Feminist Aspie

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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Entitlement

(For the sake of honesty – this post has been edited quite heavily. A previous version included what was fairly clearly a personal experience, and on reflection I’ve decided I’m not all that comfortable with such detail being out there; especially as, although I see this blog as anonymous, in my opinion I’m still sort of identifiable, and consequently so is he. I would also like to make clear that this is not due to pressure from anyone, but to do with several unrelated events in the past week that have made me think about whether or not it was generally a good idea to put that information out in the public sphere.

TW: Descriptions of harassment and sexual assault, and reference to rape and rape culture.)

Entitlement is the numerous stories I’ve heard or read about women being physically trapped by a stranger until they give up their phone number. Or a kiss. Sometimes more.

Entitlement is the well-known reality that being “taken” is often the only form of rejection respected without further questioning (although even that’s not always the case; sometimes the response to “I have a boyfriend” is “Well where is he then?”, because heaven forbid a woman exist in public without a chaperone). It’s not about her feelings, but about whether he can claim her or whether she’s already owned.

Entitlement is present in the idea that “excuses”, whether true or false, are necessary for turning down unwanted advances; the implication being that you can automatically claim anyone, unless they have a good enough reason. And with every “no” being subject to intense questioning, you don’t really think any reason is good enough. You’ve just been told it’s polite to ask.

Entitlement is a culture that relies on the absence of a direct “no” instead of a clear, enthusiastic “yes”; effectively, it’s the presumption of consent. This, combined with the pressure, with the coercion, and with the socialisation of women to put everyone else’s feelings before their own, to “let them down gently”, to not give a direct “no”… well, I hope the problem is clear. And if she does say no, she’s dismissed as a friendzoning bitch.

Entitlement is sometimes most apparent within existing relationships. In the UK, a husband could not be convicted of raping his wife until October 1991. More recently, there were George Galloway’s comments stating that once two people are “in the sex game”, failure to obtain consent is merely “bad manners”. This sort of attitude is prevalent. Consent to a relationship is often viewed as consent to sexual activity, and consent to sexual activity once is often viewed as consent to sexual activity forever. Those who do not consent, or no longer consent, are often made to feel at fault, that there’s something wrong with them. Maybe, sometimes, they’re put off because it’s become literally the only part of “relationship” you care about.

Entitlement is expressly asking about sex (after all, it’s good manners) but not really offering a free choice, instead just repeatedly trying various different arguments – ridiculous as it is that you still think there’s consent if you have to argue about it – until they eventually give in. No? Why not? Don’t you love me? It’s fine! It’s okay! Why not? Come on! It’ll be fine! How about now? How about now? How about now?

Entitlement is having defensive hands ignored. It’s having to lie about being on your period to stop him from going any further

Entitlement is refusing to accept separation. It’s the same attitude of “I want you, so I should be able to have you”. I can’t really be leaving permanently because then you can’t have me anymore, and that’s just out of the question. It can only be a temporary break – and, as with everything else, you can use pressure and coercion to get what you think is rightfully yours. Not at home? Use the internet. Blocked on one site? Use another. Can’t send Facebook messages directly anymore? Go through relatives. That doesn’t work? Start showing up at the house again. Reclaim control by any means. If you are Robin Thicke, this might involve naming your next album after your ex-wife and repeatedly announcing in public that you want to get her back, and this will, by and large, be accepted as entirely normal behaviour. Entitlement is, by and large, accepted as entirely normal behaviour.

It’s control and ownership and assault and rape and dehumanisation… and it’s something most women know all too well.

Entitlement is fucking scary.

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Some Doctor Who obsessing instead of an actual blog post

(EDIT: Turns out this is actually my 50th post, so let’s all just pretend I totally already knew that, and this is a celebration rather than just my own uselessness at blogging.)

I woke up this morning and realised it’s Tuesday morning and I still haven’t written a blog post, which I was supposed to do on Friday evening… then Saturday… then Sunday… and so on. As you can see, it didn’t happen, and now I’m feeling massively inadequate for various other reasons, so I thought I’d better post SOMETHING so I don’t end up feeling too guilty and abandoning the blog again.

So, here’s a video from Doctor Who Online compiling every title-of-the-episode-in-the-episode incident in Doctor Who. Ever. Over 50 years. This is TOTALLY worth 13 minutes of your life…. right? A particular highlight is 0:16-1:05, when you’ll hear the phrase “The Daleks” so many times it no longer sounds like real words. You’re welcome.

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