessity; we stigmatise those who can’t work. We increase tensions between those with disabilities who can earn a wage being held in higher esteem than those who don’t, creating a case of ‘divide and rule’ which [lays neatly into the hands of the government ideology of slashing benefits,  the old ‘if they can work why can’t you?’ supercrip trope is used to stigmatise those who cant work but whom society feels should be working, particularly those with ‘invisible’ illness or fluctuating conditions.  Or we deprive people of agency by casting them in the role of the poor little disabled person we should all pity, who we infantilise and whose existence depends on the charity of others, who should fit into the meek, submissive ‘good crip’  stereotype. Of course the accepted definition of ‘work’ is narrow, it means earning a wage to support yourself and ‘contributing to society’ means a narrow financial contribution through taxes. This belittles the contributions many disabled people who can’t work in the sense of being in regular paid employment, make in many different ways through volunteering, art, activism, being a friend, parent, spouse, partner all the myriad ways in which human beings contribute to society but do not earn a wage.

Paid work is not the only way to contribute to society and some people will never be able to undertake paid work yet are just as important to society; just as contributory, just as vital, just as HUMAN as those that do undertake paid employment. To focus on paid work as the main way to contribute to society is to erase the experiences of millions.

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This has been an awakening, realising I am nothing, that I have to beg , to plead my case for existence, it hurts, it fucking hurts. To see your right to access society on an equal basis, or even to access it at all, debated as a money saving issue by people who remain unaffected by any of the changes they wreak on others lives. This a barely coherent rant taking on disability, feminism, intersectionality and the festering pile of bullshit that is neo-liberal capitalist society.

My thoughts are still somewhat muddled, I am not well versed in political writings, I cannot quote any great thinkers on these matters but I have seen  how those of us who are ‘economically inactive’, or who cost more than we earn are portrayed, how we are demonised.

To say I have ‘no value’ or even a ‘negative value’ may seem harsh, but it is true. It’s a realisation thats been rather painful, after all we’re all fed this bullshit that we’re   all kind and caring and we aren’t like those barbaric other places we bomb. We’re fed this individualist bullshit from our youth, this ‘work hard and you’ll prosper’ nonsense. That if you are a good person you will be treated well, that only those who do wrong or ‘have something to hide’ will be punished.

(more…)

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I got my ATOS form the other day (which has approx 0  relevant questions on how my mental health impacts my functioning and ability to work, I also spotted a grammar mistake, which niggling as it may be all adds up to not very much confidence in the whole thing). All the media bullshit about benefit ‘scroungers’ and the governments own press releases and comments about getting people into work and ‘shirkers’, it dries me mad(er). you know how it makes me feel? Guilty, worthless, a faker, pathetic, a waste of space, wondering if society would actually prefer it if I was dead as then they’d not have to fork out ‘their’ tax payers money (last time I checked I still paid VAT , granted it’s not income tax but I do pay taxes so ‘eff off and moreover I ever was in a position to be in the high tax rate rich folk bracket I’d happily fork out to know that the vulnerable in society are cared for) on some lazy fool like me.

Ever since the coalition of wankery started these cuts I’ve seen these horrid attitudes everywhere. It makes me question my life, I worry that everything I do is monitored for signs of ‘well if you can do that you can work’ etc. It makes me wonder if I am all the horrible things they say people like me are. Even if it’s a ‘well I don’t mean you personally’ (is this the new ‘I’m not racist but…’?) the general hatred and scorn for people on benefits, it reflects on me because to a casual observer who doesn’t know me I am just like one of those people who someone once saw walk 5 minutes down a street so therefore they MUST be fine 24/7 and able to work.

I am sick of being judged, made to prove I am genuinely ill by jumping through endless, often degrading hoops, to have every aspect of my capability judged (yes I can make a cup of tea and turn on a tap, but I don’t see how that impacts on my suitability to work). To feel like every moment I do feel ‘O.K’ I am in danger as I will be judged ‘fine’. Also if I splurge some of my money on a superfluous purchase I feel guilty “well if she can afford an overpriced face cream once in a blue moon she doesn’t need our money” (I can’t but that doesn’t stop me…I should really chop up my VISA). All the hatred, all the venom, all the scrutiny of what outsiders judge me able to do (which is very, very different from what I can actually do on a sustained basis), it’s really starting to get to me, which doesn’t help my health overall and thus leads me to be even more of a ‘drain on the economy’ as I get iller and need more treatment (which is also getting cut, and I barely get any support as it is and have had to wait aeons for an appt with a psychotherapist etc etc etc).

I feel even worse as I am one of those who have, shock horror, never worked. The ultimate in scrounging scum. The fact I’ve been ill with varying degrees of severity since I was 11 and spent a great deal of my early 20s catching up on education I missed is something so easily glossed over isn’t it?  I’ve tried to work, part time as I can manage but there aren’t any jobs going and I even got turned down for a volunteer role due to ‘too many people applying’. If one of those ranty fuckwits would like to give a job to Ms mentally unstable I’ll take it, but they aren’t. We’d cost them ‘productivity’ or something, they don’t want to hire a ‘mental’ or anyone who may need to take time off due to ill health (time which contrary to popular belief is not spent on a benefits funded yacht in the cote d’azure sipping cristal, it’s time spent feeling utterly shitty and sometimes so shitty you’d prefer to be dead )

Yes this probably makes me a bit paranoid, but then if the mentally ill can’t be paranoid about their persecution at the hands of a selfish government c*nts and daily mail readers (who I fear suffer far more mental distress and impairments than I do anyway, after all they are under the illusion it’s a NEWS paper that reports things like facts as opposed to a knee jerk right wing rage a thon where facts seldom come into it).

I know this stuff isn’t personal, but as someone who is a benefit claimant who doesn’t work I do take it personally, this is an ideological attack on a group of people (a loose conglomeration we may be but we are all lumped together in the end), one of the most vulnerable groups of people in society and it fucking stinks. I’m sorry but it is hatred, it is discrimination and it does show you up to be a selfish bastard with little concern for humanity, or worse as someone who sees those of us with disabilities, long term health conditions etc as somehow ‘other’ and less than human. It’s O.K to treat us like shit because we are not seen as equal. That’s why it hurts and that’s why I can’t help but take it personally when I hear a causal remarks about ‘benefit scrounging scum’.

 

 

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