Sunday, November 20, 2011

Divide and rule works both ways

When I complained about Julian Assange speaking at Occupy LSX, I was told I was being divisive. When I drew attention to zohra moosa and Chitra Nagarajan's experiences of racism at the same occupy camp, I was also told I was being divisive. Complaining about the Labour Party, about the Lib Dems, about rapes at other Occupy camps, about inaccessible feminist meetings, and about issues being ignored under the heading of #solidarity, all get me called divisive.

The idea is that if you complain about something, you risk dividing the movement, at which point the opposition - be it the patriarchy, the 'right', the rich, the government - can move in and rule. And I understand this concern. When a movement is struggling for a voice, the last thing it needs is the people within it arguing amongst themselves, instead of against the people they are uniting to fight.

However, there comes a point when supporting a movement whose ideology or aims you broadly agree with becomes one painful compromise too many. And if you speak up, the 'divisive' accusations pour forth. But in my daily, lived experience, the division does not come from me raising awareness, the problem comes from the issues arising in the first place.

Because if I cannot physically get into your occupy camp, it is not me who has divided the movement. There is a very literal division between the non-disabled people who can get in, and the disabled people who can't. And because if there have been rapes at your occupy camp, or your occupy camp produces a document telling anyone who is raped at the camp to not go to the police, it is not me who divides the movement by drawing attention to it, it is those who rape, and those who attempt to suppress legal redress against rapists who cause a division. And because if disabled people who can't leave the house spend hours and days and weeks live tweeting events to take part in, and raise awareness of, a demonstration, and then those same disabled people actually plead with the protesters to add benefit and social care cuts to their banners and chants, and are ignored at every turn, the division is being created by them, not me.

I understand that in a broad movement, gathered together ideologically but not always agreeing, compromises will need to be made. I am becoming less and less understanding, however, about how often the white, heterosexual, cis, non-disabled men are asked to compromise, in comparison to the rest of us. Because being called divisive is sometimes very similar to being silenced.

This was originally posted at The F-Word.

[The image is a black and white close-up photograph of a person's mouth, with piercing, with a finger held up against it in a 'shush' position. It was taken by Ko_An and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Procrastination Podcast and Book

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a chronic procrastinator. In an effort to improve this really stressful trait in my life I have been reading up and studying all about it, and one of the best resources I have found is the iProcrastinate Podcast. I have been listening to the whole back catalogue over the last couple of months, and trying to implement some of the strategies that Dr. Tim Pychyl recommends and explains.

Since my year in France, as part of my degree, I've always wondered why French people apparently do not procrastinate. They don't even have a word for it (dictionary said, "faire quelquechose demain qu'on devrait faire aujourd'hui" - do something tomorrow that you should do today). So, as Tim sometimes answers listener queries on his podcast, I decided to email him. To my very pleasant surprise, he responded quickly and has now made a podcast episode all about it.

I am very much looking forward to listening to it, and you should go listen too! Go on, it'll be good, I promise.

Tim has also written an awesome book, The Procrastinator's Digest, (also on Kindle for only a few pennies over £2!) and you can see his website here.

[The image is a photomosaic of 36 clocks. It was taken by Leo Reynolds and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Disability and Sexuality Resources

I have been doing some research on sex and disability, and thought I would share some of the links I have found. This will be useful for me in the future as a resource, and hopefully to others too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A well-loved man.

Earlier this year, a friend of several of my friends died. He was young, and the circumstances were tragic and, at the time, somewhat newsworthy. But the news media can all too easily lose sight of the very real grief and sadness surrounding someone's death, by getting caught up in the 'story'.

Some months later, and this 'story' has re-appeared in the local news, because his inquest has taken place. The real loss facing his friends and family has been overlooked in favour, yet again, of sensationalised details of his death.

Because he died by suicide, even more care than usual should be taken when reporting his death. According to the Press Complaints Commission's Editors' Code of Practice, "When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.". This is also backed up by the Samaritans, who say that
certain types of suicide reporting are particularly harmful and can act as a catalyst to influence the behaviour of people who are already vulnerable.[...] Research suggests that media portrayal can influence suicidal behaviour and this may result in an overall increase in suicide and/or an increase in uses of particular methods.
They also specifically advise the media to "Avoid explicit or technical details of suicide in reports".

