An Open Letter to Feministing

Table of Contents:

The Backstory

The Letter

List of Cosigners

What Happened Next

Email Exchange with Courtney

Reposting of the Open Letter

The Chat

What I Would Like Feministing To Do

What You Can Do

Thank You

The Backstory:

Feministing is a major feminist website which has a long history of having a culture of problematic content in both posts and comment threads. Specifically, site administrators have been questioned and called out numerous times about ableist, transphobic, classist, and sizeist language used in posts on Feministing and tolerated in the comment threads.

This language and the silence on disability, trans, class, and size issues is a problem on a feminist website because these things are feminist issues which impact and hurt women all over the world. When called out, administrators have often responded dismissively, if at all, and have sometimes actively silenced the people calling them out. Readers reported repeatedly reporting abuse and sending emails complaining about ableist language and receiving no response, and pointed to examples in comment threads of situations in which a commenter requested that ableist language be addressed and was shut down, treated dismissively, or piled on by other commenters and administrators.

On 1 October 2009, a post went up including the use of the word “invalid.” This annoyed me. Having conversations with numerous disabled feminists about the issue, I decided to write Feministing, both privately and publicly. My goal was to discuss the specific post of concern, and to more generally ask Feministing to address the issue of ableism on their website.

Aware of the fact that people had tried before and failed, I didn’t have high hopes, but I felt it was worth another try. A highly public one. So I wrote a letter, and asked that people who felt that ableism does not belong in feminist discourse cosign it, republish it, distribute it, and generally make some noise. Numerous people joined me in doing this and also wrote open letters of their own.

I want to stress here that my goal was not to coopt the ongoing challenge to the staff at Feministing about the ableism on their site. My goal was to try and act as a tipping point, to push Feministing into action by mobilizing people who are upset about this, and by collecting everyone’s comments, thoughts and concerns in one place to present a clearly unified discussion about the issues. This has been tried before, to no effect, but I had some hopes that the Feministing staff might be more receptive to a discussion now than they had been in the past.

My goal here was to open up a dialogue which includes the staff at Feministing, disabled feminists, and allies, to get Feministing to address the ableism on its site and to change the culture at Feministing to make it more inclusive.

The Letter:

Dear Feministing,

I’ve been reading you guys for a while now. I haven’t always liked everything you do or say, but I think that you bring some important issues to my attention and sometimes some good conversations happen on your website.

But, you know, in recent months I’ve become increasingly disturbed by the exclusionary language and attitudes I see on your site, most particularly in reference to people with disabilities and people in lower social classes. You have a pretty poor track record on even covering disability issues, and the casual ableism which I see in your comment threads and sometimes in your very posts  is extremely grating. It is especially irritating to see dismissive responses from site administrators when this issue is brought up.

Today’s post on chivalry was the last straw. Courtney used the line “If having my car door opened makes me feel like lover man thinks I’m an invalid, not so feminist.” This is offensive.

I’d like to point you to a piece I wrote recently, “Why Inclusionary Language Matters,” because I think you need to read it. Using ableist language is not just offensive, it’s antifeminist. And I would really appreciate it if y’all would stop doing it and stop tolerating it in your comment threads. I would also love to see y’all including more posts talking about topics related to disability and disability issues.

Please address this. Feminism includes people with disabilities. Disability is a feminist issue. Please make Feministing more inclusionary.

Thank You,

s.e. smith/meloukhia (meloukhia at gmail dot com)

The Cosigners:

The following individuals have reposted/cosigned this letter on their websites. This list is in no particular order. Many of them have written their own open letters/comments, which should all be read, because they are all excellent:



abby jean (more here)

Indie Goddess & Illegal Jesus


The Feminist Agenda



Pieces of String

Chally (who wrote at the same time I did and did not receive a response)

Anna (who has been writing for a very long time and has not gotten a response)






Annaham (see also here)

The Red Queen



Isabel the Spy




Reconcile (who did get my name wrong, but that’s ok, it’s hard to spell!)




Wandering Lost





bifemmefatale (who cosigned on the Feministing Community Site! Please see the comments thread here; I really want to thank Wildly Parenthetical and Alixana for being very on it in this thread and for trying to keep the discussion focused)

Lavender Lines



Champagne Candy

The Trouble Is

Amandaw (please note that she has posted an open letter of her own with specific concerns and issues she would like to see addressed!)

Anna at Trouble also started a roundup of posts related to ableism at Feministing; please comment to get your post added there. Or, if you came here from there, please comment so I can add your post to the list of cosigners/people with suggestions/etc. were_duck is also collecting links on the issue. sasha_feather has a more general collection of links on disabling language, including links discussing ableism at Feministing.

What Happened Next:

Nothing, for a while. Then Courtney published an apology on the post in question (after I had sent my letter, natch). The Feministing administrators left for the weekend while the numbers of cosigners grew here and people republished my open letter and wrote letters of their own.

At around 11:30 AM PST on Monday, 5 October 2009, Courtney sent me an email (CC’d to other Feministing staff):

Hi there,
Thanks very much for the thoughtful, constructive email.
I am, to be completely honest, new to disability studies and clearly guilty of some of the ignorant language reflexes that it fights against. I’ll definitely check out the article you sent and make a good faith effort to incorporate it into my writing here and elsewhere. I was really moved by the section in Examined Life where Astra Taylor films here sister and Judith Butler touching on some disability issues, but that’s as much exposure as I’ve really gotten.
I appreciate you taking the time to write.

*FYI, my response in comments was absolutely earnest. I meant the apology, not to be dismissive.

Just so we’re clear here, since there has been some confusion about this, Courtney did not go out of her way to respond to me privately. I posted this letter here first, and emailed Feministing’s general email account shortly after with a copy of the text and a link, with the idea that Feministing staffers would come here to see the comments. It didn’t occur to me that Courtney would choose to respond in email, and I suspect that she didn’t follow the link I sent her (evidenced by “I’ll definitely check out…”) to see the conversation happening here. So I don’t want anyone getting upset that Courtney responded to me privately; she responded via email because I sent an email first. And I debated whether or not to post her reply, given that it was in an email and that I protect emails sent to me by commenters, so thought I should extend the same courtesy to Courtney even though she’s not a commenter. When I felt like she wasn’t engaging and also felt very uncomfortable about corresponding only in private on a very public matter, I decided to go public with her email so that people would know what was going on, since I had told several people that I had heard from her.

I responded to her email shortly after I received it:

Hello Courtney,

Thank you very much for your thoughtful and considered reply; it’s important to me to know that you are paying attention to the issue of unconscious ableism in your own language. However, I think it’s important to note that I (and many others, many of whom are listed as cosigners at my website) are concerned about the trend of ableism on Feministing in general, and would like to see that addressed (and possibly help to address it). It’s definitely hard to effect change without the tools to do so, and we would like to get those tools into the hands of the Feministing crew; you can see some suggestions and requests from readers on my open letter, and I’m sure many would be eager to engage further, knowing that y’all are listening.

What can we do to get a productive dialogue going? Start an open thread to get people talking? Set up some sort of round table discussion between some folks with disabilities and the Feministing staff? Get a person with disabilities on the Feministing masthead? You guys are definitely one of the major feminist sites out there, and taking a strong stance against ableism and incorporating discussions about disability issues into your regular site offerings would make a huge difference for feminists with disabilities and feminists in general.

