Sister Stories: Sisters of Frida submission call-out
Weâre excited to announce a call-out for the new Sisters of Frida blog series, and we need your help! This ongoing blog project is for you and will be shaped by you, the Sisters of Frida community. It will be an online space to share your experiences, stories and creativity, and help us to create a digital sisterhood and archive of disabled womenâs voices.
We want to showcase work by writers and artists living with chronic illness, mental illness, and disability. Your work doesnât need to be about those experiences exclusively, but we welcome and encourage submissions along those lines.
Weâre looking for contributions of things that inspire you, this can include non-fiction, fiction, poems, illustrations, photographs, essays, reviews, etc.
Here are some quotes we like:
âAt the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.â – Frida Kahlo
âCaring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.â – Audre Lorde
âHard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.â – Unknown
If youâd like to contribute:
Send all submissions with the subject SISTER STORIES: *TITLE OF PIECE* to [email protected]
Please include a short third-person bio and your pronouns, but if youâd like to remain anonymous, thatâs fine! Just let us know. If you also want to include a brief background about the piece, please feel free to do so.
Attach submissions to your email in an accessible format.
Non-fiction, essays, reviews should be no longer than 1,000 words.
Poetry/Artwork – Please submit no more than 5 individual pieces.
Languages: We welcome submissions in any language but please provide a translation if possible.
The blog will be updated monthly, so expect a calendarâs worth of stories! The frequency may increase depending on the number of submissions.
If you have an idea but need a bit of direction, let us know! We can work through it together, and help to guide whatever it is youâre creating. Just email [email protected]
* Sisters of Frida is an inclusive safe space for all self-identifying and non-binary disabled women. We do not tolerate sexism, homophobia, racism, transphobia or other forms of discrimination based on sexuality, age, gender expression, religion, education or socio-economic status.
Jennifer Brough is the curator of this set of stories/blog.
Jennifer is a writer and editor who lives with fibromyalgia and endometriosis. She is involved in projects at the Feminist Library and seeks to amplify the voices and experiences of self-identifying women. She is learning Spanish and dreaming of visiting Frida’s house in Mexico, so is very happy to be part of the Sisters of Frida community.
The Impact of COVID 19 on Disabled Women from Sisters of Frida
Voices of Disabled women in the pandemic
About this paper
This paper started as a brief but we sent the first version in response to the Women and Equalities Unequal impact: Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the impact on people with protected characteristics. We know that the experiences of Disabled women are not visible in the wider response to COVID-19.
The need to add the narratives focused on Disabled women is the reason for this paper. We feel that the narrative about Disabled women, when available, is very one dimensional. There is no consideration that Disabled women occupy multiple roles, we are diverse and any considerations have to be viewed through an intersectional lens. We are strongly aware that new measures under the Coronavirus COVID-19 2020 Act threaten rights-based protections and reduce our independent living and in some cases our lives.
We were asked to join a coalition of womenâs organisations[ calling on the government to take on certain actions, and to contribute evidence from the perspectives from disabled women under the impact of COVID-19. We put out a call for evidence, asking disabled women to share their experiences of COVID-19 and its specific impact for intersecting identities. We want to ensure the voices of Disabled women are visible as they are often omitted as examples of multiple protected characteristics.
working with Inclusion London and ROFA (Reclaiming
Our Future Alliance) on the rights of disabled people under the Care Act 2014
where these are being eroded, the urgency of access to food and services for
disabled people, and access to PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for their
Personal Assistants (PAs) and themselves.
womenâs needs under COVID-19 measures are no less significant than those of the
rest of the disabled community, but disabled women face specific issues.
We are looking in particular at those issues that are impacting rights at the intersection of gender and disability during this crisis.
37 seconds: A review of the realest film you will see this year
This is a perspective instigated by the current (2020) Japanese film, 37 Seconds, written by a young disabled woman. She wishes to remain anonymous. F writes about similar parallels in her life as a young disabled woman.
