“Disability is pain, struggle, brilliance, abundance, and joy. Disability is sociopolitical, cultural, and biological. Being visible and claiming a disabled identity brings risks as much as it brings pride.”Alice Wong in Disability Visibility
Welcome back to season two, where we begin tackling tricky subjects from the get-go. We’re told it’s a fundamental need in humans to be seen. Being acknowledged means having the same opportunities as everyone else, no matter who you are. That your identity is an incredible part of you. Counsellor Shala Nicely says: “Feeling seen by others is a basic human need. Its basis is evolutionary: If your tribe didn’t see you, there was a risk you’d be left behind when the nomadic life of early humans dictated they move, and being alone equated to death.”
So what can we do to be visible?
Trigger Warning: This episode contains themes of abuse, violence, police brutality, suicide, and mental illness.
Thanks to the following guests for participating:
Jaspreet Kaur is an award-winning spoken word artist, history teacher and writer from London. She is passionate about gender issues, taboo subjects and encouraging positive social change in both the Asian community and wider society. Her works tackle issues related to gender discrimination, mental health stigma, the postcolonial immigrant experience, and more. She is a regular on the BBC and Sunday morning live and has worked with the UN on the He for She campaign. She is currently a research fellow at Birkbeck University’s Centre for British political life. Brown Girl Like Me is her debut book.
Aaron Whitfield, educator and creator of the Semi-Social Life of a Black Introvert Podcast.
Bestselling author of Be The Leader You Want To See Susie Ramroop.
Jojo Smith, Business Development, Branding Fairy Godmother, and founder of CreativeSAS.
Stay-at-home mother and book reviewer Krista Hajjar-Nejad.
Keryn Potts is a ‘No BS Mindset’ Coach who is on a mission to empower and support high- achieving female business owners to get more visible by being vulnerable and stripping away some of their armour.
Katie is a life coach and speaker in Northamptonshire, helping people tune in to their authentic power & confidence to cultivate a life without limits. Find her on socials @TheHappyWellbeingClub or sign up for her Stand in Your Power.
Here are some of the resources from the show:
Alice Wong is a San Francisco-based night owl, tv watcher, cat lover, and coffee drinker. She is the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project™ (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture created in 2014. Here she is speaking at the Stanford Medicine X conference in 2017.
Books looked at this week:
Jaspreet Kaur: Brown Girl Like Me: The Essential Guidebook and Manifesto for South Asian Girls and Women
Alice Wong: Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century
PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.
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Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.
Welcome back to season 2 episode 53 of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky topics and skills by reading through the best books out there.
It’s strange that there are so many people who are both invisible and hypervisible at the same time. According to academic Andrea Brighenti, visibility refers to the extent to which an individual is fully regarded and recognized by others. However, visibility can be constraining and disempowering when individuals or groups are made hypervisible, which is described as “scrutiny based on perceived difference, usually (mis)interpreted as deviance”.
So how can everyone be seen and heard for who they truly are?
Here is Aaron Whitfield, educator and creator of the “Semi-Social Life of a Black Introvert Podcast”, bestselling author of Be The Leader You Want To See Susie Ramroop, and Jojo Smith, Business Development and Branding Fairy Godmother.
Aaron Whitfield: What being visible means to me is to acknowledge someone’s presence in a good way. Not just acknowledge them when they get into a room, not to see them, but see them for who they truly. As a person of intelligence as a person of integrity, seeing their hearts, seeing their passion, seeing the very nature of their being as a black man.
Um, I sometimes feel as if I’m not visible to society. When I go out in public people, walk by me or don’t acknowledge my presence or, or when I’d come into a room, they, they are almost too afraid to come up to me and meet me for me. Or on the flip side, I, I believe in hyper visibility in which if I come into a place, a certain places, all eyes are on me and neither of those feel comfortable, but true visibility always edifies the person, because you’re seeing the person for who they truly are as a human being, as opposed to what society has stereotyped them.
Susie Ramroop: The pandemic has thrown us into having to be conscious of our visibility, where we would otherwise have shown up in certain situations. Quite naturally, we perhaps didn’t think too much about getting. On our commute or arriving at the office, but transferring the Workday to a video conference meant people could see themselves on screen and started to worry about how they might be judged both on how they look and on their levels of participation.
