Feminist Aspie

“But won’t SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN?!”

(TRIGGER WARNING: Mention of sexual abuse, including child abuse. This post may be NSFW [although text-only]. Also, I’m heterosexual and cis, so please feel free to let me know if I’ve messed up in any way with regard to people who aren’t!)

Earlier this week, I came across this great Vice.com article by Cliff Joannu on the massive need for sex education in the UK to acknowledge same-sex relationships. A few minutes later, I came across the comments on the Facebook post that directed me to it. And I started reading these comments. A word of advice – don’t.

Currently, in so many places, what passes for “sex and relationship education” is little more than the biology of penis-in-vagina sex and pregnancy, and if you’re lucky, contraception. Nothing about relationships, nothing about communication, nothing about consent, nothing about any aspects of sex other than PIV, and nothing at all about marginalised sexualities and/or gender identities. This is woefully inadequate. Yet, calls for any sort of improvement on this, however minor, are invariably met with similar responses: children and teenagers are apparently too young to understand, teaching children this stuff is somehow imposing opinions on them, it’s seen as something children aren’t supposed to be aware of, won’t SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN?!?!

Firstly, in the context of the more explicit stages of sex education, when someone mentions “children” it’s likely that they mean teenagers or at least children who are nearing the end of primary education, not four-year-olds as the naysayers tend to wilfully misinterpret. Secondly, the existence of trans people, non-binary genders, and sexualities other than heterosexual is not up for debate, and definitely not just an opinion. Thirdly, those who claim we should not be teaching this stuff to children forget that we are already teaching this stuff to children.

With the state of media representation and what passes for SRE as it is, we’re teaching children that only straight cis people exist, and anyone else – and it’s likely that at least one person in that classroom is, or will grow up to be, in a marginalised group – is not only inherently bad, but totally alone in their experiences. Won’t somebody think of those children, or is it just the cis heterosexual ones that matter? It seems we’re happy to teach heteronormativity and cisnormativity; it’s only when someone suggests we start including everyone in SRE that people are suddenly up in arms about imposing particular views and children not being able to understand. Here’s a thought – the only reason children would currently find marginalised sexualities and gender identities confusing or inexplicable is because they’ve grown up in a world that systematically denies their existence.

Roughly the same argument can be applied to consent – we’re already living in a rape culture, we’re already teaching children these myths, victim-blaming tactics and total disregard for consent, but nobody complains about imposing these views on children at too young an age. Children who never learn about their inherent right to say no grow up into adults who don’t feel able to say no. Unfortunately, not only will many adults encounter sexual abuse in their lifetime, but some children already are, and they need to know – we all need to know – that what is happening to them is not okay, not “just normal”, and certainly not their fault.

“Thinking of the children” requires thinking of all children, not just a hypothetical class full of straight cis children who have somehow grown up without being informed by the current general bigotry of the world. Sex and relationship education – and I don’t just mean a quick biology lesson on where babies come from – is so, so important.

Otherwise, we’re just passing on these heteronormative, cisnormative, and patriarchal attitudes to sex and relationships by default.


Weight of Living: Executive function, routine, and sorting my life out

(Trigger warning: discussion of food, specifically the issues I have in making food happen. Oh, and today’s song-title-used-as-blog-title comes from here!)

In a shocking plot twist, I promised blog posts in a certain time-frame and have actually delivered for onceIf all goes to plan, blog posts will be written and published on Wednesday evenings like clockwork until at least Christmas. Well, almost clockwork – at some point I’m bound to miss one, or I’ll be busy doing something else, or something along those lines – but to start with, I need to follow my new “on Wednesday evenings, I blog” rule so that it becomes a norm. Because at the moment, I am in serious need of some routine. So, why is it that many autistic people often plan and stick to fairly rigid routines? Obviously I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I have a number of reasons. Long-term, one major reason is fear of uncertainty which essentially boils down to fear of sensory overload/not handling it/whatever else – in other words, problems with the nature of the deviation – but in this post, I’m going to focus on the routines themselves. It might be helpful to first read Musings Of An Aspie’s summary of executive function and recent post on the spoon theory.

At the moment, I’m on a new course in a new university in a new city in a new country, so in many ways I’m starting from scratch. The baseline – the straightforward bit – is formed by everything that needs to take place at certain times, so in my case that’s lectures and classes. They’re all planned out for me. But once they’ve been slotted in, I’m left with a finite block of time in which to do the work for the classes, socialise enough to not feel massively left out, blog, complete a couple of application forms for summer internships, vaguely attempt to keep up with Tumblr and my main fandoms, buy and cook and eat food, sleep, keep the place clean… Yep, it looks like I’m officially grown up. Contrary to popular belief, autistic adults exist! Anyway, if I leave it at “this is your time, this is what you need and want to do with it, go”, I will forget things. I’ll forget to blog, and then end up leaving it for weeks at a time. Or I’ll forget about applying for internships, so they won’t happen. Or, who knows, I might forget to eat, which evidently shouldn’t happen. Setting up vaguely regular times at which to do these things means I’m more likely to actually do them. The other issue with leaving myself with just an amount of time and a list of things to do with it is overload – half the time I already feel like there’s too much going on to process, so the sheer number of things I need to keep in my head means it all seems completely impossible and consequently none of it gets done. To the point that yesterday, when a special interest decided to rear its head completely out of the blue, my immediate thought was “great, another thing I’ll have to deal with” and clearly that’s not ideal!!

As a student, I’ve got used to regular cycles of new baseline of contact hours -> previous routine no longer available -> PANIC -> eventually create new routines and consequently sort my life out. The current situation is of course a little different – I’m not in the same place with a different timetable, I’m somewhere completely new and that means the general sorting-my-life out is a slow and ongoing process – but the principles are the same. It often takes quite some time to sort out; one Friday evening, I cleaned the room and thought “I’ll clean my room on Friday evenings after the lecture” but the following week, it became apparent that if I was going out on a Friday night cleaning probably wouldn’t happen so cleaning day was revised to Sunday, only for that day to end up being really busy in terms of doing the reading for the classes, so it’s been revised (as of today) to Wednesday. Meanwhile, last week, I realised I’d have my essays out of the way by Wednesday, and therefore I’d have a decent block of time to write a blog post; so now posts will be published on Wednesday evenings, and this set time should hopefully ensure that I actually do bother to write posts regularly! Everything else, over the coming weeks, will gradually also begin to slot into place.

…And once all that’s sorted, there’s the small matter of the self care stuff you literally have to do to survive. Like eating. Food is hard. On the one hand, the standard vague socially acceptable mealtimes means there’s sort of already a routine in place for remembering to eat. On the other hand, first you need to work out what you’re going to have. And buy everything you need, if you don’t have it already. And then have time and energy left over to actually make it. Sounds simple, but for some reason it never has been. The solution, as thought up earlier today: like everything else, planning ahead. I should know, when I’m buying food, what I’m going to have for dinner for the next couple of days. I should consider that on Tuesday I only have just over an hour in between classes in the evening, on Wednesday I’ll have just finished two late nights writing essays, on Thursday I won’t get home until fairly late, etc, etc. My cooking skills are somewhere just marginally above non-existent, so perhaps once a week (provisionally Fridays or Saturdays) I should try and do something different, because increasing my options is surely only going to make things easier.

It’s a slow process, but once I’ve got routines for most things, I don’t tend to have any problems with sometimes deviating from them, as long as it’s expected and vaguely prepared for. It’s just a matter of waiting for a plan that works, and knowing that eventually, everything will be so much easier.


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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