The first Sisters of Frida meeting after the lockdown on Saturday 23rd Sept, 1pm. We’re afraid there’s limit of only 20 places but we will have 3 meetings more. It will be at Greenwich ( Jubilee line) for the first. There is a Changing Places toilet nearby. It is at an Italian restaurant, basically pizza, penne and lasagna. There are vegetarian and vegan choices but we will go elsewhere if you need gluten free (lots of other food stalls nearby). The chef cannot guarantee gluten free when pizza is being made.
We will also have BSL interpreters, please let us know if you need or have other access needs.
If you need BSL interpreter, please let us know ASAP.
We ve been asked to add that women who need to mask can do so.
And please can you take lateral flow test before you come.
The meeting is generally to meet as disabled women, about SOF, and for us to get to know each other. We re not planning any speeches – not for this first get together anyway.
Please send an email to Eventadmin@sisofrida.org to register an interest
This was published in December 2022
Sisters of Frida is the only disabled women’s collective in the UK. Over the years we’ve connected with many different groups and shifted conversations on intersectionality. Our work has been incremental to both the feminist and disability rights movement in the UK. We are radical, we do cross-movement solidarity work.
Some of our work include:
– shifting the narrative on disabled women rights with our work on shadow reports for various UN Committees (CEDAW, CRPD for example)
– helping to lobby government policy on domestic violence.
– organising peer to peer support events for disabled women & gender non-confirming people- campaigning alongside other disabled-led on numerous issues eg welfare cuts
– reporting on the impact on disabled women & gender non-conforming experiences during Covid-19.
We’re at a crucial stage where we need funding to develop our structure.
Can you help us?
By making a one off end of year donation to us, you can help us grow. To do so, just click on the link below:
I’m supporting Sisters of Frida.
We’re also open to receiving help in other ways. Perhaps via blogging, social media volunteering or some support. If there’s anything else you’d like to do, we’re open to it. We’re also keen to receive movement building & fundraising advice. Just drop us and email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donate to Sisters of Frida
We will continue to focus on disabled womenâs issues. We wish you a festive season. We hope you stay warm, safe and well wherever you might be. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you wish to contribute – email@example.com
from the SOF team
Long description: A water colour painting of a white woman with her back to view. She is at a corner, she has her hands on each side of the walls. Her hair is in a bun and she has a visible scar on her back. She is wearing white under pants. The walls are greyish. There are leaves on the sides of the image.
Gratitude to Barbara Hulme for this image. Instagram @Barbara.hulme
This article was originally on medium.com by Rachel OâBrien July 2022
All too often, claims of âdisability equalityâ are used to undermine the pro-choice movement. The most recent example in the UK is Heidi Crowterâs court case to make abortion law even more restrictive by removing the disability discrepancies. Ahead of the hearing at the Court of Appeal on the 13th of July, I want to talk about disability, decriminalisation and why this court case is a terrible idea for human rights.
Any claims of equality in restricting abortion access are absolute crap.
Leaving aside for one moment the motivations of the people behind the lawsuit â Iâll get back to those in a minute â they claim that they want to change the 1967 Abortion Act so that it no longer singles out foetuses with impairments and allows a longer period of time in which a termination can be obtained. Currently, section 1(1)d of the UKâs 1967 Abortion Act allows termination of a pregnancy at any time if there is a significant risk of the baby being born seriously disabled. Under other circumstances abortion has to take place during the first 6 months of the pregnancy.
Fine. I agree. There is blatant discrimination in the Act, which feeds into discourse around the lack of value disabled lives have in our society and the idea that itâs better to be dead than disabled.
But restricting the law even further is not the only way to address this discrimination. As a feminist, I believe restricting abortion access is a misguided solution to prejudice against disabled people.
Those who cite equality to argue against the right to terminate a pregnancy are committing a logical error. This argument presumes that a foetus enjoys personhood, a position which is incompatible with UK law. In countries where foetuses are granted personhood and their rights are enshrined in law, abortion access is denied.
Decriminalisation of abortion is the only way to remove the disability discrepancies which exist under the current legislation, in a way that also ensures the human rights of people that can get pregnant.
