Feminist Aspie

Angry Feminists Are Not Your Playthings

(Content note: Discussion of anti-choice rhetoric, general abuser dynamics, and brief references to rape, abuse and harassment)

Here’s something I’ve seen in literally every online feminist discussion space I’ve ever been in:

  1. Someone (almost invariably a man; sometimes, but not always, an actively malicious troll from the start) says something problematic.
  2. The issue with what they’ve just said is pointed out to them, directly but politely.
  3. Because there’s this general idea that accusing someone of an -ism is worse than the thing that led to the accusation (and it isn’t: only one of those things promotes a real, harmful power structure), the person takes this as a personal attack, and becomes defensive rather than maybe consider that they need to change their behaviour/language/viewpoint.
  4. They continue this until a long, unnecessary, derailing comment thread develops.
  5. They paint the people who called them out as the problem for “making such a big deal of it”, and are often believed, because feminists are so angry and aggressive and argumentative amirite? This is called gaslighting. Google it.
  6. The majority of threads, in which genuinely-well-intentioned-people-who-made-a-mistake are nudged in the right direction without major drama and discussion remains civil because there’s nobody deliberately trying to aggravate it, is disregarded, either deliberately or just because it isn’t as memorable or likely to repeatedly show up on the news feed.
  7. Suddenly, the whole group is criticised for being too argumentative, hostile, full of personal attacks (which on further inspection boil down to “pointing out something problematic”) and silencing “different opinions” (often code for sexist/transphobic/homophobic etc. views which literally cost lives). Nobody considers who actually started the arguments.
  8. People become scared to contribute because they don’t want to get caught up in arguments; with the actual cause of the conflicts long forgotten, this eventually becomes “scared to contribute because they don’t want to get called out” because of the aforementioned gaslighting.
  9. The conversation becomes one about how to avoid hurting the feelings of well-intentioned-people-who-made-a-mistake, which was never the problem, rather than the actual problem of how to deal with the trolls.
  10. The confirmation bias phenomenon kicks in; feminists are seen as irrational and overly aggressive, so when the next man-starting-shit comes along, they’re more likely to be able to paint feminists as the aggressors.

Seriously. It’s the same thing in Every. Single. Forum. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was something similar going on in offline spaces, too.

Telling a man that maybe he might need to re-consider is eventually exaggerated into aggression and some angry-mob-of-irrational-feminists-with-pitchforks. Dale Splender once noted “The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence” and I think the same might be true more specifically when a woman confronts someone; her level of assertiveness is not compared to what is expected of men, it’s compared to what is expected of a silent, compliant, smiling background decoration. I know that personally, offline at least, I spend a lot of time being that “polite” silent woman because I’m too scared to confront people, and consequently I have certain male friends/relatives/etc who see me as some sort of “acceptable feminist” because I’m not like those feminists they see online. (Oh, if only they knew…) This really saddens me, because although they might not know it, the message I get from this is “women who stand up for themselves are okay, as long as they only do it in their own heads because of huge underlying anxiety issues” (stay tuned next week for more on that, by the way) and hopefully I don’t need to explain all the different levels of why that’s not okay.

Anyway, enough about me – let’s look at the bigger picture. 1 in 3 women will be abused by an intimate partner in her lifetime, and 1 in 5 women will suffer rape or attempted rape. Too often, these women are then blamed for the violence against them. We live in a world where men feel entitled to our lives and our bodies; we’re harassed in the street, in the workplace, everywhere, coerced into just-giving-in, or risking literally being killed for saying no. We’re paid less for equal work outside the home, and often still left to do virtually all the unpaid and undervalued work within it. We’re criticised for having children and going to work, for having children and not going to work, and for not having children. In media, we’re an afterthought, reduced to archetypes, and the structural violence against us is sometimes glorified. We’re underrepresented in politics, in law, in science, in virtually all positions of power. As noted above, we’re talked over. We’re shouted down. In many cases, we’re literally silenced. It’s normal. It’s something we’re used to. It usually goes completely unnoticed.

And you’re outraged because a woman disagreed with you on the internet?!

Yes, feminists are often angry – there’s a lot to be angry about. As we’ve seen this week, certain cis men think they can have a say in what those of us with a uterus should do with it. Even if we ignore the fact that this “debate” was organised by a pro-life group, frankly, our healthcare rights should not be up for debate, at least not between people that can only see it as an intellectual exercise – a sport, even. And no, they’re not “objective”, because nobody can be. After opposition and a planned protest, the college due to host the event pulled out.

