TW: This article includes descriptions of threats of violence towards deaf and disabled women, particularly Tasha from Love Island.
There’s a photograph drifting around the internet of Love Island star Tasha Ghouri as a young child in a fairy fancy dress costume. Before she knew about the evils awaiting her, in a statement underneath, her father conveyed the scale of ableist and sexist abuse aimed at the islander in recent months.
A photograph of a child accompanied by a note not to call her grown-up self a “Deaf wh*re.”
In the villa, a male islander notes, “it’s one rule for men and another for women. And men suffer.”
The reality is that many disabled women and girls face this abuse. The brutal truth is that ableism and misogyny are violent acts – we need to call it what it is – intentional violence.
Familiar intentional violence.
Women, particularly disabled women, are asked often: will you smile more and be nicer?
Why must you provoke us by acting out?
Don’t make us slip into calling you “Deaf wh*re” or a “Cr*pple,” don’t take offence. Disabled women on Twitter, in the villa, at the corner shop, why can’t you just be nice?
It’s the truth that all the cosy feel-good content smoothes over, isn’t it?
It’s hard to be on the right side of history, of ordinary human decency, when most within society want to demean you, want to say, quietly or loudly, how dare you?
Tasha is a proud Deaf woman who wants to encourage others to feel pride in their deafness and disability and reassure them that they have nothing to fear by embracing their condition.
Her crime is being on the right side of history, of ordinary human decency, not wishing to gloss over her emotions for appealing content.
She is not the right kind of polished, comfortable, feel-good inspiration porn.
Answering the question, will you smile more and be nicer? With a firm and unwavering: I am nice, and I smile enough.
But, “it’s one rule for men and another for women.”
Yet, another for disabled women.
Disabled women face stigma, stereotypes and obstacles put up by society every day, as Tasha’s experience has proven.
Dami Hope stated his reason for not picking Tasha in a challenge was “because she gets away with a lot of stuff”, while Luca Bish said he could “give a list as long as Adam [Collard]” as his reason for not picking her.
What has Tasha gotten away with?
Considering that at every opportunity, she is reminded of – and reprimanded – for her perceived offences against Andrew Le Page, which included getting to know other potential partners.
When Tasha isn’t even allowed to be unhappy and emotional without facing online abuse without being condemned within the villa walls.
What about the fact that Dami was allowed to be troubled and upset that the public voted for him once, and Tasha experienced it three times.
The fact that Dami was allowed to get to know other women in Casa Amor – and repeatedly “cheated” on his partner on many occasions.
Luca was allowed to be upset that Dami called him fake, but when Tasha felt the same, she was “overreacting.”
We’re told that Tasha must forgive her partner Andrew even though his behaviour was more excessive. As Coco Lodge put it, “after sucking my t*ts and saying he wanted to ruin me.”
We’re told that “Tasha should be able to handle these jokes” and these revelations, but on what basis when others within the villa, chiefly Luca and Dami, are unable to do so?
Tasha’s involvement has also exposed #BeKind as an external embellishment that comes with an underlying threat: be acceptable.
The internet is vicious – don’t anger it with honesty.
“Tasha gets so offended over everything people say. IDK why she doesn’t just turn her hearing aid off.”
“I would love to chuck Tasha’s hearing aid in the pool. Absolute t*sser.”
“That Adam fella coming back, he will ride Tasha then throw her hearing aid in the pool. He doesn’t give a f*ck.”
She deserves it, doesn’t she? That disabled woman who mentions her disability.
Who is too easily offended.
Who needs to know her place.
Who needs the threat of violence to keep her in line.
As Tasha’s dad expressed in his Instagram post, “some people have had more knockbacks than many others in their 23 years. It’s not just about being in the danger zone 3 times. Look beyond what you see, people.”
Why are we policing the emotions of women and disabled women? It’s okay for Tasha to cry. Why does she need to maintain a more assertive attitude to be a popular islander?
We need to stop creating personas for women, and in particular, disabled women, to make them more palatable.
I fear the effect all of this will have on Tasha and other members of our community. Being the one to make history and being on the right side of it is challenging and isolating – but she isn’t alone.
We may feel beaten down and exhausted, but somewhere deaf and disabled children will still currently be taking those photographs. So proudly looking at the camera in their fancy dress costume and hopefully, in the future, they won’t have to face the same ableist, misogynistic, violent content that Tasha does now.
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