-s.e. smith/meloukhia

At 8:15  PST on Tuesday, 6 October, I received a response from Courtney:

Hi again meloukhia,
Thanks for your response. I love the idea of getting some content up, initially, and maybe figuring out some other innovative ways to address the intersections between disability rights and gender issues etc. in the future. Do you want to set up a g chat time that we could then publish as an interview? (I find this can be easier than doing a phone conversation and then having to write a transcript with this kind of thing.) I’m also planning on reading the piece you sent and writing a post on it once I’ve had time to be thoughtful about it (I’m a little crazed at the moment).
Again, just want to reiterate that I appreciate your energy, proactivity in bringing this to my attention, and willingness to help educate me and our readers. I do want to make clear that I can only speak for myself and my own shortcomings. Each editor at Feministing has her own interests/challenges/expertise. I hope you won’t lump everyone in with me. We also have trouble handling the huge amount of moderation that goes into having traffic like ours, so we can’t be responsible for reader comments, though we know it reflects on the site as a whole by the very nature of the beast.
In any case, I’m grateful to be in dialogue and eager to learn and provide an opportunity to educate our community. When is good for you to set up a g chat interview?

My response:

Hello Again!

If you don’t mind, I would like to invite other people to participate in any conversation we have, because this is an issue which is much larger than me. I know that Anna (email redacted) in particular is definitely interested in talking to you and the Feministing staff, and I suspect that several others may be as well. I also really want to stress that while talking to you is *great*, we really would like a chance to talk to the entire staff or to have some sort of communication with the rest of the staff (like a convo with you on GChat with a transcript which gets read by all staffers, a chat with multiple Feministing staffers, etc.), because we are concerned about the culture of ableism on Feministing, rather than trying to single out any one contributor for attention. Your post may have sparked this latest round of asking Feministing to address ableism, but there are much larger issues here. We would like Feministing to be a safe place for people with disabilities, and the only way to make that happen is to address everyone.

I think GChat is a terrific idea, but don’t want to set a specific time until I have had an opportunity to ask other people when would be good for them. Lots of people have some really great ideas and thoughts which they would really like an opportunity to share with you. Hopefully if everyone provides some time windows which are good for them, an obvious time will present itself. I will try to get back to you this evening with a list of potential chat times from our end so we can see which ones will work with you/other Feministing staffers who would like to participate.

Amandaw also asked me to pass on her open letter to the Feministing staff: She doesn’t feel up to engaging in chat/dialogue right now, so pulled her thoughts together in a post.

I’m also curious to note that you reference not being responsible for reader comments; you do have a “report abuse” button which would seem to indicate that the staff are concerned about abusive comments and will remove or address them. Maybe you can expand a little more on how the “report abuse” function works in our group chat.

Thank you,

-s.e. smith/meloukhia

In further private conversation with Courtney, I realized that she was not aware that I was speaking with multiple people, as opposed to just speaking for myself, and that we were concerned not about Courtney specifically, but about site-wide issues with ableism on Feministing. It seemed that there was a bit of miscommunication going on.

So, while I initially posted a public invite asking people to join a chat, it became evident that we needed to take a time out to coordinate a conversation between Feministing staffers and feminists with disabilities; I stressed that we wanted to have a conversation which will effect change on Feministing, not a conversation about Courtney in particular, and, understanding that, she obviously needed time to talk with other staffers and to sort out her own schedule, because committing to change ableism on Feministing is, you know, a pretty major time commitment. A time commitment we’d already made, but one which Courtney did not realize the scope of.

Courtney said, “Courtney is excited about having a dialogue between disabled feminists and Feministing, but needs some time to talk with Feministing staff and think about how to organize it in a way which will be productive.”

My hope was that Courtney or someone else on the Feministing staff would be able to act as our point person in a group dialogue with Feministing.

Reposting of the Open Letter on the Community Site

Then, someone went and posted a copy of my open letter to Feministing, and all heck broke loose. Several of the disabled feminists who  have been active in the ongoing discussion attempted to wade in, and Jessica Valenti also became involved. She also emailed me privately to bring up the post and the situation in the comments. Ultimately, she closed the thread at our request because we felt like a productive dialogue was not happening, and probably could not happen until we had an opportunity to meet with the Feministing staff and talk about how they would like to address ableism on their site.

Here’s what Jessica said when she closed the thread:

I’m closing comments on this thread (unless the OP emails me to request I open them back up) because the conversation has ceased to be productive. I’m leaving all comments up, because I don’t want to erase the ugliness – but rather leave it up as an example of how things can be extremely hostile in the community.
The Feministing staff is in talks with several disability rights bloggers, some of whom have been active on this thread, and will have more to say on the issue of abelism at Feministing in the near future. Thanks for your patience and participation, everyone.

I left this statement up while we worked out the details of the chat:

We are currently talking with Jessica about a group conversation with some representatives from the disabled feminist community and some Feministing staffers. Speaking for myself, I greatly appreciate that Jessica contacted me, and appears to be interested in a group dialogue with all of us. Hopefully between us, Jessica, and Courtney, we can have a productive discussion which will result in some changes at Feministing. I hope to be able to keep everyone updated about what is going on as things unfold, although there may be some radio silence while we work out the details of when/how we are going to have a conversation.

The Chat

The chat took place on 16 October, 2009. A copy of the transcript can be found here.

Since this time, no additional communication has taken place between us and Feministing (beyond Anna sending a booklist, as requested, and abby sending a followup email, which Feministing quoted without attribution on their website, making it appear as though they had written the suggestions abby had written, and refusing to apologize/address/correct this when it was brought up), and Feministing’s content/moderation have not changed at all. The site is still rife with ableism, from both contributors and commenters, and it’s clear that there is absolutely no interest in fixing this. Quixotess called for a boycott, suggesting that people stop reading/linking to Feministing until they addressed this issue. Given the success of the trans-led boycott…I think it’s safe to say that Feministing has no intent of changing the entrenched exclusionary culture.

What I Would Like Feministing To Do:

Here’s what I wrote when I initially published the open letter:

I would like Feministing to respond to this. Courtney’s apology, while nice, is not a sufficient response. It does not adequately address the problem. I would like Feministing to participate in a dialogue with the many people who have cosigned this letter to address the issue of ableist content on their website. (It sounds like this is in the works.)

I would like to see a front page post about ableism and disability issues. I would really like it if that post directly addressed the ableist tone on Feministing’s posts and comment threads, and indicated that ableism would no longer be tolerated in posts or in comments, including on the Community site. I would love it even more if a blogger with disabilities (not a temporarily able bodied blogger talking about disability issues)  joined their masthead to foster a more inclusive dialogue and start educating Feministing and their readership about disability and why disability is a feminist issue.

I would also like the Feministing staff to read the open letters from Amandaw and Annaham, in which specific issues and examples of problems are discussed, and suggestions for addressing the ableism on Feministing are made. I would like the Feministing staff to email Anna, who has repeatedly asked for communication from them (Anna is now part of the group of feminists corresponding with Feministing). I would like Feministing to explain why repeated emails in the past have not been answered, and why I was the only one who got a response in the latest round of emails. I would also like Feministing to explain why “report abuse” flags on ableist language were ignored.

What would I like them to do now? Well, I would like them to stop paying lip service, and to actually change the culture at their site. To crack down in moderation and make it clear that exclusionary language of any kind, whether directed at disabled persons, trans folk, lower class folk, people of colour…will not be tolerated. And I’m like the contributors to watch their words with more care, to not use exclusionary language in their posts, to not post links to things which contain offensive content. I would like Feministing to be more diverse, to center voices other than those of white, middle class, able bodied, cis, het feminists.

And, you know? Maybe that’s not something they can do. Which brings me to…

What You Can Do:

Cosign. You can cosign right here in the comments, if you like. You can also cosign on your website, by reprinting this letter, or writing one of your own and linking to this letter. If you cosign on your site, please let me know, so I can include you in the list of cosigners above. I am trying to link every cosigner I see on the Internet, but I am sure I am missing someone, and I may be getting names wrong, so it’s better if people just send me links (meloukhia at gmail dot com) or add a link to the comments. Cosigning this letter, obviously, does not mean that you are cosigning/endorsing this entire website, just the letter.

