As a person with a disability I continue to feel, as ever, disempowered by feminism. In this country legislation has been passed, cuts pushed through, and a media hate campaign embarked upon, that opposes the very existence of people with disabilities. This week it was announced that Iain Duncan Smith even wishes to remove the Work Related Activity Group of ESA which would see thousands more people with disabilities pushed from financial disability support to JSA. Thousands of people who barely have enough energy to function, will be pushed to relentlessly look for jobs they won’t be able to perform so that they can continue to receive, albeit time limited, state support. Women are more likely to become disabled and more likely to become carers, if you add this to their generally lower chances of economic parity with men and the picture becomes even bleaker.
Somehow the feminist import of this is becoming lost. Earlier this week I referred, to much chagrin, to campaigns such as the banknotes as lightweight. Feathers were ruffled and I wasn’t in the best of places to explain myself so I will now. Firstly, this was a comparative statement, as a standalone piece of campaigning I can see that it is of course ridiculous that the achievements of women are not held on a level basis as those with men. But comparatively i.e. women’s achievements not being equally lauded versus women being placed in penury, or experiencing rape and sexual assault, or the closure of support for women, or the murders of trans* women then yes, I believe these campaigns are lightweight and yes, I feel angered that there is not enough of a light on, for instance, this situation for women with disabilities.
However, despite recently falling out with feminists such as Caroline Crialdo-Perez who began the banknotes campaign, I’m trying to remind myself that it’s not “feminism’s” fault. There are women really trying to push the aforementioned issues on the agenda, but it isn’t what the media wants to see. Likewise, when the Fawcett Society tried to half the government from introducing cuts which would greatly, disproportionately affect women, the media interest was far less than in the No More Page 3 campaign. Again, I have no problem with the concept of the NMP3 campaign. Boobs shouldn’t be in the news. But why is that of so much more interest than, say, the closure of rape crisis support services? Is it the women who front the campaigns or the campaigns themselves which garner the most interest? Is it a patriarchal media, or is it a case of supply and demand?
I’ve mused whether it’s the “sexless feminist shouting at the world” trope which has so captured the audience. Women shouting about not being on a £5 note or the existence of page 3 girls, fits more neatly with the stereotype of humourless, uptight, white, university educated, middle class women with too much time on their hands. I’m not saying the stereotype is true, before anyone jumps on that one, but we can see that the stereotype is being applied. The furore surrounding Crialdo-Perez’s banknotes campaign and the then ensuing campaign against online misogyny, seem to suggest that the stereotype is being actively applied. Would it bugger up the stream of supply and demand for stories about feminists doing stereotypical things, if more feminist stories about physical assault, extreme poverty and murder were the ones the mainstream media chose to focus on? Would demanding not to be placed in life threatening situations sound just a little bit too rational and reasonable to be of interest to a society that thinks of feminists in terms of 1970s stereotypes?
Of course, I don’t know the answers to any of this, but I do know that the question of why isn’t feminism more visibly angry about attacks on women with disabilities is an important one and I am beginning to wonder if it isn’t so much a lack of anger as much as it is a lack of an audience.