As you’ve probably heard, there was a March for Science on Saturday. Many marches for science, actually, all over the world. There was a small one in the city that I work in, as well as a large one in the closest Very Large City.
As it happens, I’ve spent the past four days throwing up for reasons that are apparently not chronic illness related — I think I just have a stomach bug. It’s a convenient, ready-made excuse.
But the truth is, I probably wouldn’t have marched. I didn’t attend the International Women’s March, nor have I attended a number of other recent marches to do with the politics of my current host country.
There are a number of people who didn’t attend their local science march because the central DC March really screwed up diversity outreach — I respect this choice, though that’s not my reasoning. There are also a number of people who didn’t attend their local science march for the opposite reason, that they think the marches were too political — I have zero respect for this choice, since science is “political” whether you want it to be or not. (Let’s start with the fact that most academic science funding comes from government bodies, move on to the extreme partisanship in the way science is treated in the US, then take a cold hard look at the lack of diversity in the current scientific community.) (There are of course less alienating ways to frame this objection. Objecting to a march because it is too divisive is fine. But denying that something is “political” is, frankly, baffling. I wish everyone agreed on my right as a queer woman to get married. I wish that everyone agreed on my right to access healthcare. I wish that everyone agreed on my right as a woman to be paid the same as a man. But these wishes don’t make it so — these things are political whether I want them to be or not.)
Instead, I do not march because I am exhausted. I cannot stand for long periods of time without passing out. I suffer from relentless, bone-crunching fatigue. If I expend too much energy, I end up in real, serious pain, and taking medication to alleviate that pain only prolongs my recovery time. I am epically behind on work; my partner wishes she could have more of my time/attention; I would be healthier if I were able to cook or (gently) exercise or take better care of my mental health. On the Saturdays when I’m not endlessly throwing up for mysterious reasons, I have priorities that unfortunately outrank activism. Am I selling out? Absolutely. But before you judge me for selling out, please remember that my costs are different from your costs.
Disability advocacy is hard; by the very nature of our disabilities, we are ill-equipped to stand up for ourselves. This is true of other groups as well; women do far more academic service work than men, especially women of color (good summaries here and here). We’re expected to mentor more students and junior colleagues, especially students/colleagues belonging to our minority groups; we’re expected to spend time advocating for ourselves and training other people on how not to be jerks; we’re (sometimes) invited to things in the name of diversity (and then told that we don’t belong there, because diversity). We have to be better, faster, smarter, to fit more hours in the day, to do all the things that others do and then some.
As I said, it’s exhausting.