Category Archives: Reflections

Blind babes and body image

The fact that I’ve never had an eating disorder is pretty remarkable. My parents were perfectionists in absolutely everything from the cleanliness of the house, to their children’s marks. And since I can’t see, I got some very early lessons in what looks good and what doesn’t.

I think it started when I was around seven. I can’t remember how the subject came up, but I’m guessing I must have been eating my share of the Saturday sweets. When I was little we only really had sweets on Saturdays unless there was a special occasion. But What I do clearly remember is mum saying something along the lines of “I hope you’ll never get fat. Because most blind people are fat and absolutely hideous to look at.”

Perhaps because I was so young, I thought what mum had said was very funny and I asked her to list the names of the biggest fatties in the blind community. I then asked why blind people were so fat and ugly. And she said it was because they ate too much and moved too little.

I never really forgot the conversation, although I didn’t ponder over it then. I was a very active child anyway. I did athletics, swimming and horse riding. And since I was a very picky eater as a child, I was very skinny anyway.

When I was 12, I got the kind of puppy fat most young girls get and grow out of. Looking back, I don’t really think I was fat. I remember using size small and I couldn’t have weighed that much. But mum was very good at reminding me. “No, you can’t where that. You’re too plump.”

What I didn’t know at 13 was that I’d grown out of the puppy fat stage. I only found that out later. So, being quite slim, I was convinced I was really fat. I could only compare myself to myself, so there was really no way of knowing what I looked like. I also didn’t know that your stomach not being ironing board flat sitting down was normal.

But I never really dieted. Instead I comfort ate when there was food around to comfort eat, which in our house wasn’t often. And throughout my teens, I was convinced I was on the larger side because of my dad’s “spare tire” jokes and hints that I needed to lose weight and join a gym. My dad was obese, so he probably was just taking out his resentment about his weight on me.

I think my teenage angst about my body was pretty average, but with one big difference. I couldn’t see what other people looked like. It’s only as an adult I found out that I was a relatively slim teen. And only because I saw my clothes from that period as well as having been able to explore what kind of bodies people around me had. Not necessarily always by touching, although having been able to feel waistlines of very close friends has helped. But also through information about measurements, BMI and learning that not everyone has the same body type and build.

Had I known all these things as a child, I would perhaps have resented my parents less every time my weight came up. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have had issues with my own body and wishing for it to be more perfect, but I would have been able to look at things differently had I known there was so much variety in sizes and shapes. At least I’d like to think so.

I know other blind girls and women who have experienced unfounded negativity in relation to their bodies from well-meaning parents who want them to look good. But I also knew blind people who have been completely spared from everything to do with body issues because they are blind.
I don’t think either extreme is good. You don’t have to be a size zero with and hour glass figure, but knowing what’s healthy is very important. Weight and body issues are things blind people need to be aware of. But there are good and constructive ways to raise this awareness. And having known blind women with eating disorders and my own resentment towards my parents growing up, I’d say that when it comes to any negative criticism, one has to be extra careful with a blind girl, or guy for that matter, who doesn’t always know the bigger picture.

My relationship with my body is a lot less complicated now, luckily. As I mentioned, I’m a lot more aware of a lot of factors that play a role in what makes someone fat or slim. I still have days and times where I’m not happy with parts of my body. But that’s normal. And I know I’m strong and healthy which is the main thing.

“Your swag’s African girl.”

I was waiting to take the subway home when someone came rushing towards me, shouting my name and through herself around my neck to give me a massive bear hug. It took a few seconds to recognize her. My own little sister. You might be wondering how I would struggle to recognize the person I know best in the world. But it’s easy. I didn’t expect to see her there and then. I recognized her fast enough, but since I didn’t think I’d see her, my ears weren’t tuned in properly.

This happens to all of us. Sighted or blind. We don’t see or hear at once what we expect to see or hear in places we don’t expect it… And in different contexts, what we actually see and hear isn’t exactly what we see and hear. So we can be easily fooled or tricked.

I had an experience like that in New York which was actually quite fun and amusing.

During my time there, I hung out exclusively with West Africans. Quite natural really, since I was there for the Nigerian Entertainment awards. We went clubbing quite a bit in relation to this award. And one question my friends got asked a lot was “Is this girl white, or a light skinned Nigerian?” Nobody asked me that directly, but I did get a few questions about where in Nigeria I was from. I told them I was proudly Lagosian LOL. My friends also told whoever asked them, that I was a light skinned Naija girl.

