All about able women

There is something special about being ignored. About being looked past, or over. A pang, that almost tastes like shame, for apologetically asking for a crumb. A seat at the table.

On March 8, there is an event on in Sydney. It’s being widely publicised on radio and tickets are nearly sold out. All About Women sells itself as a space to discuss a range of topics among some impressive women. Lots of people I know are going. I’m not.

In January, I asked the organisers about the accessibility of the venue and the event, if there were any panels discussing disability or if any of the presenters were women with a disability. In response, I was told that the curators would email me, and that they hadn’t asked any of the panellists to disclose whether they had a disability or not.

Hmm, I wonder what this means? Is it that disability is something shameful that women are meant to hide? What does that mean for disabled women who have a visible disability? Surely I am meant to be all women-power positive about my body, even this broken one?

I wondered how they could dismiss the one in five women who have a disability. I wondered if they knew any of the kick-arse disabled women I knew, and start collecting a list, just to be helpful. Women who work in advocacy, women with experiences of living in institutions, women who use wheelchairs or sign language, women who write, women who dream, women who love. Surely I was mistaken, and I would hear from the curators before too long.

I was told I needed to ask about accessibility in private, out of the public eye. Perhaps I am not part of the public? A disabled woman couldn’t possibly be made welcome by publicising how easy it would be for her to take part. That was quickly fixed, but I wondered why it had taken some minor Facebook agitation to make it happen.

I emailed again, just in case they hadn’t received my first email. I thought of the amazing contributions disabled women would make to a panel session or two. They might raise all the tricky bits of the abortion conversation that we don’t have very often, or the high numbers of disabled women impacted by domestic violence. They might speak about what it’s like to be sterilised against their will or to have their children removed because they have a disability.

They might talk about the 90% of women with intellectual disabilities who have been abused and a justice system that won’t even prosecute cases, despite the evidence. They could talk about poverty and employment and life in institutions.

They could talk about the art they make, the music they are part of or the theatre and films they create. They would make you laugh and cry and never say ‘you’re so inspiring’ ever again.

So I waited for my email from the curators, because surely this was an oversight and I was mistaken in thinking they didn’t care. Surely this was not another door closing, instead of opening. But I guess I was wrong. The email never arrived.

Disabled women are not a fringe group, or an afterthought – with up to 20% of us having a disability, not putting our issues on the agenda says clearly that you don’t think they are important.

We are not an afterthought. We have a right to be at the table with everyone else. All About Women has proven that this is not a table I care to sit at.


About bluntshovels

Freelance writer, with an unhealthy interest in Senate committees.
This entry was posted in disability, feminism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to All about able women

  1. Pingback: Hello! Are we invisible, sisters? | Isle of Serenity

  2. Pingback: IWD | the news with nipples

  3. juju says:

    In this young, beautiful, perfect, fake world we live in, anything over a size zero with long legs and perfect makeup is verboten. Nothing new there, it’s just getting worse. I have severely reduced visiin and am looked upon with pity or annoyance…when I ask someone to read a label for me because the print is too small, people ask if I know how to read. And this is a minor handicap!

  4. winfred says:

    With or without disability a woman is and should be given a chance. Not including those with disabilities then it implies it’s is not ‘all about women’ festival

  5. Emily Lopex says:

    This was beautiful. Right there with you.

  6. ejshoko says:

    Haven’t come across such events here but I agree that it should be a forum for all types of WOMAN.

  7. An event called All About Women, not accessible by the abled is regrettable. Probably you are better off by not attending the event. The event doesn’t deserve you!

  8. danisgotback says:

    Well written. I feel ashamed of people not going to help, and realize that disabled people deserve every bit to be exactly where everyone else is. I survived a bad car wreck and some days I can’t do anything. I can relate.

  9. photodulge says:

    Interesting topic… With all the movements on supporting women in the workforce nobody really mentions those with disabilities. Kind of like you are either one or the other and not both. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  10. gluestickmum says:

    Could you not organise an ‘All About the Rest of the Women’ event?

  11. vap20 says:

    Great article!!

  12. karencupola says:

    I am very sorry to hear that you never even got a reply to your email. That’s terrible. Great piece. The conference organisers need to sit up and take note!

  13. ReTreeve says:

    I’m curious as to why we able bodied people shouldn’t say “You are so inspiring” This is the second time this week I have read that disabled people shouldn’t be thought of as inspirational, and I wonder why? The other person (A disabled Chinese woman on Humans of New York) said it was patronising. I fail to see how, but if you could explain I would appreciate it. That said, this particular post is great. Clearly the event was not inclusive of ALL women.

      • ReTreeve says:

        You can’t answer a genuine question from your own perspective, but instead refer me to Google which quite probably has many opinions from many different people, but not you, from whom I actually wanted one. I hope you have a better day very soon. 🙂

      • ReTreeve says:

        Later Edit:::: Ok, so your sarcasm pissed me off and I actually did go and read some articles. I didn’t realise there was such a huge debate over this – I really didn’t. Having read the articles, I do *get* it now. I still think your response was pretty rude and disrespectful though. Cheers 🙂

      • bluntshovels says:

        I wasn’t being sarcastic – I was angry. This is not a Disability 101 space, and it is not up to me to educate you. Do your own homework and don’t expect me to do it for you.

  14. teegyc32 says:

    Wow im shocked at the responses you recieved and glad your writing and spreading the truth like it should be told !

  15. Sista42 says:

    Awesome, I applaud you for your honesty for your candor and most importantly your authenticity ….

  16. ZeroToStars says:

    Oh, I would’ve made so much noise! Eloquently written.

  17. Ali Isaac says:

    Shameful that they couldnt even be bothered to reply to you. Ignorance is just as unforgivable as intolerance. I dont think you should give up though. You have a right to be there. I know its not fair that you have to fight for that right, but if that’s what it takes, why not? You could be the tip of the iceberg, someone who can make a difference. You already started by writing this post.

  18. Congratulations making Freshly Pressed it is not easy to do. Your post is honest and educational, great job!

  19. This was so well written and said. Bravo, and keep up the good fight.

  20. tabbyrenelle says:

    you’re still moderating my comment to juju? How come? Did I say something offensive?

  21. D says:

    Where Australia put so much money in aid to disability initiatives in other country and I will read such ignorance at the home front is quite pretiontious don’t you think?

  22. bluntshovels says:

    Ok, I’m closing comments on this post and will not approve or respond to further comments. Please do not add more comments. Thanks everyone for your interest.

Comments are closed.