An open letter to the man who called me a ‘window licker’

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Dear ‘John’,

I don’t even know your name but I really wanted to write to you and tell you how I felt after our conversation last night. Your use of the words ‘window licker’ to describe my wife and I was deeply, deeply hurtful. So much so, that hours after you use those words, I’m still sitting here and thinking about them. That’s not right.

Let me tell you about my wife and I. After all, it’s only fair you know about the people you judged in that way. My wife is called Fran. She has a first class degree.

Fran has also studied disability issues in her masters (she has 2 degrees) so she understood how awful that term is. It’s use implies that we shouldn’t be out and about and living our life in the independent way we try to. It is actually one of the first times Fran has been out of the house in two years to a social event as she’s been having really bad problems with her foot. So it’s a knock for her at an unfortunate time. 

Despite that, she’s still been able to make a difference for other disabled people. She works to do that every day. She doesn’t normally let things like last night impact on her, but she was visibly shaken after last night.  

As for me. Thankfully I didn’t really take in what you said until after the event. As for me. I might seem a confident person, and I am in lots of ways. Remarks like yours however, have a lingering, corrosive effect on my confidence. Friends have contacted me since I shared what you said to us saying they would have been devastated by that remark. Others have said to report it to police as a hate crime.

I’ve not yet. Instead I contacted the festival and praised them for the good things they do. I also offered to work with them in the future to make sure that people understand the damaging effect that words like that can do. Hopefully, that’s a way that a postive outcome can come from a really horrible situation.

The words you use, and the implication that we shouldn’t be out and about, is also upsetting. Imagine if someone said that to you. How would you feel. Now imagine it’s made harder because you have a disability. Now how would you feel? Imagine that was your mum or sister or brother and someone said that to them. 

I wonder if you’ve thought about what you said again last night. Whether you have or not, I hope that this letter helps you to think about the power of language and your actions.

Above all, please don’t judge a book by its cover. Each person you see is a complex combination of things that you can’t dismiss with the kind of words you use. Think about the person you impact upon, disabled or otherwise. 

I hope that nobody subjects you to the kind of thing I’ve described. Hopefully you’ll even take this as a moment to reflect and think twice. 

Enjoy the rest of your festival, as we will try to, and treat others as you’d like to be treated.

Best Wishes,


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About the Author

Chris Whitaker was born and grew up in Cheshire, arriving in the world with cerebral palsy after a complex childbirth. Apparently, he was lucky to be here at all and has tried to make the most of life ever since! Chris has worked in the third sector for a few years now and is also a charity trustee. Making a positive difference every day is what drives him and he gets to see the impact the third sector makes. Chris has also been able to use his own lived experience as a disabled person to make an input into his working life.

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Ordinary Hopes - August 15, 2016 Reply

I love your positive attitude to creating change. Working with them will get the message to a much wider future audience.

2016: The Year I found my voice – Personally Speaking Out - December 23, 2016 Reply

[…] with the blog hitting the headlines after events at the Cambridge Folk Festival and a subsequent open letter.  Surprisingly, I’ve not bought tickets to the Folk Festival this year!  I hope that the […]

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