Equality?

While this post originally began its journey as one about humour, it soon changed my focus into one of equality. Hannah Gadsby‘s breakfast speech regarding who should have the right to define the “good …” caught my attention and I started digging around and found out that YouTube’s search engine prefers white comedians, in particular white male comedians. June Mills’ (Australian comedian) interview turned my mind completely away from comedy and humour.

Norway’s own history with regards to our minorities is terrible. I am not counting the new minorities (from 1970’s and on). Their lot is at least covered by law. Instead, I looked into the ones who have been here a long time. Our minorities consist of three groups of Sámi: the Sápmi, Sábme, and Saepmie. Along with the Sámi (40,000) we have (in no particular order) the Kven (about 10-60,000), Jews (1,000), Romani (10000), Forest Finns and Roma (5-600) people.

Since the information I found was incredibly plentiful I’ll have to write about them over, at least, the next three posts.

 

Being human

How do you people stay sane?

When you walk down a street in your hometown or city, or along a corridor on whatever station you visit, how do you stay sane when you see a fellow sentient being who is homeless and hungry, and in need of sanitation and fresh clothes, food and a warm bed, things that you get to enjoy? How do you stay sane when you hear about your neighbor having lost their job, and they’re mired in debt, unable to pay their bills, when you have plenty to spare? How do you stay sane whenever you see an injured stray dog who needs a trip to the nearest vet, with no owner in sight and no one else but you aware of his pain and his plight?

How, meioa, do you and your viewers stay sane when there are so many things you can do to make this universe a better place, day by day, step by step, kindness by kindness, instead of just sitting there complaining about its awful state? How can you and your viewers stay sane whenever you stay silent on matters of social injustice, oppression, and bigotry?

Johnson, J. (2014). Damnation. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 318-319).

The Illusion of Equality: Democracy vs dictatorship

On Quora the question: “Is American democracy really so much better than Chinese dictatorship?” was asked. In my opinion, the following answer by Emmanuel-Francis Nwaolisa Ogomegbunam on 27 Oct 2015, was one of the best.

I’m Nigerian, but I’m weirdly qualified to answer this because in 1979 the leaders of my country copied the American system in its entirety, after 8 years of the British system ended in utter chaos!

The American system here already seems on its last legs, what with the North-East burning, the South-East in pseudo revolt and the South-South controlled by pirates. From my viewpoint, its not the system that matters, its the leaders! We’ve tried democracies and dictatorships and all have been generally terrible leaders, with that said, the dictators have been by far effective and its not even close. Lets go back to the Nigerian past.

In the beginning of the 19th century, there were no African countries save Egypt(which was much larger) and Ethiopia, the area presently known as Nigeria could be roughly divided into three power spheres. Most of present day Northern Nigeria+Parts of Chad+Parts of Niger and Parts of Cameroon was the Sokoto Caliphate, the South West of the country+ Togo were dominated by the Yoruba States of Ibadan and Abeokuta, the South-East+ the South South were trading states who understood the problems war brought to trade, however the Aro state were the trading hegemon in the area(think of them as the Nigerian version of Goldie’s Royal Niger Company or the Dutch VOC). This was Nigeria at its most powerful, the closest thing to a democracy in my list, the Aro would be called a “flawed democracy” these days.

The British who eventually controlled the entirety of Nigeria by 1914 were obviously not a democracy and yet most of the systems they introduced; e.g the laws(in parts of Nigeria, things like the Sales of Goods Act and the Criminal Code are still those the British pronounced), the policing system, the lingua-franca, the rail network and old roads are still in use today.

Finally in 1960, we got our taste of democracy and it was a disaster, elections were widely rigged, riots were the order of the day, there wasn’t an agreeable census(still isn’t, we’re probably the only country in the world that estimates our population), corruption became institutionalised and it all culminated in 30 month civil war.

We returned back to the dictatorships and they despite being massively corrupt managed to; centralise power at the Federal centre which on one hand reduced the ability of the constituent units to start another civil war but is also the excuse some use for our underdevelopment, one bloody coup+ civil war later, General Gowon settled down to rule and introduced the driving system we currently use, the currency we currently use, introduced the NYSC. General Obasanjo, hosted the FESTAC, started Operation feed the nation and handed power over to the civilians.

This was the point where we adopted the American system, which gave us the government widely agreed to be either the most or the second most corrupt government in my nation’s history, which considering they have all been corrupt is no mean feat. Fun-Fact, the democracies are all ranked as the top four. I’ll get to why later.

We returned back to the dictatorships, and they managed to change the colour of our currency to the one currently in use, introduce the queuing culture into the country(this was the famous queue or be whipped stance of our current President in his dictator days), completed our Federal Capital, electrified the majority of the country, built the third-mainland bridge in Lagos, built the majority of our airports and express-ways. Also in my country under the dictators, I’m told electricity was better and the government provided water.

