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The Word Is My Activism

September 25, 2012

This is a guest post by Penny Pepper. Thanks to Penny.

At a time when disabled people are under attack from all sides, I am often asked about my activism and if it informs my writing.

Every line I write is a form of political activism. The passion inside each thought and word is my weapon. When I perform a poem such as ‘Fraud’, there is my view, my frustration at injustice and our lack of equality.

My first statement of rebellion was when I was about seven. At ‘special school’ my best friend Becky had cerebral palsy. We sat on the special bus – local kids called it the “spaz bus” – chatting and sharing sweets. She was strong and wobbly. I was steady and frail. We made a good combination. A time came when a teacher decreed I had to go up a class but my friend Becky was staying where she was. I wrote a little rhyming poem about this and all I can remember now is the line ‘they don’t care, it isn’t fair’.  I felt an injustice was taking place, even though I was too young to articulate it fully. Later, I realised with angry disbelief, it was because Becky was deemed beyond further educating. The dismissal of a young girl’s potential in such an offhand way, still makes me growl in anger today.

From my punk days, writing poems for fanzines about the riots in Thatcher’s time, to my incarnation as a pop singer, onto the hard slog of writing novels and trying to sell them, I burn with a desire to coax people to question, to open minds to different perspectives, to celebrate and embrace difference. Human beings are not like homogenised milk. Our strength is our differences and where they overlap. It is unfortunate that at present we live in a society and under a government where the opposite appears to be extolled. We find that our basic rights are under threat, seen as luxury and privilege. The crips have had it too good, now we must conform to old stereotypes of being ‘the vulnerable’, in need of ‘care’ provided by a system that knows what we need better than we do.

So my activism travels all down the difficult way to ‘Desires Reborn’ which has just been released as an ebook (details below). I roll my eyes when it’s categorised as merely ‘sex’. Not because I regret writing a collection of explicit adult stories that feature disabled people, but because I believe sexuality cannot be expressed and explored in isolation. That’s what society likes to do to us – pigeon hole us. And that’s what medics often do – label us. Relationships with others, (sexual AND otherwise) and the freedom to have them in all their variety is a core political issue to me. It is at the heart of what we need to feel contentment, to place ourselves in our lives one way or another.

I am inspired by those that have fought discrimination and prejudice in past times, including black civil rights, gay and women’s rights movements.  When I am writing I remember that change doesn’t have to come with loud aggressive action. For me, it comes in the word, the story, the enticement of curiosity that may – hopefully – lead to an opening up to new possibility in someone’s way of thinking.

I might have been on this (often tricky) poeting, writing, singing journey for over 20 years, but as long as I can get the words together in my head, dug out from my heart and sent into world with my commitment and creative energy, I’ll do it till the world stops turning.


© Penny Pepper 2012.


‘Desires Reborn’ by Penny Pepper is available in all ebook formats including
Amazon Kindle
Ipad, Ipod Touch and Iphones via Itunes
Twitter: @PenPep

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