Spread the word. Tell your readers. Tell everyone. Make sure that people cosign here, cosign offsite and get linked here, or cosign on a post which links here. I’m stressing links back to this ain’t livin’ because I want Feministing to see a unified presentation, rather than having to hunt around the Internet for scattered posts and links.

Email Feministing. Tell them that you are no longer interested in tolerating ableism on a major feminist website. Be polite, but be firm. Provide constructive suggestions for improvement and stress the fact that disability is a feminist issue which you would like to see addressed. If you feel thus inclined, post your emails/any responses you get. Several people have told me that they have emailed Feministing and not received a reply, which troubles and upsets me.

Add your thoughts about what you would like Feministing to do. In the comments, on your own website, on the comments in another website, in an email to Feministing. Wherever you feel comfortable.

And, since this doesn’t appear to be working; promote the sites which do include people. Promote the sites which do center the voices of people living in marginalized bodies. If Feministing doesn’t want to cover these issues, to acknowledge that feminism needs to be bigger than this, then, fine, let’s leave them out of it. We don’t need them. And we don’t need to invest energy in trying to fix Feministing, when we could be using that energy to build something great, to make feminism inclusive of all women.

You do not have to be a person with disabilities to care about disability issues. You do not have to be a person with disabilities to think, specifically, that disability is a feminist issue. You do not have to be perfect in respect to the use of ableist language in your own life and the recognition and study of disability issues in your own life to recognize that a major feminist website should not be tolerating ableist dialogue. We are all works in progress, and none of us are perfect, but that lack of perfection does not mean that we cannot call others out on inappropriate behaviour.

Thank You:

To all the people who have cosigned here and elsewhere, to all the people who have linked this, emailed this, Tweeted this, etc. Thank you to all of the people who have posted letters of your own and/or emailed Feministing. Thank you to all of the feminist allies who have cosigned, even if you don’t necessarily call yourselves feminists. Thank you to all of the feminists with disabilities who have been asking Feministing to address this issue for years. Hopefully, this time, we can make a difference. If we can’t, the Internet may just break my heart.

Ableism is not feminism. Spread the word.

214 Replies to “An Open Letter to Feministing”

  1. “If having my car door opened makes me feel like lover man thinks I’m an invalid, not so feminist.” This is offensive.

    Because — as I see it — the feminist issue with opening doors isn’t that it implies that men think women are people with disabilities, it’s that the chivalry is the pretty wrapping paper that is supposed to make the oppression palatable. They do ‘nice’ stuff for us so we’re supposed to take all the really awful stuff without protest. So if it’s a package deal, we refuse it all. It’s got nothing to do with disability. Cheers for thinking I can’t open a car door ‘cos I’m all sick though.

  2. kaninchenzero, I think that Courtney was using ‘thinks I’m an invalid’ like that’s a bad thing. I’m offended because it plays into the trope of disability being objectively bad, not because she was implying that women are all PWD.

  3. “thinks I’m an invalid” means “thinks I’m a cripple.” Thinks I am an ineffective, pitiable shell of a human being. Because we know that it is an awful thing to be disabled, it is the end of a meaningful life, and to have someone imply that we might be like that is an insult to an abled woman.

  4. You make an excellent point. As feminists, we generally pride ourselves on fighting for the equal rights of all. We fight sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, sizeism, and more. Ableism should be no different. I’ll definitely try to notice and call people out on negative comments like the one above from now on.

  5. Count me and my cane in. Ableist language hurts disadvantaged people; feminists try not to do that. That’s pretty 101, I’d say.

  6. Yeah, count me in as a co-signer. That one’s pretty basic. Sometimes I think we’re becoming forgetful, now that we have the vote, and all.

  7. I’ll co-sign! I actually dropped Feministing from my blogroll a while ago. I just felt that the voice they represented was a little too homogeneous.

  8. Count me in too. I hadn’t read the article in question, but ableist and exclusionary language like that is a trend I’ve noticed at Feministing and it’s really disturbing and frustrating.

  9. OuyangDan, I do want to note that this is not an issue I have been silent on; it’s just that, as a relatively small blogger, my voice does not get heard very much. There are most definitely examples in my archives (and in the comments on feminist sites) in which I have questioned exclusionary language from people who call themselves feminists.

    I’ve been tired of the tone of the conversation on supposedly feminist websites for a very long time and while I doubt that this letter is going to change the tone at Feministing, I’m hoping that it will at least make the Feministing staffers address it. (Hey, then they’d have THREE posts about disability this year, instead of two.)

  10. I hope so! I made a sad face when I saw that, but thought it might also have been a parsing issue on my part. Given that I’ve asked people to cosign in the comments, uhm, it actually makes total sense that OuyangDan was, you know, cosigning with a note. Rather than referring to me. Parsing fail! Maybe I shouldn’t have spent 15 hours on Twitter today…

  11. No, no, it was very clear as soon as Chally pointed that out. I sometimes have reading comprehension issues (funny for someone who writes for a living) and occasionally think that people are saying things that they are not saying. So, uhm, short story, I apparently can’t read, and you are, of course, lovely and excellent and I am immensely sorry that I read something which was not there into your comment. Clearly, I need to go to bed.

  12. Count me in.

    Linked here.

    Hugs and kisses, a disabled feminist who has long noted your silence and she and her cane are not amused.

  13. Ha ha! Me too. I blame it on the Fog and move on.

    Someone who goes to the trouble to post an open letter could not, in my NSHO, be silent on this, at all.

    Upon looking at my comment, I can totes see how you came up w/ that too. I easily take half the blame.

  14. Hi, Just found this lovely place on my journey through the intarwebs and I have enjoyed reading your blog.


    I have also become intolerant of the tolerance at feministing for exclusionary language. I in no way claim to be perfect, and being called out can suck, but I hope it can be a learning experience. I have had much frustration at some of the sizism/body shaming that occurs on some feministing threads as well.

  15. I would like to note that one apology for one word (which did not include any understanding of why it was wrong) is not enough. Feministing has a history of being exclusive toward disabled women. It is a thick, thick culture of ableism and it will not be dismantled with one apology or a couple throwaway token posts on disability (which will be when you start to see the ableism in the comments section really kick up).

  16. Hell, yes, amandaw. I love apologies, but actually understanding why they need to be made and articulating the need for an apology is critical. And I am totally not satisfied with an apology at this point. I want to see an examination of ableism and the ableism on Feministing on the main page, and I want to see a blogger with disabilities on their masthead, and I want to see disability issues becoming, not a token, but a regular part of their content. And I want to see ableism specifically addressed in their comments policy.

  17. Alas, I don’t know how much of a difference it’s going to make. Calling people out on their ableism and actually getting a response are two very different things.

  18. I’ll bet the entire feminist blogosphere a cookie that Feministing will never respond meaningfully (not perfectly, but making a true, from-the-heart effort). Instead, I give it 95% odds they will continue their policy of “Ignore, Ignore, Ignore.” The rest of the 5% is split between another brief, generic apology and a few throwaway posts on disability (consisting of a link or quote with one or two condemnatory sentences of whatever the outrage is) — and I give you 100% odds those will be repro-rights related*. That is, again, if they respond. Which history tells us (there have been many pleas to them, by email and publicly, by various people) they will not.

    My hope is that other people will hear about it. And take notice. And that eventually, they will respond by adding more pressure on the Feministing crew and commentariat, or by leaving/boycotting Feministing along with the rest of us who are boycotting-by-default (that is, the culture is so exclusionary and *painful* that we couldn’t participate if we DID want to). I have faith in the larger feminist/social justice community.

    * The entire feminist ‘sphere also has a history of only ever engaging with disability issues when the right to an abortion is involved.

