Improving the Womxn’s March

Guest Columnist

The need to spot ableism with this year’s march proves vital, especially when they are subtle moments

By: Manola Secaira

 

Appreciating inclusivity in concept and in practice are two different things.

I’m reminded of this in trivial ways, from when I catch myself getting annoyed when an automatic door takes too long to open or when I hate on any usage of Comic Sans because it’s not aesthetically pleasing to me, despite it being a useful font for someone with dyslexia.

That’s the thing: ableist tendencies don’t always present themselves in obvious ways.
I have a sister with severe disabilities and because I’ve learned to be sensitive towards her, I’m guilty of subconsciously thinking that discredits me from ableism in other aspects of my life.

Sure, being annoyed with trivial stuff is part of being human. But if I never become aware of the implications that my annoyances bring, it can lead to a dangerous lack of progress that is detrimental to the people who need it most.

You can see that slow progress here at SPU.

It’s been improving (with a push from students, like in the case of McKinley Hall Theater), but it has a long way to go.

While researching this article, I found an opinions piece from an issue of The Falcon dating back to 1999 that had eerily similar-sounding complaints regarding accessibility on campus to one written last quarter.

As we approach this year’s Wxmen’s March, we have a chance to respond to last year’s criticisms, such as lack of inclusivity for people with disabilities, and better the movement.

Already, disability advocacy groups like Suffering the Silence, a nonprofit dedicated to using media and storytelling to bring awareness to people with chronic illness and disability, are working to improve that. But, they can’t do it alone.

“[Marchers] are definitely making strides in the right direction to making things more accessible,” Suffering the Silence co-founder Erica Lupinacci says. “But honestly, so many places in this country and all over the world are not accessible to people and we need to start being aware of that.”

Lupinacci, who was diagnosed with lupus at 18, says that an integral part to improving awareness is simply listening even though the subject matter might make you uncomfortable.

Often times, she says that what keeps people with disabilities or chronic illnesses from speaking up is fear of burdening others.

“I think as a culture we don’t like talking about things that are difficult, that are sad,” Lupinacci says. “People feel that even when they’re talking about it, they have to pretend that everything’s okay.”

Encouraging people with disabilities or chronic illnesses to feel comfortable enough to tell their stories is what brought Suffering the Silence to partner with Marching with Me, a project that connects marchers with people who are physically unable to attend and that had around 700 participants last year.

Better understanding each other leads to awareness, making it more natural for you to create movements in the future that are actively inclusive, rather than just having inclusivity be a bonus.

“We’re really trying to foster connections between people who are living with disabilities and people that are not, so that hopefully they can have an ongoing conversation,” she says.

Even with the best of intentions, movements have, when not focused on active introspection, left out large parts of the people that made them up.

That’s why, as a result of the erasure of black women in second-wave feminism, “Womanist” ideology needed to be created.

That’s why, for years, the only name associated with the Latinx-driven movement behind the National Farm Workers of America was a man’s, neglecting to mention the work put in by its co-founder, Dolores Huerta.

It’s possibly why Rose McGowan is getting her own series following her #MeToo advocacy rather than Tarana Burke, the black woman who started the movement in the first place.

Even looking at these examples, it’s important to note that what immediately comes to mind are issues that affect me in some way as a woman of color.

Progress can’t be made if it centers the comfort of people like me who already have an advantage simply because of the way our living spaces have been built.

Although I deal with my own inclusivity issues as a woman of color, I have to be able to reach out beyond myself if I want this year’s Womxn’s March, and every movement thereafter, to stop forgetting other people too.