Category Archives: Uncategorized

Zara Todd: The problem with privilege

Zara Todd

Zara Todd

As a young, white, heterosexual disabled woman, I have a pretty good idea of how privilege affects different people’s life chances. I have both privileges and experienced oppression and discrimination because of my identities.

I believe that both privilege and oppression should be recognised so that we can challenge discrimination and promote inclusion and equality I would like to hope that I am an ally all my friends, brothers and sisters who are oppressed in ways I am not. For me understanding what my privileges are and how they affect my experience and others experiences is crucial to understanding how I can be a better ally. However I have a problem with how privilege is often acknowledged and addressed.

Far too often, the process by which people identify privilege inadvertently perpetuates negative assumptions and hierarchies about identities. For example, I have seen a number of explorations of individual’s privilege which highlight somebody’s physical or mental health as being a privilege is massive. Now to me, this is problematic for a number of reasons.

Firstly , in the case of identifying not being disabled .Many non-disabled people are yet again emphasising the biological basis of disability downplaying societal construction.

Then there is the issue that the concept of privilege itself is inaccessible and elitist, only really accessible to those who have some kind of privilege.

Acknowledging privilege also tends to continue place a value on certain identities and characteristics above others. When you are repeatedly being told your identity is a disadvantage, it can be demoralising. Frankly, can leave you wondering why you should keep fighting for equality when the world seems against you.

In addition, the act of acknowledging privilege on its own continues to place those with privilege in a position of power. There is not enough dialogue about how privilege can be addressed or how people can use their privileges in ways that promotes equality.

The process of identifying privilege does not celebrate what advantages coming from marginalised group gives a person. For me there are many brilliant things about being a young disabled woman that I would not change or trade for the world. Yet there are very few spaces where I am allowed to celebrate what is good about those identities and how they have positively enhanced my experience.

While we need to continue to acknowledge that not everybody is born equal nor does everybody have the same opportunities we need to find a way of doing this that is celebratory and empowering for those identities which are seen as a disadvantage.

– Zara Todd



Sisters of Frida 2015 AGM

Zara, Becky, Eleanor Firman and Obi (livestreamer in photo)

Zara, Becky, Eleanor Firman and Obi (livestreamer in photo)

Emma (speaking with ipad) and Dyi

Emma (speaking with ipad) and Dyi

Tim (PA), Lani, Manjit  Rehal and colleague from Coventry CRASAC

Tim (PA), Lani, Manjit Rehal and colleague from Coventry CRASAC

Sarah (with thumbs up) and Emma

Sarah (with thumbs up) and Emma


Back to us, Armineh and Zara, Pauline, Martine (standing up), Michelle and Becky

Sisters of Frida held the 2015 AGM Saturday 10th January, in Coventry, Kahawa café, 163 New union Street, CV1 2PL.

A panel of speakers discussed the issues for Sisters of Frida to focus on: disability and sexuality, domestic violence and violence against women, social justice and intersectionality. This AGM was livestreamed and we had a remote captioner for one deaf delegate and the other with hearing impairment. ( Michelle: Welcome and Introductions) ( Becky and Zara: Young disabled women and intersectionality) (Michelle: Health Care and Inequality for disabled women) (Eleanor: Feminism and Disability, UN instruments) ( Questions and Answers) (Priorities for SoF video )

2015 01 10 SISTERS OF FRIDA Transcript (transcript captioned in MS Word Doc)

Disability and intersectionality: Multiple identities, cumulative discrimination


Reblogged from Women’s Aid Scotland ‘Today we can stop it‘ with thanks!

American professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw, coined the term ‘intersectionalityin 1989. Reni Eddo-Lodge, had an interview with her earlier this year where she explained why her law studies led her to intersectionality.

 “That work started when I realised that African American Women were… not recognised as having experienced discrimination that reflected both their race and their gender. The courts would say if you don’t experience racism in the same way as a man does, or sexism in the same way as a white woman does, then you haven’t been discriminated against. I saw that as a problem of sameness and difference. There were claims of being seen as too different to be accommodated by law. That led to intersectionality, looking at the ways race and gender intersect to create barriers and obstacles to equality.”

Many people trip over this word but it means that women experience oppression or discrimination at several and varying levels. However there are more barriers to equality than race/ethnicity and gender. There is also disability, sexual orientation and class.

