Hannah Diviney: I Got Beyonce and Lizzo to Change Their Lyrics, But I’m Not Always Unstoppable
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Unstoppable. It’s a word I honestly don’t really know how I feel about. Hearing it conjures images of incredible feats of strength whether that’s physical, psychological or emotional. I see athletes pushing through pain barriers, people who rise quickly through the ranks of whatever world they inhabit with force or even and perhaps most especially, people whose name or actions draw waves of conversation, thought, success and attention.
By that last definition, I guess there are a couple of moments in my life, especially recently where the outside world would assume I felt unstoppable. Like when I somehow managed (alongside some other incredible disability advocates) to get Beyonce and Lizzo, two of the world’s biggest pop stars, to change their lyrics and start a global conversation on ableist language heard around the world. Or maybe you’re imagining the time I got to be the lead in a TV show and own a piece of Australia’s small screen history. But even in those outwardly glittery moments where you’d be forgiven for thinking I felt nothing but on top of the of the world, the truth and reality are a bit more complicated. A bit more human.
While it’s true I did feel some waves of that wondrous thing called serotonin, I also experienced the most vicious and consistent trolling and internet hate I’ve ever been the target of while becoming the pop culture I’d always read about, to doing publicity and celebrating Latecomers from my grandpa’s palliative care room. Having to put aside the grief I felt when he died in order to honour that ground-breaking story and feel so much happiness at its success, that was at odds with every other emotion in my body was one of the hardest experiences in my life. Everything is not what it seems — there’s not a single moment in the chaotic hot buzz of the spotlight so far for me, that has been without the nuance of shade in one way or another, sometimes sitting shoulder to shoulder.
In fact, if I’m being my most frank unfiltered self, I’d say there’s actually never really ever been a time in my life where I’ve felt truly unstoppable. There’s too much of the world spinning, singing and falling apart simultaneously also known as life for that to be true. Never mind the fact that at its purest and most basic, unstoppable and all its physical connotations aren’t the truth of my experience as a disabled woman fighting for inclusion, access, representation and so much more.
So, no I’m not unstoppable. And you know what? That’s OK. To me, unstoppable feels like another pretty disguise for pressure, for burnout, for internal and emotional chaos. The other image I didn’t mention earlier that surprised me when it popped into my brain, I never thought these would be the words spilling out until I sat down to write them, is the phrase ‘you were unstoppable’ which then leads to visions of people crumbling in exhaustion, falling from grace or realising that if not done safely, the view from the perceived ‘top’ can be pretty cold and lonely.
Maybe that’s just my anxiety-riddled brain and you’re all reading this thinking, ‘Jesus, Hannah are you OK?’ (yep), ‘do you need help?’ (thanks, I’ve got all I need) or ‘do you need a break?’ (yes, but also no because my brain wanders off the deep end if it’s given too much time to think and the stuff I’m doing at the moment is amazing, it will be very fulfilling in the end) but that’s the way I see it. Hopefully my unvarnished read of this situation leaves at least one person feeling less alone.
For all of my gripes with ‘unstoppable’ and other words like ‘grind’ or ‘hustle’ I want to clarify that I’m not anything other than incredibly proud of all the work I do, that the many roles I have and hats I wear. That writing, advocating, running a media company and acting among other things all leave me feeling energised and charged with creativity.
It’s just that I also think sometimes these buzzwords are just another sly trick to make women and girls in particular feel bad for the very real things that do stop them. That should stop them. Like the need for rest, community connection, and the invisible mental load that can be living in a world, where our very existence and space is consistently under threat, in some ways subtle and others more stark. That of course only gets amplified if you’re a woman who lives in a marginalised community, whose intersections somehow lead to less space.
Instead of striving for unstoppable, a shiny unrealistic ideal, I want empowered resilient, honest, safe holistic self-care. To get those things I need to acknowledge that my body has very real limits, marked by pain, fatigue and the many things I need support to do. That my brain will sometimes get crowded and overwhelmed, and need a hand to settle into balance. That I will fail and fall and make mistakes but even when I’m outwardly succeeding, it’s OK if things aren’t picture perfect. I always find the most interesting photographs the ones with odd details anyway.
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