Feminist Aspie

Does what it says on the tin.

Human vulnerability doesn’t make you subhuman

Sorry again for not being around very much – I’ve finally got something vaguely resembling a routine, and for the foreseeable future (i.e. until Christmas) it looks like my weekly blog post will be published on Wednesday evenings. I’m mainly telling you this in order to peer-pressure myself into actually publishing a blog post every week.


I’m one month into my year abroad, and it’s been absolutely incredible, but absolutely exhausting too. I’ve had to re-adapt to a different kind of unfamiliar-and-overwhelming environment, and I’m finally starting to get there – I’ve got most of the administrative stuff done, I’ve getting the hang of Super-Serious-Grown-Up-Having-To-Look-After-Myself-University-Mode again, and I’m starting to get the hang of studying here too. But I’m not there yet. Never mind being there with leftover energy to spend on other things. There are lots of old and new habits that I want to get (back) into, just as soon as I can fit it into my head on top of everything else, and until then I’ll feel bad about them. Above all, I feel bad for not blogging enough.

Sometimes, I’ve briefly delved into Twitter to read a few things and internally get angry at the world – notably this fantastic article by Reni Eddo-Lodge on that pervasive housework-imbalance issue which you should go and read. Well, go on then. This post will still be here when you’re done. That is precisely the sort of thing that usually sends me running to a blank WordPress page in frustration, and because ultimately I hadn’t – because ultimately I couldn’t – I felt like I was being a bad feminist for neglecting the blog, especially as I still haven’t worked out where and how I can do offline feminist stuff around here. And then I realised that, aside from the internalised ableism in that thought process, the patriarchy’s existence is obviously not due to my failure to blog about it.

Anyway, this all got me thinking about how any vulnerability shown by one woman is perceived as evidence of some inherent weakness in all, and this often leaves us ashamed to be anything less than Wonder Woman as opposed to the human beings that we are.

(Image from XKCD)

I’ve felt guilty for all the times I’ve felt overwhelmed, helpless and in need of a rescue (TARDIS not necessary but highly encouraged), because it feels like the stereotypical damsel in distress which I would then be assumed to be at all times. I’ve felt guilty for all the times I’ve relied on others, just in case it’s taken as evidence of some innate inability to be independent. I’ve felt guilty for all the times I’ve been, in hindsight, overly emotional. I’ve felt guilty for making silly mistakes. I’ve felt guilty for being absolutely awful at sports. I’ve felt guilty for liking stereotypically “girly” things. You get the idea. I’m sure I’m not alone.

And we shouldn’t feel guilty. Firstly, men are not seen as a hive mind of clones where any random individual represents the whole, so why should we be seen as such? Secondly, these stereotypes have been imposed on us; we did not create them, and the onus should not be on us to eliminate them. Thirdly, the problem with current gender stereotypes isn’t just that women are seen as perpetually vulnerable when of course that isn’t true; that vulnerability is also seen as an awful thing because it is associated with women.

In fact, as humans, we all have moments of weakness. We all occasionally need a helping hand. We’re human. We’re vulnerable. At the moment, it feels like men struggle to admit this for fear of the backlash of contradicting gender stereotypes, and women struggle to admit this for fear of the backlash of reinforcing them. Neither is healthy.

You’re allowed to be human, and have human emotions. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad feminist.

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Abroad Whilst Autistic: A few personal observations

For the past month or so, I’ve basically been non-existent on here. This is because, well, I’m now on my year abroad with uni. Obviously I’d rather keep the details sketchy, but I’m in France, I’ve been here for two weeks, I’m studying here, I’m part of a decent-sized group of people from my university back home, and we’ve also befriended a few people living in our building from another UK university. And while I’m fairly settled now, it’s been a really bumpy ride. Anyway, I thought I’d share a few autism-related things I’d noticed along the way. These are, of course, my personal experiences (and I’d love to hear some different ones), so your mileage may vary.

