(TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses ableism, misogyny, harassment, relationship abuse, and sexual assault)
If you grow up surrounded by social norms you find confusing, unnecessary or uncomfortable and are told you just have to learn to accept it, then patriarchy and gender roles might not seem any different.
If you’re constantly mocked and teased by people who assert that it’s “just a joke” (and therefore your fault for not finding it funny), then you might also blame yourself for reacting wrongly when men insist that catcalling and harassment is “just a compliment”.
If your facial expressions are always perceived as wrong and as a problem to be fixed, then “smile, love!” might seem like helpful advice.
If your requests for people to meet you halfway or even 10% of the way in an ableist world and make minor accommodations for disabilities have always been deemed uncompromising, selfish, manipulative or controlling, then you might not notice a problem when requests for a partner to do even part of their fair share of the housework are met with a similar response. Or you might have learned not to make requests at all.
If you’ve been taught to move, speak and act exactly how other people want you to, you might not recognise this sort of control as wrong, or as anything less than normal.
If you’re always told your autism isn’t enough to count, you might assume your abuse isn’t enough to count either.
If you’re taught that standing up for yourselves isn’t worth it, you might not stand up for yourself anymore, and then everything must be fine because you’re not arguing over it, right? Why don’t you just confront him?
If you’re told that things you find painful don’t really hurt at all, that your feelings and perceptions are incorrect, that nothing is as important as passing for neurotypical which usually means compliance, if you were never given the tools to say no, then… you do the maths.
In “Quiet Hands”, Julia Bascom uses the phrase “And when you’re autistic, it’s not abuse. It’s therapy.”, something that I think could be extended to other disabilities too. This pervasive ableism leaves all disabled people vulnerable to further abuse. Throw in the prevalence of gendered abuse and violence against women (as well as other intersecting oppressions) and the way we treat disability becomes all the more chilling.
Because if you’re constantly told you’re a burden, you’re always to blame, you should be grateful when people don’t outright dismiss you and laugh at you, then you might start to believe it.