An Open Letter to Ms Magazine Blog
Dear Ms Magazine Blog:
My name is Anna. I’m what some people in North America would call a person with a disability, and some people in the UK would call a disabled person. My husband, many of my friends, all of my co-bloggers, and a large number of our commenters are also people with disabilities/disabled people.
Your blogger, Carol King, would instead refer to us as “the disabled”, and as pawns of the religious right. In her blog post Kevorkian and the Right to Choose , she wrote:
The “right-to-lifers” enlisted the disabled in their cause when they cautioned that allowing people to choose to die would soon become their “duty to die.”
I’m pretty angry about that. Not offended, Ms Magazine, angry. You see, I’m really tired of “the disabled” being treated like we’re unthinking masses. I’m especially tired of the feminist movement – you know, one that allegedly wants equal rights for all people, including women with disabilities – doing this. It makes me angry because I’m a feminist as well as a woman as well as a person with a disability as well as someone who is not the pawn of anyone, thank you very much.
Some people with disabilities support the right to die. Others do not. Others do in some cases and not in others. Each of us has come to the conclusions we have because we are reasoning individuals. Gosh, some of us are even feminists who use a feminist lens to come to our decisions, regardless of which of the many places on that particular spectrum of opinion we find ourselves.
People with disabilities deserve better treatment than you have given them. We are not a throw-away line so you can score some sort of points. We are people, and I’m appalled that a feminist blog like Ms would publish something that would treat us as otherwise.
Frankly, I am so fucking tired of this shit. I’m tired of smiling while feminist organisations treat people with disabilities like they’re afterthoughts and problems to be solved. Like we’re just pawns in politics, like we need to be appeased but never spoken to or considered, like we’re too angry or not angry enough, like we have to push this fucking rock of dis/ableism uphill while you – our “sisters” – stand by and politely look away.
Do you remember Beijing, Ms Magazine? You’ve talked about it a lot lately. You know what I know about Beijing? I know the accessibility tent was inaccessible to people with disabilities. [transcript follows]
“We will achieve our rights and the respect we deserve as women with disabilities.” “Because the issues of women with disabilities have often been excluded, the goal this year was to make sure the concerns of disabled women were addressed.” Oh, hell, just watch the whole damned thing – it’s subtitled – and see the commitment feminists made to women with disabilities. Ask yourself, seriously, Ms Magazine, why your new blog has decided not to talk much about women with disabilities. “No woman who attends this conference should be able to leave Beijing without thinking about the rights of women with disabilities.” Do you?
You know what? If that’s something you can’t do, let me sum it up:
Nothing about us without us.
You wanna talk “about” “the disabled”? How about talking to us? How about letting us talk for ourselves?
How about treating us – people with disabilities – the way you would like women like yourselves to be treated? As though we have some understanding of our own experiences, our own opinions, our own thoughts. As though our thoughts do not belong to anyone but ourselves?
As though we are thinking beings?
Again, my name is Anna. I, like you, am a woman, and I am also a person with a disability. And we deserve better from you.
Please note: This thread is meant to be about the continued marginalization of people with disabilities in the Feminist Movement. I won’t be approving any comments about Kevorkian or related discussions.
Re: The transcript. The only language I am fluent in is English. I have tried to type the non-English words correctly. If they are not correct, it is my error, not that of the video’s creators.
Saud Marcos (Nicaragua) (Interpretation by Alicia Conreras): Nosotras somos my jeres eguales
We are women like you
We feel, we think
La differencia es no ver, no caminar y no hablar
The only difference is we don’t see or we don’t walk or we don’t talk
Pero nostras tenemos que estar aqua con los mismos derechos!
But we, like you, have the same rights!
We want access!
Voice Over: Disabled women: Visions and Voices, from the Fourth World conference on Women.
Patricia Chaddwick: In September 1995 the Fourth World Conference on Women and NGO Forum were held in Beijing, China.
For the first time women with disabilities had a strong organised presence. This was due to ten months of hard work by disabled women and several international disability rights groups.
They held the first International Symposium on issues of women with disabilities in Beijing the day before the NGO forum began.
200 disabled women representing 25 countries came to China. Susan Sygall was one of the organizers.
Susan Sygall “I know I join many of you who have always dreamed of a meeting where women with disabilities and their allies from all over the world would gather together to ensure that women with disabilities will be represented at the UN Conference on Women. We will achieve our rights and the respect we deserve as women with disabilities.”
