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The problem with the #Metoo hashtag

January saw the #TimesUp movement come to the forefront, with female celebrities dressing in black for the Golden Globe awards and an iconic speech from Oprah Winfrey.

Of course, the movement itself is much more than that. Usually, when famous rich people start on this sort of thing I can get quite cynical, but this movement seems to be doing good stuff for women battling sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. Part of this has been setting up a legal defense fund for those who need redress in these areas.

I was watching the progress of this when I saw some social media posts pointing out that many areas of diversity had been mentioned on their banner headlines - but disability had been missed out. Despite having that ‘here we go again’ sinking feeling, I went to check it out on the scale of truth or fake news. Sure enough, it was true. BUT, as soon as it was pointed out - it was corrected and an apology made. It was just a mistake by omission.

People often don’t connect with disabled people, not because they don't want to but because they are afraid of getting it wrong.

What followed was interesting. The twitter feed on this particular comment and response got hijacked by disability activists, all talking about the terminology that should be used in the new edited banner. As I read it - that sinking feeling came back. No wonder people miss disability out - no matter what they put, someone isn’t going to be happy about it. It’s just easier not to mention us!

As a disabled person myself, I can say this. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. I do a lot of disability awareness training, and what I find is; people often don’t connect with disabled people, not because they don't want to but because they are afraid of getting it wrong. A lot of the folk I spoke to have been slapped down by disability activists who want ‘that’ terminology, having been told by another disabled person ‘not’ to use that terminology. What’s a person to do?!

People often ask me what I like to be referred to as. I prefer Kay.

The best advice I’ve seen is, default to ‘person first’ terminology. That is: ‘person with…’ But when talking in the context of campaigning, it’s characteristic first. For example: disabled person. But, there will be many who disagree with me on that.

So what would I have preferred to see in this twitter stream? Education.
Every ‘rights’ organisation, including the U.N. acknowledge that disabled women are at a much, much higher risk of sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace - and in every other area of their lives for that matter. That fact alone should stop people forgetting women with disabilities and their daily struggle to be seen as equal and not less than. For all those who used the #MeToo hash tag last year, many would have been women with disabilities, visible and hidden.

I used #MeToo in a tweet, for lots of reasons. One was the harassment I’ve had in the last couple of years from complete strangers. They seem to feel they can get away with it - just because I’m disabled.

However they didn’t, I called them out on it and asked “Would you have said that if I was on my feet and carrying a brief case?” The response is usually ‘It’s ok, I was just trying to be friendly.’ Overtly sexualised language to a person you don't know is never ok, wheelchair or not.

Circumstances have made me bolshie enough to challenge inappropriate behavior and comments. What would have happened if I hadn’t? Probably nothing, but for a few, it does lead to something.

Some areas of the Church are becoming more active in addressing the problem of sexual assault, harassment and inequality. But once again, disability and additional needs are often overlooked, not deliberately, but because many in the Church don't realise the added risk and vulnerability that disability brings.

Can I add another hash tag here? #DontLeaveUsOut (Even if you don't know the right words!)

Written by Kay Morgan-Gurr

Chair of Children Matter, Co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, part of the Evangelical Alliance Council. Passionate about building life long resilient faith in children of all ages and abilities. Married to Steve. Coffee loving, knitting and Crocheting wheelie who loves technology. Used to be a Children’s nurse specialising in additional needs.

Blog: “Pondering Platypus”  kaymorgangurr.com

Twitter: KayMorgan_Gurr

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