In 37 Seconds, 23-year-old comic book artist Yuma, physically disabled due to profound cerebral palsy and emotionally stunted by her well-meaning but overly protective mother, forges her own unusual path to sexual awakening and independence while at the same time discovering love and forgiveness. – summary from Rotten Tomatoes
Netflix has a new hit film that it’s not even
advertising. I’d ask them to, as it’s the film we all need right now.
37 seconds follows the journey of 23-year-old Yuma, a wheelchair
user who has cerebral palsy, lives with her mother, and has a job as a manga
artist. Recurring themes of rejection, stigma, control, and other ableist
nonsense are explored and removed, leaving Yuma free to live her own life.
This offers a starting point for a conversation that
hasn’t yet been had: To what extent do young disabled people feel safe? How can
we do more to support them?
*** SPOILERS HERE ***
From the very beginning, we are shown exactly how much
control over her own life Yuma is allowed to have, and how others do not see
her for who she is.
Her mother treats her like a child, or less than a child.
She shows little respect for physical boundaries or privacy, doesn’t let Yuma
freely choose her clothes, and doesn’t show any interest in Yuma’s thoughts and
feelings. Her boss casually steals some of Yuma’s pay and lies to her about it,
and then carries on taking credit for her work.
Almost every scene adds another layer of defeat for Yuma.
Seeking recognition for her talents, she sends some of her work to a publisher,
who tells her it’s too similar to the work of her boss. Similar? It’s the same
– the work he’s comparing it to is her own.
So she starts to push harder to find her own job where
she will be respected. An editor of an adult magazine refuses to hire her until
she has experience of what she’s drawing.
Online dating is the first step on the path to her new
job, and a faulty lift leads her to new friends, new clothes, drunken partying
and falling asleep in the car on the way home.
This is behaviour typical of a 20-something year old, and
most parents would shrug, tut, and discuss safe behaviour choices.
Yuma’s mother is not most parents. She’s spent years
protecting Yuma from everything, giving up her time to do the things that she’s
certain Yuma can’t do without her (though she never gives Yuma the chance to
try). Then suddenly, she finds everything: the practice sketches for the adult
magazine, beautiful dresses, and a plastic penis.
Yuma arrives home very drunk, having refused her friend
Toshi’s offer to make sure she gets home safely. She sneaks in, closing the
door almost silently behind her, and quietly heads to her bedroom, where her
mother sits waiting.
The second she refused Toshi’s accompanying her, I felt
afraid for Yuma. Her mother’s level of control had been so high for so long,
and yet futile. Yuma and her mother’s relationship had been set in stone, then
shattered. Instead of waiting until the morning to talk it out, Yuma’s mother
starts to shout. And then turns to physical violence. And then neglect. At
every stage, Yuma is trying to assert the truth, and at every stage her mother
The next morning, her mother has taken her phone, and
places a lock on the door. She’s a prisoner in her own home, with no way to
call out for help.
We don’t know how long this goes on for. The next scene
is Yuma at a physiotherapy session. Asking to use the toilet, Yuma rushes out
of the building and out of her mother’s control. It’s notable that Yuma didn’t
feel that she could ask the physiotherapist for help.
She stays with Toshi. She quits her job. She meets her
uncle for the first time, and then travels with Toshi to meet her twin sister
she never knew existed. Her sister revealed that she’d always known about Yuma,
and had been afraid to contact her because she’d been told she was disabled.
It’s not explained why their father left. But learning
the whole truth – another layer of rejection – prompts Yuma’s self-acceptance
at last. She feels glad that she was the second born twin, who didn’t breathe
for 37 seconds. As I understand it, she feels it’s better to have been hurt by
the actions of others than to have caused pain to others by your own actions.
It’s a cleverly written film. Viewers are given just
enough of the other side to see that the social stigma surrounding Yuma’s
sister was her only source of information, and that this had kept them apart.
We saw that Yuma’s mother, who is never identified by name, had had a daughter
taken from her, and the idea of Yuma being taken away by the world was too
But that doesn’t excuse her behaviour. Her pleas to the
police officer to find her daughter who can’t yell for help sound hollow given
her earlier choice to lock Yuma in the house alone.
