#ShePersisted: She Has a Disability and She Persisted, Too

#shepersisted She Persisted - image description of photos of various women who are leaders in rights movements around the world
Where are the disabled in #ShePersisted ?

Senator Elizabeth Warren was barred from reading the letter that Coretta Scott King wrote regarding Sessions. Mitch McConnell said of the barring and of Warren, “she was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.”

Social media erupted, and #ShePersisted became the rallying cry.

Now, all of that is awesome and necessary. This post is not about that. This post is about the memes, videos and imagery that come from the women’s movement right now, memes and imagery that include every minority EXCEPT disability.

Take a look at this image posted on the Huffington Post recently:

#shepersisted She Persisted - image description of photos of various women who are leaders in rights movements around the world

This is #ShePersisted without disability.

These are images of powerful, resilient, strong, fierce fighters of women’s rights, education, sexual and racial equality. But where are the disabled fighters in that image?

Do the disabled fighters exist?

I mean, where are we?

Does the fact that we are not in these popular images and memes mean that we aren’t fighting for our rights? Does it mean that those women didn’t crawl up those stairs or camp out in the Federal Building in San Francisco, battling for the 504 (see below)? Does it mean that Judy Heumann didn’t devote almost her entire life to fighting for access, education, opportunity, inclusion?

How ironic that we are not mentioned AT ALL when “inspiration porn” is so rampant.

I mean, we in the disabled community ask to not be token symbols of inspiration for our daily actions that are performed with the presence of disability in our lives, but when we actually do something that is unequivocally heroic and worth celebrating and including, there is silence.

How ironic that people jump up and down about dolls with hearing aids, or dolls with Down syndrome, write a ton of articles about how “inclusive” this all is, how happy their daughter is with a doll that looks like her, but say nothing when the real inclusion does not happen.

Because let me tell you something: disabled dolls don’t mean anything when we, the disabled women, are missing from those calls to action.

Disabled dolls mean nothing when our disabled leaders are not in the videos, the imagery, the celebration of powerful civil rights leaders.

Do you know how this feels?

Oh, not Chelsea Handler; that’s not the point. The point is that this is one of the myriad of little viral videos, memes, articles, posts, that are about standing by and including EVERYONE…. except us with disabilities.

And if by some miracle we are included, it’s only from the ‘woe is them’ perspective, as with Meryl Streep’s piece at the Golden Globes.

So how does this feel?

It hurts. It hurts a lot.

It’s a constant prick, a knowing that we are not included, that our efforts and fight are not valued as equal. It’s a knowing that while we drag our disabled asses out of bed to continue with the writing, the advocacy, the fight, while we deal with the inaccessible world around us and still continue with the writing, the advocacy, the fight, even when our disabilities do make some of that very hard for us, we are not accepted in the picture.

We aren’t thought of as cool, like the LGBTQ crowd with their rainbow flags, good dancers and Ellen. We aren’t gorgeous like the people of color.

But so many of us intersect those populations – because we, people with disabilities, intersect every community, every population, every crowd, bar none.

So again, WHY ARE WE MISSING?

For Your Reference: The Power of the 504

Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
Meriah

@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
This is a really fantastic idea and tutorial - book mark it! https://t.co/DRNLLzzQpi - 2 days ago
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5 Comments

  • History is always reviewed and written by the ruling class, that is sad but true. And just as “social media” became a force, it has been subverted by the marketing and political world. Search algorithms are made so that material for and by those of us with disabilities does not get viewed as much. We keep getting buried and ignored by media, or, presented in the worst (positive and negative) ways.

    But don’t give up! We hear you, and we share share your posts! (Like I just did).

  • Our school superintendent sent out an email after the election (and this was after the famous DeVos hearings where she made those bizarre comments on IDEA) that wanted to ensure parents that all children were a valued member of the district school community. It listed nearly everything you could imagine (including people with different political viewpoints) but made no mention of kids with disabilities. It had gone through numerous layers of review in the district—it’s not like she just whipped out this email the night before she sent it. A lot of parents complained (including myself). But the action remains quite telling.

    • Sigh. I’m really trying to get my spirits back up today, because this complete lack of mention of us sends me into a depressive tailspin. 🙁 Thanks for complaining – hug.

  • On the one hand, I have seen a disabled person in several of these memes. On the other hand, a) it being ONE person sort of proves that there is, in fact, a giant problem, and b) because of who it was (Gabrielle Giffords), the disability aspect was somehow both over- and under-shadowed, a weird mix of inspiration porn and implication of acute injury (that is, that she had persisted by “coming back” from her injury, not by living every freaking day with a permanent disability).

    So, yeah, if we could have more examples of disabled folks who persisted in these memes, that’d be great…but I doubt it’ll happen, because then folks would have to face the reality that we exist, without overdoing the “look, she’s PERSISTING” by using a wheelchair!” thing. 😡

    • Boom! Nail on the head.
      In the context of the other women featured, Judy Heumann should be there. Gabrielle Giffords does not make any sense.
      Thanks for your comment

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