Tag Archives: Zara Todd

Zara Todd : Have you always been disabled?

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If I had a pound for every time someone asked me this question or a less polite version such as what’s wrong with you? Have you always been like this? Were you born in a wheelchair? I would be a millionaire.

Now I know people are curious about disability (even if I don’t really get why) but do we really need a superhero like origin story can’t we just exist? While I generally humour the disability questions, providing people are politely I’m not going to lie it is irritating.

However recently Ive begun to realise all of these ‘origin’ questions are intensely personal and potentially traumatic. While seemingly most of the questions have yes or no answers in reality the conversation doesn’t stop there. For the majority of disabled people it’s either unclear when we acquired our impairments or the result of a traumatic experience. Meaning the answer to ‘have you always been disabled?’ becomes no or I don’t know. These answers invariably lead to more questions or an expectation of an explanation. I was trying to think of similarly personal question and the best I could come up with was why did you get divorced? Whilst some would ask the majority would let the affected party direct the conversation.

Despite having my impairments as long as I can remember and therefore the questions about my impairment for almost as long, until recently I didn’t really feel like I had any option but to answer. In part feeling compelled to answer questions about my impairment comes from growing up in systems which depend on that information to judge my eligibility for support combined with me being the first ‘severely’ disabled person in many of the environments I’ve accessed. However I now question how that information being disclosed to all and sundry has aided me. Yes as someone with support some people need to know what support I need but is do impairment labels or my history communicate my needs… Not fully.

I suspect it has taken longer for me to take ownership of my right not to disclose my ‘origin’ story because I’m a woman as often the refusal to disclose information is often seen as being aggressive regardless of how polite the denial.

I’m not against talking about impairment or disability in fact if we talked about them more maybe the novelty factor would wear off, however I believe that disabled people should have control over their own story and who they disclose it to.

Surely there are much more interesting conversations to be had.

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Zara ToddZara Todd has been involved in young peoples and disability rights since she was 12 and has worked both in the UK and internationally trying to increase the voice of young disabled people.
Zara is currently chair of Inclusion London, a Deaf and disabled people’s organisation supporting Deaf and Disabled people’s organisation in London. She is an active member of the European Network on Independent Living running several trainings for young disabled people from across Europe.
She can be contacted at @toddles23
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Sisters of Frida at : Woman Up! London, in association with Conway Hall Ethical Society (Saturday 29th Auguest)

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Eleanor, Rebecca and Zara

Eleanor, Rebecca and Zara

Sisters of Frida were at the Woman Up event August bank holiday weekend. 29th/30th August
Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
WC1R 4RL London
United Kingdom

Saturday

Panel: The politics of women’s bodies: sexuality, porn and nudity
Collette Nolan – Doodle Your Down There
Jane Fae – Journalist and campaigner
Zara Todd – Sisters of Frida
Rebecca Ryce – Sexpression
Chella Quint – Period Positive
Pandora Blake – feminist porn maker

(see transcript below)

Sunday
Panel – Preventing violence against women and girls, and supporting survivors
Rebecca Bunce – ICchange
Chris Green – White Ribbon campaign
Tamara-Jade Kaz – feminist campaigner

Full progamme at From Woman Up eventbrite

transcript of video clip

Zara:

….seen as innocent vessels (?) that are then corrupted by the world.. And yes, there are some horrific stats about disabled womens’ experience.

We are 4 times more likely to be the victims of domestic abuse and violence. The sexual exploitation of disabled children is massive.

But for me I can’t help but question whether those stats in part, are partly because we de-sexualise disabled women.

Because if by de-sexualising them it means that if they do go to the police and say that they’ve had an experience they can be disbelieved because disabled people don’t have sex.

What is really strange to me is that, despite the de-sexualisation of disabled people and disabled women, it is seen as perfectly acceptable for a stranger to approach me and ask how I have sex, or do I have sex. And they are questions that non-disabled women don’t get asked very often.

And I think that to me is where disabled women need to be represented in discussions in Feminism, about sexuality, about porn because a lot of disabled women have hidden impairments and actually a lot of the women that are being exploited and are experiencing sexual violence are probably disabled women. They might not realise it, you might not realise it, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t experiencing those kinds of barriers. So it’s really important that we’re being open and honest about disabled women and how they fit into this kind of environment.

Now I’ve been a Disability rights activist for quite a long time, probably longer than some of the panel members have been alive! – in that I started being involved in Disability rights at the age of 10.