Her mother chose to ignore that her daughter was an
adult. She failed to support her to grow into the young adult she wanted to be.
She failed to listen. She chose to react with violence. She chose to lock her
in. That’s not OK. That’s very not OK!
What’s more not OK is that this film is only fictional in
the specifics. The ingredients are factual.
I whispered âGo, go, go!â as Yuma left the physio clinic.
But where was she going? Her Plan A had been to check into a hotel, and had she
stuck with that plan, I’d have been worried what would happen when the money
ran out. Instead, the perfect solution appeared: Toshi.
This is where the reality of the film breaks down for me.
How many disabled teens and young adults know an accessible safe place away
from their parents with someone who understands and respects them and has a
wheelchair accessible vehicle to get them there? And who can accompany them to
another country (somehow without her passport) just like that?
In the real world, that doesn’t happen. Someone in Yuma’s
position would have very few options of where to go; very few options of how to
get there; and have very few people who could be there during that time.
For young adults who do have support needs, it’s harder.
Questions like: âWhere would I go?â become âWho can I trust to move me, give me
my meds, and assist me to get washed and dressed? How can I get my medical
Yes, social services solve these problems every day. They
meet these young people and do the best they can. And that’s fine, if you trust
them. But when every doctor, nurse, social worker, OT, TA, teacher and other
grown-up has treated you like a mascot, or pet, or simply not as a person, are
you going to trust a stranger with your future? When you have a parent who
keeps telling you that others are incompetent, and then the professionals
reinforce that by failing to act professionally; are you going to trust them?
When you’re told that many children with your condition are given up for
adoption, and you’re lucky, and if you say the wrong thing you’ll be take away
and put in The System; you’re going to feel ungrateful and ashamed.
Yes, I cried at 37 seconds, because I understood some of
how Yuma felt. I remembered some of how Yuma felt. No, I don’t have a twin
sister, or any skill at drawing. But I remember what it was like to live in a
situation that made me feel very afraid; afraid to speak up, afraid to do
anything that might be frowned upon, afraid to be anything other than what they
wanted, which wasn’t who I was.
That was a long time ago now. I grew up, and I left home,
and I started to find my own self. I discovered new talents. I discovered what
music I really like. I discovered that actually people seem to like me. I
discovered that if I speak to the right person at the right time in the right
way, I will be listened to. I discovered it’s OK to not agree with people and
to make up your own mind.
I forget these things sometimes, start to revert to old
habits which protected me. Good friends remind me that I don’t need to do that
anymore. They encourage me to be the me that I want to be, and nothing else.
For the most part, they themselves have experienced rejection or control in one
form or another – they understand things I’ve never told them.
I know so many Yumas. They’re easy to spot, if you know
People wearing clothes that don’t reflect their
personality – bought and chosen by someone else.
People not asking or asking hesitantly for the things
they need, even from paid PAs or Care Assistants – afraid of the consequences
of being annoying or too much of a burden.
People who never have any money, but don’t know whether
they’re accessing the right benefits – the paperwork is handled by someone who
doesn’t involve them.
People dismissing their own medical issues as âIt just
does thatâ; âIt’s because I didn’t try hard enough to… (reason that makes no
sense)â; âI’m just getting lazyâ – someone else has told them that a new
symptom isn’t important, or is made up, or is somehow their fault.
People not sharing ideas or joining in with what’s going
on around them and which interest them – waiting to be given permission.
People avoiding eye contact and not talking for
themselves, and then suddenly saying a thousand words with a look when the
person with them moves away for a moment – there’s something that they want to
say, but can’t.
The solutions are simple. Support the kids, and support
the parents. Let the kids have space to grow, and make friends, and join in
with what’s fun for them. Let parents have space to be themselves outside of
the parenting role. Give them the knowledge they need to understand how to
support their kids to develop into adults. Give kids the knowledge to
understand how other’s view of disability is not the only way, and to find
their own way.
