The “myth of independence”

Mia Mingus, a friend and well-respected activist in a number of movements (including reproductive justice and disability justice, among others) recently posted some excerpts from talks she has given around the country.
I’ve heard her talk about this concept of interdependence and it has always struck a chord with me. While I am not disabled, and therefore have a very different relationship to these concepts of dependence and interdependence, I do know that as a feminist and a young person I struggle with these ideas as well. Independence is very much a force-fed American value, one that I find myself questioning all the time. I am appreciative of new ways of thinking and rethinking these concepts and how we deal with them. I too want to envision a different world for us, one that centers on community.
From Mia’s blog:

It is from being disabled that I heave learned about the dangerous and privileged “myth of independence” and embraced the power of interdependence. The myth of independence being of course, that somehow we can and should be able to do everything on our own with out any help from anyone. This requires such a high level of privilege and even then, it is still a myth. Who’s oppression and exploitation must exist for your “independence?”
We believe and swallow ableist notions that people should be “independent,” that we would never want to have to have a nurse, or not be able to drive, or not be able to see, or hear. We believe that we should be able to do things on our own and push our selves (and the law) hard to ensure that we can. We believe ableist heteronormative ideas that families should function as independent little spheres. That I should just focus on MY family and make sure MY family is fed, clothed and provided for; that MY family inherits MY wealth; that families should not be dependent on the state or anyone else; that they should be “able-bodied,” essentially. We believe the ableist heteronormative racist classist myth that marriage, “independence” as sanctified through the state, is what we want because it allows us to be more “independent,” more “equal” to those who operate as if they are independent–That somehow, this makes us more “able.”
And to be clear, I do not desire independence, as much of the disability rights movement rallies behind. I am not fighting for independence. I desire community and movements that are collectively interdependent.

Check out more of Mia’s work at her blog. You can also bring her to speak to your campus or organization.

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