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Archive > Dear Emma .. a letter from a Canadian student, an advocate for anyone who isn't viewed as "normal" and aspiring author.

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message 1: by Rachael (new)

Rachael Hanakowski (rachaelhanakowski) | 51 comments Comment: I didn't know where to post this, so I posted it here.

First off, I just wanted to thank all the OSS members for creating such lively discussions. It's brilliant and it's clear so many intelligent, curious, sharp people are part of this group. I've written this letter to Emma, and I really hope she reads it. It is a query for her. I began to see Emma as a role model when she began her clothing designs and advocacy for Fair Trade with People Tree. Due to her efforts in social advocacy over the years, I began to think beyond myself, and began to take seriously the ills and concerns of others, realizing that each of us have social responsibilities. I have her in part, to thank, for my development into a woman with a social conscience. If anyone here has a disability, or some kind of difference, and would like to get in touch with me or read my work, please let me know. I would be honoured. Also, does anyone know if it is incorrect to call oneself an "author" if they are not yet published? Any comment on this would be appreciated. :)

Dear Emma,

I am a writer and an undergrad student in Sociology and Women's Studies from Canada. I am 22, and my name is Rachael.

First, I would like to say how much I am sorry, for writing to you through this platform. I can’t imagine the breaches of privacy you must endure. I wonder if it leaves you feeling like you are made of glass, like a sculpture that everyone in the world can look at, eyes like tiny microscopes analyzing every inch of you, almost as if you did not belong to yourself. I believe that it doesn’t matter if someone is the Dalai Lama or Marilyn Munroe. No matter one’s fame, or beauty, or talent, they deserve a life of their own. I have tried to reach you through UN Women, and numerous times through writing tweets and emails to your publicist, but to no avail.

I’m a writer and would like to be a true activist to girls, especially those with disabilities. I am pursuing a BA Honours degree in Sociology at Mount Allison University, in New Brunswick. I also volunteer my time as an editorial board member for the feminist forum for young women “The F Bomb” - a partner of the Women’s Media Center - www.thefbomb.org

I wrote the story of my life as a teenager with Cerebral Palsy when I was 18, during the summer after my first year at university. I felt the need to, because it was so obvious to me that there was a problem, and I couldn't understand why no one was talking about it. Talking, about the fact that in the media, there is a lack of attention given to women with disabilities, and by extension, to people with disabilities of all gender-identities. When there is attention given, it is stereotyped and a far cry from reality. As a teenager, I did not see ANYONE in magazines, or on the television, or in the movies I watched that I felt I could relate to.

My lack of physical ability left me feeling inferior and unworthy of life's joy. I was so sad that I was consumed with feelings of loneliness and desperation borne of it. There was however, something stronger than this sadness within me: I had a thought on repeat in my mind: "I don't feel I have a role model, a guide to how I am supposed to feel worthy, and whole, and beautiful. I walk so ungracefully and without agility, I exist as a human without the ability to put on a pair of shoes and take myself anywhere I desire. No one is here to lift me up, which matters, because I fall so much". After some time, it occurred to me: "I am sure that if I feel this way, surely other girls with disabilities feel this way, too."

So I sat down and wrote for them, and, in the process, I became the friend I never had. I took every inch of me that I hated; I took every molecule of self-doubt and poured it out on paper. I then reflected on the fortitude I had inside me simply as a result of synthesizing all I've been through. 22 years of surgeries, of high school bullying and taunting, of stares from strangers, of being treated like I am helpless, or like I'm not a sexual being because I am disabled, or that I can never be all that those with physical agility can. The bullying I went through in high school, and the stare that made me feel like a freak were no longer going to keep me captive in shame. Every word I typed felt like a crawl toward vindication.

I did not take all these experiences and define myself by them beyond the cruel years of my adolescence. If I had, I would not be alive, writing this letter to you today. I took it all, and wrote a messy, vocal mantra to disabled girls everywhere. I was able to do this because I woke up one day during turmoil in my family, with an odd feeling of peace. Though my family was riddled with hurt, I extracted my psyche from it and somehow was greeted with the empowering realization that the only person who can make me feel less than is MYSELF. Sure people can call me names, they can stare at me, and the women in magazines stare at me and transmit messages of doubt, and unworthiness, but I can disempower those messages, by virtue of realizing I am in control of my own mind. The barriers I face in this able-bodied world are concocted - constructed intentionally - by the media, that endlessly work to spin an unattainable and frankly miserable ideal of beauty; they are only as powerful as I allow them to be.

