Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The mark of a strong woman is a strong opinion!

I have a secret
I get turned on by intersections—
It’s not the flashing lights or
The little green and red men
The swish of fast cars,
Or the rhythmic beep, beep, beep,
Commanding me to cross.

No, it’s right under your feet.
You miss it, walk all over it
Oblivious to its eroticism.
It does nothing for bodies like yours
But mine…
It sends vibrations all over me,
Up and down my spine.

It’s for the blind they say, that’s the official line;
the little bumps, telling innocently of an intersection, a curb.
But us wheelchair using crips
know its erotic underside, 
why, it’s a federally-funded public vibrator,
a DIY sex toy just begging for use.

It takes all by self-control not to casually move
my chair back and forth beside you
Rolling myself ever so slowly over…
and over…
those little round raised circles,
As we wait like good upstanding citizens for the lights to change

Or on the platform for the train,
oh train stations were built just to titillate and tempt us
with their entire raised rows
circles of sensuality 
highlighted in yellow
just asking
to be taken
under my wheels.

You’ll never see a cripple crossing the road in the same way again
and feel compelled offer unsolicited assistance
knowing now what your surprise push from behind is really assisting in

It doesn’t take much to be seen as a misbehaving woman when you have a disability, anything which highlights sex and disability tends to make people uncomfortable and places me squarely outside of expectations.

The mark of a strong woman is a strong opinion!

I have been reflecting on this particularly over the last year, after having a few memorable public differences of opinion with the feminist, queer and disability communities.
It has taken me years to get to a point where I can hold a strong opinion which is at odds with someone publicly and not feel as though I am ‘wrong’ but instead see the value in debating and pulling apart what we think on a topic and why.

A strong opinion is an act of resistance in a society that tells women in a myriad of ways we are not entitled to have one, that we must be liked at all costs.

We have been indoctrinated as women, and particularly as women with disabilities, to be nice and polite, to not take up space with our ideas or our bodies.

We are discouraged from asserting what we think, what we need and want, as this is seen inconsiderate or selfish or rude, as women we must always put others needs above our own.

As a queer woman with a disability I know this all to well. It was drummed into my non-normative body and mind all through childhood that I must be nice, and nice meant agreeable.

Being different, standing out or up for myself was not encouraged by society.

It would mark me out as different even more and I would not be liked.

So now at 31 when I find myself in queer, feminist or disability circles and debating issues or exploring my lived experience which can be different to those around me I try to find the value in disagreement, the things we can learn from each other when we have the courage to take a stand, to know our own mind, to disagree passionately, and in so doing puzzle out why we hold our ideas more deeply.

I think as part of marginalised communities we can become frightened of appearing as disunited, of feeling more disconnected or alone then we already do that we can fail to really change others within our communities and really engage with opposing views.
See here is the thing. We don’t all have to agree.
We don’t even have to all be friends, or get along and we don’t have to be sweet and nice about it.

Just because we share an oppression doesn’t mean that we will like each other.
I don’t share the exact some experience as you and that’s ok. We are still both feminists, and have the experience of gendered oppression and a dive to over throw the patriarchy.
We must create time and spaces where when we have the energy we can debate with each other and explore the things which are outside of our own experience but intrinsic to the other person. 

So I’m practicing exercising my strong opinions and letting myself be challenged, and changed I am trying to be bold and brash, even a little rude and forthright.
I am trying to embody a sense self-confidence which is seen as assertiveness in men and rudeness in women.

I am becoming ok with speaking my truth, even if it renders me unintelligible to others because I am responding in a way that they weren’t expecting and don’t know how to comprehend.

So the next time a stranger asks ‘What is wrong with you?’ as an opening question in a conversation and you would be surprised how often this happens, I am going to use my favourite one-liner and say ‘I got whip lash…from my vibrator’ and wheel away.
Well behaved women seldom make history, but misbehaved women don’t always either
but we sure as hell have a lot more fun and lead interesting and challenging lives.

I am proud of my body and my strong opinions.

And I am not saying sorry for being who I am

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