  • I don’t seem to speak French as well as the others – not because of the French, but because of the speaking. As someone who can usually make words happen at least to some extent back home, I forget how frustrating it is when you can’t. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much of the introductory lectures I understand (although, having said that, they are specifically aimed at international students), and a lot of the time, I can say what I need to. Where things start going wrong is in exactly the same areas where I have problems even in my own language. At home, sometimes I can be thrown off by any sort of uncertainty over what I need to say (which means I can’t script before hand), an unexpected turn in the conversation, or nerves; this, at worst, leads to some mildly-incoherent babbling with frequent interjections of “sorry”. However, I don’t currently have any French equivalent for “mildly incoherent babbling” so when the same situations occur here, what happens instead is a terrified silence, occasionally followed by a frustrated yelp when the other person starts speaking English instead because, nine times out of ten, that wasn’t the problem, and by that point I’m panicking and a friend ends up intervening anyway. Hence why one person who, by chance, managed to get into the same bank appointment as me ended up carrying the whole thing, to the extent that the person dealing with us expressly wondered a.) how it could be possible that we arrived on the same day and b.) why I was so scared of her. Hence why, the first time we went to a student restaurant for lunch, I went completely blank and screamed when the person behind the counter started trying out other languages. Hence why I feel like I’m hiding constantly behind the big group, and then feel awful for it.
  • Echolalia is through the roof – and almost exclusively in French. Yep, I think I finally truly understand the various things I’ve heard about autistic people (usually children) learning speech through echolalia. There’s even more of it on nights out, probably because there’s a point where everyone else is too drunk to notice and I let my guard down. It currently mostly consists of: things I’ve read on signs, advertisements etc.; something a friend has just said in French; the French translation of something simple a friend has just said in English; and the French translation of something simple that I’ve just thought (not sure if that last one counts?). When I’m not talking to an actual person (and under massive pressure to actually get it right), I love playing with the language.
  • OVERLOAD, OVERLOAD EVERYWHERE. My ability to deal with stuff is currently little to none. Relatively speaking, I haven’t been here very long, and while I feel much more settled now than I did last week, I still feel like I’m constantly miles away from my comfort zone (282 miles, to be exact), there are a million background tasks running under the name “DEAL WITH THIS”, and that obviously takes its toll. So at the moment, I’m freaking out over tiny little things, and adult-life-stuff is even more of a mountain to climb than normal. At uni back home, the “making food happen” thing often falls apart at the cooking stage; here, it’s falling apart at the buying-food stage, although in the long run the food thing in particular has actually been less of an issue because we’ve all been chipping in and having dinner together most nights.
  • In short, it’s currently much more massively obvious than usual that I’m not neurotypical. At least to my friends – the random people I encounter once throughout daily life in shops etc. probably just assume I don’t understand French, I guess. Amongst my friends here, some of them know I’m autistic but some don’t (and the people who I’ve only met here certainly don’t, unless they’ve worked it out for themselves) so at some point I’m going to do some sort of express “hey, in case you were wondering, I’m autistic, which explains this and this and this…” Facebook post – if anyone knows of any quick, simple and not-awful Autism 101 online resources, I’d be grateful if you could recommend some for this purpose! Aside from that, I’m thinking about making a written disclosure card like those produced by Autistic Hoya, but obviously in French; or, at the very least, sitting down one day and putting together relevant French scripts which don’t expressly disclose my autism but can be used to let people know what I’m struggling with and what, if anything, can be done about it.
  • I need to learn to adapt all over again. This will take time. It’s nothing new. In the meantime, I need to get it into my head that neurodiversity is great, I’m okay just the way I am, and it’s. I know this, on paper, but in practice it’s harder.
  • People are often much more understanding and supportive than I give them credit for. I’m lucky enough to have the support of a great bunch of people, most of whom I already knew from uni, and over the past couple of weeks they’ve gradually made it very clear that I should go knock on somebody’s door if I panic, I shouldn’t feel pressured to go out every time they do, and generally that they’re not massively judging me for having the audacity to be autistic in their presence. Over the years I’ve developed a tendency to assume that people are going to be awful, but it turns out that isn’t always the case.
  • Despite doubts over the summer, I don’t regret my decision to do the year abroad at all.
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“And now, for a limited time only, we’re going to treat you like full human beings!”

If you’ve vaguely been able to access the internet in the past couple of months, you’ll probably have heard that, following pressure from consumers including an online petition, Lego decided to acknowledge that female scientists exist and that more generally women can do things other than shopping. Shocking, I know. [sarcasm] Now, I’d like to note at this point that representation isn’t solely a Lego problem; be it on TV, in film, in books and comics, in video games, in toys like Lego, everywhere, the only people that seem to be given constant and thorough representation are white, abled, cis, heterosexual men. Of course, the rest of us do feature to various extents, but only within narrow, same-y stereotypes and often sidelined into supporting roles. And if there is any decent, diverse, multi-dimensional representation of anyone else, it’s a special exception that’s supposed to magically fix everything. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read the question “why are there no characters in [insert groups here]” answered with “BUT WHAT ABOUT [insert one or two characters in that group here]“. And if you’re in more than one marginalised group, the problem becomes much, much worse. Sometimes, for instance, people will say something like “seriously, what do you want, a disabled lesbian of colour?” and it’s very telling that the very idea of this is seen as ridiculous. It shouldn’t be, it should be normal, because (for example) disabled lesbians of colour are real and exist, and should therefore be portrayed as such.

Why is it that one fairly narrow group of people can be represented literally everywhere as a “normal” default, whilst everyone else is “other” and has to make do with one or two exceptional characters because any more than that is “overkill” or “political correctness gone too far”?

Anyway, back to Lego’s line of female scientists. Amidst the fantastic response, and resulting publicity and sales, to acknowledging that female scientists exist and that women can do things other than shopping, Lego neglected to mention that, as brilliantly reported here by Margot Magowan, the set was only ever intended to be a limited edition. I tweeted that article the other day, and I don’t know what’s happened to cause this but yesterday it seemed to take off – thanks for all the replies, and I’m really sorry I neglected my Twitter account for too long to properly go through them all! However, I noticed quite a few tweets pointing out that Lego sets and the like are created and discontinued all the time, with the implication that, as this doesn’t seem to be deliberate, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Well, it is a big deal. Because women are not limited edition; women are not special exceptions.

