This site started out as a zine (small independent publication) series which morphed into a website/blog and then spun off into a book – Disability Politics and Theory.
The website title is a riff on “if I can’t dance it ain’t my revolution” which is a common radical phrase which is commonly attributed to Emma Goldman. She never actually said this but it was similar to a really long thing that she said and it fit on a T-shirt.
Disabled people are actively excluded from radical politics. We are ignored and, on occasion, tokenized. Some people on the left consider us lumpen proletariat, some give us a seat at the table in a building with a broken elevator, but rarely are we included, valued, and respected.
You Don’t Have to Stand Up to Fight Back! Standard wheelchair symbol but the person has a raised fist. Black on Pink.
“If I can’t dance it ain’t my revolution” is as true today as it ever was. If you can’t dance, you aren’t allowed to participate equally in revolutionary struggle. If you dance cautiously because you are in pain, or “strangely” it isn’t your revolution. If you aren’t dancing because you have been forcibly restrained it isn’t your revolution. If you dance alone because you have been excluded from society because you have an intellectual disability, are psychiatrised, deaf or physically disabled it isn’t your revolution. If you don’t dance you aren’t allowed to participate equally in the struggle, it isn’t your revolution. If you don’t fight, if you don’t organize, it won’t be your revolution and changes implemented will not reflect the diverse needs and perspectives of disabled people.
We all dance in our own ways. We all fight in our own ways. We need to create the space for that to be recognized and we need to fight for change together.
School Schmool is a great day-timer that is put together by QPIRG McGill and QPIRG Concordia.I wrote this for this year’s planner. A lot of the stuff in it is really interesting and there is always beautiful art. You can check it out by clicking here.
Time and time again, people make the argument that disabled people don’t have to be included in social justice movements because disabled people are ‘different.’ Disabled people, they say, are different from other subordinated groups because we have an ‘intrinsic hardship.’ Disabled people, they say, are different because there is something wrong with us. Disabled people, they say, aren’t entitled to the same kinds of social inclusion and social justice because we simply can’t do certain things – our exclusion is justified.
Maybe you’ve even said this. I know I certainly have – before I dealt with my internalized disablism and educated myself about disability politics. This is one way that disablism works. It convinces us that disabled people are separate and different so there is no need to fight back, no need to be an ally. Indeed widely respected feminists, anti-racists, anti-capitalists, queer liberationists/gay rights activists and trans liberationists/trans rights activists have all said it. To a certain extent, every identity-based movement has worked to distance itself from disability and disabled people – screwing over their own otherwise-disabled members in the process. Indeed women, people of colour, poor and working class people, queer and trans people have all been widely (if not entirely) considered disabled at some point in history.
The argument that those groups were different and simply not a capable as rich-straight-white-men was seen as incontrovertible truth.
Now, we know otherwise. It is important to question: why it is okay to make disabled people an exception? Why it is okay to justify the continued oppression of disabled people – even in social justice movements? Why, when biology is now widely understood to be a social construction and not an acceptable justification for the oppression of other groups, is biology deemed to be neutral in the case of disabled people? Why is it okay to pay lip service to ending only certain kinds of marginalization and oppression for disabled people and leave others intact?
Do we really want to allow entitlement to social justice based on how closely people adhere to arbitrary views of normal? Is it okay to continue to hold to ideas that justice is only for some, not all? Dig deep. Do you have an answer to these questions that is actually valid or do you just rely on your problematic assumptions about disability to justify disabled people’s oppression? Let’s stop building a world where some people just can’t fit and excluding those people for being who they are. Let’s build a better world.