News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Ashley Judd talks about the response she gets when she pushes back against online harassment: “I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world…. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart.”

A new book tells the stories of women in the Zapatistas movement: “The [Zapatista army] has always had a clear commitment to women’s right to participate at all levels, and Zapatista leaders insisted on this from the very beginning. In spite of some men’s resistance, there was a strong response from women who wanted to be involved, who wanted to see a change in their lives.”

Of all the critiques of Starbucks Race Together initiative, Tressie McMillan Cottom’s is my favorite: “There is little reticence about race. My students love to talk about race…. They like to talk about the latest race films. This semester it is Selma. Last year it was Django…. Old people in diners tell me about Obama’s race problem. People on the train to the airport talk to me about Ferguson…. People talk about race to me but they rarely talk to me about racism.”

Do you know about the Ashley Treatment?

Was your first thought a beauty treatment? Did a celebrity cross your mind—say Ashley Judd? Maybe some Ashley Judd outrage is a good idea, but it’s not what I’m talking about today. The Ashley Treatment actually consists of these steps: 1. Being given hormones at age six to stunt your growth so you will stay permanently small and easy to care for; 2. Have your breast buds and uterus removed so you can’t get pregnant or be sexually abused (How does this prevent sexual abuse??); 3. Have no say in this because you can’t give permission or even be asked if this is okay with you.

This is what happened to Ashley X and possibly 100 other children (so far). How can this happen? Because we view people with disabilities as less than human. People with disabilities rarely sit on ethics committees of hospitals. They rarely get to give input on whether to withhold, deny, or impose treatment on children and adults with disabilities. The hospital that performed the procedures on Ashley later admitted that her civil rights had been violated and agreed to make changes, including adding a person with a disability to their ethics committee and requiring a court order prior to doing this type of treatment.


What people with disabilities think about the Ashley Treatment

Disability Rights Washington and The National Disability Rights Network just released a report that uses the Ashley X decision as a case study. It asks how we can make medical decisions that “uphold the constitutional rights and inherent dignity of people with disabilities.” Everyone has the right to choose what will happen to their body—including people with disabilities, battered women, young women and men who want access to birth control. We have to believe that people are experts of their own lives and have the right to make their own decisions―even those who can’t speak for themselves.

What would our community look like if we all had the curiosity and willingness to listen to what has worked for people who’ve had experiences we haven’t had? How would things be different if people with disabilities had a leadership voice in our hospitals, schools, and communities?