Ideally, all genders would be represented in diverse roles on a level playing field, and when a female-centred set is discontinued, it wouldn’t be an issue because there would be loads of others on the market, and it’s almost certain to be replaced eventually. Instead, the default is male, which is why the line of female scientists was received so well in the first place, and this is why discontinuing the set is a big deal; it’s discontinuing one of the very few positive examples of female representation. Yes, this Lego set was part of a fan competition and was therefore always intended to be limited edition, but that doesn’t make it okay either. Firstly, funnily enough the “limited edition” part was swept under the carpet when everyone was singing Lego’s praises for actually acknowledging women exist. Secondly, women shouldn’t have to rely on fan-competition input to be positive represented in just one non-stereotyped set. As I said above, this set being limited edition wouldn’t be a problem if women were given decent representation equal to that of men in the first place.

Having positive representation of women and other marginalised groups only as limited edition, only on special occasions, furthers the idea of anyone but white abled cis heterosexual men as an exception from the (white, abled, cis, heterosexual, male) “norm”. Taking the credit for such great representation whilst planning to quietly remove it furthers the idea that such sporadic, limited, occasional positive representation is enough. It isn’t. It really isn’t.

Men should not be default. Women should not be an occasional limited edition rarity.

A petition to reinstate the aforementioned Lego set can be found here.

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Unpacking The Fandom Police

Here we go again: about two weeks from now, I will be incessantly bouncing off the walls because of the impending new series of Doctor Who… Actually, I’m doing that already. Oh dear. It’s going to be a long couple of weeks. Anyway, since I started this blog, there’s been a recurring pattern of “exciting Doctor Who thing happens —> I see loads of fandom gatekeeping —> I rant about it on here” and, as I ended up reading Facebook comments this morning, this is no exception. So, let’s get rid of a few elitist myths about fandoms so we can all get back to, you know, enjoying them.

1.) You’re not obliged to toe a party line. Love a series, episode, character, film, scene, album, song… aspect of the fandom that everyone else hates? Or vice versa? Fine. Fandoms don’t have to be hive minds. (We have Daleks for that.) It doesn’t mean you’re not a real fan, or that you’re somehow less intelligent as many fandom elitists like to imply, or that you’re wrong. Basically, you’re allowed to enjoy things, or not.

2a.) You’re entitled to your opinion – and others are entitled to criticise it. Contrary to popular belief, you’re not the only one entitled to an opinion. More generally, this line of thinking is often used to defend bigotry; for example, someone may justify their homophobic view with “free speech, I’m entitled to my opinion”, then when it’s called out dismiss the criticism as an attack because “free speech, I’m entitled to my opinion”. This happens pretty much everywhere, including within fandoms. Also, see point 1, we’re not Daleks, etc. 2b.) Some opinions are more potentially harmful than others. Basically, there’s a difference between “actually, I thought that album was okay” and “actually, I thought that sexist joke was okay”; only one of those may contribute to the perpetuation of an existing oppression.

3a.) You’re allowed to like problematic media. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be allowed to like anything. The “fans vs feminists” divide isn’t real – you can be both! 3b.) You’re allowed to NOT like problematic media. This doesn’t make you humourless, or a spoilsport, or a killjoy, it just means you don’t want to put up with kyriarchy – and, of course, you shouldn’t have to.

4.) You’re allowed to criticise the media you love. To give a personal example, there have been several occasions when I’ve discussed sexism within Doctor Who and/or the fandom on Twitter, only to be met with the response that I’m picking on it. Apparently, I should be focusing on all of media all at once, but anyway: I talk more about Doctor Who because it’s where I actually know what I’m talking about. I talk more about Doctor Who because, well, I bloody love Doctor Who. That’s why I’m bothering to discuss it. That’s why (for instance) sexist tropes and fandom gatekeeping sadden me. If anything, criticising the media you love is a compliment; it means you believe it could be even better.

5.) You’re allowed to be late to the party. If you’re a fan now, you’re not less of one for not being there from the start. Going back to Doctor Who again (sorry…), us under-50s were all late to the party, many new Who fans haven’t seen any classic Who, and (while I’d thoroughly recommend classic Who) that’s okay.

6.) Mainstream isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Older fans of long-running fandoms such as… you can see where this is going, will remember a time when fandom and geekery were shameful and secretive. Nowadays, this isn’t really the case at all. As a younger fan who doesn’t really remember otherwise, I find it really interesting to hear about all that stuff, but sometimes it does inadvertently veer into “these darn kids are getting something for nothing” and, well, surely that’s only a good thing?

7.) (heavy sarcasm in this one) HUGE REVELATION – You’re allowed to be attracted to characters/actors. Yes, even if you’re *GASP* a woman. Furthermore – and this may sound astonishing to some – it is entirely possible to be attracted to characters without it being the central reason you are a fan. And even if that was the reason you got into the fandom in the first place – does it really matter? Shockingly, you don’t actually have to choose between being attracted to people and appreciating what they do, being attracted to characters and also liking other characters, etc, etc. You can still be a fan. Note how it’s only ever female sexuality which is ridiculed as shallow and used to dismiss women within the fandom (no change there, then). And for the record, you’re also allowed to not bother with any of that.

