look, you’re not doing me some kind of favor when you make me justify my life and needs and rights to you. stop acting like educating your ableist ass is a Gift to me. like, stop acting as if “giving me a chance to showcase” my activist labor is somehow you doing me a service for Giving Me The Opportunity ™.
so no, i will not diversity/inclusion proofread your essay or novel, or evaluate your website accessibility, or host workshops for you… for free. no, i will not look over your lesson plan, or organize a disability track at your event, or write a syllabus, or consult on your shitty project… for free. no i will not answer your invasive questions, no i will not host a q&a on basic disability politics, no i will not educate your staff… for free.
but this is how it plays out when i stand up for that —
[screenshot of an email. “if i would not be able to be compensated for my time and labor, i will not be able to host a workshop for you. i am really frustrated and tired of being expected to educate people on my identities and experiences for free and of my labor as an activist being devalued, particularly within a larger campus climate of inaccessibility and erasure of disabled people and disability activism.
leading a workshop on disability justice for free is in opposition to the foundations of disability justice as a movement that centers the work of survival and self-advocacy as work. the disability justice movement aims to emphasize the needs and voices of those who are most marginalized — those who cannot afford to do activist work for free. this is part of what draws me to disability justice over mainstream activism, which centers those who already have the privilege to engage in that type of volunteerism.
thank you for your offer, but subsequently i cannot accept without compensation.
in response to this email, i received a very polite and genuine apology that hit all the buzzwords and showed a lot of respect for me and what i had said… and then they found someone else who would do it for free, and wouldn’t incorporate that pesky disability justice framework.
or it looks like this:
[screenshot of an email: “hi elliot! i would be happy to do the workshop again! unfortunately i will not be able to devote sufficient resources to it without funding available to compensate me for my work. if that funding is not available under the MRC, i’ll probably hold the workshop later this semester under an organization which is able to pay presenters.
i never received a response to this email. the event series went on, and they just… avoided including a workshop on disability altogether. because i wouldn’t do the work for free, an entire axis of oppression and experience was taken out of an event that was focused on diversity and was sponsored by the college program on diversity and inclusion.
(in case you think this just plays out in institutions, by the way, let me tell you that some of you here, who follow me on twitter or tumblr or wherever, have asked me to do diversity consulting work for you for free. i noticed, and i’m talking about you here too.)
let me be clear: i will do it. it’s work i am willing and capable of doing, happily. but it’s work, and it requires resources, training, education, effort, and experience that makes me qualified to do it, and i should be compensated fairly for that. this isn’t a community service bake sale and i’m donating a tray of cookies, and this isn’t a high school play where i Get The Chance ™ to perform. this is my life, and my work, and my study. respect that.