We’ve been a democracy now for 16 years and you’re forced to deal with stuff like this:

Those are obviously extremes, but in 16 years of democracy, American style democracy to be specific; our leaders can not point to one single infrastructural or societal achievement. They either take credit for things like “introducing mobile phone-networks into the country” or “renovating existing roads” as great achievements.

In my view, American style democracy has its flaws, and my country’s leaders have exposed it:

  • American style democracy is highly divisive, frankly America itself is a wonder to watch, divided across many issues and yet all loyal to the country. However here, its different, you see in Nigeria there is no such thing as a government safety net, in your times of trouble it is inevitably your family who rally around you and what is the tribe but an extension of family. It is why campaigns here are simply not voting for the “other”, it gets worse the further North you head with the horrific literacy levels. This of-course works when “your Brother” has the development of the country at heart and not wanting to loot state funds for a house at Hyde park, but so far all leaders have all preferred to loot the country blind.
  • American style democracy simply cannot work in a country with the illiteracy levels mine has, the illiteracy turns voting into “client-talism”, where you have people voting not for the ideals espoused by the candidate, but for things ranging from Bags of Rice, N10,000 in cash to Smart-phones. I always find it hilarious when Americans complain about money in their politics; first-world problems. In between the cash for vote and the tribal politics, its simply impossible to vote in the right leader.
  • American style democracy is expensive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so expensive in fact that my country currently spends 70% of its budget on recurrent expenditures i.e allowing our useless politicians to leave in style and paying our frankly useless civil service, with debts still having to be paid, this leaves very little for capital expenditures, which is why here we’re grateful for 10 hours of power, lecturers skip classes to handle private businesses, public hospitals are literally hell!!!, basically everything is messed up.
  • Finally, full democracy itself has so far had a poor record in transforming a country, the countries having the fastest rises from poverty have so far been either dictatorships or “flawed” democracies; flawed democracies are a term which I’ve never understood.

To conclude, many of the respondents to your question don’t know what its like to live in a poor country, the last time the world was poor(the great depression), democracy was nearly wiped out, to them democracy being the obvious best seems a no-brainer. Personally, I’m concerned that we’ve all seemed to settle on this one system and condemned the rest, throughout humanity’s history, it has been a constant experimentation with what forms of leadership is best for that particular area, Athens didn’t impose democracy on Sparta, the European monarchies didn’t impose monarchy on America; somewhere along the line that changed and the world has suffered for it. In my opinion to each their system.

The Chinese dictatorship has been good for China, one only need compare the reception Xi Jinping got from your country to the one my President got where he sneaked into 10 Downing, was kept waiting and went to beg(it was humiliating, personally). American democracy has obviously been good for America, though one could argue it has crossed the line into “flawed” democracy and dictatorships many times in its history.

Igbo democracy was good for the Igbo republics; Constitutional/Absolute monarchy was good for the Oyo; Military republicanism was good for Ibadan, a Theocracy was good for the Sokoto Caliphate.

American and British democracy has however been bad for Nigeria.

Illusion of Equality: Enough food and clean water

Language is power. Controlling definitions equals being one of the powerful. We use language to normalize oppression. Activists are told they must “go slow” or “be patient” because “change takes time”. Yet, change happens once enough people want it, especially if social media falls in love with a story.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article 1:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Equality, to me, means that every intelligent being on this planet should have the same rights as every other intelligent being. For some of us, that means society has to adjust to us; and for others, it means that we have to adjust to society.

The two most basic rights, as I see it, are the rights to have enough food to eat and clean water to drink. “My article Is Water a Human Right addresses how states and corporations work on keeping clean drinking water a luxury product and not a basic human right. Willful pollution of drinking sources happens often and lying about such pollution and paying off politicians to get to keep on polluting is fairly common.

“The Global Hunger Index considers the minimum intake for an adult to be at least 1650 kilocalories consisting of a blend of essential “energy, protein, or essential vitamins and minerals”. (GHI) It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the world is incredibly skewed when it comes to having enough healthy food to be able to contribute to our societies.

Three years of violence have left a heavy toll on the people of the Central African Republic (CAR). In the capital, Bangui, the markets have recovered relatively quickly, however. Here, for thousands of people who have been formerly displaced or affected by the crisis, WFP's food vouchers bring a glimmer of hope and comfort. Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoyo
Three years of violence have left a heavy toll on the people of the Central African Republic (CAR). In the capital, Bangui, the markets have recovered relatively quickly, however. Here, for thousands of people who have been formerly displaced or affected by the crisis, WFP’s food vouchers bring a glimmer of hope and comfort.
Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoyo

“Actual hunger is when you feel weak because of a chronic lack of food, when you’re in pain because your stomach is empty, when you can’t concentrate because your brain doesn’t have enough calories to properly function and what 795m people suffer around the world, every, single, day.” (One)

“The WFP said that families are so short of food that children receiving school meals under the WFP’s emergency programme put part of their serving in a plastic bag to take home.” (AlJazeera)

No state is as hungry as the Central African Republic (CAR). A cycle of killing has become part of life since the Central African Republic Bush War began in 2004. Civilians, particularly women and girls, are violated in every way possible. Villages are destroyed and  hundreds of thousands of muslim citizens have fled to neighboring countries (UNHRC). This has brought about lack of farmers and food. To make matters worse, it is suspected that outside funding to the rebels has been and is occurring. UN reports state that these last years of violence have brought about a 70% decrease in food production compared to pre-crisis averages. According to the World Food Programme, more than one million people in CAR face a hunger crisis. Then, there is the other side of the hunger coin. Obesity.

