WOW 2015

Mainstream feminism ignores the voices of disabled women

Date: 10 March 2015

By: Michelle Daley

(Presented at the Women Of the World 2015 – Southbank)


Thank you for inviting me to speak at this years WOW event.

A lot has changed over the years for women. We now see a few women in leadership roles. And, yes a few women. But this is not equality! Now ask yourself  these questions:

1. How many of these women in leadership positions are white disabled women?

2. How many of these women in leadership positions are black disabled women?

We would struggle to answer the second question. I searched the internet and it did not generate the desired result.  I did find information by black disabled women sharing their own personal stories. I can only think that this their way to get attention out there about black disabled women’s  experiences.

Through my engagement with disabled women they have told me that as a black disabled women the way in which they interact with society is different to a white disabled woman and that their experiences are different. To demonstrate this point  I will share an example from a speech I delivered in Scotland last year titled: Lived experience as a BME disabled person. I  wrote “when an assessor presents  their client’s case to their manager requesting support for extra time above the agreed hours for a Black Disabled Woman to maintain her hair and skin care this is likely to be rejected because of the Managers lack of understanding about Afro textured hair and skin sensitivity and the experience of dryness.” 

Many disabled women are having to fight a lonely battle with no one to advocate their experiences and the situation is made worse if you are a black disabled woman.

Really, the situation should not be like this for our disabled women. I say this because, the purpose of the feminist movement is to remove barriers.  But, this is not the view of some disabled women. They are of the view that mainstream feminism ignores the voices of disabled women – why?

  • There is a lack of understanding about disabled women’s rights
  • There is a lack of understanding about black disabled women’s experiences

By excluding the voices of all disabled women results in:

  • Agendas failing to address disability issues 
  • Makes the feminist movement weaker
  • Creates separate groups
  • Does not help to address discriminatory practices
  • Does not help to address the abuse and violence experienced by many many of the silent voices

I want to take you back to the opening question to show how through the lack of involvement of disabled women results in poor quality of services and in the worst cases exclusion from society.  The feminist movement cannot continue to ignore some women's voices. Every attempt must be made to address the barriers and bridge the gaps between theory and reality for all women and not just the few.

Thank you!