Gender and Disability Consciousness Among Community Organizers and Self-Advocates
Bernasky, Tammy Michelle
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This dissertation approaches oppression of women and trans people in the disability community from the vantage point of resistance movements. Research in this area has, so far, largely excluded gender-based violence. I begin to fill this gap through research with self-advocates and community organizers. My project asks, under what conditions do movements for women and trans people with disabilities emerge? I also propose that movements to end violence can transform individual and collective consciousness about disability and gender oppression. Participants were recruited by networking with organizations in Canada and internationally. Snowballing and social media outreach were also used as recruitment methods. Semi-structured, face-to-face and virtual interviews were conducted with thirteen participants from nine countries. An objectivist grounded content analysis identified experiences of gender and disability oppression as well as transformative conditions for individual and collective consciousness. I use an intersectional analysis to help frame movement from and between disability oppression, consciousness, and empowerment a process that is not necessarily cyclical, parallel, or linear. Through this research I propose two aspects of social movement organizing. The first is the individual aspect, whereby an individual experiences oppression, but with support and education a raised consciousness about disability and gender oppression emerges and from that there is resistance. Individuals may also participate in the second aspect, which is social movement organizing, whereby the group is equipped with a collective understanding of their circumstances and an awareness of the possibilities to take action. I conclude that individuals and movements organizing around gender-based violence in the disability community can experience oppression, resistance, and empowerment in a number of ways; whether it is linear, cyclical or simultaneous. In short, in order for social movements to be ongoing and progressive, they require supporters and actors who individually and collectively recognize a common struggle, share a desire to ensure better for themselves and others, and exhibit a propensity to act.