Food Loss + Waste

“In 2016, around forty percent of the adults in the world can be classified as overweight. In over a hundred countries across the world, more than half of the adult population is overweight.” (Gazette Review)

So. More than 10% of the population of the world goes hungry all of the time, while around 40% of the world’s adults are overweight or obese. Food waste (ca 25% of world’s food calories) is immense and land is taken from food production and used towards energy production. Outside states fund destabilization of countries for their own gains. The US has been particularly bad in this area ever since the Cold War started between the USSR and the USA/NATO. Corporations who want access to a country’s goods or to stop production of certain items have, as in the civil war in CAR, also been guilty of sponsoring destabilization of nations. Added to all of this comes environmental changes that exasperate already challenging situations.

The answer to ensuring the equal right to enough food and to clean water is simple, but ever so difficult to implement. The only element we cannot control is the environment. Even there we have some tools that lessen damages.

  • Stop fighting over resources.
  • Stop food waste.
  • Grow products that the ground can support.
  • Prioritize food production over excavating luxury items.
  • Share and share alike.

It really is that simple. Really. And also that difficult. Sadly, I am too cynical to believe we, as a race, will fight our greed and share privileges. Over and over again, history has proven that we don’t. History continues to do so. You and I need to change our thinking and behavior to model a society where food and water resources are shared equally among the planet’s intelligent beings. We can use the tools (social media, voting, campaigns, lobbying, networking, etc.) available to us to influence politicians and corporations to “get with the game”.

Declaration of Principles on Equality

3-5 April 2008 a group of experts got together at a conference in London arranged by The Equal Rights Trust. At this conference titled Principles on Equality and the Development of Legal Standards on Equality, they put together a document called Declaration of Principles on Equality, consisting of 27 principles that aim towards understanding equality better.

People are discriminated against for such characteristics as age, disability, race, belief/no-belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status and maternity. Discrimination may be direct or indirect. In Mississippi and North-Carolina, USA, a bathroom law was passed forcing men and women to use a bathroom/locker-room that matched their birth-sex instead of their gender. People with disabilities may be accused of faking it or using their disability to get attention (gas-lighting). The following 27 principles, hopefully, enable law-makers, businesses, health-personnel and others become aware of steps they need to take to make their society more equal. Whether people really want others to be equal to themselves, is a question I fear has a depressing answer.

  1. The right to equality
  2. Equal treatment
  3. Positive action
  4. The right to non-discrimination
  5. Definition of discrimination
  6. Relationship between the grounds of discrimination
  7. Discrimination and violence
  8. Scope of Application
  9. Right-holders
  10. Duty-bearers
  11. Giving Effect to the Right to Equality
  12. Obligations Regarding Multiple Discrimination
  13. Accommodating Difference
  14. Measures Against Poverty
  15. Specificity of Equality Legislation
  16. Participation
  17. Education on Equality
  18. Access to Justice
  19. Victimisation
  20. Standing
  21. Evidence and Proof
  22. Remedies and Sanctions
  23. Specialised Bodies
  24. Duty to Gather Information
  25. Dissemination of Information
  26. Prohibition of Regressive Interpretation
  27. Derogations and Reservations

1 The Right to Equality

The right to equality is the right of all human beings to be equal in dignity, to be treated with respect and consideration and to participate on an equal basis with others in any area of economic, social, political, cultural or civil life. All human beings are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

2 Equal Treatment

Equal treatment, as an aspect of equality, is not equivalent to identical treatment. To realise full and effective equality it is necessary to treat people differently according to their different circumstances, to assert their equal worth and to enhance their capabilities to participate in society as equals.

3 Positive Action

To be effective, the right to equality requires positive action.

Positive action, which includes a range of legislative, administrative and policy measures to overcome past disadvantage and to accelerate progress towards equality of particular groups, is a necessary element within the right to equality.

4 The Right to Non-discrimination

The right to non-discrimination is a free-standing, fundamental right, subsumed in the right to equality.

5 Definition of Discrimination

Discrimination must be prohibited where it is on grounds of race, colour, ethnicity, descent, sex, pregnancy, maternity, civil, family or carer status, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, birth, national or social origin, nationality, economic status, association with a national minority, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, health status, genetic or other predisposition toward illness or a combination of any of these grounds, or on the basis of characteristics associated with any of these grounds.