8.) If you like the thing, you can call yourself a real fan. Seriously. That’s all it entails. You don’t have to buy X pieces of merch, or go to X number of events, or know absolutely everything there is to know about it, or have seen/read/listened to/consumed every last bit of related media that exists, or cosplay, or write fanfic, or read it, or anything else. You’re allowed to get things wrong. You’re even allowed to call the Doctor “Doctor Who” or even “Dr Who” – I mean, the original credits did. It doesn’t matter. You just need to like the thing.

9.) You’re allowed to be a casual fan! You’re allowed to just dip into an episode every so often and not care about missing out. You’re even allowed to just wear the T-shirts without knowing all that much about the band. Yes, really. Doing so doesn’t hurt anybody.

10.) Be wary of false panic about other fans. Again, I’ll stick with what I know for this one. I’ve seen so much OUTRAGE about fans thinking Peter Capaldi is too old… but I haven’t actually seen one person say Peter Capaldi is too old. I’ve seen so much fangirls (and it is always girls, see point 11) for apparently referring to Matt Smith as “the third Doctor”… but I haven’t actually seen a single person do that. I’ve seen several posts angry at fans trying to change the fandom name… but I haven’t seen anyone outside those posts actually doing so. There’s a lot of faux-outrage out there.

11.) Question who benefits from this gatekeeping/elitism and how. Even if “fake fans” existed, they wouldn’t be hurting anyone, so why is there all this fuss? Note how quite a bit of this gatekeeping specifically references “girls”, “teenage girls”, “fangirls”, but note also that even when it doesn’t, it’s often coded as being aimed at women (teenage girls in particular) through references to fandoms seen as female-dominated (One Direction being a popular one) and mocked accordingly. Look into the “fake geek girl” trope, and pay attention to double standards.

12.) I’M SORRY, DID SOMEBODY SAY TWELVE

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The Almost Shutdown

I’m not going to be around this weekend, so I’d planned to just not write a blog post until next week. However, I have time to kill and experiences I’d like to try and make sense of, so here I am!

You know that horrible feeling where you really want to cry but for some reason just can’t make it happen? During intense and/or prolonged sensory overload, I get a very similar feeling, a feeling of “I wish I’d just go into meltdown already.” Both, at least to an extent, seem to me to be based on validation; we’re all constantly pressured to hide our feelings for as long as we can help it, so at least if we reach the point where we genuinely can’t, somebody might take notice and give you the support you need. For those of us who are neurodivergent, the insistence on hiding right up until breaking point is tenfold; we’re taught to lie that we’re okay to avoid inevitably being dismissed as over-reacting or even manipulative, and the tell-tale signs that escape anyway are often ignored or misinterpreted by those around us.

Having said that, both feelings are also based on the need for a release, and the frustration of being denied one by your own resilience.

Regular readers will roll their eyes at this sentence but just to make sure everyone’s up to speed, I don’t handle heatwaves well, which I’ve written about here and, well, generally all over the place on my blog and Twitter. Sorry about that. Anyway, with a lot of avoidance, distraction and then guilt about it later, I’ve so far evaded the threat of a meltdown or a full shutdown, but a couple of days ago I seem to have hit some sort of wall and I’ve been in what I can only describe as a constant state of “almost shutdown” ever since; so, I thought, seeing as I still seem to be thinking clearly enough to write a blog post, I might as well talk about it!

This is the weird part, for me; I feel like I’m in shutdown, but I can still motivate myself to write a blog post; in fact, having been fortunate enough to be invited to contribute to a compilation of tips for working with autistic children (EDIT: that piece has since been published on the AutismPlusLandE website and can be found here), this is realistically the second short blog post I’ve written in 24 hours. I’ve yet again developed an insatiable appetite for music as a distraction, but it seems I now can’t blog and listen to music at the same time because that’s too much input; yet I still can’t help but hear all ongoing conversations, which make me anxious because of the loud intertwining voices and chance of potential conflict. My unscripted verbal ability is very variable, sometimes minimal, but I could go to the shops with my parents this morning without incident, albeit quietly and unenthusiastically, and I even made actual conversation happen with Dad just now. I’ve started to find eating difficult but I know when I need to eat and can make myself do so. Sometimes I feel too alert, really oversensitive and overloaded and I can feel the beginnings of the vibrations of a meltdown or shutdown in my arms, but other times I just feel completely wiped out. I’ve been stimming a lot more overall – pacing around; repeating the same few lines of a song over and over again; agitated hand flapping, shushing to myself and covering my ears when I’m really overloading – but in contrast, other times I’m really lethargic. Frankly I’ve been sleeping much better than the neurotypical people around me in this heat because I’m so massively tired that once I manage to take my mind off it I’m just gone, and that makes me feel so guilty for still feeling as completely drained as I do. Talking is so much more difficult, but thinking – and writing – is almost as clear as usual.

In short, it’s a contradictory mess.