Patricia Chaddwick: The platform for action is a document produced by the UN Conference on Women. It is an agreed upon guideline for governments, organizations, and individuals on improving the lives of women in 12 areas of concern, such as health, education and employment. It was drafted in meetings held during the year prior to the conference. Because the issues of women with disabilities have often been excluded, the goal this year was to make sure that the concerns of disabled women were addressed.
Lucy Hernandez-Wong (United States): “The disability can be endured, but the lack of human rights, the deprivation of equal opportunities, and the institutional discrimination cannot be endured and should not be tolerated”
Patricia Chaddwick : At the symposium, women developed policy statements that they wanted to communicate to the nearly 25,000 non-disabled women and to the media at the NGO Forum and UN Conference.
Harilyn Russo (United States): “Disabled girls are, in fact, girls, and they have hopes, dreams, voices, and issues like their non-disabled sisters. Disabled girls are entitled to become strong, healthy, proud disabled women.”
Julia Rogers (United States): “Disabled women have the right to be parents.”
Meenu Sikand : “My name is Meenu Sikand. I’m from Canada. All income generated And projects for the economic development of women should be accessible and available to women with disabilities”
Susan Sygall “No woman or anyone who attends this conference should be able to leave Beijing without thinking about the rights of women with disabilities.”
[Sung: Gotta keep on moving forward. Keep on moving forward. Never turning back. Never turning back.]
Patricia Chaddwick: Thousands of women filled the Worker’s Stadium in Beijing at the opening ceremonies of the NGO Forum. There was an atmosphere of solidarity in the realization that so many women from all over the world had come to China, many under difficult circumstances.
In the months prior to the conference, disabled women in the US and internationally lobbied conference organizers to ensure that the site and workshops would be accessible to women with all types of disabilities. Despite their efforts, physical and communication access was a major problem.
Alicia Contreras (Mexico): “I want to say an example. In the morning there was something about Latin America. I was very interested in being there. It was on the fourth floor. Some people arrived and they would carry me. That is very dangerous.”
Cathy Haas (United States) (Interpretation by Jadine Murello): “I’m a Deaf person. People stand up and speak, and there is no translation for us. We’re Deaf people and we need to talk to the others.”
Patricia Chaddwick: Conference materials were not provided in alternate formats such as Braille, tape, and large print for women who are blind, low-vision, or dyslexic. The disability tent was placed in a remote location of the site was difficult to reach because of mud and rocks. Disabled women held demonstrations to protest the lack of access. It was the first time at the conference that a group held a protest outside of the designated demonstration area.
Maria Rantho (South Africa): “Nothing about us without us. We don’t want positions to be taken on our behalf, we want to contribute to a full discussion equally and we don’t want to be sidelined or marginalized anymore.”
Susan Sygall: “We need to discuss the fact that education for disabled girls is almost impossible to get in almost every country in the world. We need to discuss the fact that disabled women are victims of violence at much higher rates than non-disabled women. We need to discuss women’s issues and how disabled women’s issues are women’s issues. And we need to discuss that together. We need to sit down, in solidarity as sisters, to discuss it. We are not here to talk about just the ramps. We are here to discuss the problems of disabled women and how together, together as sisters, we can solve this.”
Patricia Chaddwick: The protests were effective. While not all demands were met, the tent was moved to a more accessible location. Ramps were built, and some workshops were moved. The protest also raised awareness for all participators. In acknowledgment of disabled women’s struggles, Madeline Albright, US Ambassador to the UN, gave her internationally-broadcast speech in the disability tent
The NGO forum was successful in providing an opportunity for disabled women to discover each other, form alliances with non-disabled women, and plan for actions in the future. The stories and papers presented highlighted those of a common interest and the diversity of women with disabilities.
In Japan, disabled women are fighting the Eugenics Protection Law which tries to prohibit the birth of children with disabilities through selective abortion. People with disabilities are sometimes forced to undergo sterilization to prevent them from having children.