“Students are killing freedom of speech!” the men declared to the world, from their fucking newspaper columns. Seriously. You couldn’t make it up.

“But why wouldn’t you allow a debate?” Maybe because to us, this is not a game. We might be seen as argumentative, but I for one don’t enjoy having to “debate” my own human rights. It’s demeaning to be constantly asked to justify why we deserve to be seen as full humans. Or maybe it’s because we know how this “debate” is going to end before it even starts; we’re not silent, complaint background decorations, so we’ll be seen as an aggressive irrational mob compared to the calm and rational cis men – who, of course, are calm because they’re not the ones who constantly have to put up with such constant policing of their bodies and life choices. We’d be laughed off.

Which brings me back to those men who like to deliberately stir up arguments on online feminist discussion groups. Because to them, it’s funny.

It’s funny when feminists get angry.

It’s funny when women get angry.

And I am so, so fucking tired of being seen as a wind-up toy.

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“Innocent Until Proven Miscarriage Of Justice”: Ched Evans, rape apologists, and a sudden silence on the legal system

(Trigger warning: Rape, harassment, victim-blaming, rape culture generally)

The criminal system in England and Wales operates under the legal principle that a person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty; as anyone who’s ever publicly believed a rape survivor will know, because no doubt you’ve been told this a thousand times over by people who see it as a get-out-of-jail-free card (literally) for all those accused of a crime that really isn’t taken seriously enough as it is. Really, though, these people care more about maintaining the status quo of rape culture than any legal principle – otherwise, they wouldn’t be simultaneously presuming the accuser to be guilty of making a false accusation, and they’d join everyone else in condemning accused rapists if and when they are convicted.

In April 2012, Ched Evans was convicted of rape. Convicted. The very definition of “proven guilty”.

Evans himself maintains his innocence, as do his fans, and other people who are generally vocal about not believing rape survivors ever. “Miscarriage of justice” apparently. Whenever an acquittal of rape hits the headlines, or a case that never reaches trial, many of these same people don’t acknowledge that miscarriages of justice exist; he hasn’t been proven guilty in a court of law, they say, therefore he must be innocent (and by extension, the accuser must be lying) – this, despite the current shockingly poor conviction rate that so often discourages survivors from coming forward in the first place. So it’s telling that, when a guilty verdict happens, the world suddenly notices that the legal system is flawed. There’s a support website with the aim of clearing Evans’ name. “Judge for yourself” it implores, invoking the usual tropes about women generally and rape survivors in particular being irrational, liars or just plain wrong.

Proven guilty – but that didn’t stop people harassing the survivor. Accusing her of lying for money and attention, although in reality there’s no money coming from anywhere and the woman is anonymous; in fact, it’s those who accuse her of lying for attention that have tried to reveal her identity, to give her the attention she doesn’t actually want so they can use it against her. The sadly commonplace victim-blaming; she should take responsibility for being drunk (note that she feared her drink had been spiked), she shouldn’t have been alone at night, she shouldn’t feel entitled to exist whilst female in a public space, the works. The threats – some explicit, some more subtle about speaking out against a convicted rapist having “repercussions they could regret”. This woman – the victim of the crime, not the perpetrator – was eventually pushed to flee the country and change her identity.

Evans, having been found guilty, was sentenced to five years; last month he was released from prison after half of that sentence. Just to reiterate: Two and a half years, for rape. Apparently, he’s “learned his lesson” and so deserves to walk straight back into his professional football career. How someone can maintain their innocence and at the same time claim to have learned their lesson is beyond me. He’s apologised… but only to his girlfriend, for cheating on her. He has yet to apologise to the woman he raped (express language I still find difficult to use because, despite being convicted in court, the media continue to use words like “alleged” and “claimed” and put details of the crime in quotation marks), who in contrast has to spend the rest of her life living with the consequences of somebody else’s actions against her; not only the trauma of the rape itself, but the effects of the harassment and victim-blaming that followed.