I’m thinking of this almost-shutdown as more of a “safe mode”; I don’t exactly feel brilliant, but if I stop using energy where it isn’t essential, passing for neurotypical and the like, and cut off particularly difficult tasks, I can cope relatively well until the actual problem – sometimes all but forgotten in all this – is resolved. The issue in this case is that there isn’t really a definite end point at which the constantly-overloading-thing will go away, which plays into a bit of a fear I have of being trapped too, plus the nerves and conflict-potential and reduced-ability-to-hide-away-on-my-own of a weekend away always makes me anxious beforehand anyway. At the moment, then, I’m so worried it’s going to ruin this weekend, whether it eventually escalates or not.

I’m not literally having a meltdown right now, clearly, but in terms of coping ability I’m running on empty. Something’s got to give, and if it has to be me then I just wish I’d get on with it, instead of being so so scared of it happening in the wrong place at the wrong time.

…Answers on a postcard please?

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Make Me Scream Your Screams: Why “auties can’t lie” couldn’t be further from the truth

For this week’s blog post title, I was massively torn between the entirety of the lyrics from two Muse songs; so, this is Showbiz, this is Citizen Erased, both really resonate with me for reasons I’ll discuss below, and both are really worth a listen. [SPECIAL INTEREST INTENSIFIES]

- – – – – – -

I never really got the “autistic people can’t lie” stereotype because, I admit it, I think I’m quite a good liar. I mean, I’ve kept this blog hidden from almost everyone I know (I only know of two real-life friends, and one online friend from outside my FeministAspie stuff, who are aware of it, all by choice) for over a year and a half now. In my teens, I used to write song lyrics (in hindsight, pretty awful with a side dish of internalised misogyny) and also kept those hidden. For some reason, in the early stags of a special interest, I tend to keep that hidden too. Then there’s the usual “I’m fine” stuff. Sometimes, I think being autistic actually helps; I’m constantly fidgeting and I never make eye contact anyway, so all the traditional neurotypical-centred “tells” get lost in my usual mannerisms. Autistic Stereotype In “Not Always Absolutely True For Absolutely Everyone” Shocker.

But frankly, that’s all a little bit beside the point. This stereotype particularly bothers me because, for a group of people who are supposed to be unable to lie, we’re very rarely believed.

Autism is, and has always been, defined and discussed almost entirely from the point of view of a neurotypical outsider. We’re seen, not as autistics living in an autism-unfriendly world, but as defective neurotypicals. I’ve essentially always known my diagnosis, yet it wasn’t until I ventured into the autistic community on Tumblr, aged around 16, that I was told sensory issues are an actual real thing. Autism is seen as a social disorder, a behavioural disorder, with no thought for how we experience the world, why we behave the way we do. Hence why stimming is seen as a bad thing, meltdowns are seen as tantrums, and any attempts to avoid or minimise sensory overload are seen as manipulative.

A lot of things held up as almost universally fun, I find overwhelming. Summer. Parties. Summer. Crowds. Summer. People. Summer summer summer summer summer. I’m a giant bundle of sensory overload wrapped in panic wrapped in a very thin layer of “I’m fine, why wouldn’t I be?” because the alternative would be attempting to explain it and getting mocked and ridiculed and told I’m over-reacting. But when I’m overloading like that, I’m, well, not that good a liar; I’m too drained for that. From my point of view at least, my entire tone and body language is a giveaway; not really making much of an attempt to continue conversation, muttering to myself, fingers fluttering, that ubiquitous “sorry!” and an occasional “ugh” noise and a facial expression that’s probably very blank. Most other people, who are supposed to be amazing at picking up non-verbal communication signals, either don’t pick this up at all, or just pick up “she’s being Visibly Neurodivergent and this is A Bad Thing and she needs to stop that”. Most other people, who are supposed to be better than me at really thinking about a person’s motivations and feelings rather than taking their words at literal face value… just take my words, fabricated out of a learned desperation to not be Visibily Neurodivergent, at literal face value.

So I get desperate, I get frustrated, I get really moody and blunt and pushy. It’s not something I’m proud of, I feel awful once I feel safer and calmer, but I feel like I’ve run out of options. Everyone else seems to interpret this as “Well, as you all know, I hate fun, and I don’t have the social skills to be nice and polite and quiet about it, so I’m going to threaten a tantrum because I’m just that manipulative” when the reality is “This is really painful and horrible and I’ve managed to cope with it for this long but now I’m seriously worried I’m going to have a meltdown if I don’t get out to somewhere safe right this second”. For a long time, I even believed the former interpretation myself, and thought myself to be a pretty horrible person for acting in that way.

These problems are constructed, through viewing autism only from the outside, and then used to justify our elimination.
We’ve been taught to put “looking normal” before our own needs. To hide away.
To lie at all times, at all costs.

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My Writing Process: A Blog Tour

I was invited to take part in this blog tour by Kat from Ask an Aspergirl, a blog which mainly discusses autism and generalised anxiety. I’ve related to so many of her posts, and would thoroughly recommend giving the blog a read. Go on. I’ll wait.

Right, now that’s out of the way on to the blog questions:

1) What am I working on?

