i found myself annoyed on many levels on friday…i suppose it is unusual nowadays to still remember that the core of feminist analysis as used in the consciousness raising movements of the 60s and 70s was:

the personal is political

-and certainly, that wave of  feminism was very white and middle class, so no angel either…but the cheek of the french postmodernists recycling it without acknowledgement in the 80s as la perrique, a ‘new’ technique of examining for self within or opposed to society still has me annoyed…i should be used to it, i’ve been being annoyed by men spouting derrida and foucault since the early 90s as an excuse for manipulating people for their own ends…sigh!

i think most of them probably meant well, though simone de beauvoir is  laughing at me for this naivete!

de Certeau came up with la perrique as ” the tactic by which we reclaim/affirm and explore the self”  (power systems use strategies, individuals without wealth and power have only tactics at their disposal, “the space of the tactic is the space of the other”) check out ‘the practice of everyday life’ (univ California 84) should you wish to know more 😉

basically, we start from where we are and move forward as we are able, examining what is before us according to our experiences, educational or otherwise. this brought us straight in to my experience of otherness: agoraphobia and fibromyalgia are both hidden disabilities and i’m starting to feel quite cross that the course was not marked as unsuitable for those with mobility issues.

it happened that we were asked if we would pose for publicity photos for the contemporary, and i immediately said, oh i’ll need a chair then, i can’t stand that long. this lead into an interesting chance to have some input on making the contemp more accessible – they rely on peeps having the confidence to ask for seats/support etc., wrong way round! put in big letters we will try to meet a variety of needs, please let us know what helps, we have folding stools behind the desk/loop tours/blind friendly tours/ autistic visiting days…whatever….and i felt i did a good job, though it was uncomfortable and other-ating, as of course it was cutting in to the class time. i tried to set the contemporary staff at ease, but it is frustrating in this day and age to have to point out accessibility is about being welcoming and forthcoming with support – most wheelchair users do not use them all the time, most peeps with fatigue issues will feel stressed having to specially ask when “we don’t look disabled”.

it turned out i needn’t have missed the long derive the week before, as  i could have borrowed a wheelchair from the gallery, but because i didn’t know, i didn’t even try to organise an agoraphobia escort to push me…i really don’t like peeps standing behind me and the escort needs to know this.

we then did a short derive/5 senses walk and pat very kindly carried a folding stool the gallery lent us, but i still walked too far…and for what? to have peeps saying they didn’t like how rundown broadmarsh shopping centre is, how wimpy’s fast food shouldn’t call themselves a restaurant and to have chris the tutor running up the steps at broadmarsh, saying we were like sheep for standing still on the escalator…regardless of the fact that he knew from the previous discussion that i have more extreme mobility issues than he had realised, he still assumed he knew the mobility levels of the others…or balance issues…or stress issues…i wasn’t the only one annoyed by this…the unthinking display of privilege goes down like a lead balloon sometimes…and actually i know from being on a course with chris before that he actually tries harder than a lot of tutors…but when you are not other, it takes a lot of thinking and self questioning to understand what may be offensive.

so i have come away with a bad taste in my mouth…i do not resent others’ mobility, lots of my friends are super active and i revel in their tales of hula hooping, mountain climbing, marathon running and biking, tree climbing, lake swimming and all night dancing…but these friends all meet me where i am, someone who was very fit and strong and could teach them all kinds of gardening techniques and how to saw wood or coppice or where to find damsons and ransoms (wild garlic) and who now is disabled by fatigue and weakness, who still has a tremendous amount to offer, i am the first port of call when they want to know how to mend or upcycle a garment, how to make presents from very little, an ear for practising presentations, discussing dissertations, dreams and anxieties. i used to push a wheelchair for a friend with m.e. i know it takes more than strength, you have to be able to normalise it, to make it an activity being shared, to be a “we” of two equals with currently differing abilities.

i can tell my friends great places to go, but i can’t go with them unless i can be left while they run around…the wonderful lumsdale project in derbyshire is great for this, i sit at the bottom waterfall, they run up and down hundreds of uneven steps while i feast on what is before me…i can make the most of classroom and gallery experiences and having suffered for years from hypervigilance i can recreate walking round a shopping centre from memory! we did use the colour schemes we saw in the pieces we made, but that seems very poor value for what it cost me. i do resent having my energy wasted or taken for granted, because it is so precious now…i have caught a bad cold/flu so will be in bed for a couple of weeks now, i wish we had spent the whole time discussing what derive means to us, i could have told the class of the one i did in the garden last week and the overlaps – time and decayed grandeur and use of space and access to the communal garden and listed trees/buildings and how they affect the surrounding area and how we see it…

no one wants to be other-ated when they sign up for a communal experience, and the irony of it happening on a course studying the perrique is very deep: but also i think, reflects the basic failure of post modernist strategy, it wanted to be accessible, but it wanted to stay exclusive and academically respected – otherwise why coin a new vocabulary and subvert an existing one (such a mess they made of linguistic terminology!) and use very high flown terms…plus ca change, plus ca reste…the more it changes, the more it stays the same, as their girlfriends were probably muttering, as they got on with the real everyday this lot were pontificating about…

bring on the permaculture, the art and politics and meaningful living that welcomes all around the fire and celebrates what each brings, as equal and valued and valuable!