If the state decriminalised abortion, it would no longer have to provide a list of âacceptableâ reasons for a termination, and all the arbitrary timelines for when a termination can take place could be thrown out the window. The decision as to when and why to terminate a pregnancy should be exclusively down to the person who is pregnant. The only reason that should be needed is that a person no longer wishes to be pregnant.
Of course this doesnât mean that some people wonât choose to terminate if they find out their foetus is likely to have an impairment, but to quote the Special Rapporteur on Disability: ââŚwhile the issue of disability-selective abortion requires greater attention, solutions must not compromise the right of all women, including women with disabilities, to decide whether or not they want to continue with a pregnancy. As interventions against sex-selective abortions have shown, abortion bans and restrictions on the use of technologies are not only detrimental to womenâs rights but also ineffective.â
I would add that itâs none of our business why someone would choose to get a termination, and I am not interested in any proposed solution that interrogates why someone makes a personal, medical decision.
Abortion does not cause the oppression of disabled people. At worst, it is a blunt tool by which already existing oppressive social relations are reproduced. If we actually want to tackle the oppression disabled people face, a more effective way would be to eliminate poverty and ensure good public services for all. In all likelihood, that would mean a lot of foetuses with impairments would become children with impairments because their parents would actually have the means to raise them.
There is also a much broader discussion needed on the way that screening and genetic testing is used and the way information is presented to parents. Technology and medicine are not ethically neutral and both can, and have, been used in reproductive healthcare to advance eugenicist views. While that is a massive article in its own right, it would be a better starting point for a discussion on abortion and disability than proposing further restrictions on terminations. Abortion itself is not the issue, and restrictions on abortion law do nothing to tackle disability discrimination.
The core principles of the disabled peopleâs and pro-choice movements are the same. At the European Network on Independent Livingâs Freedom Drive, one of the most popular chants is âWhat do we want? Choice and control!â. Independent living, one of the pillars of the disabled peopleâs movement, requires us to be able to make decisions about our own day-to-day lives, our bodies and the policies which govern our existence. Bodily autonomy is an essential to fulfilling that principle. No person or state should be making decisions about another personâs body.
The disabled peopleâs movement canât claim to be pro-choice if we only allow reproductive decisions that we think are okay. Being pro-choice means giving individuals the power over their own body even when we donât like the decision they are making.
I have seen multiple supporters of the lawsuit claim that restricting abortion is the only way to get rid of the disability discrepancies in the law. As shown above, this is not true, and does beg the question â why would you not do a google as to your campaigning options before shitting all over the human rights of about half the population? There are long running campaigns to decriminalise abortion in the UK, which have only become more prominent since abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 2019.
I find it hard to believe that a group of people that have been very effectively campaigning and lobbying for a change to the law, and who have navigated the incredibly bureaucratic and long court system in this country, failed to use a search engine. This brings us back to their motivations.
Iâm in no way accusing everyone who backs this court case of being pro-forced birth â lots of people have been sucked into supporting this by an extremely well put-together campaign and very effective messaging. But not all of its supporters are benevolent.
Letâs have a look at who has supported Heidi Crowterâs CrowdJustice page.
One delightful human being called Jenny commented, âKeep fighting. The reversal of Roe v Wade shows that we can win and save lives.â
Mask off there.
The Christian Poster Company donated ÂŁ140, and religion seems to be very much a theme in the motivations of the people donating. Some choice comments:
âWe need to all pray the Rosary to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Our Lady of Perpetual Help to intercede to her Son Jesus to stop this discrimination.â
âBest of luck in your appeal. Prayers being offered also. Every live is precious and we are created in the image and likeness of God.â
âWe hold these truths to be self evident: all are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness âŚ every blessing in your defence of LIFE!â
âEveryone lucky enough to be formed in the womb of his/her Mother has a right too life. Jer ch 1 v 5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew thee, before you were born I set you apartâŚâŚ.â
One of my personal favourites:
âHi Heidi, thanks for your great talk with Cambridge Students for Life! Iâll be praying for you and the upcoming appeal, that Justice would prevail!â
Clearly, not all of the people putting money behind this campaign are purely motivated by a desire to end the oppression of disabled people. Crowter has cornered the market in getting money from every pro-forced birth Christian misogynist out there.