I blog once a week (although admittedly it’s been fairly erratic) on a blog not-so-imaginatively-titled FeministAspie in which, as the name suggests, I discuss feminism and autism. (Sarcasm: I bet nobody saw that coming). I try and alternate between the two topics each week, but to be honest it often doesn’t quite work like that, and there’s occasionally overlap, such as this post on autism and consent issues. In terms of upcoming posts, next week I’ll probably be discussing the stereotype that autistic people can’t lie and how, thanks to a world which tries at all costs to force us into a neurotypical mould, it often couldn’t be further from the truth; I’d also really like to tackle the sexist imbalance of domestic labour in the near future. Oh, and if this counts for anything, I’m also working on an extended essay for uni at the moment (about feminism – yay!).

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I guess most feminism blogs don’t talk about autism quite so much, and vice versa. Most blogs seem to be much better at posting more often and more consistently, too, so there’s that! I’ve also noticed that I seem to do lists a lot, with almost every sentence being in the same format; I think this habit started when I first wrote about neurotypical privilege back in February 2013 but can also be seen hereherehere and here.

Aside from that, my special interests always seem to end up worming their way into my posts one way or another! Doctor Who is one recurring theme, having been given a post all to itself on several occasions, whilst I occasionally weave song titles or lyrics from special-interest-bands into my post titles (last week’s “The Small Print“? That’s a Muse song…) too. Oh, and I apologise a lot…

3) Why do I write what I do?

I set up this blog at the very end of 2012, having finished my first term at university; on coming home for the Christmas holidays and leaving the uni “bubble” for the first time since arriving in the first place, I grew frustrated with seeing misogyny, amongst other forms of oppression, everywhere but not feeling able to call it out there and then to the relevant people because of all the nerves and being a bit rubbish with words in real life. I started blogging so I could speak out in my own way; if I couldn’t get the message across to whoever I wanted to, at least I could get it to somebody. I later realised the same could apply to ableism and just generally venting about autistic stuff. These days, I’m a little bit better at IRL saying-things, particularly at uni, but I still find this safer space invaluable.

4) How does my writing process work?

If I’m lucky, I’ll have a short “queue” of ideas in my head. For example, three weeks ago I’d been planning all week to blog about the new Pantene advert on apologising, but it was really warm and my head tends to just fixate on that so I ended up writing about that instead, pushing the Pantene post back to the following week. In that time, a spate of high-profile rape and sexual assault cases brought the problem of victim-blaming back to the forefront, and I was invited to take part in this blog tour, so I ended up having my posts planned out three weeks in advance which, if I’m honest, probably hasn’t happened before ever. It’s usually a case of thinking about something at some point during the week, and thinking “hey, I could blog about that at the weekend”.

Once I’ve got a topic, I tend to type out a rough plan. Most of the time, this is just a list of topics on which to spend a paragraph, maybe with a few little sentences or phrases I’ve already thought of. In the “list” style posts, I tend to just bullet point small points to make and then re-order them in a way that flows better. Then it’s just a case of fleshing it out.

Titles often don’t get finalised until I’ve finished the post, or sometimes halfway through – and as I’ve said above, if I can think of a Muse/Bastille reference, I will use it, although as a general rule they tend to be reserved for the less serious, more personal posts.

Next week’s blogger

Next Monday, this blog tour will head over to Heidi at Geeky Scribbles, another autistic woman currently studying Creative Writing at university. There, you’ll find posts on autism, writing, feminism and university life, so please go and pay her a visit! :)

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The Small Print

(Content note: Rape, sexual violence, victim-blaming)

This society purports to be against sexual violence; you’d be very hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t, at least outwardly and on the surface, consider sexual violence to be morally reprehensible.

But not if the survivor was too scared to say no. Or was repeatedly pressured and coerced until they felt like they had no option but to submit. Or if they’ve had a lifetime of being told not to say no directly, to let people down gently, to be nice and polite and compliant. Or if they said no but didn’t say it enough. Or if they didn’t physically fight back, even though doing so is often dangerous and freezing up is the most common response. Or if they didn’t scream and shout and make a fuss and run away afterwards, even though we’re socialised to be as non-confrontational as humanly possible.

Or if they’re unhurt, because then clearly it wasn’t “real” rape. Any signs of getting on with everyday life are proof that it wasn’t “real” rape.

And certainly not if they’ve been drinking, because then they must not remember what happened properly (you know how hysterical women can be) or they’re just regretting sex the next morning. Or if they drink at all, because that’s just irresponsible. Or if the perpetrator was drinking, because surely they can’t be held responsible for their actions.

Or if it happened at night – what was the victim doing, walking alone at that time? I mean, it’s not like she has a life to live or a job to go to (or come home from), is it?

Or if she was was wearing clothing considered revealing or attractive, because wearing that is “asking for it”; it certainly wouldn’t be something silly like staying cool on a hot day, because women dress only for the male gaze. Same goes for make-up, even though women are often pressured and shamed into wearing it.

Or if the survivor would be considered conventionally attractive, because what do they expect? They deserve all the “unwanted attention” they receive.

Or if they’re deemed unattractive; after all, they should be grateful, and anyway, who’d want to touch them?

Or if they’re sexually active and promiscuous, because consent to sex with one person is of course consent to sex with everyone all the time.