Disabled activists are on the rise and many of them are women engaged in the fight against austerity but disability activism has been mainly gender neutral. Women’s Aid outlines particular ways in which disabled women are vulnerable to physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse – and makes the point that “Getting away from abuse is often harder for disabled women because access to help and support is often controlled by the abuser.” But not many disabled people organisations have focused on this abuse –there are exceptions of specialised organisations such as Stay Safe East in East London

Racism is embedded in the system and people who have never encountered it, can never understand how insidious it can be. And lack of representation of people of colour or BAME communities hold its own message – and that makes them feel excluded.  Ableism is just as embedded in the system where many disabled are left trapped in their own or residential homes because they lack support in the form of care packages to enable to live as citizens in their communities and in society.

Disabled people are fighting for the continuation of the Independent Living Fund and access to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and now, against the changes made to Access to Work.

The Convention of Rights for People of Disabilities (CRPD) recognises intersectionality for disabled women, Article 6 for Women with disabilities

  1. States Parties recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subject tomultiple discrimination, and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

For example, where a blind woman is denied access to information on the website of the Ministry of Health due to outright inaccessibility, this results in discrimination on the basis of disability only and not her gender as the site would be equally inaccessible to blind men; whereas a blind woman being denied access to family planning services is subjected to differential treatment based on both her gender and disability – and if she is actually an adolescent girl living in a remote indigenous community, clearly intersections of multiple aspects of her identity operate to exacerbate the disadvantage she faces in enjoying and exercising her rights.

(example from the IDA, Victoria Lee)

Many of us have multiple identities and we are impacted by discrimination cumulatively as disabled women. We need to recognise the intersectionality and work across strands of identity. As the women at Sisters of Frida’s event, Disabled Women’s Right to Occupy, agreed – we are the sum of identities, we cannot separate the strands but work as a whole difference.

written by Eleanor Lisney

Context is everything: why McDonald v UK is a stepping stone on the road to a dignified future for disabled people



As disabled women, we as Sisters of Frida have been ruminating about this case, it is good to read Steve Broach’s measured comments and how he has set it out to help us understand its complexity.  Steve is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and acted for Mrs McDonald in the domestic courts and the ECtHR.

For a disabled person’s perspective on McDonald v UK, see the blogpost by Jan Sutton at this link instead.

Originally posted on Authors of our lives:

By Steve Broach

The cliché that in law, context is everything is entirely true. So it is essential to examine the context for Elaine McDonald’s challenge to the decision to withdraw funding for her nighttime care, requiring her to wear incontinence pads although she is not in fact incontinent, before deciding whether the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in McDonald v UK (link to{“itemid”:[“001-144115″]}) should be seen as a success or a failure. Some of the key points include:

  • All courts are reluctant to dictate how public funds should be spent. This means that where (as here) the state is expressly relying on cost justifications, the courts will not want to intervene if this can be avoided.
  • As an international court, the ECtHR is even more reluctant than domestic courts to interfere with national-level spending decisions.
  • The principle of subsidiarity, in short leaving compliance with the…

View original 1,154 more words

Opening the doors: Debt, domestic violence, power relations and an eviction notice



“Sarah (not her real name) must have thought her life was on a more even keel when she finally worked up the courage to escape the violence in her family home. She had moved back in again in 2008 when she struggled to find a job after leaving university. It wasn’t a good time to be graduating. The economy had just tanked. She was also battling a serious mental health issue – borderline personality disorder (BPD). Once home, she says she found herself ‘scapegoated’ for not having a job and once again the target of a relative’s abuse and violence.

Now she faces the reality of being evicted (see letter below) from the shared house run by a housing trust in Greenwich – the borough she came to for help.”

Originally posted on Ann McGauran:

Sarah, a single woman of 28 and a law graduate, came in on Friday and kindly shared her account of why she needed help. Before I pass on her story I’d like to remind readers that I don’t speak for those who run this London food bank, although they’ve allowed me to interview their clients. Any opinions expressed on this site from time to time are my own. I don’t represent the food banks in the borough of Greenwich. Neither do I represent the views of the Trussell Trust, which partners with churches in this area to run the food banks.

Sarah (not her real name) must have thought her life was on a more even keel when she finally worked up the courage to escape the violence in her family home. She had moved back in again in 2008 when she struggled to find a job after leaving…

View original 1,505 more words

At WOW Festival 2014 | Feminism & Privilege


Does mainstream feminism only speak to white, straight, able-bodied, middle class women? This panel unpicks the debate about feminism and identity politics, what it means to be a good ally and whether you can ever leave your privilege at the door. Speakers include Nan Sloane, director of the Centre for Women and Democracy, Reni Eddo-Lodge, writer and contributing editor at Feminist Times and Eleanor Lisney of Sisters of Frida and Mercia McMahon. Chaired by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.