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Nov 21, 2018

Crushing Ableism w Journalism

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Edited: Nov 21, 2018

https://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/opinion-story/9041555-have-sympathy-peterborough-winter-is-tougher-for-people-with-disabilities/

 

GOOOOOOD AFTERNOON! You better believe I'm feelin spunky today folks. I have some things to say - aside even, from this column itself. **Please note I posted this on my Facebook Wall this morning, and is directed mostly at able-bodied folks. Let me know what you think of this piece, and the behind-the-scenes-writing, in the comments!*

 

First off, for those of you who are not aware, I do not get to pick my own titles for my #TessaTakesCharge column. I've known this fate for years, having started in the journalism field since age 16, but sometimes it can really bite your behind. In today's published column, for example, I refer multiple times to the term Empathy, never once using 'Sympathy' because these are two Very Different concepts. What's the title anyway? "Have Sympathy". No. For my audience who read loyally every other week, please know this should have been "Have Empathy". There is nothing I can do about having my own titles published, so please try and read past the ableism.

 

And on that note, I'm brought to the second thing on my mind this morning. You might remember how in September I published a piece called 'The Nature of Disability' and received backlash from a man who emailed me, saying in the very first line "you do not appear to be a disabled woman." I'm sorry sir, but I am. Proudly. This morning I received another email from the same person, telling me not to refer to myself as disabled, while using other ableist language, such as the god-awful term 'Diffability. (For those of you who don't know, this is a very ableist term created/used by able-bodied folks who feel so uncomfortable calling a disability what it is, that they had to take away any kind of independent title to make it their own. Speaking from my own mind, please refrain from using this word around me anyways.)

 

I understand that this a man of an older generation, who has had experience living with a disabled woman for ten years, but the way he keeps emailing me telling me all about her, makes me feel as though he is tokenizing her just for the sake of saying he knows about disability. I'm sure he does, but this is not the right way to come across. This man puts down my choices to call myself disabled, while telling me the woman he lived with would never do something like that, and never called herself disabled. I don't think I could ever find the right words to explain to this person that empowerment comes from different use of words/terminology.

 

I feel powerful calling myself disabled, and I will not stop. This is how I will make a change.

 

ANYWAYS. Oh my gosh. I just figured for those of you who like these pieces, that you might find some background information interesting as well. I really do work hard on these columns to make activist statements, and it just doesn't come without any backlash. It's hard, but I think it's worth it.

 

Please enjoy Finding Empathy for disabled folx on the streets of Peterborough (and everywhere) this winter season, and know we are not complaining, our reality is just a little different.

 

~Tess <3

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