  19. I’ll take your cookie and raise you a cupcake.

    What I’m hoping to accomplish here is to raise awareness among feminists about the fact that disability is a feminist issue. I’ve touched on it a bit here, in part because I’m starting to explore my own disability status, but I wanted to really show people, directly, how ableism hurts people (and feminism) and how especially hurtful it is when a major, well-respected feminist site is tolerating and sometimes directly engaging in ableism. The fact that I have yet to receive a response from Feministing shows me exactly how much they care about this issue; if someone posted an open letter to me calling me out on my bullshit, you can damn well bet I would be there in a red hot minute to address it.

    I’ve noted that many of the folks who have cosigned here are people with disabilities. People with disabilities have been speaking up for years about the issue of ableism in feminism, and they have been ignored, so clearly their voices don’t matter to people in the feminist community. I would like to see more able bodied feminists engaging with this issue (and would ESPECIALLY like to see some of the big name feminist bloggers reading this and cosigning and addressing the issue of ableism in their own spaces). After your guest posting debacle at Feministe earlier this year, though, it’s clear that most feminist-identified folks have a long way to go when it comes to addressing disabilities issues.

    I dislike that a supposedly safe space has to be avoided by default because it is so upsetting. I’m not ok with that, and neither should anyone who calls ouself a feminist.

    So, all I can do is my small part, which is to say it loud and say it over and over until someone gives me a bigger microphone, a more heavily trafficked streetcorner, whatever it takes. I can be pretty annoying when I put my mind to it, and I think it’s time to start being annoying instead of just sort of meekly lurking in the sidelines occasionally talking about how exclusionary language upsets me.

  20. queen emily, just thinking about the handling of trans issues on Feministing makes me feel deeply upset. But I figure I should only run one open letter at a time. I wouldn’t want to confuse them with too much information. (After all, there’s no such thing as a trans feminist with disabilities, right?)

  21. Haha no there is not. What’s an intersection? *blank face*

    But yes, I agree two open letters would be confusing. I haven’t read there once for a good six months so I don’t even know what the current fail is (I’m sure there is some, of course, but it doesn’t make for an informed critique).

  22. Thank you, Anna. You know, I have been hearing from a lot of temporarily able bodied bloggers that I am “brave” for “bringing this up,” and I’m like, “hello, I did not bring this up. People have been bringing this up and complaining about this for month and years in some cases and getting no response. You just happen to not be aware of it because you haven’t read their blogs.”

    I sometimes forget that all people are not intersection feminists, and this whole situation has been a really great reminder of the fact that most feminists really do not give a flying fartle about people with disabilities. And sometimes actively oppress them.

  23. I read a quote this week that I’m beginning to get angry enough to throw around a lot.

    Some disabled feminists have suggested that since women have been the traditional carers of elderly people, disabled children and adults, that some women activists may subconsciously regard these groups as symbolic of the chains that have bound them to the home (Hume 1990).

    And that’s why any discussion about disability ends up around reproductive rights, or caregivers.

    Arg, I’m so angry, I think I’m going for a walk.

  24. That quote is both very perceptive, and very disturbing.

    I got up 30 minutes ago and I’m already so angry that I need a walk.

  25. Thanks for writing this letter! THL will have a link up to it next Fri in our Links of Great Interest post for next week.

  26. Cosigned!

    My husband of 20 years has cerebral palsy, but his was on the mild side of the spectrum so he has dyslexia and one foot that drags. Despite his lively mind and incredible abilities, when he walks into a room full of strangers people turn away, are embarrassed and automatically assume he’s “retarded” (to use another lovely phrase.)

    As John Lennon famously sang, we’re all crippled inside. There’s no difference, in my feminist mind, between having an outwardly visible handicap, and internal handicaps. In fact, the internal ones are worse….anyhow, sorry to rant. Just wanted to cosign…

  27. The last time I had a conversation with a Feministing mod (Miriam, IIRC) about ablist language on feminist, she agreed that yes, they needed to get a commenting policy down.

    That was at least six months ago.

    Let’s see, I’ve got this post, and I even left a comment with a link to this one on one of their link roundups. Every time I’ve come across ablist language in the comments (which is less often now that I rarely read the site unless someone links me), I report it to their abuse. Nothing has ever come of if, except the occasional anonymous comment telling me how mean I am for expecting Feministing to, you know, take ablism seriously.

    Gosh, it only counts when it might affect someone’s ability to have babies!

    And AmandaW is right about what it taken seriously by the Greater Feminist Blogosphere. Apparently women with disabilities only exist when it comes to abortion, and not at any other time. Heck, take a look at what posts by Hoyden About Town – a popular feminist blog that often includes posts about disability – are the most linked. It is rarely their posts about disability.

    Arg, I have a whole rant about this that is epic and can go on for days.

    Oh, hey, look: another post about just this topic.

    Not bitter. NOT BITTER AT ALL. Angry, though. Really angry.

    In Short: Co-signed, and if Feministing really wants to talk about their issues, they are really going to have to do something more that a token apology. Like maybe talk to us for a while? Find out why we’re angry? Respond to any of our emails? I’d love to have Courtney or Miriam email me ( to talk about this stuff.

  28. Co-signed with vigor.

    And to one of Anna’s comments:
    >> And that’s why any discussion about disability ends up
    >> around reproductive rights, or caregivers.

    YES. I have HAD IT with “My Brother Might Have Mild Asperger’s So This Is About Me” syndrome.

  29. I don’t have a blog or website but still cosigning!
    On a more personal note, thank you.
    Because of your blog, I’ve started to make a conscious effort to stop using exclusionary language and have started deconstructing my privilege. Again, thank you.

  30. Cool! It’s nice to know that my words are having an impact on someone. Sometimes I feel like I am preaching to the choir.

  31. Co-fucking-signed. Disabled feminist here who has been a semi-regular commentator on Feministing for the past six months or so and has almost given up on feminism entirely because of it. I’d been returning in order to give a dissenting voice, but I really don’t think it’s worth it anymore.

    If anyone from Feministing is reading this: yes, you’ve driven off yet another commentator suffering from intersecting oppressions. Hope you’re happy.

    …this has inspired me to check whether the outrageously ableist comment I reported as abuse weeks ago has vanished yet. It hasn’t. Somehow I’m not surprised.

  32. Co-signed, another disabled feminist. Who would like to remind people who don’t see this as an issue that affects them personally, that at any moment you could have an accident, develop an illness or have family or friends who have an accident or illness that result in a lifelong disability. Able-bodiedness isn’t guaranteed in life.

    (Excuse any incoherence, hayfever and muscle spasms are plaguing me ATM)

  33. There is some question about whether or not Feministing is checking the email used to report abuse. And, if they are checking, what kind of action is being taken.

    And, as trouble has said…Feministing: Answer your email! trouble’s been asking Feministing to address this issue for, uhm, a very long time and has not received a reply.

    And, finally, don’t let their version of feminism put you off feminism! We need more disabled feminists in the world!

  34. I’m a feminist blogger with disabilities who reads Feministing, and I’d happily sign. Ah Feministing, it’s the little, constant cuts that bleed forever, not the great big gashes. Those I can give back, but the ones from people who don’t even realize they’re hurting us… Those hurt.

  35. Yeah, I think I need to find a better class of feminist (or womanist) blogs to read.

    The frustrating thing is that a few months ago when the trans boycott of Feministing went down, I remember the Feministing mods urging the commentariat to please please please report any abusive comments that we saw and that they didn’t have time to spot every single abusive comment but if we just reported them… there was not a word about them not checking their e-mail, although people did point out that they’d reported comments and got no response. Again, IIRC, a promise to do better.

    In the time since, I’ve reported three comments. (It would be more, but e-mail takes more spoons than I can spare.) One of them was IIRC about something sexist, one of them was about a classic derail on a post about trans issues, and one was about this incredibly ableist comment. One of the three has vanished in the interim, two are still up and no mod has touched them. Guess which is which.

