Tuesday, 23 October 2012

On NT privilege

'Privilege' has popped up a few times lately in some of the very different circles I move in.  On a spirituality-centric forum I hang out on we're discussing it in terms of race and religious beliefs, while in Aspie circles it's being discussed in terms of NT privilege, in light of Tony Attwood's recent hijinks.

There are two important thing to remember when thinking about privilege: 1.  It's not something the individual does, and 2. It's possible to be both privileged and not at the same time, in different ways.

The Cirneco dell'Etna is hunting the cat on the tree #dog #cat #pet #puppy

1.  Take white privilege, for example.  The first time I heard the term, back at Uni when I was young and all sorts of naive, I got very upset.  I wasn't doing anything to suppress or disadvantage people from other backgrounds... I just happened to be white.  That's how I came out of the tin.  And I had all sorts of things going on - from being poor to my then-undiagnosed disability - that meant my life sure didn't feel privileged.

But that's the point.  For people who came out of the tin with this particular colouring, some things in life come easier than they do to those who came out differently. (Ahem).

2.  I benefit from privilege in all sorts of ways - I'm white, cis, straight, a native English speaker in a country where that's the default state, and I 'look normal', more or less.  I'm also disadvantaged in that I have a disability, grew up very poor, and am fat (for reasons which are partially medical).  So I'm both privileged and not.  Rather than argue that the latter outweighs the former, I just think how much harder it would have been if I hadn't had the advantages of being straight, white, and so forth.

So, NT privilege.  These are a few potential scenarios I've come up with, some really specific and some quite broad.  Have any more?  Leave 'em in the comments.

  • I see people of my neurological makeup portrayed accurately and sensitively in the media
  • My neurological makeup is never brought up as a source of problem, conflict or inadequacy
  • I can shop where I please and not expect the conditions in the shop to cause me pain or make me ill
  • I can go to school or work and not expect conditions such as lighting and noise to affect my health or lessen my productivity
  • I can easily find clothes and cosmetics that do not cause me sensory distress
  • Conventional grooming - shaving, styling hair, applying makeup - is able to be done by people with my level of motor skills
  • The way I communicate is understood and respected by others
I'm sure there are plenty more...

UPDATE: for more on this, head over to Because You Aren't Autistic, a tumblog dedicated to highlighting neurotypical (or "allistic") privilege.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Pretending to be normal

Passing doesn't mean you're no longer an Aspie.  It just means you are - at that moment - able to fake normal.

  Playtime, Cats in Human Situation, Playing Jump Rope with a Vintage Victorian Doll

Saturday, 13 October 2012

How Aspergers is like a risotto

In Aspie circles, the word "acceptance" has a lot of baggage.

To some people it means doing nothing, just assuming that how things are now is as good as they're ever going to be.  Giving up.  That's not what it means to me.  

It means making the best of what you have, even if what you have is far from ideal, rather than yearning for what you don't.

Let's use an analogy...

You're hungry.


You have a pasta craving the like of which has never been seen.  But you've got no pasta in the house, and it's two days before payday and you're skint, so you can't just scoot off to the shops and get some.

But you have rice.

You can resent the rice's presence, cuss it out for not being pasta, and go hungry while you surf the web looking up ways to turn rice into pasta.

Or you could make a risotto.

Risotto is more complicated than pasta and takes more time, care, attention, and stirring.  It's also not what you were expecting when you set off to the kitchen in the first place.  But it's tasty, gives you the same carb-hit as pasta, and it fills your belly.

Similarly, when I first got diagnosed (discovered I only had rice in the cupboard) I scoured all over for cures and treatments and things that'd make me "better" (turn the rice into pasta).  That didn't work, because there isn't such a thing.

But what does work is finding ways to better manage the condition.  I function less well when I'm tired, therefore I accept that I need a lot of sleep and plan my days accordingly, rather than going out late or pulling all-nighters and then cussing at my body for malfunctioning the next day.  Diet makes a difference, managing my physical health and comfort makes a difference, glasses with transitional lenses and foam earplugs and working out a proprioceptive-impairment-friendly way to dismount the back of a ute all make a difference.

My life's still not a carbonara.  It never will be.  But my risotto's not bad at all.

Risotto with speck and goat cheese

Thursday, 11 October 2012

There's more to life than work

I work. Full time. This is usually seen as a sign that I'm terribly high-functioning, but it's come at the expense of all the other areas of my life. Relationships, further education, travel, maintaining good physical health, those things have not just been neglected but been completely killed off and stomped on, because I've had to throw every available scrap of energy and effort into maintaining the full time job.


I bought into it one time, but these days I don't have a lot of time for the argument that having a job and earning money means you're a success and you've "overcome" your disability.  Because I only have so much energy to work with, and all of it goes into the job, I'm actually less-well-functioning and further behind in all the other areas of my life than I would be if I worked part time, or from home, or had some some sort of arrangement that left me able to do more than just work.

 But today's society judges people as deserving to exist or not depending on their capacity to turn up at an office and put in eight hours.  If you've got a disability that gets between you and paid employment, you're seen as a parasite, taking up resources but not contributing.

That, gentle reader, is ballocks.

For a start the actual amount of money spent on people with disabilities isn't, per head, really that massive.   Let's crunch some numbers.  (It won't happen often around here, so don't get used to it.)

In 2010-2011, 314,000 Aussies accessed disability support services according to the offical figures.  The total cost was $6.2 billion.  This gives us an average cost per head of $19,745.22.  That's the price of a reasonable secondhand Honda Accord.

But, according to one academic, each of our gold medals at the London games set the Aussie taxpayer back around $17 million.  Rounding the disability figure up to $20,000 for the sake of neatness, you could fund full services for 850 people with one gold medal.

I'm not arguing that we should stop sports funding immediately - rather, that we should spend on our needy with as much willingness and as open a heart as we do people who wear alarming lycra onesies.

The other argument is that you can't define someone's worth by their take-home pay.  The contribution a person makes to their community, their family, their sphere of influence - be it sport, fandom, a hobby, the arts, or a pub trivia team - can't be weighed up against their bank balance.

There are more things on heaven and earth and in the hearts or men than are dreamed of in that philosophy.

Disability figures from here, sport figures from here.