Discrimination based on any other ground must be prohibited where such discrimination (i) causes or perpetuates systemic disadvantage; (ii) undermines human dignity; or (iii) adversely affects the equal enjoyment of a person’s rights and freedoms in a serious manner that is comparable to discrimination on the prohibited grounds stated above.

Discrimination must also be prohibited when it is on the ground of the association of a person with other persons to whom a prohibited ground applies or the perception, whether accurate or otherwise, of a person as having a characteristic associated with a prohibited ground.

Discrimination may be direct or indirect.

Direct discrimination occurs when for a reason related to one or more prohibited grounds a person or group of persons is treated less favourably than another person or another group of persons is, has been, or would be treated in a comparable situation; or when for a reason related to one or more prohibited grounds a person or group of persons is subjected to a detriment. Direct discrimination may be permitted only very exceptionally, when it can be justified against strictly defined criteria.

Indirect discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice would put persons having a status or a characteristic associated with one or more prohibited grounds at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim, and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.

Harassment constitutes discrimination when unwanted conduct related to any prohibited ground takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

An act of discrimination may be committed intentionally or unintentionally.

6 Relationship between the Grounds of Discrimination

Legislation must provide for equal protection from discrimination regardless of the ground or combination of grounds concerned.

7 Discrimination and Violence

Any act of violence or incitement to violence that is motivated wholly or in part by the victim having a characteristic or status associated with a prohibited ground constitutes a serious denial of the right to equality. Such motivation must be treated as an aggravating factor in the commission of offences of violence and incitement to violence, and States must take all appropriate action to penalise, prevent and deter such acts.

8 Scope of Application

The right to equality applies in all areas of activity regulated by law.

9 Right-holders

The right to equality is inherent to all human beings and may be asserted by any person or a group of persons who have a common interest in asserting this right.

The right to equality is to be freely exercised by all persons present in or subject to the jurisdiction of a State.

Legal persons must be able to assert a right to protection against discrimination when such discrimination is, has been or would be based on their members, employees or other persons associated with a legal person having a status or characteristic associated with a prohibited

10 Duty-bearers

States have a duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to equality for all persons present within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction. Non-state actors, including transnational corporations and other non-national legal entities, should respect the right to equality in all areas of activity regulated by law.

11 Giving Effect to the Right to Equality

States must take the steps that are necessary to give full effect to the right to equality in all activities of the State both domestically and in its external or international role. In particular States must

(a) Adopt all appropriate constitutional, legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the right to equality;

(b) Take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that conflict or are incompatible with the right to equality;

(c) Promote equality in all relevant policies and programmes;

(d) Review all proposed legislation for its compatibility with the right to equality;

(e) Refrain from adopting any policies or engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the right to equality;

(f) Take all appropriate measures to ensure that all public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the right to equality;

(g) Take all appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination by any person, or any public or private sector organisation.

12 Obligations Regarding Multiple Discrimination

Laws and policies must provide effective protection against multiple discrimination, that is, discrimination on more than one ground. Particular positive action measures, as defined in Principle 3, may be required to overcome past disadvantage related to the combination of two or more prohibited grounds.

13 Accommodating Difference

To achieve full and effective equality it may be necessary to require public and private sector organisations to provide reasonable accommodation for different capabilities of individuals related to one or more prohibited grounds.

Accommodation means the necessary and appropriate modifications and adjustments, including anticipatory measures, to facilitate the ability of every individual to participate in any area of economic, social, political, cultural or civil life on an equal basis with others. It should not be an obligation to accommodate difference where this would impose a disproportionate or undue burden on the provider.

14 Measures against Poverty

As poverty may be both a cause and a consequence of discrimination, measures to alleviate poverty should be coordinated with measures to combat discrimination, in the pursuit of full and effective equality.

15 Specificity of Equality Legislation

The realisation of the right to equality requires the adoption of equality laws and policies that are comprehensive and sufficiently detailed and specific to encompass the different forms and manifestations of discrimination and disadvantage.

16 Participation

All persons, particularly those who have experienced or who are vulnerable to discrimination, should be consulted and involved in the development and implementation of laws and policies implementing the right to equality.

17 Education on Equality

States have a duty to raise public awareness about equality, and to ensure that all educational establishments, including private, religious and military schools, provide suitable education on equality as a fundamental right.

18 Access to Justice

Persons who have been subjected to discrimination have a right to seek legal redress and an effective remedy. They must have effective access to judicial and/or administrative procedures, and appropriate legal aid for this purpose. States must not create or permit undue obstacles, including financial obstacles or restrictions on the representation of victims, to the effective enforcement of the right to equality.

19 Victimisation

States must introduce into their national legal systems such measures as are necessary to protect individuals from any adverse treatment or adverse consequence as a reaction to a complaint or to proceedings aimed at enforcing compliance with equality provisions.

20 Standing

States should ensure that associations, organisations or other legal entities, which have a legitimate interest in the realisation of the right to equality, may engage, either on behalf or in support of the persons seeking redress, with their approval, or on their own behalf, in any judicial and/or administrative procedure provided for the enforcement of the right to equality.