Those constantly silenced by the manipulation of innocent-until-proven-guilty to defend accused rapists have found themselves having to carry out the same level of campaigning even when the situation involves a convicted rapist. Or, according to the rape apologists, “looking for attention”. Yes, we do want people to pay attention to us, because frankly the whole situation is just awful – others, on the other hand, would prefer this to just blow over, like so many other “isolated incidents” of sexual violence before it, because otherwise we’d have to start challenging current gender politics and we don’t want that, do we? There are claims – making national headlines – that Evans, the convicted rapist, is a “victim of feminists”. Let’s not forget that this isn’t some hypothetical debate, but a real incident of violent crime that happened, and Evans was the perpetrator, not the victim.

Today, Sheffield United indirectly referred to the change.org petition calling for the club to drop Evans as “mob justice”, despite taking no action whatsoever, not even so much as a statement, when a section of their fans harassed a rape survivor who dared speak out, revealed her identity online, and continue to send online abuse to anyone supporting her. But an online petition calling for a legally proven crime to be taken seriously? That’s mob justice. A letter to a local newspaper, published as the “Star Letter”, reduced this petition to “supporters of other clubs who have ‘clicked a mouse’ against him, not once but many times”. I’ll ignore the fact that you need to enter your details and an e-mail address to sign the petition and instead focus on this: THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOUR FOOTBALL RIVALRIES. This is a pattern I’ve also noticed with the recent high-profile incidents of racial abuse; many fans decide who is and isn’t blameworthy in a way that conveniently has positive consequences for teams they like, and negative consequences for teams they don’t. It’s why my brother thinks the racial slurs by Luis Suarez were just blown out of proportion but John Terry deserved everything he got, whereas my dad thinks exactly the opposite. The oppressions behind the incidents – the very real, very damaging oppressions – are ignored entirely.

There are also claims that preventing Evans from return to his high-profile role, in which he and his colleagues are seen as role models by many, is the same as preventing him from integrating into society. Not so. Football is just one job. You wouldn’t re-employ a teacher, or a doctor, after being found guilty of rape, and besides, the media have happily called for the sacking of employees for much much less, and even for the deportation of immigrants they accuse of committing much lesser crimes; with Evans being white, male and famous, though, we are instead being asked to offer him a second chance even when he has been convicted of his crime.

It’s also worth noting at this point that being prevented from integrating into society is actually what’s happened to the woman who reported the crime against her, but I suppose her welfare won’t affect the League One table so maybe that’s why people don’t seem to care as much.

So, it looks increasingly likely that Ched Evans, found guilty of rape, will make a return to football. There are already terrace chants referring to the rape, mocking it, mocking the survivor. Aside from that, the focus will probably return to his actions on the pitch, his rape conviction will fade from the public eye, and the world will forget.

Imagine being the victim of sexual violence at the hands of a perpetrator who happened to be famous, reading the newspapers, knowing how these events have played out. Would you still report your rape? I highly doubt I would.

And this is what happens when the person accused of rape is proven guilty. Because these people aren’t really interested in innocent-until-proven-guilty at all, unless it suits their rape apologism.

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Autistics Speaking Day 2014: Human

(This post is my submission for Autistics Speaking Day. There are loads of great posts on there already, and many more will be added today and over the next few days, so please go and have a look!)

Hello there. Let me introduce myself. I’m a human.

I have a name, although I don’t really use it on here. I’m a student, a blogger, a feminist, a sister, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a friend, an autistic. Not mutually exclusive.

Right now, I’m typing this because I lack the necessary executive function skills to stop what I’m doing and actually get a good night’s sleep. That, or I’m just enthusiastic about this post. In reality, it’s a bit of both. Also, like so many of my fellow humans, I spend far too much of my life procrastinating from studying. I take BuzzFeed quizzes, I tidy up, I play 2048, I make tea, I listen to music, I pace and pace and pace across the floor on my tiptoes because that’s what music does- sorry, does that sound weird? Fair enough, I suppose some people prefer coffee. But at the end of the day, I almost always somehow manage to get that essay written on time, and I tend to last longer with actually going to the lectures than a lot of my friends too; maintaining the routine helps me feel safer.

Outside of that, I play guitar (or rather, I should practice more often!), I go to a few student societies, and I quietly blog, mainly about feminism and autism, under the world’s least imaginative pseudonym. I’m currently catching up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I also really like Doctor Who. Really like Doctor Who. Nonononono but you don’t understand. Actually, I think you might; there’s no bold obvious line where the “slightly above average level of fandom enthusiasm” ends and the “autistic special interest” begins.

