Feminist Aspie

The inevitable blogversary post: Oh, Where Do We Begin?

The 2012 Christmas period was the first time I’d been home since starting university that autumn, and the combination of suddenly leaving the uni “bubble” and all of the inevitable socialising and Christmas/New Year celebrations made me realise that, despite identifying as a feminist and noticing the constant presence of sexism (and many other oppressions) far more than I used to, I still had a really hard time actually standing up to it, calling it out, questioning it out loud rather than just quietly to myself. So, in an attempt to start doing something about that (and, if I’m honest, out of procrastination), I decided to start a blog. I’ve always felt far more comfortable behind a keyboard with space to think than in front of people who can’t un-listen to what I say even if I totally mess it up, so I guess using the internet to vent in a way I couldn’t in real life seemed like an obvious solution. What I wasn’t counting on was that I’d remember the blog for longer that about a month and, shock horror, actual people would, for some strange reason, start reading the thing. Essentially, even one year on, I still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and I’m still a little bit scared.

I have learned so much from the people I follow and/or talk to on both Twitter and WordPress; I’m more aware of my own privileges, and I hope this means I’m less likely to mess up. If I do mess up, please let me know so I can do something about it! Following on from that point, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve asked questions that are none of my business, I’ve waded into arguments when I shouldn’t have done so, and for that I can only apologise.

On the plus side, slowly but surely, I’m getting better at pointing out sexism as and when I see it, which I suppose was the primary aim of setting up this blog (at least from a purely selfish point of view). This, amongst other things, has led to a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing with regard to my anonymity (or lack thereof) which I guess is massively confusing. To clear things up: Nobody (well, almost nobody) in my offline life knows that this blog exists and for the time being I’d like to keep it that way, but at the same time, I talk about myself and my life perhaps a little bit too much, so people who, for some strange reason, actually read this thing regularly will end up knowing quite a bit about my actual real-life self. It’s basically one-way anonymity, it’s probably not sustainable, and I wouldn’t recommend it, but here we are.

I also tend to go off on tangents quite a bit. Since about February, I’ve been blogging not only about feminism but also about autism and the neurodiversity movement; again, I’ve learned so much more about neurodiversity and ableism/disablism from people I’ve interacted with as FeministAspie, and I don’t consider this particular topic as “going off on a tangent” because I’ve grown to see FeministAspie as a dual-purpose blog (as the name suggests). Unfortunately for the people who, for some strange reason, actually read this thing, I’ve also spent a lot of time moaning about the weather, rambling about Doctor Who, offering/enforcing entirely imaginary cups of tea, rambling about Doctor Who, whining about my life, rambling about Doctor Who, and occasionally shoehorning Bastille into my posts for no good reason (this is the part where you look up at this post’s title, say “ohhhhhh”, and roll your eyes). Oh, and did I mention Doctor Who? Sorry about that. Another thing I’m sorry about is occasionally abandoning the blog and/or Twitter. I’m aware that I’m really not very good at this. I guess life sort of gets in the way sometimes.

Anyway, seeing as the blogversary coincides quite neatly with New Year, I’ve actually bothered to make resolutions (which I probably won’t stick to, sorry in advance) and two of them are actually relevant to the blog:

  1. Stop constantly incessantly comparing myself to others and thinking about how they see me, because as you may have noticed from recent posts, it’s really getting to me, and all that inadequacy stuff really can’t be healthy. Sorry, this resolution is the one that isn’t really about the blog. Next!
  2. ACTUALLY BLOG REGULARLY. Post about autism one week, then feminism the next week, and so on. I know I said I’d do this back in October and that didn’t last very long, but hopefully I can find a way to make it a routine.
  3. Write blog posts that are actually about feminism and autism (and other intersecting oppressions and related social justice) rather than just rambling about my life… I am aware that this contradicts this very post. Oops.