On a more personal level, this man's friends and family are devastated at his loss. In particular, it is felt that reports like the one in today's Star not only dramatise a tragic situation, they also ignore that this was a person who was loved, and whose life amounted to so much more than what was portrayed. In addition, the mention of his child is worded in such a way that his friends are concerned that this could cause her to blame herself for his death when she is older.

This man died because of depression, and responsible reporting should include information on how people who are feeling depressed can seek help. Ethical reporting should refrain from including unnecessary, distressing details of his last moments. And respectful reporting should take into account the feelings of those who loved him, who will read this news report with a pain that is difficult to describe, but devastating to experience.

I did not know this man, but have seen similar newspaper reports on the suicides of two of my friends, so I know this pain well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Disabled people occupy the UK / Occupy Sheffield access info

While I hadn't been able to join an occupation on a Sunday, I went to my local occupation this afternoon and spent an hour or so there drinking tea and putting the world to right. What follows is not an in-depth access survey, but is rather the impression I got, based on the information I was told or observed.

The Sheffield Occupation is in front of the Cathedral, so trams and buses stop nearby. It is on a flat courtyard and while there are some steps to access it from some directions, there are sloped alternatives alongside them.

The Occupy Sheffield has one portaloo, which is not accessible. The local Quaker Meeting House is offering the occupiers use of their toilets, and they do have wheelchair accessible toilets on each floor (with lift access to each floor). Once they close from 9pm - 9am, use of the portaloo begins, excluding many disabled people from using it.

The closest Changing Places toilets to the site are at Sheffield Town Hall and at Ponds Forge Sports Centre.

They have generators for electricity, but try to only use these at night. They also have gas heat, which is basic. If you need electrical power for any of your equipment, this could be problematic at the Occupy Sheffield camp. If you have a need to keep warm that would go beyond wrapping up really well, then again it may be an inaccessible protest for you in that respect too.

There is a good supply of food and hot drinks. I was the only visibly disabled person at the camp when I was there, but talked to a man who was a mental health service user. Another disabled person had clearly been at the camp at some point too. This photo is of a piece of paper taped to the main tent, which reads "I am one of the few disabled people who has a job. I am mad about what our society has become. I am the 99%".

The photo at the top of the post is of the main tent. It has a large banner on it, reading "Occupy Sheffield", and another fabric banner reading We Heart NHS. Both were taken by me.

There is a lot more I could say about the experience at #occupysheffield and maybe I will, but for now, this is a very basic accessibility survey for the site.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What I've Been Up To

The main thing I've been up to is setting up a massive database to link feminists on twitter with similar interests. It's been a lot of work, but 258 people have already signed up and filled it in, and that's in 24 hours!

If you are a feminist on twitter, fill in the form, then find others on the spreadsheet. See my blog post about it here.

Other things I have been doing, have been:

My favourite things today have been this video, and this news story.

As usual I'm on twitter as me, and my writer / social media self is also there @PhilippaWrites. There will be more news on this in a few weeks. I also run the F-Word twitter account and sometimes post from Where's the Benefit? account too.

And I may as well list everything while I'm at it, eh? So you can see the daftness I post on tumblr, find me on google+ and on Linked In.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Not In My Name.

Yesterday I wrote about why Workfare is exploitative and unfair, especially for disabled people. Today I want to talk about something insidious and disturbing within the plans for rolling this system out, and this is the details of who stands to benefit.

Firstly, there are big companies who have signed up, unsurprisingly, to get people to work for them without a need to pay them, such as Poundland, Matalan, Tesco and Primark.

Secondly, there are public sector organisations who want to benefit from unpaid labour, such as the local councils of Barnsley, Blackpool, Bromley, Chester, Dudley, East Riding, Gateshead, Greenwich, Hartlepool, Islington, Kensington, Medway, Neath Port Talbot, Newham, North Lanarkshire, Northumberland, Portsmouth, Renfrewshire, Stoke-on-Trent; numerous further education colleges; and several NHS trusts.

And thirdly, and perhaps most disappointingly, is the depressingly large number of charities and third sector organisations who are seeking to benefit from people being forced to work without pay, at threat of loss of their benefits.

