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Skin, Tooth, and Bone – The Basis of Movement is Our People: A Disability Justice Primer

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Reproductive Health Matters
An international journal on sexual and reproductive health and rights
ISSN: 0968-8080 (Print) 1460-9576 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/zrhm20
Skin, Tooth, and Bone – The Basis of Movement is
Our People: A Disability Justice Primer
Sins Invalid
To cite this article: Sins Invalid (2017) Skin, Tooth, and Bone – The Basis of Movement is
Our People: A Disability Justice Primer, Reproductive Health Matters, 25:50, 149-150, DOI:
10.1080/09688080.2017.1335999
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09688080.2017.1335999
© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Group
Published online: 05 Jul 2017.
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Skin, Tooth, and Bone The Basis of Movement is Our People:
A Disability Justice Primer
Sins Invalid
To download any of Sins Invalid publications, visit sinsinvalid.org. To purchase printed copies, go to Flipcause.com or contact
info@sinsinvalid.org
Skin, Tooth, and Bone by Sins Invalid (2016) is a
snappy, accessible, yet challenging 70-page long
booklet by multiple authors, all part of the Sins
Invalid performance arts collective, based in
San Francisco, USA. This Disability Justice Primer
lays out the fundamental principles of Disability
Justice, as well as the steps that could be taken
to embody work towards a truly inclusive and
just world. Its practicality and relevance are appar-
ent and appreciated. The concept of Disability Jus-
tice, articulated and explored in the text, is a
written expression of the principles and future
that the performance art of Sins Invalid incubates:
a celebration of disability, and of disabled people
with a focus on the leadership of disabled people
of color and of queer, and gender non-conforming
disabled people(p. 13). Skin, Tooth and Bone
embodies the values that it is espousing. It pushes
forward the disability movement beyond a single-
issue discourse centred on rights to promote an
intersectional movement led by those most
impacted by ableism and historical systemic
oppression. It aspires towards sustainable, mixed
ability organising that is accessible to people
regardless of ability, colour, sexuality, gender-con-
formity, health or migration status. The text takes
the readers through the three components of
Bones (the textual and critical framework critical
to the work of Sins Invalid and pursuit of Disability
Justice), Teeth which represents words and
thoughts from disability justice activists, including
concrete suggestions for more accessible
organizing(p. 5), and Skin which represents
images that the authors seek out and wrap
[themselves] in(p. 5).
The content is laid out clearly. Practical sugges-
tions are couched in explanations of the authors
personal and contextual motivations for articulat-
ing what is envisioned as Disability Justice as well
as what steps can already be taken towards dis-
mantling the ableist, heteronormative, patriarchal,
colonial, and oppressive context of contemporary
society (or societies). As a visibly disabled woman,
of a linguistic minority, my partner a black man
with Senegalese citizenship, I am confronted by
the shortcomings of a Disability Rights Movement
that is single-issue identity-based. For although
many pieces of my identity mark me as amongst
the most privileged and powerful in contemporary
society: a post-graduate university education,
European and Canadian citizenships, of European
descent, Christian and heterosexual, working inter-
nationally, I am confronted with the shifting
dynamics of power, privilege, marginalisation
and oppression on a daily basis due to my own
identity and that of my partner. The ways that
different forms of privilege are leveraged at differ-
ent times and for various purposes (p. 11) are also
apparent to me given my mobility across countries
and contexts. As such, I appreciated the formu-
lation of this hybridity and dynamism of privilege
and oppression by Sins Invalid. There is much in
the text that speaks truth to realities beyond the
USA, and beyond North America; however, I read
the text with some questions as to the ultimate
extent of relevance of the Disability Justice model
and possibly what more might be problematised
or communicated in order to increase its traction
even farther.
Overall, I found that much of what Sins Invalid
is asserting in this text echoed the questions and
discomforts that I have faced since starting to
work alongside disability movements and disability
service organisations internationally in 2005. What
caught my attention initially in the text, particu-
larly bearing an international lens in mind, was
the assertion that the current Disability Movement
centers people who can achieve rights and access
BOOKSHELF
149© 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.
org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work
is properly cited.
through a legal or rights-based framework(p. 11)
which the authors contend they know to be not
possible for many disabled people, or appropriate
for all situations(p. 11). It is not a statement
against disability rights, but rather a call not to
stop at disability rights: that we must look at
what comes before and after rights. In disability
organisational work promoted and funded by
international agencies, there are several disability
rights mobilisation and education initiatives. The
entry into force in international law of the Conven-
tion on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was
greeted with great celebrations and so it should!
However, this text summons us to also question
when rights are not enough.This clearly res-
onates with what I sometimes heard and felt
when working in contexts where disabled and
non-disabled people were living in systems where
rights were abstracts, where mechanisms of access
to rights were physically, nancially and structu-
rally inaccessible. Community members expressed
the need for means of sustaining their livelihood,
caring for their family members, having clean
food and water! Of course, these are or could/
should be considered fundamental rights.
Being aware of ones rights remains important,
but Sins Invalids call for a justice framework that
recognises that rights might speak tocertain dis-
abled people more than others, in my interpret-
ation, re-enforces a so called hierarchy of
disability which we see in various disability rights
organisations. Equally worrying, I have witnessed
a politicisation of the disability movement in
many contexts which, at rst glance, may
appear a positive sign of progress towards accep-
tance of disability rights but I have found it has a
sinister side, as disability movements begin to
reproduce the partisanship, elitism, colonialism,
heteropatriarchy and capitalism of the overall pol-
itical system of any given country. As such I nd
that Sins Invalids call to Intersectionality and
Anti-Capitalist Politic as 2 of the 10 principles of
Disability Justice is crucial, timely, and relevant
beyond the USA and North America.
The sections of the text offering access sugges-
tions for public events and organising are those
sections where I feel that Sins Invalids North
American context shines through, perhaps to the
detriment of its relevance internationally. I
acknowledge and appreciate that they have articu-
lated that accessibility is an evolving process and
that exibility, adaptability and good listening
are key. However, in low- and middle-income
countries I wonder if some of the suggestions
may seem so far removed from peoples context
and resource scope that all efforts to be accessible
may be abandoned, thinking that they will never
manage to be fully accessible anyway. I also won-
der how accessible the text is to communities
where heteropatriarchy is taken entirely for
granted and, in some contexts, is even legislated.
I am left wondering who will put down this text
immediately as it offends their religious/cultural
sensitivities. I do believe that everything must be
questioned and that we cannot shy away from dif-
cult questions. However, a key part of inclusivity
is somehow reaching out to people who do not
espouse our views. In this text Sins Invalid brings
up a host of relevant, timely and potentially trans-
formative principles to disability organising. In its
next text, I look forward to hearing more about
how they propose bringing other people along
for the ride.The concept of Mixed Ability Organis-
ing is explored this time, and I am keen to hear
about how they believe they could engage with
voices and realities from the Global South.
By: Myroslava Tataryn, Ottawa, Canada
http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7710-3177
M Tataryn. Reproductive Health Matters 2017;25(50):149150
150
... Rather, ableism is the misrepresentation of disability; like false representations of gender and race are rooted in racism and sexism. Part of diversity, inclusion, and equity, Berne (2017) observed that "one cannot look at the history of U.S., slavery, the stealing of indigenous lands, and U.S. imperialism without seeing the way that white supremacy leverages ableism to create a subjugated 'other' that is deemed less worthy/abled/smart/capable" (p. 149). ...
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