Feminist Aspie

Rising: The death of Reeva Steenkamp, and why misogyny must stop.

Yesterday, the news broke that somebody’s life had been taken. On those facts alone, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would take the side of  the alleged murderer, and the majority of people would frown upon any jokes about the matter.

However, Reeva Steenkamp is a woman, and the man charged with her murder is famous.

Most of the mainstream media has concentrated on this man, which is why I’m deliberately not naming him in this post. The focus is on how “inspirational” he was, the loss to the world of sport, to the fans, to South Africa, to everyone but Reeva Steenkamp, to everyone but the victim. The focus is on how he cried in the dock,  and how he denies the charges so they must be false; I’ve yet to see one article depicting the grief of Reeva’s loved ones, her family, her friends. The focus is on the possibility that he thought Reeva was an intruder; never on the previous “incidents of a domestic nature” because cases of violence against women are virtually always referred to as “isolated incidents”.

As for Reeva Steenkamp herself? It wasn’t until late yesterday afternoon that I even learned her name; even now, where her name is used, it’s mentioned once before shifting the focus back to the alleged perpetrator. Usually, Reeva is simply referred to as “girlfriend”; a victim with no name, the property of the man believed to have killed her. If her own life is looked into, the furthest the media get is “model”, accompanied by large pictures of her in a bikini.

The front page of today’s Sun, which I won’t link to, has been doing the rounds on Twitter for almost 24 hours. The headline is “3 shots. Screams. Silence.”; the remainder of the front page is taken up by a picture of Reeva Steenkamp in a bikini. The usual topless “Page 3 girl” was absent so Reeva was seen as a replacement, to be used for sexual gratification; also, I suspect The Sun are aware of the current debate surrounding the No More Page  3 campaign and have used this as a divide-and-rule exercise. The Daily Star uses a similar bikini shot, with the headline “Blade Runner Shoots Lover Dead”. Again, note that Reeva Steenkamp is referred to simply as “lover” whilst her alleged killer is referred to by a sports nickname. In summary, then, whilst the defendant is still portrayed as a sporting great and a national hero, his victim is nameless, an add-on to her boyfriend, a piece of meat to desire, an object.

I’ve read a few tweets pointing out that Reeva was a model, and claiming that the pictures just show her doing her job, which would be a good argument if murder victims were always shown doing their jobs. If Reeva had been, for instance, a librarian, would The Sun depict her putting a book on a shelf? If she was a shopkeeper, would there be a picture of her at a till? If she had worked as a surgeon, would they have used a picture of her fully covered by green overalls? As it happens, though, Reeva Steenkamp was a model; in addition, she campaigned against gender-based violence, she was scheduled to give a speech to students in Johannesburg, and she was a law graduate.

Personally, that last part struck a chord. Law graduate. All going well, that’s me in a few years. It could have been me. It could have been any woman, just because they are women; abused, killed, objectified even in death, the butt of jokes about “the worst Valentine’s Day surprise ever” whilst their partners are virtually celebrated. And it’s happening, right now, to women everywhere. If the man accused of murdering Reeva Steenkamp didn’t happen to be famous, none of us would know about her murder at all.

Yesterday, the One Billion Rising movement swept across the globe, and I am proud to have participated. Together, we showed the world that the systemic violence against women is a serious problem that cannot and should not be allowed to continue. Now, we have to turn that affirmation into real action. Reeva Steenkamp’s death must not be in vain.

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I’m Not Sick: A rant about neurotypical privilege.