She has also given interviews and talks to some lovely people and, interestingly, been referred to as a âChristian campaignerâ multiple times. This is not something that is advertised on the CrowdJustice page, and does somewhat go against the narrative of the court case being about disability discrimination, rather than an attempt to chip away at womenâs rights in the name of religion.
Heidi Crowter gave a talk to Cambridge Students for Life, an organisation which is very explicit about its goals. Helpfully, Students for Life did a write-up of their event. Crowter started off with a very telling quote from the Bible: âFor you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my motherâs womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.â
Spoiler: this quote is a favourite amongst Christian forced birthers, and raises questions as to what Crowter and coâs motivations really are.
In my opinion, giving talks to an anti-choice group puts you firmly on their side in debates about abortion. If youâre being invited as an honoured guest, you must know your actions and opinions are appealing to those who would abolish any and all rights to bodily autonomy for people who can get pregnant. The use of that particular quote hints at the true political motivations of the campaign.
Speaking of people involved in the court case, letâs take a look at Crowterâs solicitor, Paul Conrathe.
Oh boy. This guy is a real winner, and exactly who you donât want to represent you if you want to maintain the facade of being an equality-based campaign.
In 2001, Conrathe helped a client take a pregnant woman to court to try and stop her having an abortion in the name of fatherâs rights. After the case failed, he took her to court again to demand the father be allowed to bury the foetal remains. Not only did these actions attempt to undermine a womanâs right to bodily autonomy, they dragged the process out.
He also acted in the Tavistock v Bell case, as well as other anti-trans cases, which aimed to stop the prescription of puberty blockers to trans children. Had this action been upheld, it would have also had severe implications for abortion rights as it aimed to underminethe Gillick principle â the idea that children under the age of 16 can consent to treatment if theyâre believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate whatâs involved in their treatment.
Conrathe is a former director of both the Christian Charismatic UnitedLife church and Premier Christian Media Trust, and has built his legal career on representing bigots who tried to undermine the human rights of women and LGBT people. This is not a guy you accidentally hire as a solicitor and this is not someone you should ask to represent you if your aim is equality.
Crowterâs claim should be seen in the context of legislative actions to dismantle, step by step, the rights of marginalised people to their own bodily autonomy and to make decisions about their own lives. That has been the method of choice for forced birthers to try and restrict, and ultimately end, abortion access in the UK.
The Crowter lawsuit is far from the first time someone has used claims of disability equality to try and force changes to the Abortion Act â Lord Shinkwin proposed a private members bill to that effect in the Lords in 2016 and the DUP tried to propose a similar bill in 2021 at Stormont in response to the decriminalisation of abortion in the North of Ireland. Letâs assume for a minute that neither of the proposers of these bills had any ulterior motivations â if either of these bills had passed they would have had devastating effects on abortion access far beyond just removing the disability discrepancies.
By arguing that a foetus has a right to equality, the advocates of these bills assumed that a foetus enjoys some form of personhood. As Abortion Rights lay out, such a claim would be inconsistent with the fundamental principles of English law, which recognises that personhood is only gained at the moment of birth. In countries where the rights of the âunborn childâ are enshrined in law (as was formerly the case in the Republic of Ireland), access abortion is denied. If these bills had been passed, or Crowterâs claim had been upheld, this would have been incredibly damaging to womenâs ability to access reproductive healthcare.
Not going to lie, this oneâs a biggie and this is not one where there are easy answers.
But I do know that a campaign which seeks to limit the rights of women is no route for the liberation of disabled people. Aside from the very obvious fact that there are disabled people who can get pregnant, the struggles for bodily autonomy and the right to live independently and on our own terms are struggles which both groups experience, and which necessarily bind our causes together.