If you aren’t vocal on a video call, it implies that you weren’t really visible as in your colleagues. I haven’t got you on their radar, having the confidence to speak up and have screen presence is something that has worked for some people and not for others. It has been shown to be important in making career progression that you want.
Jojo Smith: Being visible to me is really important within your business. It really shows you’ve got the courage, confidence, and self-belief to stand out amongst the crowd and all the noise. It really helps build connection and relationships with your clients, and really helps you express and show what you are all about within your business.
Sometimes it’s not as easy to do that. It shows that you’re confident within your brand. For me, it’s all about showing the vulnerabilities, the wonky crowns, as well as the good stuff, because when we’re ability really does build connection. And that for me helps build long lasting relationships with clients and helps build that know like, and trust factor. I think it’s super important.
Our first book is from Jaspreet Kaur, who is an award-winning spoken Word artist, history teacher and writer from London. She is passionate about gender issues, taboo subjects and encouraging positive social change in both the Asian community and wider society. Her works tackle issues related to gender discrimination, mental health stigma, the postcolonial immigrant experience, and more. She is a regular on the BBC and Sunday morning live and has worked with the UN on the He for She campaign. She is currently a research fellow at Birkbeck University’s Centre for British political life. Brown Girl Like Me is her debut book. I was fortunate to catch up with her!
Here she is, but find the full interview on www.howtobe247.com or on the YouTube channel.
Well, I guess this is really the book I wished existed, right? This is the book growing up as an Asian gal, living in London, born and raised in the Western world, but never quite understanding how to navigate our identity here. And just the book I wished I had with all the tips, the tricks, the tools, and bits of advice to know that I’m not alone.
And, and it really is that this kind of tool kit, we’re calling it a guide book. We’re calling it a call to arms. We’re calling it a brown gal manifesto because it really does feel like that there has been a long time coming that there hasn’t been a book like this for, for Asian women like myself. And when I was researching kind of previous books like this, a nonfiction.
For Asian women. Um, the last book, like this was written in the late seventies. So in 1978, by, by an amazing woman called Amrit Wilson author, an activist. And I was like, how can it be almost 40 years? Since, since a book like this has been created and don’t get me wrong. There’s been biographies by other Asian women in recent years.
So there has been. Some fiction and some nonfiction coming out from Asian women, but there hasn’t been this kind of collective nonfiction book about our experiences collated in this way. And I was like, what, how, how has that not happened? So, so that’s what I’ve been doing over the last couple of years.
I’ve been speaking to Asian women from across the country, as well as interweaving some of my own stories and experiences, and also bringing in some of my academic interests. From kind of my academic background in history and in gender studies. And also as an educator, as a teacher, bringing in all those kinds of pieces of information together to create this book.
And, it really covers a range of different themes. Everything from mental health. To love to body image to cultural appropriation to parenthood is really kind of picked out some of the key issues that I felt Asian women were trying to navigate in these last, last couple of years. So yeah, that, that’s kind of what inspired me to write it.
It’s the book I wished existed and I really hope it. Many other Asian women as well, kind of taking the wheel in their lives, helping them navigate, going forward and, and essentially feeling empowered and, and feeling inspired, um, from this book. So, that’s why I set out to write it. I guess I’ve, I’ve highlighted quite a few in the book.
Um, And, and just kind of from the top of my head, the ones that I think are really significant are our number one, that is the health inequalities going on. And what I mean by that is health inequalities and a number of different ways. Um, and in the book I’ve highlighted mental health inequalities, but I’ve also looked at things like menstruation, which is a kind of big taboo topic within the south Asian community.
But other health inequalities that we as Asian women are going through and how familiar. Health issues. We, as brown women are significantly suffering, more, more likely to be diagnosed with certain issues, more likely to contract and health issues, um, and combine that. These health inequalities, combining that with, with also the nuances or the fact that Asian women may not speak up about some of these inequalities, especially when it comes to their health.
If they are suffering mentally, if they are suffering physically, we are not good at putting ourselves first or putting our health first. So we’re very good at putting other people first and putting before our own. Um, but imagine that kind of really toxic combination of not centering ourselves and not putting our own health needs first and combining that with a health system that doesn’t really care about women of color either.
