Choosing to accept yourself is a political act. An act of liberation.” This is the advice self-proclaimed “wobbly” comedian Francesca Martinez shared with her audience at Teviot House.
The talk, organised by Edinburgh University Students’ Assoication and the Disabled Students Campaign, was held as part of a series of events for Disability History Month to celebrate the past and present achivements of disabled people.
Martinez, who has cerebal palsy, took up comedy as an avenue to express herself and “stop people from pitying me”. She emphasised that pity for disabled people stems from ignorance and there is a need for greater inclusiveness to normalise differences.
Despite the current stigmas and challenges faced by people with disabilities, Martinez remains hopeful for positive change, urging young people to use their voice to make a difference.
First known for her appearance on the BBC’s Grange Hill, Martinez has sold out shows in the UK and internationally, as well as appearing on Extras, Russell Howard’s Good News and The Jonathan Ross Show.
The first woman to recieve The Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award at The Edinburgh Festival, she is also an active campaigner on disability issues.
In her highly-acclaimed book What the fuck is normal?, Martinez wanted to share her journey of self-acceptance with others, amidst a constant bombardment of toxic consumerist sentiments that perpetuate inferiority complexes and self-hatred within disabled people.
Recalling her childhood at the talk, she said that she “had no concept that I was disabled” until reaching school.
“People told me that I was wobbly, mentally-r***** and would never lead a normal life. At first, I thought, who would want to lead a normal life? But after time, I allowed myself to be intoxicated by their labelling.”
Francesca’s battle with self-acceptance continued throughout her teenage years, until she slowly began to realise that everyone is different and have things that they cannot do. This epiphany liberated her mind and kick-started her journey to self-loving.
“We are not defined by how our bodies work, nor our physical or intellectual capacities. Instead, we are defined by how much love we get, from others and from ourselves,” she said.
Speaking to The Student, Disabled Students’ Officer Chloë Marvin praised the event, emphasising the importance of striking a balance between raising awareness for persons with disabilities and celebrating their successes.
Shannen, a second-year Product Design student at the University of Edinburgh, found the talk interesting, as Francesca offered very unique perspectives on issues like perceived normalcies in society and how it breeds insecurities.
Zora, who studies Film at the University of Westminster, described the talk as enlightening, and admires Francesca for living up to her messages. She told told The Student, “(Martinez) is a great leader in her own rights.”
Image: Shannen Tioniwar / Photographer