21 Evidence and Proof

Legal rules related to evidence and proof must be adapted to ensure that victims of discrimination are not unduly inhibited in obtaining redress. In particular, the rules on proof in civil proceedings should be adapted to ensure that when persons who allege that they have been subjected to discrimination establish, before a court or other competent authority, facts from which it may be presumed that there has been discrimination (prima facie case), it shall be for the respondent to prove that there has been no breach of the right to equality.

22 Remedies and Sanctions

Sanctions for breach of the right to equality must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. Sanctions must provide for appropriate remedies for those whose right to equality has been breached including reparations for material and non-material damages; sanctions may also require the elimination of discriminatory practices and the implementation of structural, institutional, organisational, or policy change that is necessary for the realisation of the right to equality.

23 Specialised Bodies

States must establish and maintain a body or a system of coordinated bodies for the protection and promotion of the right to equality. States must ensure the independent status and competences of such bodies in line with the UN Paris Principles, as well as adequate funding and transparent procedures for the appointment and removal of their members.

24 Duty to Gather Information

To give full effect to the right to equality States must collect and publicise information, including relevant statistical data, in order to identify inequalities, discriminatory practices and patterns of disadvantage, and to analyse the effectiveness of measures to promote equality. States must not use such information in a manner that violates human rights.

25 Dissemination of Information

Laws and policies adopted to give effect to the right to equality must be accessible to all persons. States must take steps to ensure that all such laws and policies are brought to the attention of all persons who may be concerned by all appropriate means.

26 Prohibition of Regressive Interpretation

In adopting and implementing laws and policies to promote equality, there shall be no regression from the level of protection against discrimination that has already been achieved.

27 Derogations and Reservations

No derogation from the right to equality shall be permitted. Any reservation to a treaty or other international instrument, which would derogate from the right to equality, shall be null and void.

Menstruation/periods can be extra difficult with a disability

Finally, a frank conversation about disability and periods. My period arrived when I was about 12.5. It was an embarrassing day. Since then, I have wished it away. Slowly, that wish is coming true. During these 40 years of monthly bleeding, I have tried the traditional products (pads and tampons) but never alternative menstrual products (like menstrual cups/menskopp). I cannot use tampons and I would guess that I am not alone in that. Nor can I use silicone products and had no clue there were alternatives. Thankfully, crippledscholar has had experience with various menstrual products and brought the topic into the open. Like she says, there are considerations that people with disabilities have to think about that are irrelevant without disabilities. Maybe my last periods will be more comfortable than the previous ones have been.

Let’s Talk About Disability, Periods, and Alternative Menstrual Products
Posted by crippledscholar on July 8, 2016

There is so much I want to say about disability and menstruation. So much that I could never fit it into a single post. I have noticed that there is very little written about disability and menstruation generally and what little there is is most often not written by disabled people. As a result a lot of it is about control and often menstrual cessation in order to make the menstruating person more convenient for a care giver. This sometimes goes so far as sterilization of the disabled person.

The dearth of material on disability and menstruation from the disabled perspective likely has a number of influences that include the fact that menstruation is still unfortunately a taboo subject generally that people are embarrassed to talk about. Add to that the very idea of disability and sexuality is also still (somehow) widely denied. Which is, I suspect why so many nondisabled people feel so comfortable talking about period cessation as a reasonable solution to disabled people who have periods.

This focus on just stopping the whole business of menstruation is frustrating because it primarily marks the disabled body and its natural functions as too inconvenient. It also means that for those of us who do menstruate that we are left with disability specific information on how to deal with our periods.

It is the latter issue that I’m going to deal with now because the first issue while so important is just to big for me to handle right now.

I am going to talk about disability and the accessibility of alternative menstrual products.

Unfortunately, I am just one person with just one kind of disabled body and so nothing I say will have universal application. This is one of the reasons why we really need more disabled people to share their stories and experiences. If you have a different experience please share it in the comments or write your own blog post about it and share that in the comments.

Hopefully in spite of this I will have something useful to say or spark a conversation to get more voices heard because I really feel that it is essential to demystify and destigmatize not only menstruation and particularly disabled people menstruating.

For context (to see if what I say will translate well for you) I have left side hemiplegic cerebral palsy and am autistic. So most of what I have experience with is dealing with menstruation literally single handedly and the sensory aspects it entails.

I started menstruating when I was 11 and have primarily used pads as my go to feminine hygiene product. I found tampons difficult and uncomfortable for pretty much my entire childhood and teen years. I only started using them rarely when I was well into my twenties.

I have never found pads to be particularly comfortable and couldn’t manage to deal with anything other than the thinnest option. I’m still not a fan of tampons. I find the uncomfortable but sheer pragmatism has forced me to use them occasionally. I am always hyper aware of them the entire time that I do.

In the last decade or so alternatives to the standard and and tampon methods of dealing with menstruation have become more mainstream (though they have definitely existed longer than that).

Alternative period products are generally washable and reusable and are considered to be both more environmentally friendly and more cost effective.

The oldest alternative period product is probably the menstrual cup …………..

The rest of the article may be read at crippledscholar

How Autism Awareness Goes Wrong

I am not a fan of Autism Speaks and their tactics. There is not enough autism and too much speak in their club. So much of their work goes toward demonizing autism and terrifying parents into supporting them and their “cure” theories. Really. Folks. Stop patronizing us.

Remember to put the person first! It’s a “person suffering from allism” not “allistic person” no matter how many times they try and tell you otherwise. It’s disrespectful to allow them their own choice in how they’d like to be referred.” (Tone it Down Taupe)

The word NO written in capital letters from a pile of blue and orange jigsaw puzzle pieces with a gray cardboard back. Pictured separated on a white background. Can also be turned upside down to spell ON.
flickr/Horia Varlan

April 18, 2016 | by

Friends, I want to talk to you about autism awareness awareness. We are, I fear, on the verge of an autism awareness epidemic, a veritable tsunami of awareness. Once a relatively rare phenomenon, the ailment, which is most commonly characterized by non-autistic people engaging in public handwringing about autism and/or feeling inspired by those tragically touched by neurodevelopmental disorders, has become increasingly common over the past decade. Some speculate that, within the next few years, as many as 1 in 2 people could have an awareness of autism.

In theory, more people knowing more about autism spectrum disorder would be a good thing. Autistic people, like me, could certainly benefit from the general public having a greater understanding of what our lives are like, and maybe even some genuine acceptance of those lives in whatever form they take. Increased awareness would be an excellent first step toward those goals. But the kind of autism awareness that is currently celebrated in day (April 2) and month (the rest of April) form was never made for people like me. I’d argue that it was never really made with anyone on the spectrum in mind at all.

The most nefarious incarnation of autism awareness is the kind espoused by Autism Speaks, which treats autistic people as little more than props in its various campaigns. The prominent charity’s simple and dishearteningly effective message—autism is bad and it must be stopped—misrepresents a complex condition and identity as a sinister looming specter that can and should be cured. It reduces the people who have autism to damaged, voiceless zombies bringing suffering to everyone who loves them, when in fact we are disabled human beings who might require treatments and accommodations unique to our circumstances. And Autism Speaks’ ends might actually be worse than its means, given that so little of its budget goes toward helping autistic people and their families……………………

The rest of the article may be read at The Establishment

Disability vs accessibility

I have a mobility disability. Currently I am planning a trip with my husband and daughter. Having me along makes the holiday much more expensive. This is why:

  1. I need to bring my wheelchair along. That means leasing a car. My wheelchair does not fit into most cars due to its solid frame. It has that frame to make it lighter so I can lift it in and out of cars. When it comes to cars, that means I will need a car with a fairly large boot. Environmentally, I feel guilty because my imprint is much larger than a person without mobility issues.
  2. The places we stay need to have access to parking (obviously). They also need to have an alternative to stairs. It’s not that I cannot walk up stairs, but after a day of sightseeing it will be intensely painful. In fact, everything will be more painful, so I do not wish to make it worse than it will be.
  3. Some places are inaccessible to me. I am fortunate in that I can walk, so getting my chair in and out of places is a simple matter if I have a person with me (read husband/daughter/son). But once I am inside, the chair has to be accessible. That is because I cannot sit on many surfaces. It hurts too much. My wheelchair is adjusted to my body (as much as possible) and I can deal with that pain. Guided tours usually do not work for these reasons.

Being disabled is expensive. Both economically and environmentally. But I have the feeling that compared to a huge percent of the population our impact is very little. That is because we generally have to put quite a bit of planning into what we do. I would guess that is the case for most disabilities to a greater or lesser extent. This article about the twitter discussion on Lazy vs Disabled vs Environment is highly relevant and thought provoking.

So there’s a debate going on, on Twitter right now between disabled people and people who either claim to care about the environment and or just want to complain about “lazy people”

The tweet that started it all

orangegate cropped

Image Description: tweet with a picture of peeled oranges in plastic containers on a grocery store (whole foods) shelf. Tweet reads “If only nature could find a way to cover these oranges so we didn’t need to waste so much plastic on them”

The original tweet has been shared over 70,000 times. Whole Foods has apparently agreed to remove the prepeeled oranges from their stores. Environmentalists and those who hate laziness rejoice!

The problem is that this discourse completely ignores how preprepared food impacts people with disabilities. The most common complaints about the sale of these oranges is either the wastefulness of the additional packaging (which is true but somewhat misdirected as I’ll discuss later) or that anyone who buys this must be incomprehensibly lazy.

As a person with limited hand dexterity, I look at this and see an easier way to eat healthy food. I actively avoid eating oranges, not because I dislike them (they are definitely tasty) but because I have so much difficulty peeling them. Any attempt to peel an orange is likely to result in an unappetizing mess because I’ve squeezed the orange to hard while trying to maneuver it for peel removal.

