I actually find it quite sad that there is even the need for an international women’s day, that the world is not gender equal (or even disability equal for that matter).
Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination A world that’s diverse, equitable and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.International Women’s Day website
The inequality and bias I see around the world these days saddens me. On one hand,we have come a long way, yet on the other, I feel like we are going backwards.
America banning abortion and banning Drag queens, for example. It stuns me that such a world dominant nation can pass such punitive laws that marginalize so many. Land of the free? I think not. To think I wanted to live there 10-15 years ago. Frankly, I am glad I don’t.
I see disabled models in the media on occasion now, but I still feel like its a token gesture to make out they are embracing equality. The same goes for disability access into many buildings. I was at the car dealer today dropping my car off for a service. The ramp access was around the back, further away from the main entrance and reception than the steps access. Like it was an afterthought to keep people happy. as is the case in many places (that is, if they have access at all).
I would like to say I have the same opportunities as a female disabled person, but I just don’t think that is true.
Some of the discrimination I have faced
When I went to university to do my teaching degree, I moved from the North of England to the South of England. As I also did when I was looking for my first teaching job.
I can categorically say that my Northern accent was frowned upon, by both adults and by students. I KNOW that I lost job interviews simply on the way I spoke. Winning kids over was a whole separate battle, with the assumption that a northern accent meant think as two short planks and someone who just stepped out of the mills.
Then there was rugby. When I first became interested in the game, it was not the done thing for women. Women’s teams were few and far between and the RFU / clubs were very much male chauvinistic places. When I switched to refereeing it was ten times worse. I struggled to move up the grading ranks because every game I stepped out to referee was scrutinized sooo much more than a male ref.. A lot of the time I would show up and be asked if I was the ball girl. Nope, I am the REFEREE. I had to work ten times harder than my male counterparts just to achieve the same thing.
It was ok for male referees to be fat beer drinking monsters, but for a woman, any slight sign of fat was labeling us as slow, unfit and unable to keep up with play. I battled this discrimination for 5 years. The straw that broke the camels back was when the UK RFU decided to set up a female ref panel and I applied. I walked the fitness test hands down, but another discrimination I didn’t expect came into play: I was age discriminated because I was in my mid 30’s – considered old.
I had fought sex discrimination for 5 years, but adding this to the mix was too much. I quit refereeing at that point and changed sports to triathlon.
I learned how to ride a motorbike… because apparently, back then women didn’t do that.
And then came the disability.
This added whole new layer of discrimination to my life.
I was actively discouraged from trying to return to triathlon and told there were no opportunities for me as a disabled masters swimmer.
I was provisionally categorized according to my physical disability for para sport, literally only based on the amount of leg I lost and absolutely nothing else was up for consideration. Not the loss of almost all arteries in the remainder of my leg, not the lymphedema complications, none of that was considered.
I cannot do anything just assuming disability access will be ok. It usually isn’t.
I am not one to give up but oh boy, the challenges I have faced have pushed me to the limit many times.
This has all helped to turn me into the pig headed, argumentative, equality / disability driven person that I am today.
Oh, and just because I was discouraged from doing triathlon, does not mean I will listen. Far from it. In fact, watch this space, because I have plans.
Over and out.