I loved being taken for a Nigerian. But it did baffle me somewhat. I was quite tanned at the time and I have curly hair with a texture some mixed race girls have got, which were in cornrows at the time. I also speak Pidgin English a lot when I hang out with West Africans. But how can anybody mistake me for anything other than white with my blue eyes, hair colour and Oyinbo nose?

So when I met a Ghanaian American artist to feature on his single on my final full day in New York, I asked him why I was taken for an African. His reply was interesting. “Your swag is African girl.”

What he meant by that, is that though you look at me and clearly see a white girl, the way I speak, my mannerisms and the setting makes me appear African. There were white people at the events, though they were a minority. But there were a lot of Jamaicans. A nationality I could get away with more easily as white Jamaicans exist.

I’m not sure I totally get the whole thing about the African swag, though I can only relate it back to not expecting to see something, in this case a white girl, in a majority Nigerian setting who behaves like a Nigerian, whatever that means A bit like me not thinking immediately the girl so excited to see me was my sister. But I don’t care. The koko for this post is that I be proudly African, Nigerian sef. Even if it’s honorary.

My Naijalife part 3: Na this oyinbo pepper eh?

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to personally insult individuals who may recognize themselves in some of the examples. It’s just my reflections on what I think may be a very complex issue.

One thing I really admire in Nigerians is the winner attitude. “We can, we’re the best,” etc. And I find that in Nigeria, when something seem about to fail, it somehow get pulled together at the last minute in some very creative ways. I’m talking about day to day and work situations mainly.

So it’s therefore a bit puzzling to me that although there is this refreshing “we’re great” attitude, there is also a tendency to have a slightly unhealthy obsession with white people. I’ll mention a few examples.

I was talking to one of my young colleagues when he said “You white people are just a lot better than us. We just destroy things and we’re not organized like you.”

Another time, I was with the first female friend I had in Nigeria as she proudly proclaimed to her friends that “I’m busy. I’m actually with my white friend.”

The final example is quite recent. I overheard another friend’s friend asking her why she hadn’t told him I was white before we met.

In all these situations I felt a little bit awkward. Why is me being white so special? And why would anyone say they’re not as good as a white person?

I’m not new to self-criticism of my own race. I think white people as a race can be quite full of themselves and walk around as if they own the earth and anyone is supposed to serve them. But I don’t see white people as less able to be friendly than black people. And I’ve met individuals of both black, Latino and Asian people who walk around with a sense of false entitlement. So it’s not your colour that determines how nice you are. Although I can appreciate that a lot of racial discrimination is carried out by white people.

Generalizing an entire race is very dangerous. I said to my colleague who claimed all white people to be better than black people that if young people across Nigeria were thinking like that, the country would never develop to its full potential. Luckily, many young Nigerians are seeing potentials and are doing great things in the country. Some are even moving back from Europe to start businesses and that’s awesome!

Like with individuals, every people have its good and bad points. And it’s good that we’re not all the same as we can learn from each other’s differences.

When I came on to the Nigerian music scene, there were a lot of blog comments about white people coming to take over yet more things in Africa. And that Nigerians should stop worshipping white people.

I totally agree with the latter, though worship is a little bit of a strong word. But if we go back to examples two and three, where my colour seemed to be a big deal, I can appreciate that somebody would use that term. Example one is an even clearer indication of this. By the way, these people from the examples are intelligent and well educated, so I’m guessing this view on white people goes a lot deeper than just education. And I will not claim to fully understand this issue.

One thing I’ll tell everyone despite who they are is love yourself and only focus on being the best version of you. You don’t have to be your people, your country or your colour for that matter. As supportive commenters did point out, I came to Africa because Afrobeat is what I know how to do. I urge you to do the same. Do what you excel at.

The importance of working, aside from making money

As someone who is blind, I am perfectly capable of holding down a full time job. And not only that, but I can be a very positive asset to my work environment and work colleagues. However, getting to prove that I can hasn’t been and isn’t that easy.

It actually started with my parents, may they both rest in perfect peace. They did their upmost for me to be as normal as possible. But when it came to work, they had this really strange attitude that there wasn’t anything I could do. My brother was a newspaper boy and when he was old enough, he started working in the local supermarket. He earned his own money and I was jealous. Not only did my brother work, but most of my friends did too by the time we reached our teens. I only had sighted friends where I live, so the weekend became a little boring then since I didn’t work.

To some, my position may have been enviable. Because I was told there weren’t any jobs I could realistically do, since both shop work and newspaper work required eye sight, I was given tasks to do around the house and thus received pocket money from my parents. I technically worked for the money, but it wasn’t at all satisfying. I tried suggesting other types of work I could do so that I too could make money, but my parents just laughed it off and pointed out that I got money anyway, so what was the problem? They really didn’t get it.

When we had to work a one day job in school to raise money for children in faraway countries, or for local causes, I usually played the piano and sang at old people homes. The old people enjoyed it, so it was nice. But I still had the feeling that I was doing that because my blindness stopped me from doing a “proper” job. In hindsight, I see that not many of my friends could have done that to raise money and so what I did for the old people was great. But as a teenager who just wanted to do whatever I could to blend in, it wasn’t cool at all.

My constant talking of wanting a normal job outside the house, must have really got to my dad in the end, because for two summers in a row, he arranged for me to work a week at the oil firm he was working for. I worked in HR and I had a really great time there. I was busy typing up Cvs that the head of HR had read onto cassette tapes (Yes, it was just before they got extinct) and sending out everybody’s pay slips and holiday money. The workplace was adapted yes. But I was doing exactly the same work as the other employees children who were working there with me. In fact, we helped each other to get the job done. I came home every day that week feeling as if I had contributed to society, or at least the HR department of that firm.

I later went on to have other jobs and now I work for myself. And although working for myself initially was something I did because getting employers to see that I can work with them is a struggle, it is now something I find much more rewarding. Because I don’t profit anyone except myself and those I choose to share it with.

I’m not opposed to regular employment and at times I wish it was a little easier to get part time work, or work in general, just to supply my music career. But as it is, I am trying to make it work without regular employment. Forever Living was my answer to a supplementary income to help my artist and writing career.

My purpose though with this post, is to stress the importance of work. Not necessarily just for the sole purpose of making money, but for someone to feel like a valuable asset to society. There are obstacles that make employment more difficult when you’re blind or indeed have other disabilities, but with open discussions and good will, most things are possible.
If you happen to have a disabled son, daughter, friend, spouse or romantic partner who lacks confidence to work, or badly want to, please be that person who pushes them to explore different routes to achieve what they want to do. Perhaps this is especially important in these days when unemployment rates are rising around the world. Disabled people are harder hit by this, but there is no reason really why they should be. You can, you dare and you want, or replace the you with me, are a good place to start the motivation. Basic, but effective.

Age has got nothing to do With it

Does age really matter?
When I was 18, I had it all planned. I was going to start recording music, become a great singer, achieve global fame and become an icon for all young women around the world. Whilst doing all that, I was going to get my degree. A bA and a master. I was then going to get married and have my first baby after graduating and all this before I was 25. Oh and somewhere in all of this, I was going to get my first novel published and it was going to become a NY Times best seller.
I don’t know about you, but just writing that list, I felt my blood pressure skyrocket and my breath come out in gasps. LOL

Needless to say, I am not where I wanted myself to be at 18. But I’m not disappointed. In fact I’m quite ok with it.

On bad days it’s hard not to send envious thoughts to successful business women who have their successful businesses and their own families before they’re 30. Or to people who achieve global recognition in their teens or early 20s for a great album, book or other good deed.

But on good days and that’s most days for me, I am grateful things didn’t turn out like 18-years-old me would have wanted them too.

First of all, I didn’t know Afrobeat at 18. I supposed back then I wanted to do pop music, whatever that meant. I wanted to be like avril Lavigne or Rihanna. But does the world need a copy of those?

As for my novel, I couldn’t have written one that young. I tried, but it wasn’t the right time for me to do it. You need to be in a certain state of mind to manage to undertake such a big project. Sure, I had a lot of stories bubbling in my head and I tried to put them down on paper, but I didn’t have the patience, and more importantly, the right story in my head to keep me glued to my writing.

As for being globally famous at a really young age, it may not be a bad thing, but you only need to go to social media to see what kind of pressure teen music stars are under. I also know that am in a better position to take criticism now than when I was younger. Then, I would have cried if someone said they didn’t like address I war in a video. Now, I’m happy because nobody at least has yet questioned my vocal abilities.

I wish things had happened for me earlier. But having gone through two cycles of terminally ill parents, I had to put my life on hold for five years. Not that I never had fun, but I could not really do what I wanted and feel relaxed about it, because at any time I could be called to a death bed.

But now I am free. I didn’t get my first hit until I was in my late 20s, but I am doing the genre of music I really like and I’m not a copy of anybody else in the industry. My voice and confidence is also mature so I can handle bad or unconstructive criticism much better as well as the good and constructive one.

I have not yet published my first novel, but I have improved and upgraded the story line of the mid-summer serial I published on this blog and I’m soon ready to give it to an agent. And now that I have managed to sit down and write a full length novel, I have more stories itching to come out.

I will soon have a family. No, I’m not pregnant yet, or have a wedding ring on my finger, but it will come soon. I just know it.And I have started my own business. I even have two degrees. So even though I didn’t do things how Linn 18 wanted, I’ve still done them and I’m in the process of completing the rest.

It shouldn’t matter how old you are when you complete your goals as long as you fulfill what you want for yourself. And just because you start young, doesn’t mean you’ll be more successful than if you achieve it when you’re older. Things just happen differently for all of us and for different reasons.

So, if you’re 63 and dream of becoming a body builder, or 80 and want to learn Russian, it’s not too late. It only is too late if you say so.

7 awesome perks to being blind or visually impaired

I think it was the first time I traveled to London on my own. The assistance guy who met me at Heathrow to take me from the plane to the people I was going to meet was going on about how awful my life must be because I couldn’t see. And poor him. He was losing his sight too. I told him that at least that meant he’d get a freedom pass, allowing him to travel for free in London, taxi card and cheaper train fair. He got really pissed off and told me he’d rather have his sight.

He might not have seen any perks to being visually impaired. But I think there are a few and that it is important to address them. Especially on those days you just want to trade in your blind eyes for a working pair.

1. We have addressed this issue already. Free or cheaper transport. I can never quite join in when my friends are complaining about how much money transport cost. I am just grateful I can spend that money on shopping instead.
2. Still on the subject of travel, I’ve found that flying alone is often much more efficient than flying with a sighted person. When I fly alone, I am usually taken to the business class check-In, to the front of the economy check-in and I usually can skip long security queues and I get to board with the important people. Win win all the way. Also, when travelling on British trains, it’s usually easier for staff to put you in the first class carriage, so voila! You just got yourself a first class train journey for normal class money. Hurray, shopping!
3. Certain countries, some of which I have been to, wants you to pay a fee in immigration. Although there can be a genuine fee, such as paying for a visa on entry, a bribe fee is sometimes added if you’re unlucky. However, I’ve never had to pay that bribe money. Yet. Hurray, more shopping!
4. Blind people just get away with stuff. One of my best friends was pushing drugs back in her teens and not even when she got lost one time and got helped by a police officer was she even suspected. A reliable source who’s born and bred in Jamaica has also told me that quite a few blind people turn to drug dealing because it’s an easy way to get money and because the sighted people don’t suspect them.
5. Tourist attractions are also cheaper. I recently went to the London Dungeons and I paid 25 pounds instead of the full price which was 40. I also got a huge price reduction on a boat trip on the Thames. The cool thing about this is that the sighty you’re with will get a discount too and sometimes get in for free. Though I and my friends share the price between us if the latter is the case. Just remember, though the sighty is your child, your boyfriend or just a friend, tell the ticket people it’s your carer if they ask. Hurray, more shopping money!
6. You can get up close and personal. If you’re blind, museums will allow you to touch more things, at least replicas of old things in some cases. Zoos will let you come close to the animals that are not dangerous, with a minder of course, and I got to touch Queen Elizabeth’s throne in Winsor Castle. I wasn’t allowed to sit down, but it was pretty awesome. Tip: Call museums, zoos etc. in advance and ask what extra stuff they can offer you as a blind person. It’s worth it.
7. You have more shopping money because you save money on other stuff. So treat yourself. Sexy underwear, a new book, a perfume, running shoes, makeup, PlayStation, whatever you’re into. Because you deserve it.
So the next time you have one of those days where your visual impairment sucks, just remember that you can travel cheaper in style, not pay bribe fees, enjoy attractions for a lesser price and that you have more shopping money. And if you need more shopping money, you can deal drugs without getting discovered. Although boring people like me thinks that’s both risky and unethical and so I personally don’t recommend it.

If you can think of any more perks to being blind, feel free to leave your comments below. Surely there’s got to be more.

Why I would never do what Rachel Dolezal did

A few days ago, I did the pencil test, just because I didn’t have anything else to do. And ok, I was a little curious to know what the result would be.

In case you don’t know what the pencil test is, it’s a method used in apartheid South Africa to determine your race and in turn, where you would live, who you would marry etc. The pencil test wrongfully divided families and saw them living in different parts of town.

The pencil test is easy. You just stick a pencil into your hair. If it stays there, you’re supposedly either black or coloured/mixed race. If the pencil drops, then lucky you. You get clean water, a good education and streetlights at night. I think. I don’t know exactly how it was in south Africa back then.

So here’s a question. I have fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes. However, the pencil stayed in my hair.
Where does that leave me on the race scale? And what is race? Is it biological? Or is it a social construct?

I realize I am posing enough questions here to write a fat academic book that not many would be likely to read. And I also realize that the nature of these questions are extremely tense for some.

But what inspired me to write this blog post, was the Rachel Dolazel scandal back in June. If you need a little reminder of the scandal read

I was embarrassed more than anything when the story came out and I read facebook statuses, instagram posts, blog posts, tweets and articles written by indignant black people who claimed that what Rachel did was racist.

And although I don’t condone what she did,
this interview with MSNBC

Where she speaks out for the first time, telling her own side of the story made me see the whole thing a little differently. Though I still think what she did was wrong.

Hearing Rachel speak, I realized that we have one thing in common. We both feel a little culturally misplaced. She talks about always being fascinated with black culture and feeling more at home among black people. And I feel the same way. I prefer the music, my hair care regime is closer to that of black girls and, perhaps from being a minority in a society though I’m blind and not black, I understand and have experienced discrimination first hand.

However, there is a crucial point where we are different. Whereas she wants to blend in and tries to play the part of someone she isn’t, I try to fit in by being who I am.

And this is what I find so sad about Rachel Dolezal. There’s nothing wrong in wearing your hair in braids and twists, be all engaged with equal rights for black and white people and in Rachel’s case even teach African American studies, although she may have taken it slightly to far with a couple of her lectures. Or in my case, be a singer in Africa.

But it is still possible to do these things and be white. In fact, not denying who we are and still living for the things we care about is going to earn us far more respect than pretending to be someone else. As many of the comments and posts regarding Rachel Dolazel stated, the celebration of the culture is very welcome. But it is passing off as a good example of someone you’re not and being glorified as someone you’re not that is so wrong.

Had a leader of the local blind organization for instance turned out no more visually impaired than needing reading glasses, yet received degrees, doctorates etc and then hailed as extraordinary among blind people, I would be pretty mad. So I get all the people who didn’t take well to what Rachel did.

I get it anyway without the blind comparison. And that, along with the fact that I don’t need to be ashamed of who I am, is the reason why I’d never do a dolezal.

So what is race exactly? Most people would define race as a biological thing based purely on yur physical looks. I tend to agree with that. Look at dogs for example. Even if a Labrador behaves like a Spaniel, it doesn’t make it a Spaniel. And just as a Labrador and a Spaniel are equal despite differences in appearance, so are humans.

It can be both easy and tempting for some to see race as a social construct. And it is to a certain degree. For example, oppression of other races by, mainly the white race, have caused different living standards and opportunities in some cases which have determined people’s lives. But that social construct is both forced and negative and something we all need to work towards getting rid of.

Things like food, music and other everyday culture are things that have flourished within certain communities and therefore indirectly within certain races is an argument for race as a social construct. But indi rock doesn’t belong to white people, reggae to black people and the Japanese don’t have monopoly on enjoying manga.

And in our global age where everybody moves around, we’re ultimately going to addopt practices from cultures that may be far away from the one we’re born into if we like them, or feel more comfortable with them. And isn’t that just a good thing?

Therefore, I think it’s sad to uphold something as being “a white thing” while something else is “a black thing” though we can always appreciate the origin of where things come from. Because the truth is, that in our society today, we’re going to do a little bit of everything.

Finally, let’s return to the pencil test and the question where on the whole race thing am I?

If we look at race as a social construct, I am mixed race. I can feel at ease in both the typical black and typical white setting, whatever clichés they’re based on. Though perhaps, I’m a little more on the black side. (I can’t name a single Indi rock band and I love rice and beans for Sunday dinner.) Yes, I am over simplifying a lot here. But I was just trying to avoid writing that book. So please forgive me.

If we treat race as a biological thing which the majority does, I’m a white girl with a pencil stuck in my hair. And that’s cool. In the end, I’m just me.

An open letter to Yahoo boys (that they probably won’t care about)

Dear Yahoo boys,

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Okay, I know it’s to make money, but honestly, isn’t there a better way of doing that than praying on the emotions of innocent people?

I know a lot of you do it because you think people in the west are ridiculously wealthy compared to you. Of course, most westerners will have the equivalent of millions of naira in their bank accounts. But have you any idea how much living costs in the west? And did you know your vitims sometimes ends up taking out bank loans in order to give you money?

Money aside though, the reason I have complete disregard for you all, is that you pray on emotions of people to get rich. And you know exactly who to attack as well. Most of the time at least. Your preferred victims are often middle aged women and men who are either single, divorced, or otherwise lonely. People who perhaps no better, but who still get drawn in by your loveletters downloaded online and who, because they crave the company and affection only a lover can give them, choose to believe in your nonsense stories about sick relatives or gold smuggling.

You may laugh at them when your scamshift is over, or while you’re wooing them, because you think they’re stupid or desperate. But haven’t everyone at some point been desperate to be loved and acknowledged by somebody?

Some of you are very clever. And you probably have big houses in great locations as a result of your yahoo activities. The “ridiculously” wealthy person you scammed, may now be paying back loans they took out because you prayed on their emotions to feed your own greed,.How does this make you feel? Imagine you were the victim, or someone you knew. Would you have any sympathy at all for someone like yourself? Probably, in the position you are in now, you would and that’s very sad.

Poverty or not. There is no excuse for doing what you’re doing. Even rubbish collectors and toilet cleaners have more dignity than you.

Yahooboy hater.

My problem with internet dating?

No, it’s not the stigma connected. But I have been hiding behind that excuse for a long time.

It’s not the array of weirdoes either. They are there, but I know from friends’ experiences that the internet dating world is also inhabited by normal, handsome and perfectly respectable men.

I have two essential problems when it comes to internet dating and they are both linked to blindness.

The first problem is probably all in my head. The revelation. Let’s say I’ve somehow managed to find a likeable man in the ocean of less likeable men. We’re talking, the conversation is going great and we’re about to meet. And that’s when I have to tell him. “I’m visually impaired. Actually I’m blind.” He needs to know this, because he is the one who needs to find me in the public place we’ll be meeting. But revealing such a fact to me, feels equal to committing social suicide, or at least romantic suicide.

Because in truth, most people wouldn’t know anything about blindness and blind people unless they have experienced it. And not everybody have positive experiences with blindness. So when I reveal my lack of sight, the man in question will perhaps imagine a helpless, badly dressed woman who needs help with everything from cutting her food to wiping her backside. And he might get cold feet and cancel the date.

Yes. You’re telling me that I’m not losing out and that a man like this isn’t worth it. And I’d hope a man I took a liking to would be a bit more open minded and ask questions he may have. But like everyone else in this world, I’m a little scared of being judged on something I haven’t chosen to be before I’ve been able to show them the full deal.

So what do I do? Do I say “I’m blind, which means you’ll have to find me in the café, bar, or whatever. But just in case you’re wondering, I take great care of my appearance, have a profession and I can cook and get around quite independently.”

This could also push him away, because by saying something like that, I’m showing low self-esteem. And men love women who are confident in who they are. Something I am face to face.

A more basic and pressing problem with internet dating, is accessing the dating sites. These sites are full of pictures, adverts and graphics and thus very hard to navigate with a screen reader. The easiest dating sites to use are those catering to the disabled and I’d refuse to sign up to one of them.

So there you have it. I need to identify a website I can use, and I need to stop thinking that people would turn me down because I’m blind. That’s why I prefer meeting men face to face. There’s no moment of revelation and they immediately see that although I can’t see, I’m just a regular woman.

Sex toys are on the government- Turning the wellfare system on its head

We are going to continue on the topic of *not a single story. And today, we are addressing the problems of living in a rich country with a good welfare system.

If you’re sick long term, you get sick pay. If you’re pregnant, you get a year off after the baby is born. Can’t get a place for your child in a kindergarten? No problem. You get a support if your child stays at home. Having more kids? You get more money, because you get child support anyway. Need some aid like Braille displays, hearing aids, and a wheel chair? Just send in an application to the government. Need a free sex toy? Find the government application form online. Welcome to Norway!