I first had the idea of writing a motivational book when I was 16 years old, whilst learning to walk again following an intense Orthopedic surgery. I like to believe that I’m not God’s messenger but that it is in the essence of my character to want to help others who may be struggling, especially girls with disabilities, as they are at particular risk for severe social inequalities.

I feel that there is a need to incorporate more education surrounding disability studies into our everyday lives including in the media. My initial hope and current vision in writing this book is to give young girls a sense of solidarity in confronting the challenges they face. Disability and the bullying I went through are incarnations of the devils I have faced, and I don’t want others to believe they need to live in fear. Through a marriage between the lessons I have learned living with a disability, and my passion for social justice, I have become acutely aware of the existence of stigma and discrimination by virtue of difference. I wish to mitigate the stigma around disability and to help young women feel more at peace within themselves.

I would like to ask if you would be interested in bringing my story to a screenwriter. There aren’t any movies out there that showcase the trials and strengths of the notably different. Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask if you would like to write the Foreword of my book, or a blurb and/or if there is any possibility you could vouch for me to be published.

Agents and publicists have turned down my manuscript, 30 times now. The memoir genre is very difficult to break into if one does not already have a platform. In my opinion, many people whose words are of little help to those who so desperately need it are published, simply on the basis of the connections they hold. The hallmark of "success" in today's world is vanity and its supposed glory is the proof, much of which is attained through nepotism. It’s often one’s ability to spin a web well that ushers success, not the quality of one’s work or the merit of their convictions. Some will succeed even if their minds are empty and their obsessions shallow. It's safe to say that we live in a world where celebrities are sought after much like products, where people are taught to value possessions over character and where vapid consumption is branded the status quo. I often feel lost in my journey. Disillusioned.

Through my own experiences and my studies in sociology, I have learned to see the world in terms of the syndicates of privilege. I have been taught to decipher inequality through on critical analysis. At times this leaves me with more questions than answers. Sociology is wonderful, but it does lead me to have some dark thoughts. Thoughts that allow me to conclude that merit is unessential and so this pattern of my non-establishment as a published author is likely to continue without assistance. That is why I am writing this letter to you. I need someone with not simply the notoriety, but the morals and dignity of a leader, to represent my story. When I write that sentence, you are the person who comes to mind. I grew up seeing you as Hermione and have since watched you blossom into a young woman with a personality dignified and a mind conscious. Although you are able-bodied Emma, you are the closet I have ever had to a role model.

I am someone who has been disabled my whole life, experienced massive amounts of bullying, stigma and prejudice. I have also been secondarily homeless for the past 7 years, my only refuge being my dorm at college. I thank the Universe, that I am intelligent and diligent so as to be able to maintain five years of residency at a university and to be nearing the final year of my degree. Do not mistake this as a plea for pity. It is rather a plea to those who believe going through hell cannot make you stronger, an invitation to those who do, to ponder their assumption. It was only at rock bottom that I finally got the courage to write my story, and the courage to desire, to dream of sharing it.

Despite my challenges, I have not let society squash my voice, even in light of studying its corruption. I have not sat down, but rather, have stood up, because there is something inside of me, some kind of mix of hope and determination and ignition and perseverance against the tide. I do not know where this concoction came from, only that it dwells within me as much as fully as the blood pumps through my veins. Despite this, I have come to a time of deep disappointment, because our culture does not allow for the practice of valuing certain groups of people.

Last year, I shared my story with Rookie Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Tavi Gevinson. What a cool girl. I discovered Rookie because of you -- ☺! She wrote me a letter of support and had an excerpt of mine published – www.rookiemag.com/2016/02/beholding. I have since shared my story on The F Bomb - http://thefbomb.org/2016/04/what-grow... and Thought Catalog -http://thoughtcatalog.com/rachael-han....

