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How Our Fave Disabled Female Activists Deal with the Bullshit of the World

Here at The Unwritten we are passionate about fighting for what we believe in, but we also recognise just how hard it can be keep going sometimes. As it’s International Women’s Day we wanted to remind you just how important it is to look after yourself first and we thought we’d ask some of our favourite women to help us out.

We asked some of our favourite female disability activists “how do you deal with the bullshit of the world?”

Rachel Charlton-Dailey Editor-in-Chief of The Unwritten and Freelance Journalist


Of course I had to start by answering myself, and if I’m honest, I don’t deal with it very well.

I am historically bad at setting boundaries when it comes to taking time off. Just this weekend I declared I was coming off Twitter for my mental health, but I’m already creeping back on. But I’ve found asking my best friends and husband to be tough with me when it comes to that really helps.

Sometimes he literally takes away my phone (but only to stop me from crying, not in a mean way!) while Cath and my bestie Gem will lovingly threaten me. 

When all else fails I grab my coat and my dog Rusty’s lead, and we head to the coast to scream at the sea for a bit. Oh and Stevie Nicks dance parties.

My community is what keeps me going every single day, so over to them…

Lady Tanni Grey Thompson, Paralympian


If there was one thing I wish is that people would understand it’s ableism.  It’s just exhausting explaining to people all the time. So I take a deep breath and defiantly smile and explain how and why ableism is actually a thing.

Lucy Dawson, Model and Advocate


I think one thing that many of us in the disabled chronically ill community do fantastically well is manage to find a glimmer of humour in almost every situation relating to society’s bullshit towards us.

The ability to laugh in the face of things that are said or done to make us feel horrendous is a pretty powerful coping mechanism and one that I have definitely relied on many many times. 

And for the absolute worst days when there is no comic relief, knowing that an entire community of people who are there in support & solidarity is definitely comforting

Punteha van Terheyden, Journalist and Editor of Lacuna Voices


I try not to let the bullshit in the world – or around me – erode who I am. If I lose myself or compromise my core values as a response to the often unpleasant fog of society and the wider world, then all the bullshit I have to cope with has got the better of me and I refuse to let it win.

Frances Ryan, Journalist and Guardian Columnist


Jokes. And the relentless belief that the world – in all its shit and inequality and injustice – does not actually need to be this way, and each of us has the capacity to make it better. 

Caroline Mcdonagh-Delves, Deputy Editor of The Unwritten 


Second hand joy. Even when I’m struggling, I look to the amazing activists who surround me and the incredible work they’re doing and the strides they’re making and that’s what gets me through.

Melissa Parker, Freelance Journalist


I have realised it’s about claiming our identity. So much of being a disabled woman never belonged to us. It’s a process of learning and claiming.

I know from experience that disabled women are torn down, diminished by the abled gaze. I think that’s why I continue on, because disabled children are taught to get on with it – that we mustn’t expect too much – even as we’re expected to give everything to everyone around us. I cope by thinking of the next generation – they will see our words, our acts.

I also take one day a week, at least, off to listen to Beyoncé or Motown or watch a film like Legally Blonde. I need those moments to regroup and feel all the emotions I need to feel to fight on.

Hannah Shewan Stevens, Freelance Journalist and The Unwritten Columnist


I find the most comfort in disabled communities, I find rest by talking to other disabled people. Because a lot of my friends are also disabled and/ or neurodivergent and I think spending more time with people who can understand the pressures of ableism and the impact that it has on our general well-being is the most comforting thing for me. 

But also I think I’ve learned a lot about respecting my own boundaries and realising that I don’t need to be informed about everything that’s happening to disabled people all the time.

I used to immerse myself in news related to disability so much that I could never escape the stress of seeing the stuff happening to my community. And I think, learning that the only way I can truly be an active activist is by taking care of myself first, played a huge role in how I’m kind of protecting myself from ableism becoming too overwhelming.

Charlotte Colombo, Freelance Journalist


Humour is my resistance and rebellion. To me, responding to life’s bollocks with jokes and memes sends the clear message that you’re unfazed and that whatever they wanted to achieve didn’t work, and also indicates that you needn’t dignify something so stupid and unfair with a serious response.

Don’t be afraid to shitpost through it.

Cath Poucher, Deputy Editor of The Unwritten


I’m not gonna lie, the bullshit of the world really used to get to me and wear me down. As I got older however, I learned to cope with it and not let it get to me as much.

It may sound obvious, but the first challenge is actually learning to recognise the bullshit. Only once I acknowledged what it was, could I then actually deal with it. In my experience acting on the bullshit once you recognise it takes a bit of patience and a lot of “no-nonsense” attitude.

While it may annoy you and make you angry, being all shouty tends to get you nowhere. Stand up for yourself, speak up. Do it firmly, for sure. But everyone is very shouty now, and in my experience shouting just creates more shouting and you end up shouting in an echo chamber. Think of a plan of action, and responses to the inevitable replies so you’re armed and good to go. Hold firm, and stand your ground. Take a deep breath. And go for it.

I think this post has proved two things, disabled women are badasses (like we didn’t already know that) and that there’s no right or wrong way to deal with the ableist bullshit of the world. Whatever works for you is good. Let us know how you deal with it in the comments.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as non-disabled women. They are also likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time and suffer more severe injuries as a result of the violence. If you can, we’d appreciate it if you donated to Refuge today.

Here’s where you can buy the earrings used in the cover photo

Fuck the patriarchy earrings – Topple and Burn

Millicent Fawcett quote earrings – Three Little Tings on Etsy

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By Rachel Charlton-Dailey

Founder and Editor in Chief

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