In my particular line of work — fundraising — I have the “challenge” of making the case for funding cross-disability civil rights work from institutional funders who are still predominately stuck in the disability = tragedy trope.
I need allies from outside the cross-disability communities because that’s how philanthropy — and everything else — works: it’s who you have relationships with, who you can ask for help, give help to.
I was really excited about closing out Women’s History Month this year by developing and delivering an interactive workshop, “Building Your Organization’s Capacity to Ally With Girls Who Have Disabilities: Principles to Practices” for fellow (sister?) Alliance for Girls members, as part of my work at DREDF. (To the members who attended — you were GREAT participants!) Based on issues I’d recently written about, I wanted to call it “The Crip Sense or ‘I See Women and Girls With Disabilities. In Your Organizations.’” (Scroll down for 3 “posters” of workshop content.)
I said that part of having The Crip Sense is seeing things that are painful:
- Disability human and civil rights violations. Way too many of them.
- Violence against disabled children and adults – especially people of color (PoC) with invisible disabilities — even by caregivers, school personnel, and law enforcement officers, and that such violence at home, in school, and on the street is excused or rationalized.
- Girls who have internalized stigma that makes it feel “normal” to disown, downplay, or deny having a disability.
- Girls who hear – even from some disabled people – that “initiative” and “personal responsibility” can defeat systemic barriers born of — and well-maintained by — prejudice, and that they’ve failed if they’re defeated by rigged systems.
Why This Workshop, Why Now
In 2017, an inclusive movement includes cross-disability civil rights organizations, as a given.
BONUS UPDATE ACTION ALERT!
From the FuckAbility™ Research Council:
“In response to movie theaters handing out Kleenex to ‘Me Before You’ ticket buyers, FARC calls on our sacrificial viewers to proceed to theaters carrying rolls of toilet paper. When offered the Kleenex, counter-offer your TP, and explain, ‘You’re gonna need it – Me Before You is full of ableist shit.”
FuckAbility™ Research Council Celebrates May As Masturbation Month By Telling Palme d’Snuffilme Winner Me Before You To Go Fuck Itself
Matt Damon hails film’s commitment to diversity
(Cannes’t, OR) Did you know that [INSERT NUMBER] people don’t know that there are [INSERT NUMBER] people with disabilities fucking RIGHT NOW? And that it’s unlikely that even one of those fuckings is a prelude to an assisted suicide?
That’s fucking outrageous. But even more outrageous is the idea that a young man would rather commit suicide in Switzerland than get laid in England. Because WHEELCHAIR.
“He helped us realize that you can’t just pick and choose who you exclude – you have to exclude everyone. In that sense, we are incredibly proud of how inclusive we are of people with disabilities.”
Yet it seems that the clichéd meet-cute that signals death-defying romance for the apparently undisabled becomes something very different – a meet-crip – when one of the partners is apparently disabled.
When the characters meet-crip, the romance becomes life-defying.
We spoke to the film’s Medical Advisor, [INSERT NAME HERE], on the movie’s messages about spinal cord injury rehabilitation and quality of life. “’Diversity’ was a word the producers said a lot. I’m very proud of the message of diversity this movie sends about what it’s like to be white, wealthy, male, and doomed to a romantic future with an employee who doesn’t understand sexual harassment.”
The only disability in life is a bad attitude…until you factor in #inspirationporn like, “Love is…walking,” that Leo Burnett and Shriners’ thought was a super-appropriate slogan for a kid in a wheelchair to say. For Shriners’ fundraising stragedy campaign. For $$.
Sure, I’ve been critical of the charity fundraising model. Sure, I’ve had some harsh things to say about inspiration porn. And, yes, I’ve argued that children with disabilities can be valuable comestibles. None of that precludes me from providing a valuable Professional Fundraiser’s Assessment of the Shriners’ commercial above:
The problem with this ad for Shriners’ Hospital is that it doesn’t go far enough. It goes right up to the edge and hesitates.
Bottom line: If you’re not inspiring AND terrifying your audience, they’re not hearing why they should give to you to make you stop talking.
My 3-Point Pointers for Insperrifying™ Medical-Model Messaging (3M™)
- Love = Cure. You’ve laid the groundwork, now close the deal. You’ve got the kids believing love is about walking. Now have them say what you really mean: “My parents will hate me if I can’t walk!”
- Kids ♥ Begging. Whether it’s for a puppy or surgery, kids are world-class chin-tremblers. Yet you haven’t even given them the tools they need. What, Shriners’ can’t afford a couple of tin cups?
- Follow Your Non-Bliss. On-camera talent should appear in naturalistic settings that echo your message of disability = despair. A seclusion room in a badly run public school. Waiting at a stop where the bus rolls by them. Watching fundraising commercials for people “like that.”
Remember: Real World Fundraising™ measures itself on the Jerry Scale. On the Jerry Scale you have to scare to score!
Wishing you all a very happy #GivingTuesday on December 1st!
“I’ve found that being inspirational is a lonely business and
unconnected to true efforts or achievements. Being a role model has the pleasure of an honor that’s earned.”
I was asked a few years ago about how I felt being called an “inspiration” based on my identity as a woman with a disability. This was my response, based on events over three decades in the workforce, the majority spent in progressive, community-based nonprofits in the Bay Area where the cross-disability community still remained invisible and therefore marginalized: