An Autistic Woman's Journey to Empowerment and Understanding
The Illusion of Authenticity
In today's era of social media and self-expression, there's an overwhelming influx of authenticity propaganda. The prevailing message seems to be an encouragement to embrace authenticity fully. However, when we peel back the layers, we often find a more nuanced reality: "Be authentic, but only in ways that align with societal norms and don't challenge the status quo or make others uncomfortable."
This paradoxical approach to authenticity reflects a broader societal issue. While there's a growing call for individuals to be true to themselves, it frequently comes with the unspoken caveat that one should remain within the boundaries of what's considered socially acceptable. The irony lies in the fact that true authenticity often involves challenging those very boundaries, questioning established norms, and confronting uncomfortable truths.
An Autistic Woman's Battle
As a 44-year-old autistic woman, officially diagnosed just five months ago, I find myself confronting ableism on a daily basis. Currently, I am a graduate student deeply engrossed in the study of transformative social change. This journey has brought me face to face with a relentless battle against discrimination, where self-advocacy has become not just a choice but a crucial necessity in my daily life.
The Long-Form Expression
Autistic individuals, myself included, often find ourselves speaking or writing in long-form, expending an abundance of words to express our thoughts. Why is this the case? I believe it's because we are so frequently misunderstood that we must meticulously demonstrate how we arrived at our conclusions. Without showing our work, our perspectives are often summarily dismissed.
This situation presents a double-edged, perhaps even triple-edged sword. Ableist individuals are often resistant to being educated; they exhibit a fragility when it comes to expanding their worldviews. I recognize this fragility because I, too, once held ableist beliefs, and I continue to grapple with the internalized ableism that resulted from my experiences as an autistic child forced to conform to neurotypical norms and expectations.
The Phenomenon of Neurotypical Supremacy
The third edge of this intricate sword is neurotypical supremacy, a phenomenon that exists, albeit to varying degrees, across different generations, from Baby Boomers to Gen X, Xenials, and even some Millennials. What I find intriguing is that women tend to manifest this fragility more prominently than men.
Neurotypical supremacy, a complex and often subtle form of discrimination, undeniably exists within our society. It's a phenomenon that affects many individuals, including women, who, like myself, are neurodivergent, quite possibly autistic, and carry the weight of profound internalized ableism. Several interconnected factors contribute to this phenomenon, one of which is their historical loyalty to patriarchal structures.
A Call for Recognition and Dismantling
Neurotypical supremacy, however subtle it may be, creates a hierarchy where neurotypical traits are often valued more highly than neurodivergent ones. This hierarchy perpetuates stereotypes and biases, making it challenging for neurodivergent individuals to be fully understood, accepted, and accommodated in society.
Acknowledging the existence of neurotypical supremacy is the first step in dismantling its influence. By challenging these deeply ingrained biases, we can work towards a more inclusive society where the unique strengths and perspectives of neurodivergent individuals, including autistic women, are celebrated rather than suppressed.
In conclusion, the journey of navigating ableism, both as an autistic individual and as someone striving to enlighten others about its damaging effects, is relentless and challenging. It involves not only advocating for oneself but also patiently and persistently challenging deeply ingrained biases in society. The ability to combat ableism lies in education, empathy, and the willingness to confront one's own prejudices. As we strive for a more inclusive and compassionate world, it's essential to recognize and dismantle the barriers of ableism, one encounter at a time.