The Deck of Ableist Cards

Last night at work, several co-workers and I were talking about the amount of sleep we get each night. I mentioned that I needed 9-10 hours of sleep a night, and I didn’t even get to finish my sentence before a co-worker burst out laughing. “Nine to ten hours?” he mocked. “How old are you? I’m forty years old, and I’m lucky if I get six! When I was your age, I was good to go on four!”

Blink.

Blink.

“I have epilepsy,” I said. “If I don’t get enough sleep, I’ll have a seizure.”

The wave of silence crashed over our group. Yon co-worker lost his jeering expression, but wasn’t in the least bit apologetic about mocking me.

In an ableist world, where neurological abnormalities and physical impairments are an oddity, more a butt of a collective joke rather than something that real people have, have to live with, and have to deal with, where we’re an inconvenience at best and leech on society at worst, this is what we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Last night, I was slapped with the lazy card. Which card will it be today?

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We did it!

I feel like dancing and singing that little song from Dora the Explorer.

This morning, the WKU Benefits Committee met to vote on adding domestic partnership benefits (again).

It passed.

It’s acknowledged.

It’s official.

Wow. I’m so happy I hardly know what to say! I, along with many, many other amazing people here at Western Kentucky University have been mobilizing our butts off for the past several weeks. This morning was to be a demonstration to demand equal benefits for our LGBT faculty and staff. Instead, it was a celebration.

There was tears and hugs and singing. It was a beautiful sight, and it was unbelievably gratifying for our work to have paid off. We’re celebrating tonight at a local hangout, Greener Groundz.

I can’t wait to update more thoroughly on what’s been going on. Stay tuned! It’s a tale none will soon forget! I’m resting for a bit, and then I’m off to celebrate!

Have a GOOD Friday!

Edit: As per my blog note, I’ve been so busy, but I will share the details in another post!

Update: Domestic Partnership Benefits at Western Kentucky University

I first mentioned the issue here on Wednesday, when the news emerged that the Benefits committee declined to give their recommendation for Domestic Partnership benefits, yet again.

Today, the Bowling Green Daily News covered it.

Tony Glisson,  who is director of WKU Department of Human Resources and a member of the Benefits Committee, isn’t saying much about the decision, or how they got there. In fact, we don’t even know who all sits on the committee. The only members we know of are Glisson, and the appointees from the university senate, which totals three or four out of the fourteen people that sit on the committee.

“…I don’t understand the board’s decision,” said Skylar Baker-Jordan, now a senior. “And I don’t understand the secrecy around the decision. The board has not at all been forthcoming about their reasons and what they have said does not hold water because U of L and UK have both done this successfully.”

Secrecy at a public institution on issues and decisions like this are shady. Committees like this are supposed to keep minutes, that is, a record. But searching Western’s website reveals nothing–the committee has no page, nor minutes posted anywhere on Western’s web site. The closest you get is mentions of the committee on University Senate minutes, which are only easily found through the search box.

Glisson claims that the committee’s decision is based off of the amendment in Kentucky’s Constitution that bans gay marriage. However, the University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, and the University of Louisville all offer domestic partnership benefits to their employees.

Dr. Patti Minter, a history professor, and an amazing woman, said:

“I’m a longtime advocate of equal rights for all people and equal treatment for all,” Minter said. “I hope that the university will implement domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples in consideration with the attorney general’s opinion as UK, Northern Kentucky and the U of L have done. This is not something that is out of keeping with practice in Kentucky and at other universities here and other benchmark institutions in other states. Equal rights for all in no way detracts from the rights of others. If we do not have equal rights for all, then none of us are free.”

Contact Tony Glisson and let him know you disagree with the committee’s decision. Or call him at this number: 270-745-5360

Also, because it is always great to hear from supporters, contact Dr. Minter here and let her know that you appreciate her vocal and enthusiastic support.