  36. Anna, I haven’t; if I hear from Feministing, I will definitely be shouting that news from the rooftops (and I hope others will as well if they hear from Feministing).

    If they email me back (since I emailed them privately in addition to posting this) I will post their email if they give me permission, and at the very least, I will tell people that Feministing emailed me and we are in communication. Because I don’t share emails without permission, if anyone who has cosigned would like to hear from Feministing via email (ideally we can get a round table dialogue of some sort going), please let me know so that I can release your email to Feministing in the event that they do contact me (will be done by email, not released publicly). I know that many people have already emailed Feministing about this and other issues, so presumably Feministing already has your emails, but…just in case.

    If they comment here, obviously, I’m going to let it through. I would, in fact, welcome an open comment from them since I would prefer to keep this discussion in the open, rather than confined to email.

    I’m waiting to hear from Feministing before making any suggestions about what form a dialogue might take, but if people have suggestions (email, conference call, face to face meetings, etc), please leave them in the comments. Obviously I am not the first person to bring up the issue of ableism on Feministing, and I am not interested in coopting the dialogue about it if one gets going: the only way to make this work is a group effort.

  37. I remember seeing people use the word lame in the Feministing comments recently as well — even after someone else asked them not to do so.

    I co-signed here.

  38. If they email you, PLEASE let them know I am very eager to hear from them. Pass along my email address, whatever they need, I’ll give them my bloody phone number if they’ll only just answer our concerns.

  39. I can’t cosign, because I still have a lot of work to do on my own ableism before I start finding fault in others, but I can say: good letter. Good work. And good luck.

  40. Co-signed.

    While I will not pretend to personal perfection, I think the response (or mostly lack thereof) by Feministing is deeply disappointing. The history of ableism and the non-acknowledgment of the fact that disability is *real life* for many of the women who they are theoretical advocates for — not pretty. I’m not naive enough to expect someone (especially a group of someones) to always get it right, but I can expect hir to admit the mistake and try to do better. By the tenth, twentieth, thirtieth offense, the pattern of behavior has been thoroughly established, and zie has to do more than say, “Oops, I messed up, sorry.”

  41. Molly, speaking for myself, I would say that I definitely do not think that I don’t have work to do on my own ableism, and I suspect that some other cosigners feel the same way. Recognizing that, though, we all can identify the need for other people to work on it, and specifically to address it when it involves a major feminist website.

  42. cosigned.

    for ableist language, transphobic language, and fat-phobic language. word.

  43. Anna, I hug you from afar (if that sort of thing is allowed). The Internets has been making me cry for a few days now as well.

  44. I gave up reading Feministing some time ago (because of racism), but I know it’s read by many, and I am happy to sign and link here to support this attempt. I know I’ve been working hard on removing ableist language myself, and believe that it is imperative for feminist work.

  45. I’m a long way from perfect. I have used exclusionary language in hurtful ways as recently as last Saturday. It’s not recorded anywhere so I can’t point you to evidence of where I called my brother (and anyone else who owns an iPhone) a douche by implication, was called on it, and apologized to him for having said something hurtful and inappropriate about iPhone owners.

    What I can point you to is my blog where, in one of my many screaming posts about a certain film director last week, I used language that was exclusionary of people living with mental illness — the specific words don’t matter, but I used words that are diagnoses. I was called on it by one of my readers. She was right, so I edited the words in the post and noted that I’d edited the post and explained where and how I’d gotten it wrong the first time.

    A little later, since I was feeling pangs of conscience for having fucked up on an unrelated subject, I put up a whole post dedicated to those fuckups. Not that anyone else needs to do things exactly the way I do them, but I feel that since I get in people’s faces a lot for fucking up and not apologizing or for fucking up and fauxpologizing I feel obliged to show my work and at least provide an example of what I think is a right way to do this.

    I’m still working on getting exclusionary language out of my vocabulary. I sometimes use gendered insults and I shouldn’t. I use ableist language exclusionary of people with visual impairments and I shouldn’t.

    I’m not perfect and I’m not ever going to be perfect. But demanding perfection from activists before permitting us to speak is a time-worn silencing tactic and I’m most heartily tired of it. I refuse to even try to meet an impossible standard. But I’ll hold myself to the standards I ask of other people.

  46. I’m actually working on a “how to fuck up post” right now in the wake of saying ableist things not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES yesterday, once in a statement chastising myself for apparently being unable to avoid using ableist language. So yeah. No one’s perfect. And it goes to show you how firmly entrenched it is in our language and culture that someone who is embroiled in the midst of a public calling out of ableism can turn around and use ableist language without even thinking about it.

    Of course, the difference between us and Feministing is that, while we do it, we recognize it when we do it, we recognize that it is not ok, we make amends for it, and we try to be more conscious in the future.

  47. I look forward to reading that post!

    In case you’re looking for even more examples of fun and exciting ways to mess up, here’s a good one. I have multiple disabilities, and in my militant zeal not to use ableist language that targets one of those disabilities in particular (epilepsy), I have a tendency to fly through fields of language that is actually very offensive to me given my other disabilities.

    Less ironically amusing, though, is how sometimes the desire to avoid physical-ableist language winds up trickling into expressions that are demeaning to people with developmental difficulties.

    ::sighs:: Just venting. I am also not having a fantastic night.

  48. It’s good to see a response and I think I’ll email feministing bloggers to mention it’d be a good thing to incorporate into their feminist practice! I try and I mess up when I’m not thinking about it. I think it really does take practice, when you have years of automatic bad speech habits. If someone kicked my ass for every time I said “lame” I’d be even lamer than I actually am. As it is I just correct myself and move on.

  49. Co-signed.

    I gave up on Feministing a while ago. They’ve had some good posts in the past, but I won’t read unless someone recommends a particular post.

  50. Liz, I want to stress that this response is not sufficient. Yes, it was good to see a response dealing with the language used on an individual post, but the problem is the culture of ableism at Feministing. That is what needs to be addressed, and that means that this is not, by a long shot, over.

  51. As Anna and I just got done discussing… having Feministing just put up a couple throwaway posts on disability would be a HUGE FUCKING PROBLEM. I can tell you that right now.

    – They don’t know enough to engage with the issue thoughtfully and in depth. They will rely heavily on quotes, links and generic outrage.

    – The comment section will be a huge problem. They will come up with all the myths and tropes about disability THAT THEY HAVE BEEN DOING ALL ALONG. I do not trust the Feministing crew to be savvy enough to moderate this properly, NOR do I trust them to CARE enough to be on the ball about it.

    – If it is about Feministing specifically, or implicates Feministing&community, the comments are going to explode with explanations of why they are all Good People and it’s an outrage that anyone would accuse them of anything, why these particular things are excusable, attacks on the people raising complaints, and in general just an enormous Defend-Feministing-fest. This will not be productive in the LEAST.

    – And if there is one thing I do not trust the Feministing contributors to do, it is to push back against people defending them. Strongly and condemnatorily. (I can make up words. Shut up.) They aren’t gonna do it. They don’t care enough, and don’t understand the issue well enough.

    Oh, and don’t give me that B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T that you cannot moderate the comments for ableism. I GUARANDAMNTEE you they moderate comments for rape apologism and antifeminism. Guarantee.

    And don’t EVEN break out “Well, YOU guys write about it/complain about it, we can’t be there all the time!” Don’t forget who you are talking to. DISABLED PEOPLE. Fuck.

  52. Yes, this, exactly why a discussion needs to be had with Courtney about what needs to happen and why it needs to happen. This is why I want all of the staffers involved, because it’s about the site, not a single person on the site. And it’s about changing a culture, which in my eyes means:

    1. A post examining Feministing’s ableism written jointly by the staff after talking w/us. With a very, very, very heavily moderated comments section. As in, one which will be closely watched all day by someone who will be a tough moderator.
    2. A feminist with disabilities on the Feministing masthead who writes about disability issues regularly. Not a few token posts on disability, but an integration of disability issues into the fabric of Feministing’s offerings.
    3. Changes to the Feministing comments and moderation policy, including a crackdown on ableism in the comments.