Blogger’s Note, written 28/6/2015: Wow. This post is getting a LOT of traffic. It seems to be fairly high up on Google searches for “neurotypical privilege”, and last night it was posted on various social media sites by the wonderful Autistic Self Advocacy Network and my stats have exploded and it’s scary and wonderful. Thank you so much! I wrote this almost two and a half years ago, when I’d only been blogging for a couple of months, so apologies if the wording isn’t perfect. I absolutely stand by everything I’ve written here, but that might not necessarily apply to all my other really old posts that may appear near this one; I’ve learned so much since I started this blog, and I’m so grateful to those of you who have helped me on that journey. If you’re new, which you probably are, you might be interested in checking out my more recent posts! In particular, because I’m conscious that people might come here looking for a full explanation of neurotypical privilege, I feel like I should point out that this post is based on my experiences as an autistic person specifically, and whilst autistic activists coined the terms of the neurodiversity movement, there is far far more to neurodiversity (and neurotypical privilege) than just autism. As you can probably tell, I lost track of replying to comments on this page a looooooong time ago, but I’m still reading and I really do appreciate your feedback. Finally, sorry about the big Buzz Lightyear thumbnails on social media – it was meant to only be a temporary avatar, honest… Okay, take it away, younger self!


I am autistic, and I’m sick of neurotypical privilege.

I’m sick of hearing that I and others like me can’t live a full life. We can, and we do. We just need a little help sometimes.

I’m sick of being told my experience isn’t real, that I’m just an attention-seeker or a special snowflake, or having those accusations directed at my parents.

I’m sick of the myth that vaccines cause autism. And even if that were true, I’m sick of people avoiding vaccinating their children because they’d rather they get ill or even die than be like me.

I’m sick of autism being compared to cancer and AIDS. The latter two are diseases which can and do kill. Autism is not.

I’m sick of hearing that autism is an “epidemic”. The reason that more people are diagnosed with autism now is that there is so much more awareness regarding autism. The numbers will probably continue to increase for a while, for that reason.

I’m sick of being told I have to pass for neurotypical to be liked and accepted by my peers. I have a great circle of friends who are really understanding and supportive. If  people judge me for not being neurotypical, that says more about them than it does about me.

I’m sick of hearing that stimming is a bad thing. If it’s not hurting anybody, I don’t see what the problem is. And if rocking and flapping and twitching is what’s going to stop me having a meltdown, that’s what I’ll do. I’m sick of being told in one breath that you have to learn to cope and in the next breath that you can’t do that to cope.

I’m sick of being told not to scream after I’ve screamed at a sudden loud bang. Emphasis on the word sudden. It’s not like I thought about it and made a conscious choice to scream.

I’m sick of the people around me saying “Stop that, it’s embarrassing” or “That must really annoy your friends” when it doesn’t. I’m especially sick of that under the guise of “We’re used to you, but other people…” when they seem to have more of a problem with it than other people.

I’m sick of all this driving me to a meltdown and then being told that that’s embarassing too.

I’m sick of “quiet hands”.

I’m sick of most of the “treatment” for autism being based on making people on the spectrum pass for neurotypical, rather than social skills or advocacy or something else that might actually solve some problems. I’m sick of living in a society in which the most important thing, above all else, is to comply.

I’m sick of conditioned compliance.

I’m sick of literally greeting people with apologies because of the constant fear that I’m screwing up, that I don’t know how to comply. Everyone who knows me is sick of it, too.

I’m sick of struggling to make minor decisions in public (like what to order for food) because there’s only one right answer, only one way to comply, and I’m sick of not believing people (at the time) when they tell me they really don’t mind what I choose. Again, everyone who knows me is sick of it. Everyone is sick of conditioned compliance, so it seems.

I’m sick of being spoken for.

I’m sick of all the media, the panels, all the publicity surrounding the autistic spectrum focusing on people who aren’t actually on the spectrum – the family, the friends, the “experts”, everyone but the person who knows what it’s like. I don’t want to attack all those people – they’re usually well-meaning and really want to help, and please keep fighting the good fight – but seriously, an all-male panel discussing sexism clearly isn’t a good idea, and I’m sick of people not seeing that an all-neurotypical panel discussing autism isn’t a good idea either. Especially when they don’t listen to people who are actually on the spectrum

I’m sick of not being listened to because I don’t have a child or another relative on the spectrum. am autistic. Is that not enough?

I’m sick of being treated like a child.