I didn’t get involved in the Feminist movement until my mid-20s. The reason for that was that I didn’t feel like I belonged in the feminist movement. I have spent a large proportion of my life trying to be seen as a sexual entity, as a sexual being, whereas a lot of the messages that I’ve received from the Feminist movement over that same period of time have been telling me that I don’t want to be ‘objectified. Actually, as a disabled woman who is told that I don’t have a sexuality, repeatedly by society, the idea of being sexualised and objectified – sounds pretty good to me!

Anyway, on that note I’ll hand over…

END 3:07

Zara Todd: The problem with privilege

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Zara Todd

Zara Todd

As a young, white, heterosexual disabled woman, I have a pretty good idea of how privilege affects different people’s life chances. I have both privileges and experienced oppression and discrimination because of my identities.

I believe that both privilege and oppression should be recognised so that we can challenge discrimination and promote inclusion and equality I would like to hope that I am an ally all my friends, brothers and sisters who are oppressed in ways I am not. For me understanding what my privileges are and how they affect my experience and others experiences is crucial to understanding how I can be a better ally. However I have a problem with how privilege is often acknowledged and addressed.

Far too often, the process by which people identify privilege inadvertently perpetuates negative assumptions and hierarchies about identities. For example, I have seen a number of explorations of individual’s privilege which highlight somebody’s physical or mental health as being a privilege is massive. Now to me, this is problematic for a number of reasons.

Firstly , in the case of identifying not being disabled .Many non-disabled people are yet again emphasising the biological basis of disability downplaying societal construction.

Then there is the issue that the concept of privilege itself is inaccessible and elitist, only really accessible to those who have some kind of privilege.

Acknowledging privilege also tends to continue place a value on certain identities and characteristics above others. When you are repeatedly being told your identity is a disadvantage, it can be demoralising. Frankly, can leave you wondering why you should keep fighting for equality when the world seems against you.

In addition, the act of acknowledging privilege on its own continues to place those with privilege in a position of power. There is not enough dialogue about how privilege can be addressed or how people can use their privileges in ways that promotes equality.

The process of identifying privilege does not celebrate what advantages coming from marginalised group gives a person. For me there are many brilliant things about being a young disabled woman that I would not change or trade for the world. Yet there are very few spaces where I am allowed to celebrate what is good about those identities and how they have positively enhanced my experience.

While we need to continue to acknowledge that not everybody is born equal nor does everybody have the same opportunities we need to find a way of doing this that is celebratory and empowering for those identities which are seen as a disadvantage.

– Zara Todd

 

 

Disabled women in discussion

Video


(subtitles to come later)

(from right) Rahel Gaffen, Michelle Daley, Zara Todd, Lucia Bellini, Kirsten Hearn, Eleanor Lisney and Ciara Doyle.

Filmed with thanks to Disability Action in Islington by Felix Gonzalez for the WOW party installation at the Southbank, London

Disabled and Proud Women

Video

speakers : Michelle Daley, Zara Todd, Lucia Bellini, Kirsten Hearn, Eleanor Lisney and Ciara Doyle.

Filmed with thanks to Disability Action in Islington by Felix Gonzalez for the WOW party installation at the Southbank, London

Transcript

Michelle Daley

Ok my names Michelle Daley and I’m a member of Sisters of Frida and I’ve been involved in the Disabled People’s movement since early 2000

I think it’s important for us to kind of think about why is it as disabled women we have to keep justifying our existence

Why do we have to justify who we are?

Why do we have to say make a statement about yes I’m attractive?

I can be err attracted to others

I’m a woman and I’m the same as any other woman

I also think it’s important that we recognise the people that came before us err who fought for women rights

But also there are many important disabled women who fought for our rights as well

and I think that’s what makes me proud of who I am as a disabled woman knowing that there was someone before me who started that journey

And I think it’s for me to continue that and to say yes I am proud to be a disabled black woman

Thank you!

Zara Todd

So I’m Zara, I’m 28 and a proud disabled young woman um yeah that’s me!

Is that all you’d like to say about today?

Err my brains a bit frazzled!

I think that it’s really interesting bringing together a group of disabled women

because yes we have a lot of shared experiences but we also have a lot of things

that are very unique to us

And I think often it’s easy to get caught up in labels

And while we need spaces to explore our identity we don’t necessarily need to come

to the same conclusions

And what I think today’s been quite good at

What I think the event will be quite good at is getting a space where we can

acknowledge who we are

All of who we are and just go yeah fine

Thanks!

