Feminist Aspie

Why I Need Feminism

on March 8, 2015

TRIGGER WARNING: Brief discussion of rape/consent/victim-blaming, weight/food/disordered eating

I haven’t got time to do a proper blog post but felt I should probably acknowledge International Women’s Day (and also my executive function has gone completely to pot and I’m procrastinating from All The Things) so here’s a very quick introspective self-centred list of reasons why, despite the constant societal message that it’s irrational and whiny and over-reacting and silly, I still need feminism.

The loudest, most persistent, most sure-of-themselves voices are automatically deemed to be the best voices.

Living independently won’t get easier if I ever marry. If anything, it’s likely to get harder as I’m left to pick up a large portion of my hypothetical husband’s share of the household labour.

Only a verbal “no” is deemed by many to count as lack of consent – tough luck if the stress of intimidation and fear of imminent assault makes you go non-verbal.

Men are never taught not to rape. We’re all taught that “rape” is being attacked by a stranger in a dark alleyway, so men think that if they don’t attack strangers in dark alleyways, they can’t be rapists. Men are never taught to ask for consent; they’re taught to assume it. Many laugh at the idea of consent workshops at university. And then sexual violence is justified because “he didn’t know any better”.

Our paradigm is the irrational paradigm. The male-centric status quo is seen as “objective”. Where my views and perceptions differ from this, it’s mine that are considered to be wrong and abnormal.

My summer issues are often dismissed as confidence or body image issues. But having said that, some other women have summer issues that ARE confidence and/or body image issues – or fear of abuse by men.

The standard “big night out” goes like this: I’m autistic so I can’t stay, I’m a woman so I can’t leave, the only solution is for me to stay home, and even then I’m a cowardly anti-fun killjoy.

Young women are expected to instantly become independent domestic goddesses, and asking for help or admitting you haven’t yet learned certain skills is shameful. When young men barely even try, it becomes a running joke.

Even older men, or rather, older abled men who live with at least one woman, are seen as being completely unable to take care of themselves; it’s often seen as the norm for women to “look after” male partners and relatives, to the extent that when women are away for any length of time, they’ll get snarky “jokes” about leaving the poor menz to fend for themselves. I need feminism because I, an autistic female adult-in-training currently living well away from family and most friends, am seen as less in need of “being taken care of” than an abled middle-aged man who has lived independently of his parents for many years and has a strong support network of people nearby.

“No” is often taken to mean “not yet, try again later”. Sex is seen as an inevitability; eventually, you have to just “compromise” and forget about your fundamental right to bodily autonomy for a while.

As an internet-dwelling slightly-nerdy unashamed fangirl, the concept of “fake geek girls” and male or male-centred gatekeeping of fandoms is absolutely everywhere. And some of the standards used, whilst completely unnecessary and awful anyway, are also ableist; not everyone has the energy or the spoons to tick an infinite list of boxes.

Female representation is seen as disenfranchising men. Male representation is seen as… well, it isn’t really seen as anything, it’s just the norm from which anything else is a deviation.

If the next Doctor was female, I’d be too concerned about the fandom backlash and about the inevitable sexist jokes and gimmicks to actually enjoy it.

There are so many times that so many women don’t stand up for ourselves or for women more generally or for other marginalised groups because we know what the response is going to be and it’s just not worth doing to ourselves. How many times have you kept quiet because “it’s not worth it”? I know I do that at least once most days.

Some male friends and relatives see me as “you’re alright, not like those feminists” because I’m too anxious to outright openly disagree with people.

A feminist Facebook group I’m a part of is constantly, constantly, constantly criticised for, well, not taking any shit. If people are scared to comment on a Facebook group in case people criticise them, that’s seen as our problem. If I’m too scared to speak up in the entire bloody offline world because of the many and varied repercussions, that’s ALSO seen as my problem. I should just be more confident and not care what people think, even though “what people think” does have a big impact on your life.

I’ve lost weight recently because, long story short, I sometimes have issues Making Food Happen. People are complimenting me. I’ve seen other women lose weight due to illness and then be complimented on it, or think “well, at least I’ve lost weight!”. You know, just in case anyone still thought fat-shaming was anything to do with health at all.

I’m lucky enough to not have full-blown meltdowns very often, but when I think about it, my last three all have one thing in common – one part of the cause was yelling, insistent, intimidating men who won’t take “no” or “you’re wrong” or “please stop yelling” for an answer. Afterwards, two of the three incidents I’m talking about were described simply as “she had a meltdown” with the causes of this meltdown completely erased, completely absolved.