  53. I totally buy that moderating comments is difficult, but why else have a “report abuse” button if you’re not going to look at abuse reports and respond to them in some way? We have been reporting abuse, but there’s nothing to indicate that anyone at Feministing is reading that email.

    Meloukhia, I got your comment, and I’m trying to sort out when Not Busy will happen for me (despite my haunting the internet all day, I really shouldn’t be this week). I may end up just writing down what I think about everything and sending it with someone.

  54. Has Courtney been responsive regarding your suggestion to include actual feminists with disabilities in the chat?

    Because, if not, that is a huge problem. I don’t mean to downplay the work that you and other allies are doing, Meloukhia, but I find it…interesting that Courtney’s immediate suggestion was to chat exclusively with you and then publish it as an interview on the site, instead of inviting the very people who need to be involved in this discussion to the table, and/or the folks who have been sounding the alarm for a while (Anna, et al.). [I also hope Courtney reads this comment, but that might not happen.]

  55. Well, I am a feminist with disabilities, even if Courtney doesn’t know it, so I guess I’m like a sleeper agent. And, at this point, I am not interested in having a chat unless multiple people are involved. I’m compiling a list of people who would like to participate, and times (including yours) and will send it to Courtney. If she responds “I just want to chat with you,” my response is “no, this is a group chat, there is no solo chatting here.” There is, in short, no option for a solo chat.

    I’m charitably assuming that her request for a chat included a roundtable discussion; I think that she is really not aware of the huge numbers of people involved at this point because she still has not read this post or the numerous posts across the Internet discussing the issue.

    As I mentioned on Anna’s post, I find it troubling that I am the only person they’re responded to about this issue, and I wondered if part of that was the fact that I did not out myself as a feminist with disabilities. If that’s the case, and they deliberately picked me to respond to because they thought I was an ally instead of one of those uppity gross feminists with disabilities, I will be very angry.

    Did they think that this was going to be a cozy, just among us allies chat in which people with disabilities would be ignored, as usual? Because, if so, wrongity wrong wrong.

  56. To Molly (way up thread)

    I have my own abelist baggage to unpack, but I cosigned with the promise to be better and do better. It’s my very public way of saying I have been wrong in the past but I am willing to be called out on my sh*t in the future, but more importantly I a willing to do the hard work of fixing myself before someone else has to call me out on it.

  57. cosign. So much of young feminism is about the right to live in diversely beautiful and divinely mortal bodies–the connect to disability activism lies right here.

    Some of us (older feminists) give up the fight to be magazine-perfect, kicking and screaming and emulating old Jane Fonda videos in our 50’s. Others fight back after rejecting self-starvation, plastic surgery, and other body-altering attempts to fit the beauty myth. Then, there are those of us who knew we were out of the game from the start–disabled people are not present in the media version of “beautiful”.

    Who can say that they are anything more (or less) than temporarily able-bodied? We begin life as “invalids” who need to be carried; most of us end our lives in a similar body state, but much wiser . By old age, we are almost all “dis-abled”. People with disabilities and a sense of pride and self-worth have so much to teach about resistance to body-oppression. All of our lives may eventually depend upon getting the message.

    One more comment: It’s hard to come out as a woman with a disability. Coming out as a lesbian was so much easier.

  58. I think they just don’t care enough to look into things any further. You didn’t out yourself, so you weren’t a threat, so they bothered to respond to you. But there has been ZERO indication that they realize this is SITE-WIDE, including EVERY author and the entire commenting community. This isn’t about one word, one incident. They think they can smooth over one incident and skip happily on. And if they aren’t consciously thinking that, it doesn’t MATTER, because THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE DOING IN PRACTICE.

  59. I should note that I felt excluded on their site four or five years ago, when I only barely ID’d as feminist, explicitly rejected calling myself “disabled” and hadn’t even heard of “intersections.” I STILL felt unwelcome and unsafe. I ALWAYS have. This isn’t even a political, theoretical argument. It’s about what they’re doing to people that they don’t care enough to fix.

  60. I find it troubling that I am the only person they’re responded to about this issue, and I wondered if part of that was the fact that I did not out myself as a feminist with disabilities.

    And this is where I go D:, and can no longer give them the benefit of the doubt.

  61. Co-signed. As a special educator, I completely agree with you, and thank you for being an advocate in an assertive and respectable way. Don’t hesitate to email me if you need any help!

  62. I’ve been reading through the various letters and comments. One common thread was, of course, that it’s not a [group]’s responsibility to educate everyone else about *ism. When I read it like that, I agree… yet on further reflection, I can’t quite reconcile it to my personal policy that educated individuals should help people who are demonstrating willingness to learn along with their ignorance. Maybe it’s a matter of expectations, at heart.

  63. Not being able to moderate comments is bullshit. Pure and simple. They do it all the time when it is convenient. I have seen them warn readers and then ban them on myriad topics, just not for this. When it comes to ableist language it is apparently OK to just flip the Mod the bird when they give the token “don’t say that” and then carry on using whatever buzzword is catchy and doesn’t actually mean anything bad anyway today.

    We have also watched other big blogs work painfully through attempting to mod comments in this way, and delete hurtful comments with a zero tolerance policy. Perhaps Feministing’s traffic is larger, but perhaps that also means they need to take a bigger stance. I don’t know, but I am not willing to just buy that it’s too hard to mod comments. They are just not willing to take the responsibility because it is easier than giving a fuck.

  64. Also: I am far from perfect. I fucked up. A lot. Especially when I was cutting my feminist teeth and figuring things out, especially who I was and what my identity was (such as admitting that I was disabled in the first place). But as I figured things out, I adjusted. That’s what I want to see, someone willing to adjust as they learn. What I am seeing now is a refusal to even admit that their is a problem, let alone a solution, or that they are the fucking problem in the first place. I used language that was hurtful to myself, thinking I was funny or reclaiming something, but eventually I figured it out, or it was pointed out to me. It’s a little think I like to call progress.

  65. Co-signed

    But as one of those imaginary intersections, a trans feminist with disabilities, I’ve been boycotting Feministing over their transphobia for months now without effect, I have little to no hope that there will be a change.

  66. It’s nice when someone educates you.
    It doesn’t make it their responsibility to do it.

    You have the privilege of not doing the work of educating yourself. You can choose whether to do it or not.

    THEY, on the other hand, have to deal with the consequences of 1) educating you or 2) dealing with your actions due to your ignorance. (Or sometimes, 3) dealing with same actions despite having educated you.)

    Do you see how it’s totally unfair to demand they do that work?

    It’s lovely to educate people. I love to do it. In fact, I like to think that’s pretty much why I, you know, write? I don’t just yell at people all the time. It’s great when people do it. What’s wrong is not that anyone educates anyone else, it’s when the anyone-else expects the anyone to do it.

  67. Aoede, that obscures the fact that the primary concern here is to protect the marginalised group, not increasing the knowledge of people outside it. As long as we’re going with “those who have more should give to those who have less”, why not apply that to the actual oppression that’s being addressed? If that takes the form of a marginalised person educating or taking care of themselves by refusing to educate it’s a perfectly legitimate decision on their part that – either way, not that they’re obligated to do a thing, non-marginalised people are – works against their oppression. And in any case, educating people with no guarantees as to impact is pretty unreasonable to expect of people who may have limited spoons and are already negotiating the second shift for the sick: it’s an ableist expectation.

  68. Cosigned by another feminist with disability. Still examining my privileges and working through my own ableism. What these discussions bring home is just how pervasive ableism is in our language and culture which makes having real honest discussion on sites like feministing all the more important. We need more safe spaces ad more commitment to real change.
    Here via Anna.