To anyone reading this right now who has lived or is
living any part of Yuma’s story, I’d offer the following advice:
– Remember you are not them. Their actions do not make
you a Bad Person. Your choices are your own.
– Not everyone is like that. There are some kind and
friendly and fun and supportive people out there who can be trusted. There are
some people who are the opposite. There are some who are middling. Go find the
people who find the best in you.
– Find a way to organise your thoughts and express
yourself. Art, dance, cookery, music, writing. Anything that gives you the
chance to be you.
– You don’t have to do this alone. When you feel the time
is right, seek support. Maybe from a friend or family member, maybe from an
organisation, maybe from a professional; anyone who you feel comfortable with.
Ask their support, tell them what you want to happen, and let them go with you
as you navigate this, in your own way, in your own time.
– If you see someone who needs some support and you have
the time, energy and knowledge, offer your support to them. Even if they say
no, they’ll know someone’s there for them.
Yuma’s story is so many people’s story. But it doesn’t
have to be.
Sisters of Frida displayed at Rawthmells, RSA’s new coffeehouse
We are proud to be one of the first to be displayed at the new Rawthmells, the RSAâs 21st century enlightenment coffeehouse. it is an honour!
The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is a London-based, British organisation committed to finding practical solutions to social challenges, with a Fellowship that is a global network of 29,000 people supporting the RSAâs mission to enrich society through ideas and action.
Rawthmells, the RSAâs 21st century enlightenment coffeehouse, is a place where Fellows and members of the public can encounter new and inspiring ideas.
(There is a separate entrance for level access entry – ring the doorbell to gain entry.)
Through a system of changing displays, coffeehouse guests will be exposed to the best new ideas from our Fellowship, stories from the archive, briefs and designs from the Student Design Awards, and the work of the Royal Designers for Industry appointed each year.
Changing displays in the Gerard Room, the first room as you enter the coffeehouse, place a spotlight on the innovative and interesting work of Fellows around the world including that of Sisters of Frida’s.
At Greenwich Yacht Club photo by Ruth Gardiner, Chocolate Films
Come join us in making a banner for #Processions
Artichoke will hold a series of banner making workshops led by Delaine Le Bas, a cross disciplinary artist who creates installations, performance, photography and film, at Blackfriars Settlement, 1 Rushworth Street, London SE1 ORB, on
Saturday 21st April, 14:00 â 16:30
Saturday 5th May, 14:00 â 16:30
Saturday 19th May, 14:00 â 16:30
The nearest accessible tube stop to Blackfriars Settlement is Southwark. Find more information on getting to the venue here.
For this workshop series, Artichoke invite members of Sisters of Frida, led by Delaine Le Bas, to make a unique centenary banner that will express the ideas, concerns and hopes of women in the 21st century. It is an opportunity to learn new skills from an experienced artist, make a unique, expressive banner to last and join thousands of women to celebrate 100 years of women having the vote at PROCESSIONS.
Please note: Participants attending these workshops should commit to attend all three workshops and are also invited to the PROCESSIONS London event on 10 June 2018.
PROCESSIONS is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in a mass participation artwork to celebrate one hundred years of votes for women. Artichoke invites women, those who identify as women and non-binary individuals across the UK to come together on the streets of Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh and London on Sunday 10th June 2018 to mark this historic moment in a living, moving portrait of women in the 21st century. PROCESSIONS is produced by Artichoke, the UKâs largest producer of art in the public realm, as part of 14-18 NOW, the UKâs official arts programme for the First World War centenary.