I don’t have access to peeled oranges from my grocery store though I’d probably take advantage of them if I did. I do buy precut vegetables all the time because it is more convenient and safer for me to do so.

Preparing food with limited mobility is both hugely time consuming and potentially dangerous. While adapted cooking tools do exist to help offset those issues they are really expensive (I wrote about thathere).

Anything that helps make my regular acts of daily life safer and more convenient is always a plus. So I was one of a number of disabled people who pushed back against the wholesale shaming of preprepared foods. The responses I got were informative in looking at how nondisabled people disregard and try and shut down discussions of accessibility. Rebuttals to inserting disability and accessibility into the conversation included what I consider the most ridiculous attempt to maintain the moral high ground. It was,

I mean accessibility is nice and all but you know that wasn’t the thinking behind this product. It wasn’t designed for disabled people.

You know what, that’s probably entirely true. Whole foods was probably trying to cater to the convenience aspect. This is supported by the fact that the protest against the product on environmental and anti-lazy grounds was so successful.

The thing is this argument is hilariously irrelevant. In fact it shows that things don’t need to be directly conceived as accessible products to function that way. In many way things that are accidentally accessible are better than things that are specifically designed to be. This is because things that are accidentally accessible are marketed and available to everyone and are thus likely to be more easily available that an accessible product which is likely only sold in specialized stores. Seriously, accessibility that requires no thought to implement is the best.

Other arguments I got were,

Peeled oranges have a shorter shelf life so how convenient are they really?

This is true and it indicates just how much planning has to go into living while disabled. I have to plan my meals around the fresh produce I buy more strictly that others because I buy some things precut. This can be inconvenient but it pales in comparison to being forced to rely more heavily on canned or other processed foods that have a longer shelf life. My disability doesn’t disappear just because a whole head of cauliflower will last longer in my fridge than smaller prepared florettes.

and

Peeled oranges are certainly going to cost more than unpeeled and isn’t that a barrier?

Also true but here’s the thing, being disabled is expensive and costs for accessible products can be prohibitive. It is however easier to budget for the extra dollar or two that prepared fruits and vegetables are going to cost every couple weeks than the dozens or hundreds of dollars buying adapted cooking equipment will cost up front. This is a case where the cost should be the cause for protest not the cost being used as an excuse to protest the product. I’m all for my life being more affordable.

Other disabled activists dealt with other arguments. The person who argued most ardently with me was actually pretty tame and seemed more clueless than anything as they clearly didn’t think their arguments through and went away quietly when I calmly rebutted their arguments. Others were not so lucky. Things got a lot messier and ableist as Twitter user Ana Mardoll learned as she systematically tore apart those arguments (for a full view of this thread click here)

Issues arose when protesters prioritized the environment over the experiences of disabled people. Though as Ana points out those plastic food containers are hardly new. They are a ubiquitous sight at any grocery store deli housing things like artisanal cheese, salads and mac & cheese. Yet how is it that the wastefulness arguments crops up over something that is accessible, rather than the widespread use of plastic containers generally. Not to mention at least these look like the could be reused or repurposed. Where is the protest over bags of prepared salad? I guess peeling an orange is to easy but the convenience of salad in a plastic bag is to much to be denied.

Ana further points out that disability inherently comes with a greater need for product consumption. Disabled people need mobility aids and other tools that inevitably have an impact on the environment. Many of the people she encountered appeared to suggest that in the fight for the environment, disabled people are too inconvenient and should not be accommodated………

The rest of the article may be read at Crippled Scholar

2015 Aug 5: AFrogInTheFjord: Morals in Politics: What if French DSK had been Norwegian?

Sometimes I despair over Norwegian politics because of the path it seems to be travelling down. I see attitudes that seem to indicate a sense of self-importance in more of them that simply do not fit with the job they do. In earlier times there was no bridge between rich and poor, elite and commoner. 1905 brought about a gradual coming together that is now, once again, disappearing. We are ever so slowly entering the game of excusing our “betters” (who are anything but) their flaws that the rest of the world seems to embrace. This post by Frog in The Fjord illustrates what I see as our future if we aren’t able to pull out before we, the commoners, have become pregnant with the flaws of the “shitelite”.

Illustration: Ole Johnny Hansen for afroginthefjord.com. All rights reserved
Illustration: Ole Johnny Hansen for afroginthefjord.com. All rights reserved

Do you remember Dominique Strauss Kahn? Or DSK like we call him in France? He was a high profile French politician, once the Head of the International Monetary Fund, French Ministry of Finance, and one press release away from becoming a serious candidate to become France’s President in 2012.

He was basically one of the most powerful men in the world, until this day of May 2011 when he was taken on a “perp walk” in New York City, handcuffed, his eyes blitzed away by hundreds of journalists witnessing a fall like we only see in Hollywood movies. That year DSK was accused of attempted rape and sexual assault by a room cleaner in the Sofitel hotel he was occupying, Nafissatou Diallo. The Sofitel trial was reported on international media, and ended with a settlement where DSK gave 1,5 million dollars to Diallo. Although he settled and therefore escaped a final decision of the judge, potentially a conviction, if DSK had been a Norwegian politician this would be a good example of what Norwegian journalists call a political suicide. But in France he was still called a “seductor”.

