So after reading yet another article about how the “wellness” (cough, puke) industry uses unregulated and non-factual claims to sell products to unsuspecting women while managing to completely ignore the reason women are searching for such things, followed by me writing fuming paragraphs in my head despite watching kittens play quasi-football, I figured perhaps I should write a blog post.
Warning: This post will not end anywhere near where it began.
Now that that’s out of the way, I am going to write that the reason women are susceptible to all this “self-care” bulls*** has nothing at all to do with self care. It has to do with the frustration, anger, hopelessness and exhaustion that comes from struggling in a society that pays women about half of what it pays men for the same jobs. That simultaneously treats women like fragile saints or pariahs with no space in between. That thinks it’s perfectly okay for women in two-income households to shoulder the majority of house keeping and child care while at the same time suspecting them to be incapable of making a large purchase without their husbands in tow, that will punish them by charging them more for things like car repair and loans because there isn’t a Y chromosome around to speak up on their behalf.
It’s a society where sexism, racism, ableism, and cronyism in hiring are allowed to continue unabated under the laughable euphemisms of “good fit” and “right chemistry” that really mean “looks like me.” Women watch men (and BIPOC watch whites) half their age with a tenth of their qualifications get promoted over them by people who move goal posts for the express purpose of hiring some frat brother or son of some frat brother, club member, etc. whose sole qualification is the white appendage in their pants. Where the word nepotism must be expanded to include “any white dude who knows another white dude.”
For the record, I’m not talking about all white men here. I’m talking about the ones who engage in these practices while pretending to do otherwise, and the ones who see this happening, and while they don’t do it themselves, still think that it isn’t a big deal because things “have always been this way,” which might be the stupidest reason for doing anything, ever.
I am blessed to have white men in my life who wouldn’t dream of passing on the best and most qualified person for a position just because they didn’t have the aforementioned appendage or didn’t have it in the right color. In fact, these men have at times expressed frustrated to me about having to deal with incompetent co-workers that were hired for the wrong reasons. They find the whole nepotistic system to be pretty much useless. And because these guys actually see what’s going on, don’t think it’s good for business or anything else, and don’t care what other men think about their decisions (another privilege reserved for members only), these men can paradoxically find themselves excluded from these good ol’ [white] boys clubs just because they had the temerity to buck the party line by hiring someone who didn’t look like them.
Er, isn’t this supposed to be a blog about autism?
Yes, it is a blog about autism. But I am not just an autistic. I am an autistic woman. I still run up against walls built by Eurocentric conceptions of autism develped from studies in male children that continue to pervade the psychiatric and research communities. I’m not allowed to be autistic because I don’t look right or act right; that is, act like the male autistics on TV who are superhuman geniuses that speak in monotones and don’t make eye-contact and flap around in crude imitations of the self-soothing behaviors autistics use to cope in a world designed for non-autistic people.
(That depiction, by the way, is complete fiction. It has nothing to do with the lived experience of being autistic. It’s not even a caricature; it’s totally made up out of whole cloth by non-autistic, so-called experts in autism.)
We live in a society that punishes people who fail to adhere to white, male, Eurocentric culture, and who think of that not as culture, but a default against which everything else is an aberration. Women are punished for not being dependent on men, for acting like men, for engaging in tasks originally performed by men, for being independent of men.
BIPOC are punished for not “knowing their place” alongside centuries of junk science claiming they feel less pain than whites and are naturally more inclined to violence, views that pervade modern society even though they are completely erroneous.
LGBTQIA+ people are punished for not falling into a superimposed cis hetero binary that even animals don’t adhere to.
Disabled people are punished when they don’t hide or compensate for their disability to make other people feel better, for making non-disabled people feel uncomfortable despite the fact that the fault for that discomfort lies in the abled person, not the disabled person.
I live in a society that has a narrowly inscribed default for autism that I am punished for not fitting inside. Even in responses to the articles I write about autism, parents of severely autistic children claim that I’m not “really” autistic and that I have no idea what “real” autism is. And when I try to point out that it is they, and not me, that have no idea what it is like to be autistic, that really rubs their fur the wrong way and then come the personal attacks.
I’m not saying raising an autistic child is easy. Having an autistic child that is non-verbal and/or developmentally delayed is one of the steepest challenges parents can face and I’m not suggesting their kids are like me. (But by the way, not every screaming child pulled out of a restaurant or movie is autistic. Maybe it’s time to cut these parents some slack.)
What I am suggesting is that at least some of the behavior they struggle with, the screaming, the violence, the stimming, is because the child feels not just overwhelmed but not understood. Do we validate the misbehavior of three-year-olds? No. But neurotypical three-years-olds can talk to us and we can listen to them and reassure them. Autistic children who aren’t verbal can’t tell their parents what they’re feeling. Their options for communication are all but non-existent, a frustration in and of itself that I can’t imagine any three-year-old coping with well. I wish ABA therapy focused on finding ways for autistic children children to communicate, even rudimentally, instead of shaming and punishing them for their understandable frustrations.
But in every situation I’ve mentioned in this post, the problem isn’t with the woman, the non-white man, the disabled child, the lesbian. It’s with a society that refuses to validate their membership. We aren’t mad at white, non-disabled, heterosexual men. We are mad because not enough of them understand that there remain historic and indelible barriers to entry that are only visible to the people they exclude, barriers that include decades of both explicit and implicit policies that kept non-white, non-male people from owning homes, from attending college, from accumulating wealth, from having access to good schools, friendly law enforcement, or towns where people don’t lock their doors, barriers that only people who don’t face them can remove. The woman isn’t mad at the useless guy who got promoted over her. She’s mad that this kind of thing still happens in this day and age and no-one in a position to change it seems to care, and there aren’t any vitamin supplements or bath salts that can fix that.
The autistic parent who dismisses me isn’t angry at me. She’s angry at a society that refuses to acknowledge the humanity of her autistic child, that doesn’t want said child in their schools, on their playgrounds, in their quarantine pods, at their birthday parties.
And that’s what this post is about. It’s about shifting the focus and blame away from the people who are harmed by this structure and on to the people who can actually do something about it. Women don’t need scented oils or rose quartz vaginal eggs or supposedly rejuvenating supplements or little pieces of fancy chocolate in gold foil wrappers. They need to be paid what they’re worth, promoted when they deserve it, supported in the home, and not criticized for being insufficiently female.
I don’t need adjudicate what autism is or isn’t. What I need is to be accepted for who I am by a society that has yet to fully acknowledge my existence. That’s what this post, and indeed, this blog, are all about.