Lucia Bellini

My name’s Lucia Bellini and I’m part of Sisters of Frida

I’m really happy to be able to say that I’m a disabled woman

That I’m very proud to be a disabled woman

I’m independent, I work, I am able to challenge stereotypes

Um and I’m able to fight for equality of opportunity in society for disabled people in

general

I’m um I think that there needs to be a lot more publicity or disabled women need to be portrayed in a much more positive light in the media

Um we were talking earlier about disabled women doing the catwalk but made to look non disabled

And I think we should be proud of our identities, we should be proud to look different if we choose to

Err if we want to conform and wear make-up and err and we should also be allowed to choose to do that too

Err err I’m a bit fed up of people telling me asking me why I want to wear make-up

Why I’m interested in how I look if I’m blind

Err I also think that it’s time disabled women are seen as women and not different err

you know we heard about the fact that err women don’t understand that we want to go out on dates just like everybody else

That we can also have children if we choose to

That we can be in a relationship if we choose to

That we’re no different because we’re disabled

That we just have the extra challenges that we have to overcome

You have to overcome extra discrimination, discrimination because we’re female and

discrimination because we’re disabled as well as all the additional barriers we have and in physical access

So I think that um more that it would be really good if more women, disabled women, would be proud of being who they are

Of coming out as a disabled woman and um being angry enough to challenge the discrimination that they receive in our society

Kirsten Hearn

My name’s Kirsten

Um I wrote a song about the plight of disabled women and I’d like to share the lyrics

with you

“Think of a mag, yes any old mag

What’s on the cover?

What do you see?

Pretty young women posing and grinning

Slender and sexy but nothing like me

Indoctrination, objectification

Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

No one with blubber gets on the cover

No one who hasn’t got symmetry

SAS Sisters against Symmetry

SAS Sisters against Body Bigotry

They say that prosthetics don’t make good aesthetics

Our surgical corset should never be seen

With bits of us missing there’s no good us wishing

To grace the front cover of Vogue magazine

Indoctrination, objectification this is the way it has always been

You’ve got to be bold break out of the mould

We shape our image let’s learn to be mean

SAS Sisters against Symmetry

SAS Sisters against Body Bigotry

Cherish those humps, those nodules and bumps

Those wrinkles and bulges and bubbly bits

Nurture your spots, your baggy old bots, your stretch marks and scars and saggy old

Indoctrination, objectification

Symmetricality is the pits

Take it or leave it we don’t care one bit

Our bodies are ours including our clits!

SAS Sisters against Body Bigotry

SAS Sisters against Symmetry”

Ok right that’s better!

Um the key thing that I need to say about being a disabled woman and my

experience in the world is it’s a joyous thing

It’s an absolutely joyous thing to be a disabled woman

I am different in many ways

I have different ways of appreciating the world

And I’m not being Polyandrous about it

It actually is true that we live in a world that assumes that everybody is non-disabled

That everybody can hear, see, speak, walk, talk all the whole lot

And our world is designed in such a way just to allow those to be members of that

privileged club

And I feel really strongly that if we want a diverse community we have to embrace

and celebrate, support and glorify all those people who are different in that kind of

way

And so I do a lot of writing, a lot of speaking about the difference that is me as a disabled woman

And by celebrating those things that other people might find ugly or frightening and at the end of the day that’s where I want us to be as disabled women

But I don’t want us to lose the feeling of anger

We can embrace our pride

We can embrace our anger

And send it outwards to make changes in the world and at the end of the day

I believe that sanity comes to us in terms of being able to cope with the world if we

can also hope that what we do makes a difference

And I really hope that what we’re doing today is making that difference

Eleanor Lisney

I’m Eleanor Lisney

I’m a disabled woman and I’m proud of it

It took me a long time err to come out as a disabled woman even though I’ve had my impairment for a long time

I think for most of my youth I was in denial err about it and I wanted to be a normal person just like everybody else

However I am very happy to be with other women who

I find joy in having found other disabled women

Err it’s a sort of relief and a joy and um celebration to be able to talk with other

women about things that I’ve thought of for a long time and have been quiet about

And now it’s no longer time, it’s no longer time to be quiet

It’s time to um have a voice

Ciara Doyle

I’m Ciara, I am an academic and err a mother, a career woman and a disabled woman

Err I think today was really really powerful and important

Err the err the reason sorry I’m completely frazzled!