And there’s really shocking statistics in the book about women of color being more likely to die during childbirth, women of color are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety or to be misdiagnosed when they do go seek. So, there are some really shocking statistics in there about those health inequalities going on for women of color.
So I guess that’s kind of one of the most prominent ones when we think about health. And when we look at this in combination with, comparing that to our white counterparts and how we’re not on an even playing field. Um, I guess that’s, that’s probably the one that jumps out to me the most. And following on from that, I guess some of the other inequalities I’ve, I’ve kind of shared in the book is, is definitely in, in the academic space, in the workplace, how even though Asian women are, yeah.
Some of the smartest women in the country, academically, where we’re achieving very well. And we’re kind of the second smartest cohort in the country academically, but that’s just not being reflected. In schools, it’s not being reflected in academic institutions is not being reflected in the workplace, which we’re just not seeing Asian women being conveyed in that way.
We’re still being treated as, as those same odd, really tired narratives that Asian women are, are quiet and weak and submissive and all of these things. And if anything can imagine those labels continuously being put onto us, it does become a self fulfilling prophecy, because if nobody’s believing in you, no one’s encouraging you.
No one’s providing you with these opportunities. Then these things just keep happening. So, I guess that’s kind of the two key areas where I feel the biggest differences between say Asian women and their white counterparts is definitely these health inequalities. And I feel that’s a really urgent thing that needs to be considered, but also what’s happening in, in the academic space, in educational spaces and the workplace, as well.
As Kaur mentions, there are very few nonfiction guidebooks about the brown diaspora. Kaur grew up in East London, in the UK, where she not only lived in a melting pot of different communities, but she also faced racism in school. Eventually she found herself wanting to deny her heritage because she was told by society that she had no place in the UK. And with that loss of identity came a lack of self confidence and self belief, and loss of self. She says Brown women are often seen as docile, quiet and passive thanks to the orientalisation of Asian women. However, brown women are strong, able to face a world that is against them.
There is also danger of white feminism, which can be disguised as allyship in a woman’s struggle, but actually just puts brown women down for our supposed “oppressive cultures and faith”. However, Kaur writes that in the advent of 4th wave feminism, a new era of feminism is being defined by empowerment, equity, and inclusivity, with some Brown women in the Diaspora starting to find their voice and tell their own story. And that’s a key aspect, it’s about who controls the narrative.
In terms of visibility, the first aspect is the lack of brown women seen in the mental health sphere. The existing, and very inadequate data, suggest that the prevalence of common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression is twice as likely in brown women than their white counterparts, at a shocking 63.5%. The same applies to more complex mental health needs.
Even though there are areas of the mental health conversation dominated by whiteness, dissociated pain and emotions are obviously not owned by one race.
Another aspect is postnatal depression. On 27th of July 2020, Nima Bhakta, A young mother from California, tragically died by suicide. Before she died, she wrote, “it was something you guys would not understand because Indian society does not fully understand postpartum depression”. Her death sent shockwaves through social media, triggering the hashtag #BreakTheStigma4Nima. The campaign encouraged South Asian mums across the globe to share the stories and reminded us all that we should not have to suffer in silence.
The same goes for brown girls suffering from eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. A YouGov poll commissioned by UK’s largest eating disorder charity Beat found that nearly 4 in 10 people believed eating disorders were more common amongst white people than other ethnicities, despite clinical research confirming that eating disorders are just as common or even more common among the brown community.
Dr Rima Lamba, clinical director and founder of the Blue River Psychology Clinic, suggests that repeated, interpersonal, relational, and complex traumas can also alter our sense of safety when it comes to our bodies, relationships, and the outer world. She went on to state that we pass on our sense of feeling unsafe through how we relate to our children. After years of intergenerational trauma following colonialism, displacement and migration, it is thought a lot of this has been inherited through our parents, or even their parents.
Mark Wolynn discusses this in his book It Didn’t Start With You that inherited family trauma shapes who we are and how breaking the cycle requires tuning into and giving space to those ancestral stories in order to heal. Check out episode 49 on rooted and the discussion around this book. This is why education about our history and identity, not only in schools but also in our homes and communities, can go along way. Understanding our history is key to unlocking our healing.
