Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Silent Feminists

Feminism is currently enjoying a surge in popularity and activism, with several groups being set up in the last two years. However, even with feminists shouting louder than ever before, there is a silent side to feminism, a side where the feminists don’t use their voice – not at all. Oh no…they use their HANDS.

Triangle is a feminist group, set up specifically for deaf women and those within the deaf community. The aim is to support those who use sign language as their primary form of communication and enable them to learn more about, and tackle, feminist issues.

It was set up because, although deaf people are by no means immune to the effects of gender inequality and often face disability discrimination too, information on feminist issues is by large inaccessible. Videos are not captioned. Sign language interpreters are not provided. Many people do not know sign language, and if they do, they know the very basics – which, let’s face it, hardly stands up in the middle of a heated political debate.

Because of this lack of access to information, the whirlwind of feminist activity has passed the deaf community by. If they cannot access information about oh-so-important issues, how can they even begin to fight for equality? Awareness is the first vital step towards empowerment. Knowledge is power, after all.

Triangle aims to generate just that – awareness of issues in an accessible format, so that we can prepare to fight the good fight, alongside our comrades. 

So what can you do to help? Enrol on sign language classes. Create a budget for sign language interpreters at conferences – and don’t skimp on this as interpreters don’t come cheap. Caption videos where possible. Provide written radio transcripts. Most importantly of all - learn basic deaf awareness – this is so much more important than people realise.

A deaf woman suffering abuse at the hands of her partner went to a women’s shelter for help. She was turned away for ‘health and safety reasons’. Why? Because she would not be able to hear the fire alarm if it went off. If the staff had basic deaf awareness training, they would have known that very simple adjustments could be made in order to accommodate her – a vibrating fire alarm, a pager, even a fire marshal being made aware of the presence of a deaf person in the building. But because they felt unequipped, that woman had no other choice but to go back to her abusive partner.

Nobody should ever have to do that. Nobody. No matter their age, race, gender, religion, sexuality, background or disability, everyone has a right to live without fear.

Triangle is very busy making sure that never has to happen to anyone ever again. We are laying the foundations for progress and equality. It will be a long journey, but we will get there. Especially with your support.

So while you shout out for gender equality, we will be waving our hands in the air. Together, we can make things happen. So let’s get busy. We have a world to change!

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