I’m sick of people telling me I’m “not really autistic” because I’m not like another autistic person they know. It’s called a spectrum for a reason. This counts double when they’re a child; if I’m a lot older than them, of course I’m going to be more able with some aspects of life, autism or no autism. Nowadays, I rarely have public meltdowns and I can follow the major social rules (e.g. personal space), but I’m sick of people assuming this also applies to my childhood. It doesn’t.

I’m especially sick of the above when the person telling me I’m “not autistic enough” isn’t on the spectrum themselves. How is it logical that I’m “not autistic enough” to know what I’m talking about, but you’re qualified when you’re not autistic at all?

I’m sick of functioning labels and the assumptions they carry with them.

I’m sick of the assumption that people who are verbal are “high-functioning” and people who are non-verbal are “low-functioning”.

I’m sick of people on the spectrum being told they’re either too “high-functioning” to know what they’re talking about, or too “low-functioning” to know what they’re talking about.

I’m sick of worrying that people won’t understand my needs because I’m apparently “high-functioning”. Similarly, I’m sick of the potential of other people on the spectrum being ignored because they’re apparently “low-functioning”.

I’m sick of being told that Asperger’s syndrome isn’t “really autism”. I’d imagine that people with PDD-NOS are sick of being told the same about that.

I’m sick of the constant thought that one day, there might be a pill or an injection that could wipe out people like me, that could turn me into the norm, that could make me comply, that wouldn’t care that most of my personality is eradicated along with it.

I’m sick of being told I’m selfish for not wanting such a cure, and that the people telling me I do need a cure are somehow not selfish.

Autism isn’t a sickness. Neurotypical privilege is.

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I need feminism because I’m not an immature 5-year-old.

At school, when I was 4 or 5, there would be huge lines of girls linking arms and skipping around the playground chanting “No boys allowed!”, and vice versa. I’d imagine that if a teacher had said “Can’t we all get along?”, they would have received confused stares. Sadly, although I’ve left school, I still see this situation all around me.

In the kyriarchy, gender is binary. In the kyriarchy, we’re all supposed to live as two teams and compete in the “battle of the sexes”. In the kyriarchy, so it seems, there can be only one winner. Throughout history, this “winner” has been men, although rigid gender stereotypes have been created for both sexes. That’s why the feminist movement developed. Feminism is the struggle for an alien concept to the kyriarchy – equality. And we’re not done yet. The patriarchy continues to cause so many problems, as demonstrated this week by OUSU WomCam’s “Who Needs Feminism?” campaign, in which over 470 pictures were taken, in various Oxford locations, highlighting why feminism is still relevant.

However, this is the kyriarchy, and the kyriarchy doesn’t know what “equality” means, and it certainly doesn’t know what feminism means. According the the kyriarchy, such a campaign must be misandric (even though at least 1/3 of the pictures are of men) because that’s what the kyriarchy does; it uses divide-and-rule. The kyriarchy thinks feminists are incapable of seeing how stereotypes affect men. The kyriachy sees feminist campaigns as “girls are better than booooooys!” playground chants, and the kyriarchy chants back.

Enter the #INeedMasculismBecause hashtag. Thankfully, it quickly filled up with parody tweets, but there were some genuine tweets in there, which have been listed and responded to in this brilliant post by Flightrisker. Most of the arguments are either statistically incorrect or just plain wrong (I’ve never seen a feminist campaign for all men to pay on dates. Ever.), and all are based on the typical right-wing media view that feminism is about female superiority. Just to clarify, it isn’t.

Here’s an example; the one true problem that kept cropping up in the hashtag was that mothers disproportionately gain custody of children in divorce cases. Think about this:

  • Mothers disproportionately gain custody of children because childcare is still seen as a woman’s job.
  • Childcare is seen as a woman’s job because of gender stereotypes.
  • Gender stereotypes are enforced by the patriarchy.
  • Therefore, mothers disproportionately gain custody of children due to the patriarchy.
  • The struggle against the patriarchy is feminism.
  • The #INeedMasculismBecause hashtag is a struggle against feminism, and therefore takes the side of the patriarchy.
  • Therefore, this hashtag is part of the problem.

The same could also apply to the idea that men always have to pay for dates.

