Taking a cue from feminist art collective Guerrilla Girls comes Australia’s Bolshy Divas—anonymous disability activists “in the style of feminist masked avengers, exposing and discussing discrimination, unmet need, and issues which affect people with disability and their families.” The grassroots collective uses humor, art and “bolshiness,”—defined as a willingness to speak and act obstreperously—to advocate for disability reform and draw attention to injustices experienced by disabled Australians. These tactics are causing a crip commotion.
The daring Divas keep their identities private, engage in no-nonsense real talk campaigns, and achieve results in record time. In 2010, Western Australia’s government was evaluating (and obstinately resisting) disability policy reform despite evidence of its neglect of a massively underserved, disenfranchized disabled population. The Divas collected over 100 personal (and extremely poignant) stories in just 48 hours from people with disabilities discussing marginalization in areas like employment, accessible housing and inclusive schools. The stories were then presented to Minister Helen Morton and Premier Colin Barnett, which included this note:
People with disability and their families have the smallest voice of all Western Australians. The women who have contributed to this book have found their voice to speak up for others and to send a clear message to you, as our elected representatives, that we desperately need disability reform in Western Australia. Please read this today. All of our lives depend on it. They are speaking. Are you listening?
Sisterhood is powerful! The collective is still working hard and has expanded its membership to a national network of disability feminist activists. They join the honorable ranks of the incredible writers behind the inactive “Women with Disabilities Feminist Collective,” a 1980s group based out of Melbourne, and Women With Disabilities Victoria—an organization comprising disabled women working for disabled women.
If you’re a non-Aussie disappointed you can’t join in on the masked-avenger Bolshy fun, have no fear. They note that there are no official requirements to being a Diva. You simply need to desire positive change for people with disabilities, have a sense of humor, and not worry too much about getting audacious.