Disability Allyship #13
Molly-Mae, Ableism, Privilege, and Bullying.
Hey folks! This newsletter is about all things disability and allyship, to give you a fresh perspective and advice that you can implement immediately to make your world more inclusive of disabled people. As a disabled woman myself, I am on my own allyship journey and I am excited to have you come along with me.
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*Shoutout to Gem who bought me a coffee last week (or was it a matcha green tea ;))
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Action of the Week: Reverse Mentoring.
[Image: a Black man and Black woman are looking at a computer screen and the woman is pointing out something to the man. They are seated in an office and behind them are two more people working on computers.]
In the work place there can be an expectation that mentoring is a top down affair- that a junior member of the team will be mentored into leadership and progression by a manager or COO or CEO or ambassador, etc. This expectation stems from the idea that those higher up in a company or organisation possess all the knowledge about the area of work that the company or organisation is in. But this isn’t really the case in regards to a multitude of beneficial aspects of business and life in general… think of all those juniors that are better at social media and social media marketing than anyone else in the business, or juniors, fresh out of college, who are up-to-date on the latest business models, skills, and knowledge. Basically, we all have a lot we can learn from each other, and this includes the DEI space and in particular, from my perspective, disability.
So my suggested action for this week, as we roll into 2022, is to start the year as we mean to go on, increasing our knowledge of disability and allyship of disabled people. One way you can do this effectively in your work is to start a reverse mentoring programme where you can engage with and learn deeply from disabled people who are in your life already.
What is reverse mentoring exactly?
Reverse mentoring is developing a ‘professional friendship’ with a junior member of the team (and/or in this case a disabled member of the team) from which you can exchange skills, knowledge and ideas.
This mentoring relationship can be based specifically on how disabled people feel within the company/organisation, or can be a more general learning experience about disability and ableism with a wider life perspective.
How can you set up a reverse mentoring scheme?
Identify employees who would be interested in taking part and ensure that there is chemistry between the partnerships, if a partnership isn’t going to work out it is best to know early so that you can reassign partners.
Have the partnerships set goals for their mentoring, what is it exactly that they want to get out of the partnership, does the non-disabled employee want to understand more about accessibility within the workplace, or does the disabled employee want people to understand how the company culture could be more inclusive of disabled people?
Establish rules around language, access, and energy. Disabled employees taking part should create boundaries around what they are willing to discuss, when and how.
Be open minded. There may be some tough discussions to be had that could be uncomfortable - get comfortable with being uncomfortable!
Some issues to be aware of when starting a reverse mentoring scheme - are your senior employees open minded enough to want to learn from junior and/or disabled employees? Do your disabled staff feel confident enough and emotionally prepared enough to become a teacher to older and/or more experienced employees? Is a reverse mentoring programme seen as tokenistic, or is it actually having an effect on the organisational culture? (make sure that you ask for feedback and collect data to see how the scheme is working and what impact it is having).
Here is an article about how reverse mentoring worked for a number of companies around diversity and inclusion, you might glean some ideas and/or further your understanding - Reverse Mentoring: what young women can teach the old guard.
Thought of the Week: Molly-Mae, Privilege, and Bullying.
[Image: a street post has a sticker on it that say “use your privilege for good causes.” Behind the post is a road with older stone buildings along the road and some trees.]
This past week a clip from a podcast interview of young influencer, Molly-Mae Hague, has gone viral. In this particular clip, Molly-Mae makes a comment about time, goals, and success:
“I just think you’re given one life and it’s down to you what you do with it. You can literally go in any direction. When I’ve spoken about that before in the past I’ve been slammed a little bit, with people saying, ‘It’s easy for you to say that, you’ve not grown up in poverty, you’ve not grown up with major money struggles. So for you to sit there and say we all have the same 24 hours in a day is not correct.’ And I’m like, but technically what I’m saying is correct – we do."
Since this clip and quote went viral, Molly-Mae has been challenged again about the privilege that this outlook reflects, especially by the disability community. There are, however, two layers of privilege happening here that I want to address: firstly, that her comment should be challenged, but seen as an opportunity for her to listen, learn and grow as a potential ally, and secondly, that as a young woman, she has received online bullying and threats about a naive comment she has made, a comment that has been made by others over the years who were not challenged.
Privilege is something that we all have, in some degree, and something that we have to educate ourselves about and understand within our own and others experiences. I, myself, am privileged, due to my being white, cisgender, straight, and still relatively young, whilst at the same time experiencing discrimination and exclusion due to my disability and gender. And as I am going on my own allyship journey, I can see how this framework of lived experience benefits and disadvantages myself, and others who maybe have less or more privilege than me. So let me break down the two layers of privilege that are happening right now around Molly-Mae’s comment.