Next is visibility in the classroom. As a teacher, Kaur says meritocracy is a myth especially as 53% of Asian girls achieved an average attainment eight equivalent to an A* across their GCSEs, which is way above the UK national average. But at university level, south Asian woman, especially Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslim women, remain among the most excluded and lowest paid sections of the labour force. Data from the office of national statistics labour force survey suggests that Muslim women are up to 65% less likely to be employed than white Christian women of the same age and qualifications.
Another aspect is the binary approach to how South Asian girls are viewed and recognise that we can accommodate multiple ways of being and performing Brown womanhood instead of thinking that we are stuck between two cultures. Brown woman, she says, are the ultimate code switchers, which means adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behaviour, and expression in ways that will optimize the comfort of others.
The state and media’s interest with young brown girls have only ever sadly reinforced negative stereotypes by associating brown women with forced marriages, honour crimes, FGM and grooming that we need saving from.
The systemic suppression of non-European culture and history in education may not seem important, but it is a part of the same ethos which permits the everyday culture of ethnic minority life to be totally ignored in schools. We are never told about the concentration camps the British Army created during the Boer war, or the massacre of Kenyans in the 1950s for example. More racial literacy would allow teachers to pay greater attention to brown girls cultural background in more individualised ways and not see them as one homogenous group.
And microagressions are like death by 10,000 paper cuts. The term micro aggressions was first coined by Harvard professor Chester M Price, in the 1970s, and was later developed by psychologist Derald Wing Sue and his team in the 2000s. Sue recognised how important it was to name, detail and classify the types of micro aggressions that occur in every day life for marginalised communities.
These include micro assaults, which are explicit racial derogations characterised by verbal or non-verbal attack meant to hurt the intended victim to name-calling, avoidant behaviour, or purposeful discriminatory actions. These are usually deliberate. There are also micro insults which domain a persons racial heritage or identity. Finally there are also micro in validations. These types of micro aggression usually nullify or other the recipient.
Aspects that a lot of brown women have to go through are mispronunciation of names, being told how articulate you are even though you speak five languages and English is just one of them, heightened surveillance of your work and relationships, and as many women have to deal with, comments about their physical self. These elements only get worse when dealing with multiple identities such as those from the LGBTQIA+ community or those with a disability.
As Brown women, we ignore the vital signs of underlying health issues because we have been taught to shun and shame them. Periods are still a taboo for most societies. And it is still very much white voices dominating the narrative on periods. The charity water aid found that in Sri Lanka, 66% of girls reported not receiving any information about menstruation before the first time they started their period.
A big issue is that periods are seen to be purely associated with fertility and sex which of course is also taboo to talk about. Kaur says if periods were seen as a normal bodily process, just like other functions of the body, and if we moved away from the idea that our periods are associated with the sexual parts of our bodies, maybe we could finally desexualise and destigmatise the subject.
The beauty industry plays a huge part in the erasure of women of colour with the global skin-lightening products market expected to reach $8.9 billion by 2024. Skin colour bias within the brown community has a long-standing history of toxicity. And it is called colourism. The term was first coined by American novelist and activist Alice walker in the 1980s collection In Search of Our Mothers Gardens. In the essay she describes colourism as “the prejudicial or preferential treatment of the same race people based solely on their colour.“
Classification of dark and light has made Dalit women suffer the affects of caste-based violence to this day. Britain’s Eurocentric beauty standards, with fair white woman became the ideal during colonialism, as it was equated to wealth. And it still continues seen through Unilever, which is the fourth largest consumer goods company in the world, renaming their Fair and Lovely skincare products to Glow and Lovely after two online petitions heavily criticised them for perpetuating colourism. And after the death of George Floyd in May 2020, the black lives matter campaign helped brown communities confront their own anti-blackness, especially in Bollywood.
Next is cultural appropriation, forms of appropriation begin as early as the 17th century when Europeans first began colonising parts of Asia. Things that work once considered savage and uncivilised like food, customs, bright colours and clothes, which suddenly enjoyed, commodified, sold and profited from. Hence the key to understanding what cultural appropriation is is to understand what power structures are at play.