Lastly, if you’ve got time to spare, comment on the Daily News article expressing your support for domestic partner benefits. The Daily News requires you to register first, so put this last on the list if you’re short on time. Any public, vocal support helps!

Get Your Activism On!

United Farm workers has a petition going for the young female employee recently sexually harassed by a co-worker at Giumarra Vineyards. Co-workers came to her defense (the harassment included sexual advances, touching, and lewd remarks) and the next day, the young woman and the co-workers who defended her were fired in retaliation. The EEOC has filed a suit against Giumarra Vineyards.

The petition will be sent to Giumarra Vineyards as a message from the people, letting them know that sexual harassment should not be tolerated in the workplace (especially of a teenage girl, probably at her first job), as well as firing the employees that protected and defended the young woman when her employer failed to do so.

Sign the petition here. After you sign the petition, you also are asked to leave a comment on the company’s site, which I would also ask that you do.

Actions like this, especially on a large scale, will often mean more than a lawsuit. Large business, especially those with a monopoly (or close enough), like here, need to be reminded that their employees, and their customers, are human beings, with a sense of justice, morality, and dignity.

Feminist Motivation: the personal

In the United States, we have a saying: “things are better now than they used to be.” This phrase is recycled and reused by every generation, and arguably, reused every year. And rarely is it used in a positive context. In fact, this stock phrase is part of a stock conversation that goes something like this:

Person A: Have you heard about (insert issue or travesty here)?

Person B: What about it?

Person A: (explanation)

Person B: Oh, well, it isn’t that bad. Things are better now than back then! We should celebrate the progress we’ve made!

Right. Because we all know, that if some progress is made, the job is done and we should toast our accomplishment, right?

No.

I had a conversation with my mother recently. We chatted, caught up on the local going-ons, then we got to talking about bigger things. We talked about Elizabeth Miller’s new study on reproductive coercion, about the verdict against Andrew Wakefield, regarding his bogus vaccinations-causes-autism study, and other assorted things. (Sidenote: I love that my mother and I can talk about these things. My little brother complains that she’s turned me into a feminist. The horror!)

I’m a first generation college student. My family has largely been blue collar. Momma Beemer and I were talking about our family, and how much things has changed since she was my age, and even how much things have changed since I was a pubescent lass. When I apologized for my teenage-antics, she told me that while I was a handful, she was glad that I was challenging authority and going after the goals I’d set for myself.

You see, as the only daughter of a blue-collar family in the South in the seventies, she didn’t have many options. At her high school, in addition to the regular curriculum, students could take auto mechanic classes or learn how to style hair. She’d desperately wanted to take the mechanic course–my grandfather worked with cars–but my grandfather refused. It wasn’t her place.

Her older brothers, my uncles, had cars waiting for them when they turned sixteen. When she didn’t, and asked why, she was told: “You don’t need a car. Your boyfriend will drive you around.”

When she wanted to get a job, her parents refused. She could baby-sit, or do nothing.

When Momma Beemer got pregnant her senior year of high school, her father gave her two options: get married or get an abortion. She got married, and divorced, a year later, from a cruel, abusive, and neglectful high school ‘sweetheart’.

In the 80’s, 90’s, and in the first decade of the new millennium, she still didn’t, and doesn’t have many options. With only a high school education, twice divorced, with all the debt of the second divorce (from my father), unemployed, and undereducated, my mother is a prime example of how even “better than they used to be” still isn’t good enough.

It’s very easy to talk about progress when we aren’t talking about real people.

My mother is the reason why feminism is still relevant.

My mother is the reason why community support for single mothers is needed, including friends, familial support, educational assistance, financial assistance, and unemployment.

My mother is the reason I’m a feminist.

My mother is the reason I’m going to succeed. Society has failed her, over and over, and the least I can do is do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore, as well as pay her back for all the things she has given me.

Momma Beemer is who I think about when I’m tempted by complacency–by “things are better now than they used to be.”