A Summer of Victory
It’s a dark night and I present the birthday girl with a bottle of cognac. She looks up at me, shocked, through heavy fake lashes fringing her eyes. “This is expensive,” she says after a pause. I slap her on the back in congratulations. “Sure is,” I say, “and I’m going to teach you how to drink like a classy broad!”
It’s the summer of ’08, a thoroughly unremarkable year for us Canadians. We can only take swipes at Obama fever that filters through spread finger tips. Our political scene is drudgery, our culture is dry, and the most innovative thing that we can brag about is that a new strip mall opened a few blocks from here.
For me, though, it’s a fantastic summer, a summer of victory. For the first time I have overcome my social anxiety to go to a party. Social anxiety is a disability, and disability is a feminist issue. I have known men with social anxiety, and I have known women with social anxiety, and their experiences can differ due to the socialization women undergo. It’s especially hard for teenage girls.
There’s such pressure. Men on the street tell me to ‘smile!’, magazine articles blare out unhelpfully that these are the BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE, and that I will be the hottest I ever am, and parents tsk unhelpfully when you hang back during social events. Being able to access health care and treatment for my social anxiety, having my social anxiety and depression known as a problem, these are strides forward. Having a support system in my school that allowed me to get diagnosed and get the help I need is a good start.
However, we must work to remove the things that stop young women from coming forward about their disabilities. It seems too minor, one girl might think. Another might laughingly treat her disability as nothing, telling the story of how she hid in a closet around strangers as if it was the funniest thing ever. We don’t want to be a bother! We’ll just sit here and suffer quietly. No more!
If it is a disability, there is no such thing as it being ‘too minor’, and if it is a disability, we must remove whatever barriers people face in getting the help they need. For one day, you too might be able to go to a party and laugh and joke without hiding in that closet, bursting into tears, or just staying home
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