Over the past year I’ve learned more about intersectional feminism. There have been books which I’ve read, podcasts I’ve listened to, social media I’ve learned from and more. All sorts of information made available by people who fight for a just world. Everything I am sharing today I have learned from them and I will list some amazing sources below. Today I want to discuss with you: ableism.
There is one very important aspect to feminism, it’s intersectionality. Intersectionality means that all sorts of suppression relate. You cannot isolate one type of discrimination or suppression. Today, I am writing about ableism, about which I’ll tell you more in a minute. However, we cannot isolate this type of suppression. You can be suppressed by ableism, but at the same time you can face racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. One suppression does not exclude another and that means that some people have a way harder time in this world than other do. We have to recognize that. I am privileged. I am an able, white, cis-woman.
Ableism is the discrimination or suppression of people with any type of disability. This can be both a physical disability or a mental disability. The premise is that people who diverge from the norm are discriminated against. Examples of people who face ableism are people who use a wheelchair, are mentally impaired, people who are much smaller than others, people with a visual impairment, etc. etc. Ableism is an umbrella term for all suppression because of any type of disability. The idea is usually that people with a disability need to adapt to the rest of society, instead of all people together creating an inclusive society.
If ableism sound very vague to you, that’s probably because you never notice it. In the Netherlands we ask people with any type of disability to fix things themselves and we also hide these people. Think of people who have to get into a building using the backdoor, because the front door is not accessible for people who use a wheelchair. Or people who are stuck in an elevator, because the switches don’t have braille on them. Think of people who have to go to a special school, because ‘regular’ schools can’t offer them class. Think of the negative stigma concerning people with a disability in movies and series, because they’re thought of as pathetic.
There are many forms of ableism. Every day ableism, for example when we touch people with a physical disability without their permission. Or ableism in the media, where we talk about people with a disability without actually inviting someone who has a disability. Institutional ableism is also a very serious problem, because it’s extremely difficult for people with a disability to participate in society (think of unaccessible buildings or trains). Ableism through cursing is also harmful. There’s even internal ableism, which implies how serious the problems are (to the point where even people with a disability themselves think of themselves as less).
The ultimate goal is to create an inclusive society. Not only to combat ableism, but other forms of suppression too. A first step is always to be aware of your privileges and the forms of discrimination which are present. Listen to people who face discrimination. In the case of ableism I don’t think there’s one think to focus on first. An easy thing we can do as individuals is to stop using language that’s discriminating, words like ‘idiot’ and such. Another thing is to be inclusive in the public space, offer descriptive texts and subtitles on social media. If you have the means, make your own home accessible. If you want to take it to the next level you can choose to become an activist. Sending e-mails to restaurants and other public buildings about inclusiveness. Protesting. There’s a lot we can do.
Everything I have learned is something I learn from others. ‘Ziek‘ de Podcast has taught me a lot. But also Tamar Doorduin and Xandra Koster on Instagram. Xandra Koster also wrote a lot of articles on OneWorld. The series Rolstoel Roadmovie by Mari Sanders is amazing too. And the documentary Crip Camp on Netflix is another thing I can recommend.
Very important: I hope to make my Youtube-videos and this blog as inclusive as I can. If there’s something I should improve, please let me know!