In the short term, the disabled peopleâs movement needs to stop indulging the likes of Heidi Crowter. Just because something is led by a disabled person does not mean it is in the interests of disabled people, and frankly it is both patronising and the worst kind of identity politics to assume that, just because a disabled person is campaigning on an issue, they have a good take on it. There should be no place in the disabled peopleâs movement for the pro-forced birth evangelical misogynists who are supporting Crowterâs claim. They should be cast off and disavowed for what they are â pro-forced birthers using âdisability equalityâ as a pretext to destroy abortion access in the UK.
Longer term, there needs to be greater communication between the pro-choice and disabled peopleâs movements. There will be a lot of difficult conversations needed to confront the traps both movements have fallen into with regards to eugenicist and pro-forced birth rhetoric. It will require good faith on both sides and a willingness to admit fault. This needs to happen if we are to move forward and stand in solidarity with each other to ensure everyone is able to access their human rights.
Content Note: Invasive medical procedure, consent not respected, medical trauma
Recently, I was in hospital. It went badly. Here is the complaint I wrote a week later.
âTo whom it may concern
I came to hospital on Sunday [date] with urinary retention, and I need to make a complaint about the conduct of one of the people who treated me. Please note that all other staff I met were wonderful, respectful, caring, and took the time to listen to what I needed.
It was difficult to put a catheter in, and after many unsuccessful attempts in A&E, I was moved to the surgical assessment ward.
There I met a surgeon, and at some point after midnight, he attempted to place a catheter.
As soon as I met him, I was nervous. He tried to speak to my mum about what was happening,
ignoring me completely. She and my PA directed him to speak to me, and it took a few very awkward
moments before he walked to where I could see him and I could speak to him about what was happening to me.
Later, when he returned to place the catheter, my mum had gone home, and my PA was staying with me.
After a number of attempts to locate my urethra (by repeatedly placing his finger in my vagina and feeling around) and place a catheter, which I found painful and distressing, I said I needed to take a break. I asked a question, as information about whatâs happening calms me down and keeps me calmer. He answered that he didnât know, and began to continue, placing his finger back in my vagina. I stated again that no, I need to take a break, and he stopped until I was ready.
Later, the catheter was placed after several attempts by a urologist, who followed the same procedure but was much more gentle, spoke directly to me without being prompted to do so, and allowed me to take a break when needed until I said I was ready to continue.
A few days later, I was still very sore, and on Friday, I still could not place any fabric from my pyjama top on my lower belly. I was seen by a GP who agreed that the pain was probably caused by the process of getting the catheter in, and prescribed a painkiller.
Iâm still very shook up by these events, and am terrified by the idea that I may need another catheter in future, and feel very nervous whenever any health and social care professional examines or cleans around the catheter.
Please could you feedback that in future, the surgeon needs to:
– speak to the patient first, not the person with them, unless directed otherwise, irrespective of whether the patient is a visibly disabled person
– be aware of the level of pain a procedure may be causing and the risk of damage/bruising, and the need to be as gentle as reasonably possible
– ask for consent every time a medical procedure is started or restarted, particularly if that process is invasive, painful, distressing, and/or involves a vagina.
I send this in the hope that this will mean that no one has to experience the same moments of fear, shock, panic and horror as I did, and the aftermath which follows.
By an Anonymous Author
This was first published at The Kingâs Fund.
Between January and November 2020, six in ten of those who died from Covid-19 were disabled. Disabled people have historically experienced a range of barriers to accessing health care, for example, the lack of suitable transport and inaccessible buildings, and the Covid-19 pandemic brought additional challenges. During the lockdowns, shielding concerns, the inappropriate use of DNRs (âdo not resuscitateâ) and the mismanagement of vaccine allocations, did not consider the needs of disabled people. As safety measures have been lifted and waves of Covid infection continue, ongoing concerns for shielders and the inability to access care remain unaddressed. All this has left the disabled populationâs trust in the health and social care system at a low point. As safety measures have been lifted and waves of Covid infection continue, ongoing concerns for shielders and the inability to access care remain unaddressed.