Aiko Tsutsumi (Japan): “When I found out this law when I was 20 years old, my friends told me this is a terrible law which discriminates against people with disabilities, but at the time I couldn’t really understand why it is, and I the time, I thought I was inferior to the people without disabilities, and I was trying to catch up with the people, so-called normal people. I remember saying to my friends ‘Of course the people with disabilities, they shouldn’t be born because they have disabilities.’ And at that I made friends with Ulala, she’s CP as well. She told me that I wasn’t wrong, as I was. Meeting her, meeting Ulala, that has changed me, to think that it is okay to be myself and follow my pace, and after that I start thinking right. Something is wrong with the new eugenics protection law, that I have to do something about it.”
Naomi Ruth Esibaba: “My name is Naomi Ruth Esibaba My talk this afternoon Is going to be on power and decision making in relation to the disabled women. In most cases, it is going to be the African situation, or the Kenyan situation, because as much as our problems are the same, we have also different problems and priorities.”
Jene McCovey : “My name is Jene McCovey. I’m an American Indian. I’m very proud of who I am. We have the ADA Code, the American Disability Act, but this law is a United States code, and does not apply to the Reservations.”
Petrona Sandoval (Nicaragua): “En este momenta me toca compartiri con ustedes.” “Today I will talk about the movement of women with disabilities. Our movement in Nicaragua started in 1993 with a group of 13 people who were affected by local anesthesia. By that time, people said that we were crazy women, and that we weren’t able to do anything. But one year after we were 50 women together and we were able to have our voice in the parliament. That why I am one of the persons who believe we must change the society. We have to say that it is a right, that we have, like human beings.”
Patricia Chaddwick: At the UN conference, women with disabilities were successful in influencing the language of the platform for action. The document stressed the need to eliminate barriers in the areas of education, employment health, social services and information.
From the conference in Beijing, women with disabilities took home the realization that they are not alone in their struggle to advance human rights. They could work together to make a better world for all women, and all disabled people
[Keep on walking proudly. Keep on walking proudly. Never turning back. Never turning back.]
Produced and directed by Suzanne C Levin and Patricia Chadwick
Editing: Roxanne Burns
Sound Recording: Patricia Chadwick
Still Photography: Suzanne C Levine
IMC Operator: Patrick Campbell
Cathy Cade (200 women)
Maria-Luiza Aboim (Protest Videos)
Mary Lee Turner (Broken Pathway)
[Gonna keep on singing loudly, Gonna keep on singing loudly. Gonna keep on singing loudly, never turning back. Never turning back.)
Narration: Patricia Chaddwick
Music: Never Turning Back, written and performed by Pat Humprhies
Voices of Women: Saud Marcos (Nicaragua) (Interpretation by Alicia Conreras)
Susan Sygall (United States)
Lucy Hernandez-Wong (United States)
Harilyn Russo (United States)
[Gonna keep on loving boldly, Gonna keep on loving boldly, Gonna keep on lovoing boldy, never turning back never turning back]
Julia Rogers (United States)
Meenu Sikand (Canada)
Alicia Contreras (Mexico)
Cathy Haas (United States) (Interpretation by Jadine Murello)
Maria Rantho (South Africa)
[Reach across our borders reach across our borders reach across our borders never turning back never turning back]
Corbett O’Toole (United States)
Aiko Tsutsumi (Japan)
Naomy Ruth Esiaba (Kenya)
Jene McCovey (United States)
Petrona Sandoval (Nicaragua)
This video was made possibility with funding from Mobility International USA MIUSA’s contribution to this pronject is supported by The National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) through International Disability Exchanges and Studies (IDEAS), Project 2000
Travel and Pre-Production partially funded by Disabled Women’s Alliance USA. Post production donated by Video Arts San Francisco, CA. Their contributions were considerable factors in making this video possible.
Special thanks to Maria-Luiza Aboim, Cindy Lewis, Kathy Martinez, Corbett O’Toole, Mary Scott, Miriam Telles.
[Keep on walking proudly keep on walking proudly keep on walking proudly never turning back never turning back]
Due to the limited length of this video, we cannot include everything we wanted. Please, read the insert for additional important information
[Keep on singing loudly, Keep on singing loudly. Keep on singing loudly. Never turning back. Never turning back.]
© Wide Vision Production P.O. Box 22155 San Francisco CA, 94122-0115 USA
By Anna 7 May, 2010. activism, anna rants, autonomy, disability activism, feminism, gender, global, history, i'm right here, identity, intersectionality, invisibility, justice, othering, representations, resistance, social attitudes