Or if they’ve kissed the perpetrator at any point, or even as much as touched them, because consent to that equates to consent to sex with that person all the time. Or if they’ve even talked; that’s just leading them on, even though women are socialised to be tactful and accommodating and just accept that he only wants a nice chat, why are you being such a bitch about it?

Or if they’re in a relationship with the perpetrator, or ever were, because consenting to a relationship is the same as consenting to sex, and consenting to sex once is the same as consenting to sex forever.

Or if they were at work and risked losing their job or reputation if they tried to stop it or report it, because they’re just being selfish for putting their career first.

Or if they’re a sex worker, because it’s their job, right?

Or if they’re a celebrity, because then they’re just making these allegations to further their career, for publicity and attention. Or if the perpetrator is a celebrity, because that also means the survivor just wants publicity and attention – even if they’re anonymous. And accusing famous people of sexual violence is just a witch-hunt, right?

Or if the violence happens so regularly without consequence that it’s just accepted – because women get groped in clubs all the time, and this somehow makes it okay.

Or if the survivor goes through the completely normal process of taking time to realise and accept that what happened to them was a form of sexual violence – if, just after it happened, they told the perpetrator who probably still terrifies them that it wasn’t rape, then they can’t just change their mind.

Or if it happened in the past, because the world was just like that then. Back then we just called it “wandering hands” – we accepted it then, so you have to shut up and accept it now.

Or if it happened recently, because that stuff doesn’t happen anymore.

Or if survivors speak out, because they must be lying, especially given all of the above. False allegations are no higher than for any other crime, but everyone knows people lie about sexual violence, women are liars and the shockingly low conviction rate is just some feminist conspiracy, certainly not a result of any systemic failure of the justice system.

Or if they don’t speak out immediately, because why not? Suddenly we live in a world where survivors are believed, taken seriously, and not made to suffer further abuse, so there’s no reason at all to keep quiet. Unless you’re lying for publicity and attention, of course.

Or if the perpetrator is yet to be convicted in court, because everyone is innocent until proven guilty and that means survivors are liars until proven otherwise. Even though there couldn’t be a conviction without reporting in the first place.

Or if the perpetrator is already convicted, because then the survivor is just jumping on the bandwagon, and they’re selfish for not speaking out sooner. They’re just as bad because they could have prevented future violence. We’d have believed them. Honest.

This society purports to be against sexual violence, until you read the small print. The phrases – sexual violence, assault,  rape – are seen as morally reprehensible, but their definitions are restricted so narrowly that they’re almost impossible to satisfy. Being accused of sexual violence seems to warrant more sympathy than actually suffering it.

This society isn’t against sexual violence at all.

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Sorry to be a spoilsport, but…

(Content warning: gendered slurs)

I’m a bit late to the party with this post. Sorry. Anyway, I thought at some point I should probably give my thoughts on the latest video from Patene’s #ShineStrong campaign, which asks: why are women always apologising?

Now, anyone who’s read one of my posts or comments or looked at my Twitter or, well, spent at least two minutes in real-life conversation with me will understand why this really piqued my interest. I’m sorry. I’m soso sorry. If I were any sorrier, I’d literally be David Tennant. I definitely apologise more than the average woman – I’ve written about this (and why) before – but as with every other woman, patriarchy’s made a big contribution to this. So, I have to admit, it’s great to see the issue being addressed; women apologising for generally existing and taking up space is so commonplace and normal that you often have to get to my extreme level of sorry before it’s even noticed, so it’s normalised and perpetuated constantly.

However – and sorry to rain on your parade – I have a few reservations.

Firstly, there’s the whole “beauty industry co-opting a feminist message to make you buy their products” thing, which was been widely pointed out elsewhere on the release of the first video on sexist labels and double standards. This one, though, creates an additional problem; it almost veers into blaming women for the effects of patriarchy. Overall, the message could be construed as “if only you would just magically overcome an entire lifetime of social conditioning, you’d be taken seriously and treated as a human being”; whilst pointing out the problem is helpful, it’s really not easy to break the habit of a lifetime, especially when doing so could mean you’re seen as pushy, aggressive, selfish, and whatever else apparently warrants the “bitch” label. The general “stop apologising” rhetoric, although very well-meaning, may unwittingly create yet another sexist double bind; if you don’t pre-empt every action or word with “sorry”, you’re a bitch, but if you do, you’re a doormat.

I’m really worried that attitudes towards the unnecessary “sorry” will morph into the attitudes currently surrounding the unnecessary “like” – another speech pattern commonly associated with young women, most likely due to having our self-esteem undermined at every turn (and that merely pausing for thought often results in being interrupted and talked over by men, but I digress), the “like” filler and “upspeaking” are constantly mocked and treated with disdain with absolutely no consideration of why they’re so prevalent. It also reminds me of the fairly recent advert for a product aimed at men, I forget which one, which begins with “Girls – why so many beauty products?” This is another common double bind – women are pressured into using these products to look “normal” and are then mocked for doing so.