To ensure that disabled people receive the appropriate health and care services they require, trust needs to be rebuilt between disabled people and health care providers. To do this, health and care services must constructively engage with disabled people at the planning, delivery and review stages of care. This will ensure that services meet the needs of those who use them. Such engagement can be more effective and more powerful if Deaf and disabled peopleâs organisations (DDPOs), NHS leaders and care providers work collaboratively on the delivery of services
DDPOs are primarily democratic and disabled-led. They are significant in ensuring that health and care services address disabled peopleâs concerns and meet their needs. They operate in consultation with disabled people to shape services and often provide peer support and necessary advocacy. For example, when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation failed to prioritise disabled people for vaccines, DDPOs lobbied key care and political stakeholders to ensure that disabled people who were vulnerable to Covid-19 were added to the vaccine priority list.
When disabled people report delays in receiving localised services or encounter barriers to having their health concerns addressed, DDPOs step in to ensure that disabled people receive the right services. This happens both in an advocacy capacity, and by providing services such as counselling, acupuncture and physiotherapy. The ability to grasp the complex needs of different impairments and provide a range of support comes from the historic peer-led nature of DDPOs. This uniquely comprehensive view on disability is key to ensuring that health and care systems work for disabled people.
The needs of the disabled community are not homogeneous â factors such as race, class, sexuality, gender and levels (and types) of impairments have an impact on peopleâs experiences of health and care. While decision-makers and providers recognise the impacts of health inequalities and intersectional ableism, solutions to tackling them often fall short. In contrast, DDPOs such as the Sisters of Frida and Stay Safe East not only advocate for intersectional discrimination to be addressed, they also foster community spaces where different disabled women meet to share their experiences of health inequalities. This sharing of experience between disabled people is a point where key solutions can be generated. Decision-makers and providers can embrace the wealth of knowledge and solutions that DDPOs and disabled people have on tackling health inequalities. DDPOsâ historical expertise on disabled peopleâs needs will provide crucial insight into improving health care for all.
Further, DDPOs can provide useful guidance to health and care providers on delivering services that are attuned to different disabled peopleâs needs. It is imperative for health and care services to be able to cater to different types of impairments, for example, physical disabilities, neurodivergence, chronic illness, etc. To formulate this, DDPOs are valuable allies to providers and can share know-how on the mechanisms of crafting accessible services that meet different access needs. Collaboration will provide insight into different care considerations and expand the work of providers in health and care sectors. This can result in gaining an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of those with various disabilities thus improving health care services in the long term.
As many disabled people continue to struggle through continuing waves of Covid-19, it is crucial that DDPOs, disabled people and health and care services work in partnership to ensure fair and accessible health and care. Health and care organisations need to listen to and engage with disabled people at every step and ensure that listening to the voices of disabled people is not tokenistic, but leads to real change. This will require financial investment for research and consultation activities, and the time and skills of staff. But above all it will require openness and willingness to engage with and value all voices equally. The advantages of working with DDPOs and disabled people are clear but are health and care providers ready to listen and act to build bridges towards equitable partnership?
Written by Manishta Sunnia, researcher for SOF
Photo of the banner at the People’s Museum in Manchester by Katie Goldfinch
Image Description SOF banner hanging from wooden pole. Multi colours back ground light purple and dark purple. Visible a bird, leaves, flowers, 2 wheels, feathers. Text on banner – ‘Sisters of Frida Hear Our Voices’
Wonderful video from our good friend Jess Thom.
âJess’s Tourette’s means her life is full of biscuits, cats and Alan Hansen. Worlds collide at home and work as a visit from a social worker threatens to ruin her day. Comedy Blap starring Jess Thom.â
I proudly joined other Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations today at the UN in Geneva for the formal review of the Government’s implementation of the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities.
After months of collaboration with the other DPOs (including the Reclaiming our Futures Alliance of which we’re a member) we delivered our presentation today. Painfully we had to prioritise only a cluster of issues. I spoke on Art 13 (Access to Justice) and managed to raise our concerns about the defence to coercive abuse offences.
In the brief Q&A, pleasingly two members asked questions about disabled women and girls: 1) what cases are there of women having their children removed from them by social services and 2) tell us about Sarah Reed case.