  69. Summary: privileged individuals should not expect others to educate them and marginalized individuals should have the choice as to whether to do it. Yes? Did I miss anything?

  70. Also, Aoede, there’s taking the time to educate one’s self.

    If one Googles “disability feminism”, there are a variety of hits, including academic articles, blog posts, and book reviews and recommendations. Adding “blog” to the search string brings up specific feminist-focused disability blogs that one could read.

  71. meloukhia, I agree it’s not enough. The group chat idea sounds good to me. I wonder if Feministing would accept a couple of comment-moderating volunteers to join their crew and implement whatever policy they’ve got?

  72. Cosigned.

    Speaking personally, I think I must have a long way to go with learning about disabilities (as in I didn’t see at first what was the issue with that invalid comment) and I do have a couple of disabilities myself. Maybe if I learn more I can get rid of more of the guilt I have about them and not being able to work. But also for how I can draw a clearer line of responsibility for certain things I sometimes conveniently blame illness for – ?? It was yesterday I was thinking this, and then I came across a link to this letter, which has made me think about ableism in society and how pervasive and harmful it can be, and how different experiences of disability can be with different people. If I get more of a handle on ableism, who knows, I might be able to educate others and also take a firmer stand with some of those I know well (as my invisible conditions are those sort that society deems largely my fault). I’m a bit sad today and that letter has made me sadder as I didn’t realise Feministing was so widespread ableist (tho I remember the transphobic problems). Here’s to hope.

  73. Co-signed, by an ally. I heard about their issues with not being inclusive enough of trans*folk awhile ago. Miles to go before we have true equality. ;/

    Here via Liz Henry.

  74. Yeah Liz, I’ve always wondered why on earth they don’t get moderators, I’m sure a lot of regulars would love to be one.

  75. Co-signed.

    I’m a regular Feministing reader, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything that goes on there. It’s easy to make mistakes when it comes to ableist language – but the appropriate response should be to consider one’s privilege, and apologize and amend policies where necessary. Not to ignore the problem.

  76. Aoede,

    There is this place in the middle where eventually the twain could meet, if you will.

    After the privileged person has done their work and can engage in a manner that shows the marginalized person that sie is approaching a person in good faith, and they have an established relationship, then it is possible to ask questions in good faith. But both of those prior criteria have to be met. It really sucks because it takes work. I still have to do it. I am not perfect when it comes to race (and I am a PoC) and trans issues, but I work to educate myself and have dialogue with people within those groups so that when the tough questions come up I have established the relationships I need so I can ask.

    But we can’t even have that w/ the clusterfuck that is going on now. No one is asking for good faith dialogue. Kids are still sitting over there holding the dodge ball screaming that words don’t mean things and that we PWDs are too busy crying about our skinned knees.

  77. cosign

    The responses to this at feministing were so upsetting to read.

    Thank you for your perseverance.

  78. Cosigned. I hope anybody who spots ableist language on my journal will call me on it.

    (I saw your comment on Anna’s Dreamwidth journal that OpenID doesn’t work for you there. Would you like a free account? I have invite codes. With an account you get notification of replies to comments.)

  79. Co-signed, though I’m not a frequent Feministing commentator and my signature probably doesn’t mean much.

    The Feministing community page post that links here … those comments are a cesspool of hate and arrogance and privilege. And I’d thought things were bad during the trans issues debacles …

  80. I will admit, to all the people who have referenced the comments on the Feministing post, that they are actually too upsetting for me to read. I’m glad to see that a lot of feminists with disabilities and allies are speaking up in that thread and trying to coordinate a conversation, but the content of that thread really illustrates the serious cultural problem at Feministing.

  81. Oh no, I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew we were involved in the decision to close the thread; I also added an update to this post to expand a little more on what is going on.

  82. I woke up this morning and came here to see the updates, went to the feministing thread to read new comments, got to the bottom note and kinda celebrated a little. I really hope the discussions you and others have with the editors at feministing prove to be productive. And I hope this doesn’t just stop with the ableism and stretches into some of their other problematic areas as well. It would be nice if awareness on one intersecting issue could help spread awareness of others as well.

  83. were_duck, thanks for the link. This is a tremendously helpful resource.

    Also, since I am constantly updating this post and it is getting really long, would people like a table of contents at the top in addition to the latest?

  84. ToC would be win, mel, if you’ve got the time/energy. You’re doing so much. When I sent WP that fruit basket, I will make sure you get one, too. *grin*

    Were-Duck is awesome. She works with Sasha Feather, who also has commented on this.

  85. Cosigned.

    I don’t have the spoons to do the huge riot, but I’ll do what I can. Shall post on my LJ and my rarely-used blog (It’s broke and I Don’t know how to fix it)

  86. Co-signed, planning to boost the signal via my Dreamwidth. Don’t make me drop my cane and pull out my little green lightsaber, Feministing.

  87. several days late… as usual.

    first off, yes, i cosign! erm, all i really have is an LJ, but that LJ is under the name Denelian (also) and i will be posting a link there very soon, back to here, to spread the word.

    i *USED* to go the feministing. even when it ignored and ignored and ignored disability issues, it DID have other good things – for instance, they try really hard to include no-white feminism (they are bad at it, for the most part [exception being Samhita, except i can’t spell her name AT ALL] but they TR^Y – they bring up Days and Thoughts and have interviews and guest posts… TRY)

    what drove me away was fairly recent, actually. there was [yet another] post about mass transportation. i don’t remember who blogged the original post, but i remember what happened when i jumped it. the post was about how *everyone* who had ANY access to public transportation should use it all the time, no matter what. the post itself was horribly pushy, just sort of wistful “i wish people would do this, or could do this” but the comments got *VERY* heated.

    i asked why they were almost demonizing people who drove. i was pounded by (metaphorical) bicycles and bus systems. i pointed out what (i thought) was a reasonable counter argument – the nearest bus stop to me is 5 blocks away – and *I* specifically am NOT ALLOWED TO WALK MORE THAN 50 FEET.
    guess what the answer was?

    dear gods, people – i cann’t f’ing *walk*, but i am somehow supposed to bike?
    i was actually sort of villified because i came back in and said “ya know, it’s not even that i don’t agree with you that people should drive a *lot* less, and that mass trans would be awsome if it were actually HERE [in Columbus Ohio: we have “mass transit” that is built to carry about a tenth of what it carries]. but A) there are ALWAYS people who aren’t going to be able to use it – people with small children who are shopping would have problems, people with specific time-tables would not be able to use it often, and disabled people would have to be fully accomodated. and i don’t know if anyone here has ridden a bus – but there are *steps into the bus*. I CAN’T GET IN THE BUS. not unless there is a “wheelchair” access. am i supposed to never ever leave my apartment, because public transportation around here won’t accomodate me? NO i can’t bike, NO walk, NO i can’t take the bus.
    i got a couple of replies along the lines of “oh, if you really re that disable, it excuses you”. EXCUSE ME?! if i “really am”? i also had SOME random jackass say to me “if you are as disabled as you say you are, why are you still alive? you are nothing but a burden to society”.

    the comment was erased. not when i asked; several other people protested, and then the WHOLE THREAD was gone, starting from my first comment. and, ya know, i get shit like that IRL; i don’t need it when i’m relaxing. so i stopped going to feministing, because it just wasn’t worth it anymore. even if they “fix” it, they can’t “fix” the commenters, and i truly doubt that they are ever going to do better moderation than they have now.

  88. Co-signed.

    I gave up on feministing long ago, but I’m very, very glad that others are prepared to take this on. In my experience, feministing is often the first feminist blog that new feminists (or feminists new to the internet) read and engage with. In my opinion, that adds to their responsibility to do better, and to attempt to do better in a way that is transparent and accountable – that is what feminist organizing looks like.