Too often, neurotypical MRAs use autism as a scapegoat, portraying autistic men as tragic burdens, violent, incapable of understanding consent. Autistic women usually aren’t acknowledged as even existing under this narrative.

Disabled women often have their choices and bodily autonomy removed from them in the name of “life skills”. Make-up, shaving, and other unnecessary grooming is seen as mandatory for women. That stuff over time takes up so much energy, especially for disabled women.

As an shy, introverted, anxious, standoffish, teetotal woman who lives in jeans and T-shirts and doesn’t go out much, I basically exhibit model behaviour for what misogynist men think women should do to “protect themselves” from the sexual violence they inflict on us. Guess what? It doesn’t work.

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6 responses to “Why I Need Feminism

  1. A Nonymous says:

    As a Caucasian, cis Aspie man I thought hard about commenting on this article. The fact that I’m aware of all the issues described in your excellent post is a major driving force behind me having abandoned the notion of so much as talking to women. I’m perfectly capable of understanding consent. What I have trouble with is reading the nonverbal signals that might mean anything from “I’m enjoying this conversation with a guy I think is really hot”, through “This is an interesting chat with a nice person” to “back the **** off, creep!” Have I inadvertently crossed boundaries? Almost certainly. Do I ever want to again? No. I’m just not prepared to take that risk.

    I don’t want to be a perpetrator, so I have just stopped talking to humans. The corollary of this is that this crap (not what you write, but the attitude) needs to be challenged at every opportunity:

    “Too often, neurotypical MRAs use autism as a scapegoat, portraying autistic men as tragic burdens, violent, incapable of understanding consent.”

    Yeah, we’re seen as tragic burdens. You’ve discussed the subject of meltdowns. An Aspie is perfectly capable of understanding the word “no”. I remember too many occasions when I had to apologise for misreading signals, before I gave up entirely. We are more than capable of learning to *ask first*, and gracefully take no as an answer. MRA slime hurt men, they hurt women more, and need to be challenged at every opportunity.

    I don’t want to comment on how all this affects women in general and Aspie women in particular. You know more about this than I do and have done an admirable job already.

    • Bigger On The Inside says:

      Re nonverbal signals, the flipside is also true: it’s very difficult to give or refuse consent if you can’t read the signals which suggest the other person might be coming onto you rather than just having a chat. And, if you’ve never considered that this could be a sexual/romantic relationship or encounter, it’s impossible in that moment to take the time to think about whether you might want it to be so.

      • A Nonymous says:

        This is absolutely true. That said, even someone socially inept like me will be aware that any encounter *might* have a romantic component. Some situations are less likely than others, it’s true. I have tended to discount the possibility for some time, even before I gave the whole thing up as a bad job, but I am aware of having been in “false negative” situations (where the other person has had romantic intentions that I’ve missed until it’s turned into an embarrassing mess).

        I can see that, especially if you are a woman, if you discount this possibility and miss signals that it could lead to a potentially dangerous situation. It’s one reason I’m a big fan of verbal verification before so much as touching.

        A useful phrase is “I might have misread your signals, and if so I apologise, but…”.

  2. May says:

    You are so right about how people comment on weight loss as invariably a positive thing – I have lost a lot of weight over the last two years, and at one point was getting a bit concerned because I couldn’t understand why the weight was STILL coming off, but people kept complimenting me on being slimmer. I was like “um, I have lost over 10% of my body weight and I don’t know why, this isn’t a good thing!”. I agree with so much of this post, but that was the thing that particularly stuck out because it’s as though people can’t even process the idea that a woman might not actively want to be wasting away.

  3. ShanEda Lumb says:

    Yes. Just, Yes.
    Until society embraces the reality that rape happens because men choose to rape, all women, and all decent, non-rapist men, will be stuck with the useless idea that slut-shaming is acceptable, that ‘she asked for it’.
    I am an Aspie, mother to two teen aspies. I have taught my son and daughter to communicate consent/non-consent clearly, even when non-verbal. We carry ‘911-Cards’ that tell others what we cannot, when we cannot. I refuse to be victimised and have taught this to my AsperTeens.
    Re: losing weight; I was always thin as a child/young woman. And I’d become ill, and stay ill, because my body didn’t have the reserves needed to get better, more quickly. I hated that people approved. Western society has really unhealthy body image issues.

  4. alcockell says:

    As a heterosexual white Asperger male, who was sexually abused by women… I’m just confused.

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