In Norway a non registered stabbur will get you out of a job. In France aggravated pimping will make you a potential President of the Republic.

It doesn’t stop there. Between 2013 and 2015 he was in another trial, accused this time of aggravated pimping in a prostitution network in North of France and Belgium. Acquitted again. He admitted having orgies but also said he did not know the 40 women laying with him were prostitutes. The prosecutor found that he had benefited from prostitution that others had paid for. So he is not guilty, legally. What about morally? But imagine you read in the newspapers the painful testimony of a woman at the bar explaining the sadism in the man’s eyes when he forced them to perform sexual acts (never named) she were uncomfortable with. Would you vote for this man if he wanted to exist again in the political arena of your country? Even if he begged for forgiveness? (DSK didn’t, in case you were wondering).

If you are Norwegian your answer to this question is certainly “no”. Although this man was never found guilty, there are so many stains on his CV that he lost all the trust of the people he is supposed to represent. In his carrier he was also accused twice of corruption (also acquitted or settled out of court). Plus he doesn’t seem to respect women very much, not a good sign for Norwegians.

But if you are French the spectrum of answers is much wider. Believe it or not, recent polls show DSK in the top 5 of the politicians French voters see as good candidates for the 2017 presidential elections. And he recently wrote two opinion pieces on the way Germany and the EU deal with the Greek crisis that show that he does not see himself as politically dead at all. Not only does he see himself as back in the game, so do French voters.

In Norway on the other hand, one does not need to be accused of aggravated pimping to become a political outcast. You don’t even need to do something criminal, and you don’t even need to be convicted. You rent a storehouse without the right authorizations and you lose all credibility as a politician (Åslaug Hage). That was not even a crime, it was a mistake, and wrong, but still. There are many other examples of Norwegian politicians who had to resign or at the very least apologize for a scandal of this scale: Fabian Stang and his under the table work in his house, Åslaug Haga and her storehouse, Trude Drevland and her free ticket to Venice (for work), or Bård Hoksrud and his Latvian prostitutes to name a few (naming a few politicians, not prostitutes). In France such stories would hardly raise an eyebrow. Maybe create a little laughter.

Norwegians apologize, French accuse others of their crimes

In Norway the first move of a politician is to apologize and ask for the forgiveness of its voters. Politicians don’t apologize in France, that just shows you are weak. Even worse, when a scandal comes out in the news, the classic defence for a French politician is to look outraged. “I am a victim!” is what they scream in the media. Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé, Jean Francois Copé all said they were victims of a conspiracy when they were accused of all sorts of crimes. And the French public tends to believe them especially in the case of DSK’s Sofitel case. ………………………

http://afroginthefjord.com/2015/08/05/morals-in-politics-what-if-french-dsk-had-been-norwegian/

Seeing reality (or third thoughts)

First Sight and Second Thoughts, that’s what a witch had to rely on: First Sight to see what’s really there, and Second Thoughts to watch the First Thoughts to check that they were thinking right. Then there were the Third Thoughts, which Tiffany had never heard discussed and therefore kept quiet about; they were odd, seemed to think for themselves, and didn’t turn up very often. (Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett)

In 1999 I started on what would end up being a BA in culture and society = 2 years of psychology and 1 year of sociology. Until that time I had lived uncomfortably with my worldviews and life. Throughout the study-years I learned about the processes that interfere with being able to see reality. Cognitive dissonance and the mob effect are the ones I am best able to recognize in my own lives.

Cognitive dissonance

Dilbert - Cognitive dissonance
Creator: Scott Adams

Mob effect

Creator: Mike Keefe
Creator: Mike Keefe

From what I can see the world, in general, is ruled through mob rule. Very few of us sit back and take time/have time to reflect on how our neighborhoods, cities, countries or the world have come to be the way they have. Social influences are ignored because our lives run smoother that way. Our own choices are rationalized with whatever thought-exercise we need to justify whatever it is we have done/are doing/are about to do. Myself included.

Becoming handicapped in a manner that leaves much time for thought and reflection has brought with it a lowering of my personal physical quality of life. In many ways it has forced a heightening of my mental quality of life (although my emotional one often takes a hit). Now I find myself having to ask both second and third thought questions.

Sometimes when we ask questions, the answers we find are neither pleasant nor pretty. People in general, myself included, do not seem to want to understand just how greatly our own values undermine the existence of mammals (humans included) on Earth. My own country is very much part of this destructiveness.

This is the world as I see it:

Realizing, accepting and internalizing that humans make up a tiny fragment of the world is one of my permanent goals. It is in seeing myself as part of the in-group “residents on Tellus”, rather than human/mammal/animal, that motivates me to work harder for continued life on earth, even if that life ends up being without humans.