  89. Cosign.

    -Laura, who has mild, but permanent disabilities.

    Feministing frequently makes me sad – they seem to be trying, but so blinkered in their viewpoint. I am actually more appalled by the frequent transphobia I witness there – perhaps because I’ve numbed myself to the ableist language in order to stay sane.

  90. The transphobia that I’ve seen over there has been intense. I know they’ve been called on it and pledged to do better (the last time I talked to anyone there directly, via comments, was Miriam when they were talking about the fallout from the Boycott and she pledged then that they were going to put together a comments policy “soon”, IIRC), but I haven’t heard that it got a whole lot better.

  91. Co-signed!!!!

    I actually won’t go to Feministing and several other sites, because of one of my disabilities – mental illness. I get stressed really easily and so I made a decision several months ago not to go to sites, where the commenters were giving me stress that I don’t need. I created another site, called Femi-Nation to be sort of like what Feministing is not, in that I promise it will be a safe space-I have to! It doesn’t get much traffic, partly because it’s new, partly because I’m not the best at advertising, but I suspect also because it’s not filled with as much hateful drama.

  92. Chally, it makes me very sad, too. I was running a tutorial group as a teaching assistant for an intro to women and gender’s studies class, and I was making suggestions for feminist blogs. It was an intro course, most of the students were just coming to terms with feminism, and they were 17-19 years old. In my experience, the discussion on other big feminist blogs like feministe is more sophisticated (while also being fucked up sometimes), and would be intimidating. I recommended feministing (this was before the trans boycott went down), with mixed feelings. I also included blogs boy WOC, trans people and people with disabilities. But I know that feministing is where my young, overwhelmingly white, middle class, straight, and cisgender students who were new to feminism were going to feel comfortable.

    As someone who cares about education (and has tried the blogging thing – it didn’t really work), I want to be able to offer something better to young people who are new to feminism. And I don’t want to totally slam feministing – they do some good stuff, and the weight of introducing young people to feminism through blogs in an accessable and inclusive way should not fall on their shoulders alone. I love reading the blogs of radical women of colour, womanists, people with disabilities, and trans people. I have learned so much, and I want other people to have that opportunity. Linking is not enough, guest posts are not enough. These issues need to be centered.

    Debbie (who found the courage to begin identifying myself as a woman with a disability from reading the blogs of other women with disabilities)

  93. I’m an avid reader of feministing, and I too have seen the offensive language go on without regard. I support your letter/petition completely.

  94. Co-sign, I haven’t read that blog in years and found about this from Red Queens website. I am so glad I clicked the link, because I found this great blog.

    I am disabled, and frankly what she wrote was very offensive. A man opening a door on a date is quite diffrent from having my husband help me out of the bath tube or helping me shave my legs(because I couldn’t have surgery with hairy legs). Anyone that has been there understands how demeaning it is, that doing simple things can take hours and how very exhausting it can be. Its hard dealing with limitations and it has taken me years, I rather doubt she would be so blase about it if she had to live one day with the pain and limitations that most disable people live with.

  95. Co-signed!! I have commented upon this on feministing as well to mixed responses. That having been said, I think ablism is a wider social problem definitely not unique to feministing. I hear young feminists use ablist language frequently and continue to do so after I point out the hurtfulness of their words. I do not understand it. As feminists, we should be extra sensitive to hurtful, degrading, and discriminatory language. We should be educating the public on ablism, not reinforcing it.

  96. Co-signed, with the additional note that I suck at inclusionary language….but I recognize that I suck, and I’m working on it. Feministing can at least try to do the same.

  97. Fully Co-Signed.

    This blog brought up why I have always felt unwelcome not just at Feministing, but at many “mainstream” feminist sites: I’m older, not formally educated (because “the trenches” apparently are no place to earn an education), am the mom and caretaker to a disabled child (which has limited my ability to “work like everyone else”), and I’m poor to boot. Until you all began speaking loudly, I wondered if there would ever be a place for women like me within the general feminist community.

  98. Cosigned.

    Also I’m really appreciative of all of your disability posts the last week or so. I’m having a rotten depression episode, which means both that I’m having an awful time responding to the posts in the means they deserve, and that they’ve been of really immediate importance to me. Thanks so much.

  99. And let me co-sign on denelian also:

    [in Columbus Ohio: we have “mass transit” that is built to carry about a tenth of what it carries].

    I got caught in rush hour in Columbus during my horrific episode of “frozen shoulder”–5 years ago. There was no place even to sit on the bus, and every single jostle was like an icepick in my shoulder. And it took forever, with 12 million people on the bus, and 10 million stops to let them all off. And they get crowding them on–way passed capacity— too.

    So, personal experience talking. Nightmare. It seemed to take hours, but looking back, was only about 40 minutes from OSU to Livingston Ave and it nearly killed me. I actually remember popping a pill right on the bus.

    Yes, it was nice to get back to poor little ol Saturn back here in South Carolina.

    (((hugs for denelian))) (and go Buckeyes, beat Wisconsin!)

  100. Hey, better late than never, right? Seriously, anyone who is shy about cosigning/commenting because it’s “late”? Don’t worry.

  101. Cosigned. I read Feministing all the time, started when I worked at Planned Parenthood, and I am a woman with a disability, advocate, artist and am in struggle with this very issue with my sig other, who after a year is ONLY beginning to understand women and disability, tho he’s a proud lefty journalist.

  102. Cosigned and apologies for lateness. I was considering writing about it – but feel like I am entering strange waters. Although this was sparked by some epic fail – there is a silver lining, I believe. I know that for one feminist, this letter (and the many disabled women’s blogs linked here) have made me think about my own ableism.

  103. I just wanted to add my two cents. I am a widely published poet/writer. Two years ago, I approached Jessica about writing for Feministing to add a person with a disability’s point of view. Jessica showed little interest. If I recall correctly, she said she ‘might’ put something up in one of the side places. At the time, I thought it was strange that they were so disinterested in adding a new perspective. So, what has happened isn’t particularly shocking to me.

  104. I just found your letter through Womanist Musings. I found Feministing a year ago when I was looking to expand my knowledge of North American feminism, but stopped reading it soon after, disgusted at the way they handle race, the cisgender privilege, the blatant use of words like “lame” as derogatory, and the persistent exoticizing/othering of immigrant women… (did you ever see this post one of them wrote on the importance of “dating local”? Pretty awful, with some deeply xenophobic implications.)

    Co-signed, very much so. Thank you for bringing this to light, and for all the work you’re doing.

  105. Cosigning, belatedly. (And here via Body Impolitic). As a fat woman living with depression, I have been constantly frustrated by Feministing and, more often than not, I end up regretting having clicked there at all.

  106. Co-signed,

    I have noticed a lot of ableist language from editors and in comments. I’ve also reported a comment on feministing recently for ableist language (the comment remains and I’m not sure if any action was taken).

  107. Great post, great letter, great issue, and well done for bringing this to the feminist consciousness. Cosigned by posting over at my place (well, one of them!).

  108. Co-signed, with the admission that though I am a person with disability, I sometimes have used problematic language in the past.

    And will renew my efforts to stop it.

  109. Cosigned.

    Like The Czech, I’m still learning how to eliminate exclusionary language from my blog posts, and my everyday conversation, even though I’ve got my own (albeit invisible and off-and-on) disability. The thing is, there’s really no excuse; if someone calls you out, you need to make the change.

  110. I simply hate all exclusionary organisations and intolerant people who feel it is their right to treat minority people and groups as if they don’t exsist.
    I fully support the letter.

    Shirley Anne

  111. I read Feministing for at least a full 2 years. I appreciated some of their posts and acknowledge that no one person can be completely informed about every issue, but the site has become increasingly problematic rather than progressive. As a disabled feminist, I will not belong to a community that excludes me.


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