Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An example of good, anti-disablist practice.

In contrast to the recent Disablist Language Alerts, I was alerted to a much more positive action, taken by Joey Sneddon at OMG Ubuntu!. He reviewed a twitter client, called Schizobird, and after hearing from readers about how the use of the term 'schizo' could be really offensive to a lot of people, they are now consulting their readers to find a new, more acceptable name for the client.

This is the kind of reaction I like! When somebody is challenged, instead of saying, "Don't overreact, I didn't mean it like that!", or similar, they have said, ok, we didn't mean to offend anybody, and we don't want to offend anybody, so let's think about it again.

So, a big cheer for OMG Ubuntu!, and a big hat tip to @thermalsatsuma for the link.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Disablist Language Alert #2

Disablism on twitter...
  • from @lipsticklori: SU2TS: This is lame. Not as lame as STLD2, but still lame. Just as well though... don't think I have the brain power for thinking. #DanceMM
  • from @STFUParents: Getting submissions together for this week's @mommyishdotcom column, all about crazy baby names! What are the craziest names you've heard?

In blogs...
  • RH Reality Check gains a mention for use of hysteria / hysterical three times in one post.
  • Via Feminist Law Professors, we see men saying "Dude, you’re crazy", about male contraception. Originally in the New York Times
  • Pharyngula quotes Glenn Beck describing the Norwegian killer as crazy
  • More from Pharyngula, but sadly this time his own words. He describes Breivik as deranged, delusional, insane, lunatic, violently insane, and stupid.

[The image is of a black woman, Sojourner Truth, and the words, "Say no to hate". It is used under a Creative Commons License and is by Ed Fladung]

Disablist Language Alert #1

What with the 'crazed madman' in Norway, and Caitlin Moran talking about retards, disability hate speech is everywhere at the moment.

As a result of being completely and utterly sick of it, I am going to do some blogging. Each time I see any, for *a period of time I have not yet determined, might be tonight, or for a week, or forever*, I am going to log every instance of it that I see. Every single one. I am not going to go hunting it out, but if your tweet about something being lame, or someone being a halfwit, passes my eyes, I am going to post it here.

I am currently listening to the Pod Delusion podcast, and ironically, it has given me my first example.

Adam Jacobs, talking about how science is reported on the BBC, talks of people who disagree with commonly accepted scientific opinions as morons, idiots, window-lickers and loony, and of content being "dumbed down".

[The image is of a black woman, Sojourner Truth, and the words, "Say no to hate". It is used under a Creative Commons License and is by Ed Fladung]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is this the way to keep women safe?

The Independent has reported today that "women could be given the right to know whether their partners have a history of violence under plans to be considered by the Government". I have mixed feelings about this, even though on first glance it seems like a good idea. I heard a Woman's Hour programme earlier in the week where the proposal was discussed by Michael Brown, whose daughter, Clare Wood, was murdered in 2009 by a violent partner; Jane Keeper from Refuge; and Brian Moore, the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police.

Michael Brown supports the proposed law, which is being called Clare's Law after his daughter. He believes that had his daughter known about her partner, George Appleton's previous convictions for violence against women, she would never have got involved with him.

Greater Manchester Police have been criticised for not offering Clare the help she needed, but Mr Brown is insistent that any new policy had to be national, and not just relating to Manchester, and he talked passionately about the prevalence of domestic violence murders. He said,
"The statistics are frightening. There's 2 ladies every week killed by domestic violence. Their partners turn on them. And I think if they were all clumped together and that was two coach loads of ladies going over a cliff face, the drivers and the bus would be taken off the road. And because these ladies are dotted all around the UK, the statistics don't show that there's somewhere in the region of 100 - 120 girls or women killed by their partners every year. And strangely enough there's one man every 3 weeks. So the statistics speak for themselves. Had it all happened at the one time there would have been an enquiry, and because these ladies are dotted round the UK, it falls by the wayside and I think it's shocking".

The coroner at Ms Wood's inquest is reported to have said that women should be able to be informed of any convictions for violence in the past of their partners, and the statistics from Brian Moore, the Chief Constable, appear to back this up.

He explained that research he carried out showed that there were more than 25,000 serial perpetrators of domestic abuse who offended against different victims over 5 year period. This does show that there is a real problem of abusers hurting woman after woman after woman, and if a law like the one proposed could help to prevent that, then surely we should try it, as one measure amongst many, to truly tackle the problem of domestic abuse.

