Tag Archives: neurodiversity

Quick hit: don’t blame autism dammit

Marissa Lingen writes on the highly disturbing but very very common theme of explaining harassment and abuse as inevitable results of people with autism spectrum conditions participating in geek or online communities:

Somebody conflated predatory sexual harassment with lack of social skills, and both of them with “Asberger’s,” by which one can only assume they mean Asperger’s syndrome/autism spectrum disorders.

People who have poor social skills, whether because of a neurological condition or because they were raised badly or because they have disdained to learn them or whatever other reason–those people make their social gaffes in full view of large groups. Their colleagues are never surprised to find that they have been saying inappropriate things to a particular group of people for years, because they have poor enough social skills that they don’t get that they’re screwing up. So they don’t hide it. These are the folks who will be sitting with you in the consuite and blurt out a remark, about two notches too loud, about the size of your breasts. And if you are a kind person and feel that they might learn, you can gently say something about that not being a very appropriate thing to say.

But someone who waits until they are with someone they perceive to be in a position of less power to make their remarks? Someone who makes sure that there are no witnesses who will have the authority to censure them? Someone who makes a consistent pattern of aiming their behavior at people who will have a difficult time making the bad behavior known or a reason not to do so? That is not someone who lacks social skills. That’s someone who is using their social skills fairly precisely.

(Via Russell Coker.)

Linkspamming into a brick wall (9th November, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention (twitter uses can use #geekfeminism). Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Recruiting youth to our linkspamming lifestyle (2nd November, 2010)

  • Trying to do it mostly right most of the time: The Border House‘s rho interviews Failbetter Games’s Alexis Kennedy, primary writer for Echo Bazaar, about the game’s approach to diversity, sexism and racism in a setting that was historically sexist and racist.
  • Feminomics: calculating the value of ‘women’s work’: an interview with Marilyn Waring, author of If Women Counted. But how will we know [about women's unpaid work] in the future? This past summer, the Conservatives, in rewriting the long-form census, eliminated only the section on unpaid work. That means that, in the future, StatsCan won’t be able to tell us with any certainty that men perform an average of 2.5 hours of unpaid work per day while women do 4.3 hours, like they did in 2005.
  • I’m Right Here: Rudy Simone on Life as an “Aspergirl”: Aspergirls is partly a personal memoir and partly a book of advice and support for women on the spectrum and their parents and friends. Simone has asked a chorus of Aspie women to speak through its pages, and this personal testimony is deeply moving.
  • British student invents a solar-powered refrigerator: [Emily Cummins] is a graduate of Leeds University, and was once refused a place on an engineering course because “she didn’t have the correct qualifications”. She qualified now?
  • “Renewable Girls” Peddlar Responds: Earlier this week, I critiqued the sale of a cheesecake calendar to help promote and sell solar panels, and asked readers to write to its purveyor, a dude called John B.
  • Stephen Fry, how could you? asks Laurie Penny. Unfortunately, everyone’s favourite gay uncle really has proposed that women only ever have sex for money, or to manipulate a man into a relationship. (oursin responds with to Penny: No, really, say after me ‘It’s always more complicated’)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Death by a thousand links (20th April, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Quick hit: LWN discussion on sexism, social skills, and autism spectrum disorders

As I mentioned in the link roundup, the LWN thread on the Free Software Foundation’s women in Free Software mini-summit will burn your sanity points. But there’s an interesting comment thread involving Matthew Garrett (mjg59) and Bruce Perens about Asperger’s and high functioning autism and what can be expected from people with Asperger’s if they are critised for sexist behaviour or otherwise offending people.

I wanted to highlight this discussion largely because “(s)he can’t help it, (s)he’s autistic” and the more disturbing variant “if geekdom just tossed out all those non-neurotypical folk, all the nasty sexism would go away” pop up fairly commonly in geek feminism discussions. (I don’t observe this much from geek feminists themselves, although being neurotypical I won’t be as alert to it, but certainly in the discussions.) I appreciate the considerably more nuanced discussion on this.

Note for commenters: While the LWN discussion started by talking about Richard Stallman (RMS) and the EMACs virgins incidents, statements about Stallman being neurotypical or not seem to be a matter of speculation only. Comments on this post making blanket assumptions about all neurodiverse people being unable to function in society or perform certain social tasks, or presuming that any individual is or is not neurotypical without that person’s self-identification being known, will be deleted.

Quick hit: Anna Martelli Ravenscroft on neurodiversity 101 and feminism 101

Anna Martelli Ravenscroft writes On trust and diversity, some excerpts follow:

I have , otoh, experienced that sense of mistrust – not about males -but more often about women, and mostly, female neurotypicals [...] What if you had to move as an adult to an alien culture that just happens to speak your same language, but with different meanings for many of the words, with different ways of “being polite”. What if, because you happened to speak the “same” language, you are assumed to just know the cultural norms – for example, the holidays, the rules of the road, the little rules of interaction, that are just different enough from your own culture so that you get tripped up regularly. And what if, instead of explaining patiently to you what you did and how to avoid it in the future, everyone assumed you were tripping up on purpose because “everyone knows that” and anyone who does it “wrong” is deliberately being a troll. How comfortable would you feel in that society?

Welcome to what it feels like to live in neurotypical society.

So yeah – I tend to be, I think, more tolerant of those who have sincere questions about things like “disability 101″ and “feminism 101″ because frankly, most folks don’t grok “neurodiversity 101″. While I understand being tired of explaining what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s society, I perhaps have less sympathy than I might if I were neurotypical – because I am different in an invisible way. Because the neurotypical has no idea how many assumptions they are making about everyone – and when they refuse to explain in response to an honest query – they’re doing *no one* any good.

Before I begin I should note that I am neurotypical. Some of Anna’s writing above will probably ring some bells to geek women in general: a lot of geek women can recount feeling more comfortable in male dominated environments or rather geek dominated (and hence almost always male dominated) environments, because many geek women have various clashes with non-geek and female socialisation and some trouble with “the rules”. We may talk about that in some future post.

But this specific issue is about what neurotypicals assume about diversity discussions and fundamental commonalities between people in such discussions. Anyone got thoughts? Add them here or at Anna’s blog as suits, and remember that if you are, like me, neurotypical and broadly uninformed about neurodiversity, then it behooves you to do a great deal of listening.