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.