Delaine Le Bas is a cross disciplinary artist creating installations, performance, photography and film. She was one of the sixteen artists who were part of Paradise Lost The First Roma Pavilion Venice Biennale 2007. She worked with her late husband the artist Damian Le Bas on their installations Safe European Home? and projects Gypsy Revolution and Gypsy DaDa. Delaine created Romani Embassy in 2015. Delaine has created performance text works with her son the writer Damian James Le Bas. Her works have been included in Prague Biennale 2005 & 2007, Venice Biennale 2007 & 2017, Gwangju Biennale 2012, Zacheta National Gallery Of Art 2013, MWW Wroclaw Contemporary Art Museum 2014, The Third Edition Of The Project Biennial Of Contemporary Art D-0 Ark Underground Bosnia & Herzegovina 2015, Off Biennale Budapest 2015, Goteborg International Biennale For Contemporary Art Extended 2015, Critical Contemplations Tate Modern 2017.
Delaine is one of the curators for The First Roma Biennale 2018 and is an Associate Curator at 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning London U.K.
These workshops are one of Artichokeâs 10 banner commissions, as part of PROCESSIONSâ 100 Years 100 Banners programme. 100 women artists have been commissioned to make banners with community groups up and down the country in the lead-up to PROCESSIONS. The final banner made during these workshops will form part of PROCESSIONS, a mass participation artwork, and will go on to be publicly exhibited across the UK following the events.
Please contact Sisters of Frida, [email protected],Â by Friday 20th April to register your place in the workshops.
Participants are required to be available for all the workshops and are invited to travel to London to carry the banner at PROCESSIONS London 2018.
Refreshments will be provided.
Spaces are limited, and allocated on a first come first serve basis.
Invite to Sisters of Frida’s celebration May 4th 5.30pm Greenwich Yacht Club
I N V I T A T I O N
Please come to our celebrations
4th May 2018 from 5.30 pm
Greenwich Yacht Club
1 Peartree Way, Greenwich, London SE10 0BW
(nearest tube station North Greenwich, Jubilee Line, accessible venue. Please let us know other access needs)
On Oct 26 2017, you met one of our founders, Eleanor Lisney, at Bringing Womenâs Voices into the Heart of Government , Women Resource Centre, House of Common. She mentioned our concerns about the defence to controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship under s.76 Serious Crime Act 2015. You asked her if we would put this in writing to you.
You will be familiar with the offence. We welcome its introduction for all victims of abuse but it is specifically important to disabled women because:
Disabled women are twice asÂ likely to experience domestic violence asÂ non-disabled women;
Disabled women are disproportionately more likely to be trapped in emotionally abusive relationships and/or households where their âcarersâ receive financial benefits as a result of the victimâs disability; and
[ethnicity/cultural risk element?]
Content of s.76(8)
In light of the high risks for disabled women, we are therefore very concerned that s.76(8) states that it is a defence to show that:
(a) [the accused] believed that he or she was acting in [the victimâs] best interests, and
(b) the behaviour was in all the circumstances reasonable.
We understand that the defence was intended to protect carers. Notwithstanding disabled women have a heightened need for the protection of s.76, we pose the follow questions:
Once the case for âabuseâ has been made out, why is a defence necessary?
S.76(8)(b) is an objective test of reasonableness, but s.76(8)(a) is subjective and wholly irrelevant. Does the Government believe that abuse is permissible if the perpetrator believed it was acceptable?
Application of s.76(8)
Turning to the application of this defence, what guidance has been provided to judges? There is a serious risk that cultural stereotypes may wrongly influence the judiciary eg that disabled people need âcareâ, that disabled people need guidance from others, that a carer is a âgood, kind and selfless personâ. In her report the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, noted that the justice system is âwidely perceived to be biased in favour of menâ and that disabled women in particular may be subjected to stereotypes that infantilise them.
Consultation on s.76(8)
Our fourth question is to what extent were disabled women consulted on s.76 and its defence?
You will be aware that last Summer, the UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) published itsÂ concluding observations1Â following its first review of the UK governmentâs compliance with the Convention. The Committee frequently noted that disabled women and girlsâ rights âhave not been systematically mainstreamed into both the gender equality and disability agendaâ. We fear that s.76(8) demonstrates this.
Once you have had a chance to consider the issues, we should be grateful for a response to our questions and to hear whether you intend to take further action.