But Jane Keeper from Refuge summed up concerns that I, too, share. She explained that the majority of victims of domestic violence still never go to the police. Therefore there are a lot of unconvicted perpetrators, who women could potentially check, and be informed that they are fine. Ms Keeper also discussed the practicalities of the proposal - do women call the police each time they meet someone new? At what stage in a relationship do you check? And she mentioned resources too, that police are frequently not even able to tell high risk victims that their abuser has been released on bail, so they would be hard pushed to respond to lots of queries from people in new relationships.

The aspect that worries me the most is the idea that a woman could be reassured by the lack of previous convictions of her partner. Lulling her into a false sense of security could be downright dangerous. It's not that this law would simply not be 'enough', it's that it could cause more problems when someone feels they have been assured safety.

A lot does need to be done about domestic violence and abuse, and no one solution can present all the answers. But I fear that this solution will cause new problems as well as some solutions. But then, in the cases mentioned by Chief Constable Moore, perhaps a law like this could have helped the women in relationships with these 25,000 serial offenders. I do not know which would be greater: the scale of damage caused by a lack of this law; or the scale of damage caused by a law like this being introduced.

[The image is adapted from a photograph by Elvert Barnes, issued under a Creative Commons License. This blog post is cross-posted at The F-Word]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yet another victim-blaming travesty

Six footballers who were imprisoned for raping 12 year old girls have been released, after judges ruled that their 2-year sentences were "excessive". The six men all admitted various charges of rape, after raping two 12 year old girls in a park late at night. But today Lord Justice Moses, Mr Justice Holroyde and Judge Francis Gilbert QC ruled that being imprisoned was inappropriate as it was a 'difficult' case.

In an astonishing display of victim blaming, the Mail (I know, I know, but there are only two papers reporting on it so far) stated that, "The court heard [one of the girls] was more sexually experienced than the men and it had been her idea to arrange the meeting". It is not ever appropriate to describe a 12 year old as 'sexually experienced'. If she has had previous sexual 'experience', then it should be correctly named as abuse.

The fact that the girls apparently looked older than 12, and had been 'looking for sex' is quoted. But the truth is that children sometimes behave in a precocious fashion. It is up to the adults around them to not exploit this by having sex with them. 12 year old girls often do want to look, and act, older than they are, but this is nearly always clearly visible to those around them. Adults hold the responsibility of not taking advantage of children. Under the law, children are considered to be unable to consent to sex, and this is usually taken most seriously when the child is under the age of 13.

The men have now been released, and their sentences cut to one year, and suspended.

It is clear, yet again, whose side the legal system is on. If it can't protect two pre-teen girls against six grown men, then who can women and girls have faith in?

Edited to add: I have just been reminded that, while reporting on this case at trial, the Daily Mail was widely criticised for referring to the 12 year old rape victims as 'Lolitas'. It reinforces just how much these girls have been up against in the coverage and treatment of their trial.

[The image is a photograph of a smiling woman holding a banner. The banner has a rainbow background, and the words 'No more silence about violence'. The photograph is used under a Creative Commons Licence and was taken by Rebecca Dominguez.]

Saturday, July 09, 2011

It's going up by HOW much?

When the horror stories start coming, and they don't stop, you know it's time to worry. The latest I have heard about is of a woman in Dumfries who previously paid £21 towards her care at home, per week. She has now found out that her charges are being increased to £1,464 a week. That is not a typo. She now has to pay more per week than she previously paid per year.

This increase of 6,870% was reported in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Women's Views on News, and Linda Murray, the woman involved, has been told that she is already £17,000 in arrears.

Ms Murray told the Standard, “I just don’t understand how they expect me to pay this. It’s enormous. It’s over a thousand pounds every single week. That money was to last me the rest of my life. It won’t even last me the rest of the summer.”

Council Leader Ivor Hyslop said,
"We took the decision to change the charging policy to ensure that we continued to provide the services we have been delivering.

"The way we have approached this also ensures that those who cannot afford to pay are still protected.

"We have people checking that a mistake has not been made [in this case].

"When the decision was taken, it was reported to us that rises would be up to four or five times. It is my understanding that one in five people receiving services will see their bills rise."
But an increase of four or five times the amount previously paid is bad enough. Linda Murray's has been increased by around 70 times!

To clarify, she used to pay £1,134 per YEAR, she is now being asked to pay £1,464 per WEEK.

My own council is looking into more charges for social care, which will affect me. The above story does not inspire me with the confidence that the council materials I've received on the subject are trying to suggest I should have.

(Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?)

The worst kind of postcode lottery

The DWP published a press release yesterday, reinforcing the status of benefit claimants as primarily suspected criminals. Titled Cheats warned of benefit fraud blitz, it describes how claimants who live in "high risk postcodes" will be scrutinised, "regardless of age, gender, ethnic make-up, type of benefit recipient, income, disability breakdown or family status".

The lucky claimants in Birmingham's B44 postcode, the Perry Barr and Kingstanding area, will be the first to receive the Mobile Regional Taskforce. Yet again, benefit claimants are automatically under suspicion, simply because they are unlucky enough to have to rely on government money, and now because they live in certain postcode areas.

It does not explain what makes a particular postcode 'high risk', but I would imagine they are made up of areas which are more deprived, with higher numbers of people already living in poverty. So, the more likely you are to need government support, the more under suspicion you are?

Benefit claimants are not criminals! While finding people who are committing fraud on a huge scale is clearly important, this move just reinforces the propaganda coming freely from the government and certain parts of the media that we are all ripping off 'the taxpayer' and need hunting down and prosecuting. It increases people's anger at us, and our fear at our situation, over which we have no control.

(Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

When the dignity of one person is denied, all of us are denied

Disabled people in the UK have been under constant attack lately. Whether it's the vast and wide-ranging benefit cuts; Birmingham city council refusing care to people with substantial needs, which has since been ruled unlawful; cuts in Access to Work, ironically when we are being told we should all be getting jobs; or the impending closure of the Independent Living Fund, the hits feel like they are coming from every direction.

But I read about a case a few days ago, Court tells disabled woman: just wet yourself, and it showed me just how government cuts are affecting real people. It is not an 'austerity measure', nor is it 'small government', it is an affront to a woman's dignity and human rights, and we should all be utterly outraged.

Elaine McDonald has just lost a Supreme Court fight for her local council to allow her to continue to have overnight care. Funding was withdrawn by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for the overnight care that Ms McDonald needs to assist her with going to the toilet during the night, and the council instead gave her some incontinence pads, stating that this was cheaper.

Elaine McDonald is not incontinent! And she, quite rightly, objects to being asked to lie in bed for 12 hours at a time (since her care has been cut), in her own waste. She needs to go to the toilet regularly due to a bladder dysfunction, and complained that providing pads instead of care caused a lack of dignity and independence.

Can you imagine if you were at work and your boss stated that bathroom breaks were wasting time and money, and that it would be cheaper for the company to provide everyone with incontinence pads instead? If you weren't on an authorised break then you could just use the pad instead, and sit in it until you were permitted to go? And Elaine McDonald is in her own home - of course, moving to a care home instead would cost the council considerably more.

Even in purely economic terms this is a questionable decision. The lack of mobility which she will now experience, and the potential infections from spending night after night in your own faeces and urine, could cause significantly worsened health and social problems, which would increase the cost of her care significantly. And some people in Ms McDonald's situation may try to go to the bathroom or commode regardless, risking increased falls and, thus, increased health and social care costs again.

But the Supreme Court judges ruled 4-1 that the council had acted lawfully. Judge Lady Hale, the sole judge to rule in Ms McDonald's favour, stated that,
"A person in her situation needs this help during the day as well as during the night and irrespective of whether she needs to urinate or to defecate.

"Logically, the decision of the majority in this case would entitle a local authority to withdraw this help even though the client needed to defecate during the night and thus might be left lying in her faeces until the carers came in the morning.

"Indeed, the majority view would also entitle an authority to withdraw this help during the day."

Of course, incontinent pads in themselves are not bad things. For people who are incontinent, they are invaluable. But Elaine McDonald does not need them and does not want to use them. Nobody should be put in this position, and she was right to challenge it legally. The depressing truth is that the council and courts rated costs over human dignity, and Ms McDonald could be the first victim of many.

And it seems that she is not the only person being challenged on their use of a toilet to save money. According to The Scotsman, "disabled residents at a supported-housing complex have been told to train themselves to go to the toilet at fixed times to fit in with a strict new rota". Is this where the infamous Big Society comes in? You can run libraries, or you can assist disabled people to go to the toilet. Because after all, those who should be providing those services will not bother.

[The image is a photograph of a hand, holding a piece of paper on which is printed, "The budget is killing me!". The photograph is adapted from an original, licensed under a Creative Commons licence, by Steve Rhodes.]