Let’s face it. It’s a challenge being a young woman. Society’s perceptions of us mixed with the perceptions we have of ourselves get jumbled up inside to create a warped, often poor, self-image. Especially in this era of media inundation, our self-image is crafted in large part by the representation of people who look like us on screens. It’s a lot to try to reconcile with. Now, imagine if we never saw someone who looked like us at all. How would we derive our self-image? Would we even have one?
Growing up, these questions, among others, rattled around in my mind constantly. I grew up as a sick kid, substituting playtime for physical therapy, learning to walk properly after months in bed at a time. I had a triple organ transplant at three, cancer at four, and a feeding tube for two years after that. Needless to say, the conventional beauty standards haven’t applied to me since my toddler years.
My whole pre-teen and teenage life, I watched films and television shows and thought, “Where am I?” Never before had I seen a girl with a subway map of scars on her body get the guy of her dreams. I had never seen a girl who used a walker be the prom queen. I never saw my story reflected back at me, so I didn’t know how to create my own story. I didn’t know that good things could happen to people who looked like me, because I had never seen it done before.
At 17 years old, those insecurities are still in me. But now they’re buried under a layer of self-esteem. Instead of sitting idly by and wondering why there’s a lack of representation for women with non-normative bodies and disabilities in the media, I started to think of ways to change it.
This year, I joined a Jewish feminist fellowship through Moving Traditions called Kol Koleinu. It’s a wonderful program for high schoolers to discover what types of activism topics interest them. Each person is grouped with a few other girls and works on an activism project for a few months. Immediately, I knew I wanted to do something that helped change the narrative of disability. I wanted to bring young women who may not look like everybody else into feminist conversations- and know they are worthy of loving and being loved in return.
For our final project, my group members, Lexi, Sophie, and I are going to put together an online magazine that showcases the artwork and writing of disabled femmes about their experiences with disability. If you’re reading this and think it’s something you may be interested in, read the details below: We’re looking for art (painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, etc.) or writing (poetry, short story, memoir, script, etc.) that discusses your experience as a young woman with disability. There is no constraint on what you can discuss in your pieces, as long as it’s true to your lived experience! If you choose to submit visual art, please attach a small excerpt about the size, medium, and inspiration for the piece. If this is of interest to you, please email Daisy Friedman at email@example.com, and I’ll connect you with our team. Ideally, we would love a first draft of your piece by Friday, February 5th.
No matter who you are, Your voice and your story deserve to be heard.
XOXO – Daisy
Daisy Friedman is a senior at Central High School in Omaha, NE. She loves theatre and writing and activism. Her writing has won two National Scholastic Awards, and she has been named a semi-finalist in the Omaha Film Festival’s screenwriting competition. At school, Daisy is the president of her International Thespian Society troupe and Editor in Chief of her newspaper. In her free time, Daisy likes to write screenplays and listen to music. She’s a member of Temple Israel in Omaha, NE where she is involved in NFTY.