When you first meet me, I am almost definitely quiet. Nervous. Awkward. I’m better at the whole “people” thing some days than others, depending on a million and one other factors. Sometimes I feel like I can take on all the world, sometimes I feel like it’s all going to crash down on top of me, most of the time I’m somewhere in the middle. This doesn’t make me “high-functioning” nor “low-functioning”. I don’t suddenly regress, or am suddenly cured. I have varying emotions, and I have varying energy levels, being a human and all. Having said that, I find online interaction far easier even just amongst people I know in real life. On Facebook, I’m known for my love of and constant use of reaction GIFs, despite sometimes finding real-life, real-time facial expressions impossible to navigate; I don’t have any logical explanation for this, but maybe that’s okay. I mean, most people don’t find themselves having to explain their personality to people like that.

Let’s go back to emotions for a second. There still seems to be some confusion on this re: autistic people for some reason, so just to confirm, I do have them. It’s just that they’re often over- or under-expressed. I cry with laughter far, far more often than I cry with… um, crying, which is a rare occurrence. Unless, of course, I’m having a meltdown. Anger, frustration, lashing out was a real problem when I was younger, but these days I’m better able to nip those situations in the bud before they arise, and rant freely into the void of the internet instead. These days, I think it’s fair to say that my primary emotion is fear. I’m scared of talking to people, family arguments, sudden loud noises, sudden total darkness, crowds, my ex-boyfriend, and yesterday I managed to creep myself out – intentionally, in a sort of fun way – watching YouTube videos of game corruptions. But my biggest fear, for some reason, is probably that pesky heat/suffocation/being-trapped combo that, combined also with an actual over-sensitivity to temperature and humidity, just sort of gets in the way of everything far too much. But I’ve totally missed out on the whole bugs-and-spiders thing so, y’know, swings and roundabouts. Anyway, sometimes I panic and/or get too overloaded with sensory input, so I have a meltdown or, more commonly, a shutdown. If I can get out and get back to my room or somewhere else that’s nice and safe and quiet, these days I can generally handle it myself. What I can’t handle is your judgement.

Yet, despite the perceptions of autism as a tragedy, I find that the good is at the very least equal to the bad. Sound hypersensitivity means that music is even better, for one thing. Special interests are just the best thing, many of which have stemmed from music, although of course there’s Doctor Who too. And I’ve grown to love my neurodivergent body language, even as those around me don’t understand it or, in some cases, want to suppress it because it’s weird and therefore bad or because they think some other group of people won’t like it (and they say autistics don’t have a concept of irony…). My fingers flutter or fly inwards in defence, I tap the walls, the tables, the floor, my toes bounce with my full weight whether I’m pacing in my room or exploring the outside world and I’ve never had to think about high heels, I repeat words and phrases to myself and rehearse and perfect my lines for the conversation I’m about to have, I’m jumpy and twitchy and sorry sorry sorry sorrysorrysorrysorry. Okay, so that last bit’s sort of a pain, but I’ve even found it to be a great conversation starter. It’s a thing I do; it’s a part of me as much as everything else I’ve mentioned. I’m not perfect. I’m human.

I worry about how I’m going to get my work done on time, how I’m going to talk to whoever I need to talk to without drawing a complete blank and not being able to use words, my family and friends back home, what to have for dinner, how on earth I didn’t immediately realise that remark was sarcastic, the weather, the weather, what I’m going to do this weekend, if that guy could even possibly like me back, if I could even possibly risk going to that social event that sounds really fun and exciting but also loud and crowded and scary, whether or not the world and its people can overcome and recover from the effects of kyriarchy, whether or not I can overcome and recover from the effects of that constant, constant, constant feeling I’m being judged for not being neurotypical.

My autism cannot be separated from my humanity; my autism is a part of my humanity. To me, all person-first language does is imply that my autistic traits need to be somehow isolated from the rest of my personality for me to be seen as, well, a person. But they’re not. I am multi-faceted. I can be good, bad, flawed, happy, sad, angry, scared, so so scared, strong, weak, changing, all of the above. Most of the time, my general state of being has been influenced by my being autistic, positively, negatively, sometimes both. So, because I’m often afraid to be visibly neurodivergent in public, I’m often afraid to be multi-faceted around other people too. Of course, then I’m apparently too robot-like and stereotypical and feel bad for that too, but I digress.

I’m autistic. I’m also a person. An autistic person. And if that doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps you need to re-think your idea of what is required to be human.

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