And finally, THANK YOU! Thank you for being the people who, for some strange reason, actually read this thing, and like and comment and share and whatever else. Thank you for putting up with the sporadic updates, the bad paragraphing, the going off on tangents, and that “temporary” profile picture I never got round to changing. But most importantly, thank you for teaching me so much about feminism, and intersectionality, and blogging, and everything in between. Thank you so, so much.

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Equality Laws: They’re Not Magic Potions

So last night someone very helpfully explained to me that equality laws exist, so feminism is unnecessary and outdated. This was a revelation! I had no idea that equality laws were even a thing! It’s not like I’m a law student or anything…

Attempted sarcasm aside, equality laws help, but they’re not magic potions. For a start, the laws that exist depend entirely on where you live (so this post will probably be really UK-centric, sorry about that!). Secondly, whilst equality laws obviously help, they can’t necessarily change the mindsets and ideas that uphold the patriarchy (and other systems of oppression) in the first place. “Equal before the law” doesn’t necessarily mean “equal in society”.

In the UK, the first Equal Pay Act came into force in 1975, yet the gender pay gap still exists, and in many ways has increased from last year. Maternity discrimination is also still going strong. Furthermore, unpaid domestic work is still assumed to be “women’s work”, and anything perceived to be “women’s work” loses value on that basis alone. And that’s before we get started on all those tired stereotypes that limit girls’ ambitions right from early childhood.

Globally, one in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. For being women. Despite all the laws against it. The general attitude to consent is appalling. There’s the idea that silence and even unconsciousness “isn’t saying no” and when a woman does say “no” it means “try again later” or “tell me everything’s okay and I’ll change my mind” or anything else that isn’t “no”. There’s the idea that women are mystery puzzle games in which the goal is to obtain sex, and any woman that doesn’t want to have sex with you is a friendzoning bitch. And to top it all off, victims of abuse are often dismissed or even blamed.

Women are under-represented in boardrooms, in politics, in courts, in virtually all positions of power. There’s also the huge under-representation and objectification of women in the media. We’re judged by what we look like rather than what we do, mocked for failing to fit one impossible mould of “normal” beauty, then mocked for even trying, called vain and silly and weak for worrying about looks and weight when that’s exactly what we’re being constantly told to focus on. Women’s sport is also under-represented and drastically under-funded and under-publicised compared to men’s sport.

It sounds like nitpicking, but it all adds up. Sexist jokes. “Blonde” jokes where, coincidentally, the blonde person being mocked always happens to be female. Anything based on the idea that angry women are funny. All the rules about “real fans” and “fake geeks” that only ever seem to apply to women, especially teenage girls. And medical research, and therefore medical signs and symptoms, is often based solely on men. There’s the double standards.  The expectation that all women want to marry and have children. The assumption of “he” as the norm. Even the word “girl” is used as an insult towards men and boys. To be a girl is, apparently, demeaning.

And when any of this is pointed out? We’re called hysterical, irrational, over-reacting, humourless, out to stop fun. We’re told to calm down, stay nice and quiet and compliant. Silenced at every turn. In fact, various studies have found that men interrupt women more than vice versa – this probably isn’t deliberate, it’s just how we’ve all been socialised to behave, what we’ve been taught to accept as the norm.

So yes, I still need feminism. And no, we’re not done yet.

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Opening Up

I’ve never been very good at opening up. Well, to be honest, I have two extremes; there are a select few people to whom I whine incessantly about life, but with most people I stay very guarded. This explains the odd yo-yo-like status of this blog’s anonymity (or lack thereof). It also explains why I sometimes turn into a living breathing PR machine, sweeping the negative aspects of life under the carpet or skipping over them entirely when relaying stories to other people, regardless of whether or not the bad stuff is my own fault. I have no idea whether that’s an autism thing or not; it could be, although I certainly don’t think it’s limited to people on the spectrum. So, several weeks ago now, when I thought “When I get home from uni, I really need to tell my parents that perhaps I’ve been struggling just a tad more than I’ve been letting on”, it was a bit of an eye-opener to me as to just how big that “tad” was.