As for the idea that feminists want special treatment for women – as I’ve already said, that’s not how it works. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, women and men are not two alien tribes who constantly play tug-of-war to see who’s better. However, many aspects of society gives special treatment to men; how many all-male speaking panels do you see or hear about compared to all-female panels? All-male bands and all-female bands? How many films and TV shows pass the Bechedel Test, and how many would do so if the sexes were reversed? It’s gone on for so long that most people, regardless of gender, just don’t notice anymore. This is the norm. So, when any attempt at equality is made, or at least campaigned for, suddenly it’s SPECIAL TREATMENT and WHAT ABOUT THE MEN and MISANDRY and all sorts of myths about feminism.

I am proud to call myself a feminist, because feminists have always fought for equality; the whole “battle of the sexes” thing is just plain immature, and oppressive to everyone. People are not just pawns in a huge sexist game where everyone thinks that their team is best. To quote my school days again: It’s not faaaaaaaaaiiir, and I’m not playing anymooooooooore!

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“I before E”: Stereotypes and self-fulfilling prophecies

“I before E; except when you run a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbour”

Personally, I’ve always found the “I before E, except after C” rule rather odd. I mean, how many exceptions do there have to be before it’s admitted that a rule isn’t quite that straightforward? Having said that, when it comes to implementing rigid rules that don’t actually work, the kyriarchy has a lot to answer for.

“Real women have curves.” “Real men play with tanks.” “Real women don’t put out on the first date.” “If you don’t like football, then you’re not a real man.” Have a quick scroll through Facebook, Pinterest or basically any social networking website of your choice, and you’ll see so many stereotypes like this. Worst of all, there’s the implication that if you don’t fit the stereotype, apparently you’re not a “real” wo/man.

This, obviously, is completely ridiculous. If you identify as a certain gender, congratulations, you’re a part of that gender. That’s all you have to do. Whether or not you look or act in a certain way, or have/lack certain interests, has absolutely nothing to do with it. However, the implication that it does is everywhere. Women and girls who don’t fit the “feminine” stereotype are called “tomboys” or “not really a girly girl” (how does that even make sense?) whereas men and boys who don’t fit the “masculine” stereotype are called “girls” which, in the patriarchy, is a derogatory term. And homophobia, heteronormativism, cissexism and transphobia are also rife. (Seriously, spellcheck? Transphobia isn’t a word? Really?!) In other words, if you are a certain gender and you don’t do as the kyriarchy tells you concerning your gender, you’re not a “real” member of that gender, the implication being that you’re fake.

It’s not just gender, either. If you haven’t seen it already, the #heardwhilstdisabled Twitter hashtag is a must-read; amongst the stories of shocking ableism, there is a noticeably high proportion of people who have been told they’re “not really disabled”. Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told I can’t be autistic. My parents had real problems getting me an Asperger’s diagnosis because I was doing well academically, for instance. According to most other people around me, I’m “not that autistic” because I am verbal and relatively independent. I’ve even seen and heard “high functioning Asperger’s” being deemed “not really autistic” a few times.. (For more information on why the use of functioning labels to describe autism is problematic, see this post “When Autistics Grade Other Autistics” by Amy Sequenzia)

So, if you don’t fit the stereotypes society expects of you, your experiences are questioned. What’s more, the stereotypes fuel themselves, to the benefit of the kyriarchy, For instance, let’s use the stereotype that all women love shoe shopping. If I were to object to this, I would probably be referred to as “boyish” or “not a girly girl” or something. As a result, the only “real women” in the eyes of the person using the stereotype are those who, in fact, do love shoe shopping. Therefore, all “real women” love shoe shopping. In short, it’s selective bias.

If you don’t conform, you don’t count. You’re merely “the exception that proves the rule”. But, as I said earlier, how many exceptions must there be before the rule can be disproved?  In fact, I’d go as far as saying that nobody conforms to every single stereotype enforced upon them by the kyriarchy. We are all exceptions.

So, next time you “run a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbour“, consider using a different dictionary. I before E except after C, and under the kyriarchy’s logic, those words aren’t real.

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