Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


“Living on the Side of Love”

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Feb 27, 2012

IMG_8046Our team has been challenged in many ways by the 30 Days of Love campaign, perhaps most significantly by a recent post on the EqUUal Access blog. EqUUal Access is a national Unitarian Universalist group dedicated to educating congregations accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities. The group’s vice president, Carolyn Cartland, wrote an article entitled “Living on the Side of Love–Whether We Stand, Sit, or Recline on a Stretcher” about how the use of the term “standing” in “Standing on the Side of Love” can be alienating for people with disabilities. We also received a copy of Rev. Katie Lee Crane’s thought-provoking “Love is a Verb” sermon on ableism which you can download and read here. We encourage you to take a look at Carolyn’s post and think about how this issue may be impacting folks in your own community.

Do you have stories about how ableism has impacted your life? We welcome blog post submissions–take a peak at our blog content guidelines and email your story to love@uua.org.

9 Responses to ““Living on the Side of Love””

  1. Paul Wilczynski says:

    That’s one of the most ridiculous examples of political correctness I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a few. The word “standing” should be taken as it was meant – being together.

    The next thing we’ll see is someone suggesting that the legal concept of “standing” (a stake or interest that an individual has in a dispute that entitles him to bring the controversy before the court to obtain judicial relief) be reworded.

  2. Deborah Wertz says:

    With all due respect for the wide variety of physical abilities, it seems to me as though it is a positive and affirming thing to “stand” for something. A physical inability to be erect on one’s feet doesn’t mean that one can’t proudly “stand” for things that matter. There is power to the message as well as to the individual when we “stand” for things.

    Leave it as it is!

  3. Dee Halzack says:

    Thank you for sharing what Carolyn Cartland said. I agree with her.

    I participated in the Welcoming Congregation curriculum at one church and have been chair of the Welcoming Congregation Committee at another. The one thing that bothered me about the Welcoming Congregation program was that, except for one chapter, it didn’t make inclusivity a major theme. Oppression is oppression and as so many (and our 7th principle) have said, what hurts one of us really hurts us all. I would rather see Welcoming Congregation committees be about ALL inclusivity issues, not just BGLT.

    Ableism is something that is part of all of us who are privileged not to have had to worry about things like accessibility. We can’t help it because from that vantage point it is too easy to be oblivious to things that are major problems for some. But until we admit it, we can’t take steps to overcome it.

    Maybe we should consider a revised campaign called something like “Witnessing for Love.”

  4. Carol Agate says:

    I am astonished that UUs would ridicule the feelings of those who feel excluded by the use of terminology that doesn’t apply to them. No matter what “standing” might mean to those who are able to stand, if some of those who cannot stand object to the word who are we who can stand to question their feelings? The UUA has been preaching sensitivity to the feelings of marginalized groups and learning to avoid words they find offensive. Here are members of one of the most marginalized groups of all telling you they feel excluded. Ask yourself if you would just brush off the feelings of people belonging to other marginalized groups based on your own preferred understanding of a word.

  5. Elizabeth Selleck says:

    I don’t want to offend anyone but this seems to be going a little to far. When we take a stand it is a principled position, not a physical one. Let’s not be so pc; it;s just a word.

  6. Joelle O'Bryan says:

    First I want to second Carole Agate’s comment- as someone who lives with mental health issues, the hostile tone of the posts crying “PC overdo” was hurtful to me.

    I think ableism can feel the worst when you have a “silent disability,” such as my mental health issues. The words of my official diagnosis equal to “constant mood swings out of my control with a little OCD thrown in to make things interesting.” I do have bad days when just dealing with people, putting a smile on my face is difficult. It is those days when our tendency to be so civil, so polite, hurts me the worst because often enough, I can’t truthfully answer “Fine” when someone asks me “How are you?” but is only making polite conversation.

  7. Linda Wright says:

    When a college housing officer told me that no one would room with me because I was wearing a leg brace, I learned that words do hurt. This discussion about the impact of the word “standing” in the UUA justice campaign is not about political correctness, it is about changing behavior. Words change the way we think and the way we act. I was raised in the Unitarian faith and was a teenager when the merger with the Universalists occurred. Over the past fifty years there have been many times when people resisted change in my UU Congregation. Often there were people who especially did not want the language to change. Nonetheless, I have witnessed words changing over the years in our UU hymns, our meditations, and sermons. When I reflect on the changes in language it seems apparent that it helped to open minds and hearts to justice, equity and compassion.

    We may need to change our language to think differently if we want love to be a verb.

  8. Carolyn Cartland says:

    At the Equual Access board meeting on March 7, we discussed this topic. We decided that words do matter to us, that words can change behavior and open minds, and that certain language presents opportunities to increase awareness of “the other” while other uses of language can limit understanding of others’ experiences. We understand that, initially, it may seem as though we are being “nit-picky”, “politically correct”, or “overly sensitive”. We are sympathetic to that perspective but weren’t those same comments made when women first objected to the sole use of the pronoun “he” in UU hymns, readings, and sermons? Weren’t similar comments made when the GBLTQ community objected to words that they deemed offensive? Who gets to decide if a word is offensive or not…the person offended or the person using the word? How do we show our belief in the “inherent worth and dignity of every person” if not by the language we use?

    At our board meeting, we decided to pursue this conversation. We believe it is a valuable one for all of us, those with disabilities and those without, because at the very least it may open minds and hearts by providing a different perspective on the experiences of those whose lives are different from our own. Ableism, like sexism, racism,heterosexism, ageism, and all other forms of oppression, is alive and real in our culture; as in all forms of oppression, language is one of its most powerful tools. We encourage everyone to use this powerful tool in ways that are respectful, inclusive, and constructive. Whether SSL ultimately chooses to remove the word “standing” from the name of this social justice campaign or not, we believe this dialogue is necessary for the campaign to be inclusive and respectful of all people.

    Carolyn Cartland

  9. Sun Principe says:

    The LGBTQ & allied community advocates and allies in justice have witnessed, the ongoing sting of oppression that our communities face.

    Historically marginalized communities may have to work harder to be heard. We love words. Lets give some deep thought to what those words convey.

    It is hard to change a culture. It is also important that we do.

    For two days of my adult life, I could not stand. The impact of that experience was life changing for me. Perhaps only a snapshot but enough to see that this society did not make access easy for those who can not stand.

    We ask for sensitivity because words mean so much. How healthy for a community to engage in such conversation as this, that we may open up minds to understanding that not everyone experiences the world as we do. A very important lesson to recall when talking to and listening to, our LGBTQ, Queer, fierce, brilliant, creative youth and young adults.

    Oh the house that love has built!

    It is my ongoing wish that you all will inspire the world as much as you inspire me in posts and in your work in community. What a pleasure to read the words of so many who truly live on the side of love. Its that big.

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