It’s often very difficult to pinpoint why something makes you feel upset and not being able to articulate it can mean that it goes unsaid and unnoticed. I’ve recently realised something about my own upsetting experiences and things that irk me as a disabled woman and I’d like to try and articulate those thoughts in a short article to see if others feel the same way.
I’m dyspraxic (click here for a definition) and for me that means that throughout my life I have spilt things, fallen over, elbowed doors, hated the texture of clothes and other things and never been able to eat with a knife and fork in the way that others would like me to. My whole life people have taken the piss out of me, called me clumsy and every time I sit down for a meal with people other than my family someone comments on the way I hold my cutlery and/or tries to show me how to use it ‘properly’. As you’d imagine, having someone place a knife and fork in your hands and try to demonstrate how society would ideally like you to eat food is painfully patronising and embarrassing.
I don’t disclose these disabilities, just as I don’t disclose my eating disorder because most of the time people view you differently in light of your disabilities. I think everyone does this to a certain degree and this is because we are taught to see disabled people as confusing or weird or worthy of pity but it’s something that we can all try and think about. It annoys me when people call me clumsy and patronise me and I’ve only recently realised why it annoys me so much and that is because it makes me feel un-feminine. Society has certain models for behaviour and as a woman, spilling tea all down your jumper or falling over all of the time aren’t exactly seen as desirable traits. It makes me feel un-feminine when I am eating a meal and someone comments on how clumsy I am or laughs at the way I eat and I feel self-conscious even eating in front of people due to an eating disorder that, looking back, I realise was a product of my insecurities due to society’s objectification of women.
It makes me feel small and meek when I have to laugh people’s comments off and I am anything but, I’m a woman from Teesside who ordinarily takes shit from nobody but I feel that I have to take people’s shit when it comes to my disability because if I explain it they will view me differently and I shouldn’t even have to explain it! I should not be made to feel un-feminine because of my disabilities and the fact that I do points to a link between disablism and sexism. Trying to rid ourselves of disablist attitudes and behaviours is something that every feminist should strive to do.
Some of us can leave our disabilities undisclosed and just hope that nobody notices but others can’t and I would also like to add that a disability is still a disability if it is undiagnosed and it disables you. This might sound a bit cliche to anyone on the left but we need to get rid of capitalism, a system that disables people and until that happens we can all try to think about what we’re saying and doing and how that might upset/annoy people around us. Simply put, don’t take the piss out of people if you think something that they do is ‘weird’. Frankly, it’s nobody else’s business.
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