Just some of the organisations who the DWP state will be involved in delivering the Work Programme, are:

Action for Blind People
Autism West Midlands
Disability Information Bureau
Disability Works*
Hammersmith and Fulham MIND
Leonard Cheshire Disability
Papworth Trust
Rochdale and District MIND
Royal Mencap Society
Royal National College for the Blind
Scottish Association for Mental Health
Shaw Trust
The Mind Consortium (Hull and East Yorkshire MIND)
Warrington Disability Partnership

These are the organisations from the list that stood out to me as disability organisations. Organisations ostensibly to represent and fight for the rights of disabled people.

Last year I wrote about Disability Works, a "collaboration of national third sector disability organisations including Leonard Cheshire, Mencap, Scope, Mind, Action for Blind People, United Response, Pure Innovations, Advance UK and Pluss". I argued in May that the Hardest Hit organisers could not represent me or fight for my rights when they also stood to benefit from the proposed changes in welfare reform.

Now Disability Works are amongst all of the above voluntary sector disability organisations who are seeking to benefit from workfare. Along with all the other charities above, and with all the problems Workfare will cause for disabled and non-disabled people, we simply cannot trust these organisations to have our best interests at heart. They, along with Primark and Tesco, aim to profit from labour which is unpaid, unfair, and is carried out against a threat of a loss of benefits.

These big disability charities do not represent me, they do not have my interests in mind, and they do not speak for me.

Not in my name.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Elsewhere Today

Things I have done elsewhere today:

And others' posts I have liked elsewhere:

Workfare: Exploitative and cruel, especially for disabled people

Some disabled people are completely fit for work, but cannot find any, so claim Jobseekers' Allowance. This is particularly an issue because disabled people face many barriers to work, including inaccessible workplaces, employer prejudice and employers being ignorant of, or refusing to adhere to the Equalities Act in relation to reasonable accommodations.

Increasingly, however, disabled people who are not fit for work are finding themselves claiming Jobseekers' Allowance, when they are reassessed and fail to meet the limited criteria for ESA. The result of this is that more and more people are signing on, but also unable to work, for health reasons.

The Guardian has published a press release from the DWP, which states,
People who have been unemployed for more than two years and haven't secured sustainable employment could be referred onto compulsory community work placements under plans being considered by the government.

Under the proposals people who have been supported intensively through the Work Programme for two years yet have still not entered sustainable employment, may have to do community work or ultimately they could lose their benefit entitlement.

Ministers believe a minority of jobseekers struggle to engage with the system fully, are unable to hold down a job and therefore require a greater level of support.

The government is to test compulsory community work coupled with more intensive support through Jobcentre Plus in four key areas ahead of rolling out the scheme
nationwide in 2013.

This is fundamentally unfair. We are in a position as a country where unemployment rates are rising, and job opportunities are shrinking. If someone has failed to get a job in 2 years, it is most likely to be due to circumstances outside their control, and to then force them into unpaid labour, against the threat of losing their pittance of an income from JSA, is exploitative.

For disabled people, even moreso. People who are disabled but genuinely fit for work will still require adaptations, accommodations, and accessibility. These people are less likely to have found a job in 2 years because of the reasons I explained above. And will the people who are happy to take unpaid labour also be happy to accommodate people with complex needs and requirements?

And those who have been found fit for work but are, in fact, not at all fit for work, will be in the most trouble. All of the above, on top of not being well enough to do it. Will their regular sickness absences or inability to be reliable cause them to lose their benefit entitlement? I would imagine so, according to what the press release says.

Workfare is exploitative and unfair to everybody who is forced to do it. For disabled people it has added layers of unfairness, which have the potential to leave, yet again, the most vulnerable abandoned without financial support.

Cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?. Thanks to @m_s_collins for prompting me to write this.

[The image is a black and white photograph taken at a protest in New Zealand against a Workfare programme. There are numerous people with placards saying, "The rich get rich at the expense of the poor" and "Real jobs not workfare". It was taken by SocialistWorkerNZ and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Monday, November 07, 2011

Miss you, Dad.

There's nothing I wouldn't do to hear your voice again.
Sometimes I want to call you, but I know you won't be there.

Are you looking down upon me? Are you proud of who I am?
There is nothing I wouldn't do to have just one more chance
To look into your eyes and see you looking back.