Just in time for the end of the month, I’ve selected two articles that resonate with me and my experiences deeply. As I’m in a period of transition at the moment, they both keep crossing my mind.

Catch up on previous entries in the Influential Articles series.

Why “You don’t let your disability stop you” is nonsense, by Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Tinu is an amazing writer, speaker, and advocate. This particular piece, Why “You don’t let your disability stop you” is nonsense (archive) dives into that phrase that disabled people hear somewhat regularly. I, myself, have had people I know and respect say it to me.

When I first heard it, I felt a minor glow of pride. Despite living with intersecting and dynamic disabilities, I got shit done and other people appreciated that. It was hard, and I proved I was up to the challenge.

Still, after some time, it…felt hollow. Rude. Tinu elaborates on why that might be:

“As a person who is abled, you’ve been conditioned by the world to see disabled people as lesser than, or not having abilities in general rather than specifically.” (link)

Implicit in the so-called compliment is the acknowledgement of challenges that disabled people face, but also an undercurrent of lowered expectations due to a person’s disability.

As Tinu mentions in her piece, it is often well-meaning. Society has hammered internalized ableism into our skulls, and it is something that takes time, effort, and awareness to unlearn.

But, shouldn’t you let your disability stop you? I may have accomplished a lot while being disabled, but the cost was high. I am just now starting to heal from an injury I sustained on a work trip that I took back in October, that was entirely preventable if I had let my disability stop me.

Let’s take Tinu’s advice:

“Let shit stop you if it’s supposed to stop you.” (link)

The Day I Leave The Tech Industry, by Cate Huston

In 2014, Cate Huston put words to what many underrepresented people who work in technology think, at least once in a while. Her piece, The Day I Leave The Tech Industry (archive) is one I go back to at least once a month. It reminds me that I’m not alone when I get frustrated and despair of ever being valued for my skills and knowledge, instead of being treated as an inconvenience for demanding respect.

“Is today going to be the day?"

It seems like every other week I have a conversation with others in the industry that mirrors the ones that Cate recounts:

“We joke about it, other women and I, what we will finally do when we leave. Become a barista. Go back to school. ‘Pull a disappearing act’, one friend says, leaving it to me to explain the chaos she left behind. ‘Not if I get there first’, I reply. We talk about our escape funds. A feminist hacker commune in Berlin.” (link)

It’s never one person, one incident, one slight that leaves me questioning my place in technology. Fixing tech’s culture would be easier if it were! It’s the cumulative effects of microaggressions (and good old regular aggressions sprinkled in for good measure).

“That guy, he probably won’t get me. The system, that might. I wonder, if it’s the grey area that is more likely to drive us away. That will make us feel more crazy, more alone. The thousand tiny cuts that make up life as a woman in this industry.” (link)

And, it’s the utter exhaustion that accompanies constantly needing and being expected to do emotional labor for other people.

Earlier that year, Cate had written a different (but related!) piece on The Emotional Expectations of Women (archive). In it, she recounts a time that she made a reasonable complaint and its aftermath. Instead of addressing the problem at hand, Cate is accused of hurting the other person’s feelings.

I’ve experienced this all too recently. In asking for respect and consideration, I have been told that it is offensive and hurtful to do so! The conversation then becomes about managing the other person’s reaction and feelings, instead of the situation(s) that lead me to needing to advocate for myself.

“It’s the double standard that is imposed on women – be less emotional, don’t cry, don’t make ‘emotional’ decisions. But make sure you do the emotional labour of considering the feelings of the men around you.” (link)

Between the emotional labor of having to explain nuances of sexism and disability and the unreasonable expectations that I’m somehow supposed to live as though I am neither a woman nor disabled, this month has been full of questioning and contemplation. And exhaustion. Lots of exhaustion.