Minorities have had a long history of having to adopt white language, clothing and behaviour to survive. Sometimes survival means losing a part of your own cultural identity in the process. This is not cultural appropriation, this is what psychiatrist and political philosopher Frantz Fanon would call the process of a simulation.
And the truth is hate crimes towards turban-wearing Sikhs and Hijab-wearing Muslims have increased exponentially. There was a 375% increase in Islamophobic incidents in 2018, after the UK Prime Minister Boris John compared Muslim women to letter boxes. This is despite the $790 Gucci turban being showcased down the catwalk by a white man.
The digital space has been a great place to deconstruct, challenge, and express, with brown communities using it to provide allyship to other communities in need and dismantle ongoing biases in the community such as South Asians for black lives. Hypervisibility, however, has allowed hate towards women such as female Muslim academics, as well as The Good Place star Jameela Jamil saying online bullying had even brought her to a point of near death. Kaur says the lack of a diverse and critically minded workforce and issues of race and gender in Silicon Valley impacts its intellectual output.
Our final book is from disabled activist consultant and Disability Visibility Project director Alice Wong, who is also the host and editor of a podcast and book with the same name. Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century is a compilation of original essays by people with disabilities. Here she is speaking at the Stanford Medicine X conference.
With all the challenges I face with my body and health, ableism is by far the greatest barrier of my life, if you’re wondering about what I mean by ableism, I describe it as a form of oppression that systematically devalues disabled people who are considered non-normative of in the way they look, behave, think, move, or in the way of their being in the world. And the ideas of what is considered normal constantly evolves. One example of ableism in the context of healthcare is to look at the language of disability. Speaking broadly, the focus is on a person’s functional limitations, impairments, or deficits. Discussions on quality of life tend to equate wellbeing and health as the absence of illness and disability.
Because of my apparent physical disabilities, many people, both strangers and acquaintances, presume that my life is one that is difficult and full of suffering. I am totally dependent on personal assistance for my daily activities. And I cannot breathe without ventilatory support. For some people that is an undignified, unimaginable and pitiful way of living.
Some of these people would rather be dead than be in my position based on perceived loss of control, weakness, and fragility. And that’s ableism. Yes I experience pain and suffering, but that doesn’t mean my life isn’t rich or full. Yes, I need a lot of help, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make decisions for myself on how I want to live.
And by the way, I am not here to sugarcoat or gloss over the real pain and suffering people experience, disabled or not. What’s problematic is when an entire population is presumed to be need of a cure or relief for pain and suffering.
Growing up, Wong never saw anyone like her on TV and magazines. Even today, more than 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act – or the ADA – made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities, there’s still little representation of disabled people in the media, politics, and publishing.
In fact, a 2019 Lee and Low survey of the publishing industry revealed that only 11 percent of respondents described themselves as having a disability. Hence Wong started the Disability Visibility Project, or DVP for short , which documents an oral history as part of an archive, partnering with Storycorps to collect 140 stories of disabled people leading up to the 25th anniversary of the ADA. She even coined the hashtag #CripTheVote which called on disabled voters to live tweet the 2016 Democratic Primary Debate, bringing disability rights into political discourse.
Foregrounding the stories of disabled people is essential to the battle for equity and political representation. But even more than that, it’s important because it allows for a nuanced representation of the huge spectrum of people who have disabilities. And it allows disabled people to share experiences with each other, interrogate stigma, and shape stories on their own terms.
Disability rights lawyer Harriet McBryde Johnson mentions that disabled people’s lives are intrinsically less valuable than those of others. She experienced it firsthand as a power wheelchair user, living with a muscle wasting disease for over 40 years. Whilst she mostly ignored ignorant comments, when she heard the same toxic arguments from Princeton philosophy professor Peter Singer, she fought back.
Singer developed a theory called preference utilitarianism. He argues that parents should be allowed to kill babies with severe cognitive impairments because these babies will have less chance of a good, happy life than babies without such issues. Johnson debated him at Princeton, where she told him that his argument was flawed. He – like so many others, she argued – assumed that disability determines the quality, and outcome, of a person’s life. But there’s no proper evidence for that. Singer was confusing his prejudice for evidence.
