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Are women disabled?

August 5, 2015

This morning I found myself listening to Radio 4’s “Woman’s hour.” It would be fair to say that this programme is somewhat of an institution, an interesting and stimulating slice of radio that both men and women can enjoy. However, today I found myself a little bit surprised and a lot confused. Andy Burnham, the would-be leader of the besieged Labour party graced the show with his presence and had a discussion about a number of things pertaining to his ambitions of leadership. We were treated to the usual spiel, fairly standard stuff aimed at the Radio 4 audience. But, I found the use of language fascinating and a little bit extreme.

Phrases such as “discrimination,” “hardship” and “plight” were used. Now. One could be mistaken to assume that Andy was talking about refugees or disabled people – intellectually able people who face serious and constant discrimination on a daily basis. But, Andy was talking about women.

I have no doubt that women have a raw deal; what with glass ceilings and wrestling with child-care, dealing with constant hassle related to their sex and gender. Historically, women certainly found themselves at a massive disadvantage, but surely in 2015 the plight of women has changed enough not to warrant such incendiary language. I feel it is dangerous to use such terms when describing women, such words should be reserved for those who truly suffer disadvantage and discrimination, such as those with society-born disability. If we describe able-bodied women in such terms there is a radical curve coming into play. Where do we go with language? If we have already described women as disadvantaged, discriminated and down-trodden we would naturally have to escalate the description of disabled people, refugees etc, and use even more shocking words. Before we know it such people will be described in the same terms as those who were persecuted by the Nazis – a wholly inappropriate, disrespectful and over-inflated use of language.

We have to be realistic with our descriptions. Women can and do suffer a degree of discrimination; equal pay is essential as is fair and flexible working hours. However, there are plenty of people who cannot work because of real and definable discrimination. Let’s get this in context, being a woman in Britain today is not akin to being either a refugee or someone with a serious disability. Women have choices, more choices than many of us. Equally it would be ridiculous to describe disabled people in the same terms as those who suffered the vile treacheries of the Final Solution.

Let’s be careful with our language Andy, start at the bottom of the hill or you’ll end up at the top of the language summit and have nowhere to go. Besides, if you describe someone as a complete idiot, what happens when you meet a truly compete idiot? What do you call him, a retard? You get my point.

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