From what I can tell Emma, you carry similar convictions to me: you recognize that girls at are at an unparalleled disadvantage in the world and are motivated to be a change maker. You appear to be much like me, socially aware, and care deeply about issues that affect humanity. Your contributions to activism are so important. Please know that your involvement in this project could raise substantial awareness of social inequality related to women with disabilities. Through the years I’ve been witness to your eloquence and grace. You’ve handled your fame with such humility that I have to remind myself you are a celebrity, because you truly are the farthest thing from it. I such immense respect for you.

Emma, thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for considering my proposal. Again, I am so sorry if I have breached your privacy. I only hope that you can appreciate why, and wish to explore the possibility of helping me to make a difference in the lives of girls with disabilities and any girls who feel less than, because they are different.

I so hope to hear from you, even if you need to decline. You’re my hero.

Best wishes,

Rachael Hanakowski

message 2: by Melis (new)

Melis | 10 comments Thank you for sharing Rachael! You are an awesome and strong young woman. I am amazed by how strong and determined you are. I don't think that you are disabled or anything. Disabilities only exist in mind for me. For me, you are able to do anything you want! And on the subject of being an author; if you are producing a literary work, you are an author :) Sending you love!

message 3: by Christine (new)

Christine Periña | 67 comments Rachael wrote: "Comment: I didn't know where to post this, so I posted it here.

First off, I just wanted to thank all the OSS members for creating such lively discussions. It's brilliant and it's clear so many i..."

We live in a world where differences are all around us. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in these differences, especially when we see them in the people that surround us everyday.

I believe that everyone deserves the same thing which is love. It's not always popular to love someone and embrace their differences, especially when others make fun of them. But being a human means standing up for what you believe in choosing to do the right thing ... even when it's not always popular.

I salute you Rachael for being brave, strong and confident! Please keep up your good doings. And keep inspiring people with your stories ..
I'm still believing for the day that we put our difference aside and let a person be themselves before we cover our eyes.

message 4: by Agustin (last edited Jun 20, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Agustin | 223 comments Hi, Rachael. Just like you, I'm also a 22 yaer old writter (although I write fiction and not a memoirist like you). I want you to know that you and other people who are different have my total support, even when I'm not different myself. I think everyone should stand up for those who are socialy prosecuted and outcasted just because they were born a way they didn't choose to be. I see you're a passionate, intelligent person who managed to get over your problems, and each time you don't achieve your goals, you continue with your struggles.

My only problem with what you wrote is the fragments I'm going to quote:

"I am sure that if I feel this way, surely other girls with disabilities feel this way, too."

"I wish to mitigate the stigma around disability and to help young women feel more at peace within themselves."

These two sentences give me the impression (I might be wrong, of course) that you focuss more on just one gender instead of both genders. Why do you say that if you feel this way, surely other girls do, instead of other people? And why why do you want to help other women with disabilities feel more at peace with themselves instead of every disabled people, no matter their gender, feel at peace with themselves?

Other than that, I hope your book will end up being publsihed and it would be great if Emma gets to help you with that. And even though a film adaptation would be good, I believe a documentary sorrounding your struggle would be more effective, but that would be up to you :)

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Bir kitap okuyan herşeyi bildiğini zanneder. İkinci kitabı okuyan kuşkuya düşer. Üçüncü kitabı okuyan hiçbir şey bilmediğini anlar.
F. Pollock

message 6: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
Hi there, Rachael,

Thank you for sharing your story with us here. You make a lot of good points, bring up important issues, and bring your own perspective and experiences to the table in a way that I think is very valuable here.

Unfortunately, we do have a very strict rule against self-promotional content of any kind. While we encourage you to continue sharing here, the moderator team has determined that this topic is a bit too self-promotional in nature, so I have to lock and archive it.

What we recommend is finding other topics on the discussion board where you can engage in conversation with other members about these issues and experiences. Discussions are organized by folder, and you can also utilize the search bar to the right of the discussion board to search for key words in order to find topics of interest.

Additionally, this forum is dedicated to issues of feminism in general, but specifically as that relates to our mission as a book club. Unfortunately, it is not the appropriate avenue through which to make personal or professional requests of Emma. Moderators are only in contact with Emma about this book club and its operations, so I cannot forward you to a more appropriate method of contact, but can suggest you start by attempting to reach out to her PR team in the way that professional matters are usually handled in cases like this.

I hope this helps! Sorry to have to archive your topic, but we hope we will see you around in other topics!

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