Ok err I think that today was extremely important err

I think that it doesn’t happen nearly enough

And needs to happen much more

That the feminist agenda comes to disability politics

And that disability politics is brought to the feminist agenda

Because I really think they need to work far more closely together

And I think that there are areas within feminism or disability where disabled women need to be in the lead

I think that we as women in particular in this society

We are judged very very much within our bodies and how our bodies function

Err within quite strictly set gender norms

And I think that disabled women in particular are living on the knife edge of this

because it’s not just men the Patriarchal system in general

But the Patriarchal system through the medical profession as its Police Force

That chooses to pathologies or identify when women’s bodies, emotions or minds

are working within what are perceived to be acceptable levels of normality

Or outside of those acceptable levels of normality which are then pathologised

Which then creates disability because women are told that they are abnormal

And must either accept a victimhood status

Or work hard to normalise themselves

Instead of being able to celebrate who we are and what we are

And so this why I believe these are very much gender issues as well as being very very much disabled issues

And it is of no surprise that the majority of people who develop disabilities are women

Err and that it is two issues that need to come together and spend far more time and

dialogue with each other

Which is exactly what we were doing today

Making a start on that

Thank you!

Zara Todd on International Women’s Day

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Zara ToddSometimes it is only with space and time to reflect that you realise what an effect  Individuals can have in your life. Yes, you can acknowledge actions which are helpful, but sometimes it’s just knowing the person and seeing them conduct themselves that can have the biggest impact of all.

While this is not ground-breaking it is a realisation I have only come to recently while I was talking to a friend of mine about our identity as young disabled women.  I am proud of all facets of my identity, but particularly of being both disabled and a woman, however this hasn’t always been the case. I remember at university finding it very difficult to identify with women’s movements and feminist movements because they didn’t seem to include me or my experience.  For example discussions about pro-choice and objectification are important  to all women but when you are struggling to be acknowledged as something other than asexual or as somebody can have children it can sometimes feel like the women’s movement has moved past you and your experience.

Equally the disability movement has a tendency to make disability issues and campaigning gender neutral even if they’re not.  There is rarely discussion about how gender identity affects the experience of disability and impairment.

I have found my own way to explore my identity so that I am comfortable with who I am.  During the conversation with my friend I realised that some of the biggest influencers on who I am today are the disabled women I met in my late teens and early 20s.

Two of these women particularly stand out for me and for very different reasons

Jackie Christy James I met at 17 and she really started my own personal revolution it’s through conversations with her that I began to get my head around the social model of disability.  Jackie’s enthusiasm and passion for disabled people rights movement could motivate

Rowen Jade  was a force of nature who showed me what being independent really means.  She was one of the most independent women I have ever met despite being able to do physically very little for herself. She taught me many things but it was her ownership of her identity that sticks with me.

What’s interesting is I can’t remember having a conversation with either of these women about our identities as disabled women. In both cases they impacted on my understanding of my identity because they were empowered active women who were getting on with life challenging perceptions just by being themselves.

Sisters of Frida at the WOW Festival, South Bank

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posterWe have been lucky enough to be one of the chosen 8 women organisations for a space at the WoW (Women of the World) Parties at the Royal Festival Hall http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/wow-parties-81651

WOW Parties celebrate the work of charities and organisations supporting women in the UK and internationally. We start by joining the other organizations on The Clore Ballroom floor at 6pm and then a private party at 7 30 in the Yellow Room.

We will be celebrating disabled women with Winvisible (Women of visible and invisible disabilities) and UKDHM (who has kindly provided the refreshments) will be joining us. We have the pleasure of Jean Lambert MEP (London), Vivienne Hayes (Women Resource Centre), Annette Lawson (Committee on the Status of Women), Tracey Lezard (Inclusion London) among our guests.  Charlotte Gage will also be speaking about the impact of the presence of Sisters of Frida at the 55th session of CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in  Geneva. Other speakers will be Sisters of Frida – Anne Pridmore on social welfare reform, Zara Todd as a young disabled woman and Eleanor Lisney on intersectionality and disability.

Eleanor will also be on two panels Friday 7th March Austerity – Who Benefits? / Fri 7 March / 1.30-2.30pm / Queen Elizabeth Hall Front Room (located in the foyer) with Rosie Rogers (UK Uncut) and Kira Cochrane  (Guardian)

Tickets can be booked for the day

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And Sat 8 March /3.30-4.30pm Feminism and Privilege / Queen Elizabeth Hall Front Room (located in the foyer). With Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (chair) Nan Sloane (Centre for Women and Democracy), Reni Eddo Lodge (writer and contributing editor of Feminist Times).

Tickets can be booked for the day (might be sold out)

sat8thmarch

Pass for all 3 days

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