We will be writing to these members with full responses.
I managed to observe some of Latvia’s session later in the day to see how our UK inquiry might look later this week. It was good to see more questions asked about disabled women and girls and, a robust and direct question requiring a response, from the Chairperson herself.
At this point there was a 15 minute break and I was fortunate enough to meet the Chairperson, Professor Theresia Degener for a coffee. She is the only woman on the Committee.
We discussed s76 Serious Crime Act and she confirmed she could see why we are concerned that the defence for carers to controlling abuse disproportionately puts disabled women and people with learning disabilities at risk. Lawyer to lawyer we looked at the subjective nature of this provision – i.e. It is sufficient for the perpetrator to believe the abuse was in the victim’s “best interests”, not an objective view.
We also discussed access to medical care (including reproductive and sexual health services) and the impact of welfare reform on disabled women.
Professor Degener was keen to take my papers with her, so fingers crossed, the issues are raised in the review.
– Sarah Rennie, Steering Group
No vacancies at the moment.
Sisters of Frida CIC is an experimental collective of disabled women. We want a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.
Sisters of Frida started at a meeting when we floated the idea of having a disabled women’s group. It took some time to come together – the co founders were Eleanor Lisney, Michelle Daley, Eleanor Firman, Maria Zedda, Svetlana Kotova, Frieda Van De Poll and Martine Miel. We became a CIC in 2014.
We are seeking to build a/or different networks of disabled women. The barriers and multiple discrimination have not changed, we struggle to have our voices heard as disabled women in our own rights.
We would like a sisterhood, a circle of disabled women to discuss, share experiences and explore intersectional possibilities.
Facebook group (for UK residents) : https://www.facebook.com/groups/sisofrida/
Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/sistersoffrida/
This article, quoted in part here, is for all those women who have ‘invisible disabilities’ who is surviving with chronigue pain and illnesses. We feel what she wrote here will resonate with many sisters. Thank you Johanna Hedva and Mask magazine
You can read the rest of the article at the Mask Magazine website
With all of these visitors, I started writing Sick Woman Theory as a way to survive in a reality that I find unbearable, and as a way to bear witness to a self that does not feel like it can possibly be âmine.â
The early instigation for the project of âSick Woman Theory,â and how it inherited its name, came from a few sources. One was in response to Audrey Wollenâs âSad Girl Theory,â which proposes a way of redefining historically feminized pathologies into modes of political protest for girls: I was mainly concerned with the question of what happens to the sad girl when, if, she grows up. Another was incited by reading Kate Zambrenoâs fantastic Heroines, and feeling an itch to fuck with the concept of âheroismâ at all, and so I wanted to propose a figure with traditionally anti-heroic qualities â namely illness, idleness, and inaction â as capable of being the symbol of a grand Theory. Another was from the 1973 feminist book Complaints and Disorders, which differentiates between the âsick womanâ of the white upper class, and the âsickening womenâ of the non-white working class.
Sick Woman Theory is for those who are faced with their vulnerability and unbearable fragility, every day, and so have to fight for their experience to be not only honored, but first made visible. For those who, in Audre Lordeâs words, were never meant to survive: because this world was built against their survival. Itâs for my fellow spoonies. You know who you are, even if youâve not been attached to a diagnosis: one of the aims of Sick Woman Theory is to resist the notion that one needs to be legitimated by an institution, so that they can try to fix you. You donât need to be fixed, my queens â itâs the world that needs the fixing
Johanna HedvaÂ (@bighedva) is an anticapitalist psychonaut sorceress who lives in Los Angeles, where sheâs from. She is the writer/director of The Greek Cycle, a series of feminist-ed and queered Ancient Greek plays; and the author of The Crow and the Queen, a novel published in limited-edition handmade hardcovers; Incunabula, a series of 103 fables with each fable published in its own handwritten book; My Cellar Doors, a book of poetry written on Salonpas pain patches; and Permanent Winter, a book made to be buried in the ice of Antarctica. This article is an excerpt from the forthcoming This Earth, Our Hospital (Sick Woman Theory and Other Writings).