I’ve written a little bit about this before, way back in June when I first began to notice the problem, but it’s developed almost out of all recognition since then. It’s not just about social events, although that’s still a worsening issue; it’s sort of all-encompassing. I don’t really know how to explain it, but this term was defined by a general sense of NOPE TOO MUCH CAN’T COPE EXCUSE ME WHILE I HIDE IN THIS CORNER AND VAGUELY ATTEMPT BREATHING even when I was just in my room. Especially when I was just in my room. It’s still largely in the form of completely pointless fear, but towards the end of term there was a shift towards feeling totally drained, nothing left to give, whatever you want to call it. And I’m in two minds as to whether or not all this actually happens to most people and I’m just over-analysing as usual. Either way, I’ve also changed my mind about it being somehow separate from and/or in addition to Asperger’s because, I don’t know, the general “overwhelmed” feeling of it all seems pretty autistic to me (although again definitely not limited to autistic people), which is why I’m writing about it really. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been bad. As usual, I had some fantastic times this term. I know I still love uni really. I just couldn’t have taken another minute of it, is all.

Anyway, one particularly bad weekend, whilst perched in a corner in my room trying not to cry over some sort of laundry-based crisis (not that crying is a regular occurrence at all, I don’t know, it was a bad weekend), it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t kill me to actually talk to someone about this when I get home, because otherwise something has got to give. For the remainder of term, every so often I tried to formulate an explanation, almost rehearsing it, basing it mainly on specific incidents like the huge panic spiral on my first night back (quickly escalating from general justified worrying about work to feeling like I can hardly breathe because I didn’t know where to put my alarm clock or something). Except now I am home, and I have absolutely no idea where to start. There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. It’s probably nothing anyway. I over-think and I over-react. I don’t know, it’s what I do. Even writing this makes me feel like I’m just reversing the living-breathing-PR-machine thing by putting a negative spin on it all, and I do feel like I’m just using the blog to whine about my life because it saves having to get real-life people involved. Uni is stressful. Growing up is stressful. Life is stressful. Besides, being back home and not having just so much to think about feels so much better, so it’s probably just a natural part of growing up and becoming vaguely independent. Other people are just better at coping with it, and I make things worse through over-thinking.
  2. I just can’t quite find the words. I suppose asking for help requires an explanation of a.) the problem and b.) what you’d like the other person to do about it. At the moment, the first part of that is really difficult to articulate. I haven’t worried too much about my description for the purposes of this blog post, because mainly I want to focus on the opening-up issue, but I don’t think it’s quite accurate enough. Like I said, there are a handful of people at uni who must be sick of me whingeing at them by now, but even with them, the words I’ve used  just don’t quite seem to capture it.
  3. I don’t know what it’s going to solve. Not only is “the problem” seemingly impossible to describe properly, but “what you’d like the other person to do about it” isn’t even really a thing at all. It would just be an awkward conversation that goes nowhere.
  4. It’s awkward and difficult to admit that actually, I’ve been hiding something. I haven’t been outright lying (much), but I’ve definitely been omitting quite a lot of the truth and generally being a living breathing PR machine. It’s hard to go from that to “oh, by the way, things aren’t as fantastic as I’ve deliberately misled you to believe”, although actually I’m not sure it would surprise people much given my track record of, well, being a living breathing PR machine.
  5. There is literally no appropriate time to mention it. Over dinner? During an ad break? In the car? Really?
  6. Something else I can’t put my finger on. I don’t think it’s lack of trust. Or fear of judgement, apart from the whole over-reacting thing or because I’ve been economical with the truth for quite some time now. Maybe it’s to do with not wanting to worry people needlessly?

I’m still not entirely sure why I’m blogging about this, and I’m trying to justify it to myself by wondering whether or not it’s vaguely autism-related, so I’d love to know if anyone else on the spectrum does the whole living-breathing-PR-machine thing – or is that something everyone does? I have no idea. To be honest, mainly I’d just like to know how to stop being a living breathing PR machine and start actually sorting this out.

Hitting “Publish” is always so, so scary.

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