I’m not vulnerable because I’m a disabled woman, I’m vulnerable because….
Inspired by @BlondeHistorian and @GinnyAndT many disabled women are answering the above statement on Twitter with their experiences. (See also hashtags of #NotVulnerableIWD #IWD21 and #ChooseToChallenge).
I wanted to write slightly more than Twitter will allow me, so many thanks for the inspiration for this post.
Vulnerability is a word I really don’t like. When I first became disabled I was told I was now too ‘vulnerable’ to do the job I loved. How is it ok that non-disabled people get to choose our vulnerability level so quickly and easily?
I have never felt as though I’m a vulnerable person. I have never equated vulnerability with disabled people prior to becoming disabled, probably because the disabled people I knew were some of the strongest people I knew who had a level of resilience I could only dream of.
This past year has seen disabled people reclassified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and ‘clinically vulnerable’. Words and language are vital (see #ForTheRecord and #NotAServiceUser on Twitter from the Social Work Action Group language campaign). Vulnerable is not a word I associate with myself and other disabled people.
Any vulnerability that disabled people have is through an inaccessible, exclusive society. People become vulnerable only when they are not included and instead marginalised. We are not vulnerable because of disability but because society does not accept disability or create ways we can access society.
Disabled people are resilient, and have to be to cope with the society we live in. History has shown us that disabled people will fight for equal rights and that is the reason we have some laws today. Hard won through many protests. That is not the response of vulnerable people.
I hope you will learn to look beyond societal narratives and language to see the power in marginalised stories. To see that it requires more strength to live as an excluded or multiply excluded member of society.
Use this International Women’s Day to ensure that the voices of ALL women are included in feminism, not just white, cisgender, non-disabled women. If your feminism does not include all women then I want nothing to do with it.
Let’s celebrate all women this #IWD21.