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  • Writer's picturePeta

Can you be a feminist and have a disability?

Having a disability can mean feeling vulnerable more often than those without a disability. When you have to rely on machines and other people to guarantee your independence, it can sometimes feel difficult to be the empowered feminist, you know you want to be. Peta discusses the contradiction of her identity as a person with a disability and her identity as an independent, empowered woman.


Episode transcript:

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast, the podcast, answering your questions on what it's like to live with a disability. My name's Peta and I'm your host. This week, it's going to be a short and sharp answer to a question.

Peta [00:00:18] This is a question I'm actually asking myself: Am I a bad feminist? Is it possible to be a good feminist when you have a disability? What do you think? Do you think disability has anything to do with feminism? Am I over-reaching? I'd love your feedback, good or bad. So without any further ado, let's get into it.

Peta [00:00:54] I think I might be a bad feminist. I'm a big believer in signs, but I can't quite decide why my life is continually pointing to the fact that I am more a woman waiting to be rescued than an empowered feminist.

Peta [00:01:13] I have a disability that means I have to use a wheelchair. It's the only way I can get around and I cannot transfer myself or take any steps whatsoever. So when my wheelchair breaks, I'm in a real pickle, I can't save myself and it means I literally need to be rescued. Half of me absolutely hates that I can't be an independent person, but the other half sort of likes it and I'm not sure why. I think it's because when I feel rescued, I feel safe.

Peta [00:01:53] So how can I be a feminist if I enjoy the feeling of, frankly, the feeling of being disempowered, being rescued; often by a man? Am I just Charlotte from Sex and the City, wanting to be rescued by the man she's been trying to find since she was 16? Maybe, I don't know. I hope not. It's not consistent with the feminist ideal I give myself in my head.

Peta [00:02:23] I try to be independent in all costs and in all situations, but as more time goes on, I realise, despite how much I push forward. I will always have that level of vulnerability. I will never be fully empowered and fully independent in the way I desire because my disability can't be cured, can't really be improved, so I'm always going to be vulnerable to some extent.

Peta [00:02:54] That means my empowered feminist self and my vulnerable self, which is basically in my head, my disability, feels in complete contradiction with one another. In light of that, when is someone truly themselves? When they're empowered or when they're in touch with their vulnerability?

Peta [00:03:19] When we're in touch with our vulnerability, when all the bullshit has been scraped away and you ask yourself the hard questions, the ones that you wish you could hide away from, but really ugly heads when you don't feel as strong. Those questions somehow feel truer than the questions or the answers we give ourselves when we feel empowered about who we are. Because I have to rely on machines that inevitably break down, it makes sense that I'm in touch with my vulnerability because I have to be vulnerable all the time. So many of us think we're impostors in our own lives.

Peta [00:04:08] And it's something that I have to continually remind myself that I can be vulnerable and empowered at the same time, but I think it would be fantastic for me, and many people, to have more examples in society of what it is to be an empowered feminist who happens to have a disability.

Peta [00:04:32] I acknowledge I have a long way to go when it comes to being fully empowered and understanding what disability is, in relation to feminism. I hope you guys can give me a bit more of an insight on what your experience has been. You don't have to have a disability at all. We all have our own vulnerabilities. And the contradiction between being an empowered feminist and vulnerability I think can affect all of us.

Peta [00:05:01] If you ever would like to get in contact with the podcast, I urge you to. I want this podcast to be a conversation rather than me just talking at you. I want your opinion and I'm here to learn.

Peta [00:05:28] Thank you so much for listening, particularly as it was a bit of a different episode than normal if you have an opinion on what I said this week. Please get in touch. There are three ways you can do so, either via Instagram @icantstandpodcast, by email or via the website, All right. Thank you so much again. And hopefully, I'll have your ears back next week.


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