No, that sex toy thing is real. I know you thought I was joking. So did I when I saw the application form for it as I was looking for an application form for a Victor Reader Stream, which, in case you don’t know, is a talking book and text book player which can record. Very handy for studying.

It all sounds great and it is. I certainly couldn’t afford a Braille display. And what about scree reader licenses? Unlimited secretarial support?So expensive! With regards to vibrators, I’d say they are in the affordable price range. So I don’t know what the government is playing at.

I’m grateful to live in a place where this type of support is available. But there is a flipside to living in this great welfare system. And it’s ugly.

I am due to finish my masters degree in November of this year. After that, the idea is that I’ll be working. I’m young, fit and have no excuse whatsoever not to work. I want to work! I was casually talking about this with another blind friend of mine. A girl who is doing her PHD and who has been through several rounds of getting a job. Like me, she is highly qualified and able to work.

“If I were you, I would apply to NAV for a placement,” she said. NAV being the state body responsible for all the good help Norwegians receive. The advice was well meant, but it made me reflect on the sorry attitude of this rich country I’m born in.

The idea of such a placement is that NAV gets you a job, hopefully in the field of your qualification, and pay for your salary. In my case, this could for instance mean that I got a job in a national newspaper or with the NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Company. And instead of them paying my salary, they would be paid to have me working for them by NAV, who would also pay me.

You can choose to see this situation from many different angles. You could choose to see it as a positive way to prove yourself to a mainstream employer, who may, when your placement is over, employ you. Or a way to not be unemployed. But to me, the placement arrangement has more negative than positive aspects to it.

Firstly, I think it places the disabled person looking for work in a position of charity and gratitude. I’d be grateful to be taken on by a national newspaper, as would any self-respecting journalist, but being employed on the terms that it’s not really them employing me, but NAV placing me there is a different thing entirely.

Then, there is the proof aspect. I’ve written before about feeling that I, as a blind person, constantly need to prove myself to be as good and better than sighted journalists. If I was taken on as a placement employee, I would feel twice the pressure to prove myself so that the newspaper would take me off the placement and start paying me themselves, making me equal to the other employees. Journalism is a tough field where one constantly has to stay on top of the game to get the good jobs and gigs. And the added pressure would probably have me cracking at some point. It also doesn’t help that certain Norwegian editors have come out and said that disabled people can’t be journalists.

The placement arrangement could help change bad attitudes to disabled peoples by employers, but it’s easy for an employer not to take you seriously if they know you’re just there for a time and that you’re not even paid by them. Accepting a placement on those terms for me at least, would be equal to shitting on my professional reputation and qualification. Pardon my French.

I am not the only one sharing the above mentioned sentiments. I was discussing this with my fully sighted cousin yesterday who has been looking for a job for a long time. She finally found one, but it has taken her long, and she has not received the help needed by NAV in the form of job seekers allowance. She’s lived abroad for a few years and has worked. She’s even worked in Norway and paid taxes, but to no avail.
Acquiring the job she has now, was also not easy. Her employer wouldn’t employ her until she felt she could trust her because her previous employees had worked there for a short while, only to start claiming sick pay from NAV. They did not, according to this employer, seem sick.

I myself know people who are receiving sick pay and who’re not sick. I have also heard of people pretending to have lots of children to receive more money. And it has gone so far, that a term (å nave) translated as to NAV, has made it into the dictionary. This means to simply claim benefits for a time while enjoying life.

So there you have it. The welfare system that does help those in needs sometimes refuses to help others in need and fork out for some who doesn’t need help. The welfare system that give employers excuses not to employ disabled people who would be a great boost to the economy, and could as such, improve the welfare system so that the type of help needed, would be more widely available.

I for one, is adamant to try and make it a freelance writer and set up my own business. I want to keep my integrity as far as I can. Something I feel the Norwegian welfare system is not able to help me keep at present.

I do hope that one day, the system bwill be reformed so that those who have life long disabilities don’t have to prove every so often that they still have a missing legg (also a real example). That employment support, such as secretarial and assistive grants are being more focused on rather than placements for people who can and want to work and making it just that little harder for every Tom, Dick and Harry to claim to be sick without rigorous proof from a qualified doctor. But then, the doctors are writing out those sick notes, so perhaps they too need to be sanctioned if they can be proved to do favours for people who just need time off because they want it. I don’t know. And I’m not a politician for a reason.