Insisting that disabled people need to search for a cure can be harmful. Both June Eric-Udorie and Liz Moore were treated like they needed to recover from their conditions whether through prayer, medication, or other treatments. Other people had them convinced that they wouldn’t be accepted being disabled. Moore realized that they needed to come to accept their body – exactly the way it was – in order to actually live their life.
Eric-Udorie felt the same way, rather than feeling trapped by her disability, she now felt more free. She started to learn to navigate the world on her own terms, instead of pretending to be nondisabled.
Custom-made clothing can celebrate disabled and queer people’s bodies. Most clothing made specifically for disabled people is designed for those who are stationary. The designers don’t seem to conceive of the disabled as people who might want to dance, or navigate a city, or go to a lecture. Most of all, such clothing isn’t designed for disabled people who want to be striking, beautiful, or flamboyant.
Rebirth Garments for example creates clothes and accessories that are custom-made to fit the wearer’s body and can be made for people of all sizes, abilities, and gender expressions. Think of a jeweled colostomy bag and colorful breast-binding underwear that can be worn as outerwear.
There’s nothing frivolous about fashion. It communicates so much about our status in the world. Rebirth confronts traditional beauty standards, and in so doing makes space for disabled and queer people to become visible, on their own terms.
Another aspect is that mental illness is mythologised as aiding creativity, but it creates barriers. A good example is Vincent Van Gogh, who was a creative genius but also suffered from serious mental health issues.
Artists don’t create because of mental illness. They create in spite of mental illness. Van Gogh only sold one painting during his life – not because his peers didn’t appreciate his work, but because he was too sick even to engage with his broader community. Imagine what he could have done if help and support had been available.
Disabled people also need to be at the forefront of racial justice. Sixty to 80 percent of people who are murdered by police are Deaf or disabled. Over half of all male prisoners and 73 percent of female prisoners have a disability. Structural racism means that Black people are vastly overrepresented in these numbers. And yet, activist organizations ignore the experiences of disabled people in their activism.
For example, Darnell T. Wicker was a deaf Black veteran living in Louisville, Kentucky. One night he was shot multiple times by police seconds after they’d issued a verbal warning – a warning that he couldn’t hear, or lip-read in the dark.
The Harriet Tubman Collective is a group of activists who fight against the erasure of disabled and Deaf people in racial justice movements. It honors the memories of victims of police violence, and makes their identities as disabled, Deaf, or neurodiverse people visible. It insists that the fight for racial justice is always also a fight for disability justice.
With the right support, disabled people can help drive innovation in the world. When the astronomer Wanda Díaz-Merced lost her ability to see, she thought she’d lost her career as well. Díaz-Merced studied gamma-ray bursts in the sky, intense explosions that happen when stars reach the end of their fuel and become supernovas. So using pitch frequencies, they converted her graphs to sound.
The sound representations of the data provided some new information about gamma-ray bursts that weren’t visible in the graphs.
We now have the technology to support people with all kinds of disabilities. We have modified cars that allow disabled people to drive independently, and programs that allow people with speech difficulties to communicate with the outside world. This technology is slowly becoming more accessible and affordable.
And yet disabled people are underrepresented in all industries. That won’t change until there’s a real commitment to creating equitable access. Until that happens, all of us will lose out on experiencing the innovation that’s possible in the workplace – from making someone’s journey more comfortable to hearing stars.
Don’t even get me started on how disabled indigenous people in the US are treated. Indigenous people living on reservations depend on the Indian Health Service (IHS). But this system has historically been abusive to the people it’s supposed to serve. For example, in the 1970s, between 25 and 50 percent of women who were treated in IHS facilities were sterilized against their will.
Intellectually disabled people thrive when living in communities instead of institutions. The notorious institute Forest Haven in Maryland was closed in 1991 after it was revealed that staff were routinely abusive to the people in their care. But the practice of segregating people with intellectual disabilities persists. Today, over 92,000 people live in institutions. Ricardo Thornton endured Forest Haven growing up, and he says anyone can live in a community if they have the right support, that people should have the opportunity to build their own care networks with others, and have as much autonomy on their lives.
Hence crip spaces and care networks empower disability justice movements, a space designed for disabled bodies in mind. Ableist environments are precisely what make being disabled so challenging. Rooms without ramps, meetings without sign language interpreters, concerts where everyone is expected to stand – disabled people are forced to contort themselves to fit into those spaces all the time, using vast amounts of energy that could, and should, be used for other things.