Again, I do think the “sorry” conversation is one that needs to be had (although maybe not as a marketing ploy to make us all buy shampoo…), but it’s massively important to go to the source, refer to the structural inequalities, microaggressions and impossible standards that are really behind all this apologising. Otherwise, there’s a real danger of descending into “LOL WOMEN ARE SILLY” mockery whilst absolving the patriarchy/men of all responsibility; indeed, it’s very telling that the advert begins with the question “Why are women always apologising?” when, once you’ve seen the whole thing, it’s apparent that the question is rhetorical, much like the patronising remark about women’s use of beauty products above.

I’m sorry to say this interpretation of the problem falls into the same old traps.

 

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My Weird Heat Thing 101

Yes, I know, I know, I know. I use this blog and its Twitter for whining about the weather all the time. But I’ve just read this by A Quiet Week, about her experiences with summer-onset depression, and it made me realise that I’ve never actually attempted to explain “my weird heat thing”; I really don’t think it’s that, the symptoms really don’t match up (as I said in the comment, its presentation far more closely resembles anxiety, and I don’t have any problems with light in its own right) but it’s definitely more than just “I’m autistic, and heat and humidity overload my senses just like sudden loud noises do”, too. Actually, I’d quite like it explained myself!

So. Let’s start from the beginning, with that sentence as the foundations; I’m autistic, and heat and humidity overloads my senses just like sudden loud noises do. Except more. And for longer. And it’s much more difficult to get away. And I have no idea when it’s going to end or, once it does, when it’s going to come back. And I don’t sleep very well, to boot. In short, heat and humidity overload my senses just like sudden loud noises do, but constantly. As you’d expect, this is exhausting and draining and generally not fun, so once I do feel better (generally after a cool shower), I’d very much like to avoid the cause of it.

So I do that – or I panic about it. Obsessively.

If I can help it, I sort of gravitate towards the shade as a force of habit; if the road is small and minor enough, I’ll cross for it. Think of it as one giant game of “the floor is lava”. If I can’t do that, it’s not necessarily the end of the world, but I’ll worry about it until I can. If I have to go out there at some point, but not at a specific time, I’ll put it off. The same applies to buildings/rooms that I know set me off, although they tend to fit more into “worry and procrastinate” than “avoid”. At the very least, if heat is present, it’s always a consideration. I also end up wearing and re-wearing, washing and re-washing, a fairly small section of my clothes, those which at some point were deemed loose enough and thin enough and breathable enough to not pose a risk. And, as my Twitter followers will know, I don’t ever bloody shut up about it. It takes over.

Then the guilt and self-consciousness and self-loathing start. Because, well, it’s only June. And you’re only in England. It can’t be that bad. I mean, it’s not like it’s actually made you feel ill. You shouldn’t have to psyche yourself up to go to the shop ten minutes from here because it looks really warm outside. You really over-react, because you’re as pathetic as usual. I guess I see it as a sign of weakness that, if it can’t be eliminated, should at least be vaguely hidden. And it’s only going to get worse. Quick, magically make yourself less pathetic before it gets even worse. There’s a lot of frustration about not being able to make the problem go away. I end up feeling trapped, and that makes me panic even more; I’ve also got a bit of a thing about being trapped and/or suffocation, so it’s probably that.

What’s more – and this is where things start getting really weird – that panic arises almost to the same level at the thought of other people being vaguely too warm. Even other people who I know couldn’t physically care any less and are therefore almost definitely fine. Maybe it’s because that means it really is “that bad”, but this also crops up when it’s not currently warm where I am, when I read or hear about it in another place, another time, fiction even. So many things can “set me off”; not in a way that’s at all debilitating, just a few minutes of “okay, I’ll pretend I don’t know that information and deny any feelings related to it” to “AAAAAAGH IT MADE ME THINK ABOUT THE THING AND I’M AWARE OF THE THING QUICK MAKE ME UNTHINK IT I CAN’T UNTHINK IT” followed by “WHY DID THAT FREAK YOU OUT, SILLY PATHETIC BRAIN”. For example, the weather-related bits of the World Cup coverage sometimes set me off. Festival sets sometimes set me off if it looks like a hot day. Other people’s posts about the weather sometimes set me off. Stuff about much more extreme weather elsewhere sometimes sets me off. A particularly Tumblr post during last year’s UK heatwave explaining that yes, America/Australia, it really is that bad because nobody’s used to it, set me off pretty badly; I should probably blacklist the topic, but I have no idea how people would tag it, and it’s really hypocritical of me considering I talk about it all the time. I’ve been set off by a fairly small part of a novel before, too, although that had the effect of making me read to the end of the chapter, so the character in question would be out of there and – in theory – I wouldn’t have to think about it any more. Again, this isn’t really major, but it’s confusing. If it’s just about my own hypersensitivity, which I know isn’t typical of most people, why do I get so obsessively concerned about everybody else?

Not really sure how to conclude this, other than “answers on a postcard please”. Sometimes it feels like it’s such a big deal and it’s inescapable, and other times it feels like a minor inconvenience that sometimes freaks me out a bit too much. At any rate, I guess this post will come in handy for linking to in future posts. Because believe me, this topic’s going to come up again… and again… and again…

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TARDISTIC

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