Molly-Mae’s Privilege - I agree with many of those that have challenged Molly-Mae on her comment because I know that my 24 hours are certainly not the same as someone else’s. Twenty-four hours is twenty-four hours, but when you add on layers of life circumstances and barriers, illness, physical difficulties, etc, that 24 hours can look very different to anyone else’s. I can only really speak from my own experience. When I wake up in the morning I simply can’t leap out of bed and go, I have to put my prosthetic leg on first, which takes extra time. When I shower, I have to remove my prosthetic leg, use a support aid to get into and out of the shower, dry myself, and then put my prosthetic leg back before getting dressed. Having limited dexterity in my only hand means it takes me longer to type up this newsletter, amongst so many other things. My twenty-four hours are as full as yours, and yet I can’t achieve as much in it because it is physically impossible for me to do so. Basically, everything takes me longer to do then someone with two arms and two legs.
Twenty-four hours can be different for anyone, and not just because of disability; are you a single parent, a carer, do you have to work three jobs to make ends meet? Any person can be driven, but we have to recognise that some people have more nurturing circumstances that lead to success than many others. If you are someone who has more ‘time‘ in your twenty-four hours than many others, it is okay to recognise that privilege, but then think about how you can benefit others with that privilege.
When it comes to Molly-Mae, I hope that she can see this as a learning opportunity, a chance to grow and see her own privilege and perhaps ask how she can use that privilege to benefit others. But, just because she may not be there yet as an ally doesn’t mean that she is deserving of the bullying and threats that she has received online. At the end of the day, what am I always saying in the newsletter and my workshops - “we are only human, we all make mistakes, I make mistakes; it is what you do with your response to mistakes that matters.”
The Privilege of Others - Molly-Mae, in all of this viral mess, is also experiencing discrimination because of the way that she has been called out on her comment. How? Similar comments to what she made about success and goals have been made for decades, by many people who are successful entrepreneurs, motivational and inspirational speakers, coaches, etc. Many of these people are men, many of these people have financial and familial privilege and yet, they have never been called out as Molly-Mae has. I feel I am being a bit clumsy here with my words, so I want to hand it over to Steven Bartlett, who’s podcast the viral soundbite comes from, who wrote:
I've had male guests come on my show over and over again and say what she said. Nobody cared. But when Molly says it, she's crucified?
I've become very aware of the double standard that successful women face. If I Interview a man, he can brag about money, take full credit for his success and talk about his cars? If I interview a successful women, she's got to tip toe around her success, avoid taking credit and watch her words?”
We live in a world where there are double-standards, where some people are held to account for their comments and behaviours and others are not. Until we step back from holding others up to some kind of moral standard and address our own biases and issues, we are never going to have a world that is inclusive and invites a sense of belonging. What Molly-Mae said wasn’t accurate or informed, but what she said is nothing new. And until we change inequitable systems there will continue to be a hurtful cycle of “punching down” on marginalised people, including not just disabled people, but women as well, as shown by the circumstance that Molly-Mae finds herself in.
What are your thoughts? Can you see how twenty-four hours are not the same for everyone? How can you support those, such as disabled people, in your workplace, school and communities to still have opportunity to succeed, even if their time is shorter than yours? And how can we ensure that people like Molly-Mae and others can learn about other people’s lived experience and hopefully contribute in the future to supporting marginalised people to succeed and have opportunity? Join the conversation on Substack.
Wrap Up of the Week: News, Books, and Podcasts.
[Image: a green Olympia typewriter sits on a marble desk top. In the typewriter is a piece of paper with News typed on it.]
This brilliant article by Kate Matheson, reveals the strange dichotomy that those living with “invisible disabilities” experience on a daily basis - I Used to Hide My Symptoms and Disabilities from Others.
Louise takes back control of how other people’s comments and ‘jokes’ make her feel by reflecting them back via selfies and placards… I’m taking the ‘jokes’ people make about my disability and putting them on placards
Disabled people can be sexual beings too, and they can be queer… this brilliant series on The Swaddle, looks at how different people have sex, and for this interview with Rakshit, who is partially blind, talks about their experiences of sex, sexual awakening, and public expectations (CW: sex, porn, sexual safety) - Wants – They Have to Say It’
Check out the latest podcast episode of The Accessible Stall, hosted by Emily Ladau and Kyle Khachadurian, where they talk about social justice and disability activism and the concept of not being enough or being too much as an activist (definitely something I can identify with myself!!!) - The Accessible Stall.
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