Disability justice is about fighting discrimination. But, just as importantly, it’s about creating networks of care. It’s about replacing the ableist notion of independence with the idea of interdependence. Check out episode 45 on inclusivity and disability care work.
So to sum up:
Kaur says in Brown Girl Like Me that the way to dismantle so many complex, long-standing systems of oppression is piece by piece. The way you vote, the way you spend your money, the way you love yourself, and what you do and do not call out to all define a future history is a brown woman. But also remember to rest and find the joy and beauty in the journey too. As a white ally, don’t be a bystander, if someone you know reviews are racist beliefs and you hear any of these micro aggressive comments flying around, challenge them. Diversify your media feed so that you don’t fall into echo chambers telling you information that you already know or what you want to hear. Be Critical. And find spaces off-line.
Wong says in Disability Visibility that creating visibility for disabled people means making space to contemplate the enormous diversity and complexity in disabled people’s stories. We can’t understand what it means to live as a disabled person without also understanding ableism and racism, and how that affects the ways in which disabled people are allowed to move in the world. Disability justice movements create vital spaces for respite and community-building. Hence create your own care network of interdependency, where you can be vulnerable and accountable to one another.
As a lot of people know, I identify as both brown and disabled so being visible means being accepted for who I am, and being given the same opportunities as anyone else no matter what my identity is. What does visibility mean for you? Please join in on the conversation by following @howtobe247 on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and subscribe on the podcast, which can be found via www.howtobe247.com.
So to finish off, here is stay-at-home mother and book reviewer Krista Hajjar-Nejad, Keryn Potts who is a ‘No BS Mindset’ Coach and is on a mission to empower high-achieving female business owners, as well as Katie, who is a life coach and speaker @TheHappyWellbeingClub. Episodes from now on will be every other Sunday so see you in two week’s time!
Krista Hajjar-Nejad: Being visible to me as a woman means being confident, speaking up, not being afraid or shying away from being seen or heard. You have to know your own power as a woman in order to be visible in the world. It’s important to me because it’s important to embrace your talents, your ideas, your accomplishments, just in general, being comfortable with yourself.
Keryn Potts: I help high achieving female entrepreneurs get unstuck in their life and their business. And in order to do that, we both need to get visible. So what that means is my clients can level up, find peace, happiness, be their true, authentic self. If they become more vulnerable, they clear their fees. We work through their limiting beliefs and what’s holding them back. We worked through their story work. We go through everything rather than around it. So they need to show up, be true to themselves and open to the process. I too need to be visible by allowing them to say that I’m trustworthy, that I have integrity and that I can help them. And that they’re in a safe space to do all the work that they’ll be doing. So that’s through me getting visible on social media and marketing and testimonials.
Katie: I grew up in a house where to be visible as me was not acceptable and display of emotions or behaviour that did not fit with what was required of me was not acceptable. And the consequences of which were blaming shaming, criticism and rejection.
The effects of this was that I learned being visible was not safe. I didn’t trust the world and didn’t trust myself in it. Being visible to me was terrifying and dangerous. And I was so tangled up in being visible only in a way that was acceptable. That. Not even knowing who my authentic self was. And it’s taken a lot of work therapy coaching self-development to get where I am today.
And I’m now a life coach, coaching people, how to connect with their authentic self and work out who they really are and work out what they really want from life. And a large part of that process is learning to be visible within their own life. Being visible in our world means feeling safe enough to, in ourselves, to be who we truly are without curving ourselves into the expectations of others.
Being safe means learning to sit comfortably and confidently within our own boundaries of what it is we are and are not happy enough to live within our lives. Being visible means that we trust those around us to see us heroes and understand us exactly as we are without the threat of repercussion, because we, as we are.
Don’t fit another’s agenda safety simply equals trust. Trust to be authentic trust, to be intimate trust, to be vulnerable. And once we feel safe enough to present ourselves, as we genuinely are authentically are our environment and relationships reflect that back to us, feeling safe, to be visible and feeling visibility is safe is the Keystone to everything that we want in life.
3 thoughts on “Visible: What it means to be seen – with Brown Girl Like Me author Jaspreet Kaur”