Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughts on the female point of view

The last two blog posts – a Female View Of Asperger’s – generated quite a lot of talk. Some of you agreed with what she had to say, while others were rather harsh in your criticism, especially with respect to her ideas on fat people and generalization.

One person wrote to ask how I could allow such a post on my blog. I’m not known as an opponent of fat people, though I am criticized for generalization. I allowed the post – if allow is the word – because I thought it provided an interesting point of view and insight into a female Aspergian mind. I still believe that.

In the preface to the second post, the author said, “I forgot to tell everyone that I've been fired from every job I've ever had pretty much. And not once for lack of ability, according to the bosses that fired me.” I wonder if the tone of the letter is part of the reason she’s had trouble with employment.

Reading into her story, I can imagine the scenario. Fat people have a certain smell that’s picked up by her heightened senses. She experiences that it a way that really bothers her even though most of us would not notice. She lacks the inhibition to keep from commenting on it, and when she does, “fat people smell gross,” and she gets fired. It’s easy to see how something like that could set her up for repeated failure.

That’s a good example of something that seems trivial but is really disabling. My own life experience shows that we can learn to keep our mouths shut, but if our senses are overwhelmed by a smell, we can’t always change that. So how do we coexist? I’m sure there’s an answer but it’s not obvious right now.

It’s true that I would not be so direct in my own comments, but I have met many Aspergians who are even more direct than her. And it’s worth considering what the consequences of such directness may be. Lost jobs is certainly one possibility. It’s also worth considering whether we can change that, and how. I believe we can.

When I read her story, I was reminded in many ways of myself as a teenager, or of my son as a teenager. Is it possible she’s in that same place today? At I pondered that idea, I realized the thing that shaped my own thinking and behavior was the gradual process of learning to interact successfully. That’s been one of the major things that has changed me from a person who was disabled by Asperger’s to someone who’s just eccentric.

What happens if a person does not get those successful interactions; if they don’t get the necessary human-to-human practice that’s needed to develop? Do they stay in stasis? As we get older, it becomes harder in some ways to reach out to other people, and if that happens, I think the risk of real lifelong disability increases. What can we do about that?

A few people suggested that her story is written is an abrasive style. What is that, if not words that are not softened by human experience? The only way I learned to be considerate was for people to tell me I’d hurt their feelings. If I did not want to do that, I had to moderate what I wrote to achieve that goal. It’s not something we are born with; it happens after long practice.

Aging comes naturally but wisdom is really hard-won. I think her story leaves me with a lot to think about. I ask myself, “How would I help a person with those ideas fit into the world a little better?” There are a lot of tough questions and issues in there.

I think the essay I posted represents the author’s first steps on a long road, one that many of us share.

It’s certainly been an interesting discussion.

12 comments:

cath c said...

it certainly has. i noticed in the discussions that the rigidity of perspective of aspies really showed in the discussions, as well as her posts. i think, even if it can be rough at times, it is important that we are seeing/hearing each's point of view. maybe in that way we can start to open to the possibility of another point of view.

Kelly in Big D said...

This is wonderfully written and fascinating! Love reading it.

Something I've always heard was that adults on the spectrum have a hard time w/ God/faith/religion, but this woman refers several times to Jesus and God.

I'd love some insight on that - if she (or you?) struggles w/ the idea of a creator God?

Gavin Bollard said...

John,
It takes great courage for anyone to "be themselves" and post their story online.

I got the feeling that your female writer was an abrasive person and this is somewhat implied by her introduction in the second post.

The abrasiveness is not her fault, it's just how she is. She could have written in a sweet disarming way but she'd be lying. I respect her for being herself. We all have our faults but some of us work too hard to cover them up.

There were some generalisations in the posts but we all do it. It's in our nature to generalise. With blogging, I find that the comments are often as interesting as the original subject. That was certainly the case here and many of those generalisations were debunked - even ones which I felt were close to my own experiences.

Thank you (and your mysterious writer) for the articles. They certainly provided a great deal of insight and food for thought.

Cute But Clueless said...

John,

Thank you for posting this, because a lot of it resonates with me.

I can understand why people were taken aback by it - it's not nice to insult fat people or generalize, but it's also very hard for most of us, as you've stated, to learn how to manage our thoughts and create a filter between our brains and our mouths. I had very similar experiences when I was younger - I had a complete inability to censor myself and always said exactly what I thought, regardless, and it got me fired from a few jobs as well as ruined the few interpersonal relationships I had.

Over the years, not knowing what was wrong with me other than that I had no "tact", I talked less and less, because whatever I said always upset someone, or at the very least made them uncomfortable, and it was easier to just be quiet. Now that I'm older, I've learned to manage it and by reading many many books on etiquette, I have learned to translate my thoughts into something palatable for the neurotypical population.

While I don't doubt that there are some who use their condition as an excuse to be rude or ill-behaved, this woman doesn't strike me as such. She just seems to be someone who never had much of an outlet to learn exactly why she was different, or how, or much support in a way to help her learn to manage her behavior.

For years I lived as an alien, not fitting in, unlike other people - I always thought of myself as broken or lacking in some fundamental human component that made it all easy. But now I understand that I am just wired differently.

My nephew, who is also an Aspie, has had the benefit of a loving mother who had educated herself exhaustively and gone to great lengths to get him life coaching and social therapy, and i am very happy that he will have a much easier time navigating life and society when he has such a strong support network.

I don't think the writer here should be judged so harshly. My heart goes out to her - yes, we can be empathetic - because I've experienced so much of what she writes and yet we're constantly reinforced that we're wrong - so why are we judged so harshly for being who we are, if we're constantly told we shouldn't be so "honest" in our assessment of others?

I am looking forward to part 3.

LunaTec said...

Gavin, Thank you for taking the time to post a well-thought out response on your blog the other day. I think some of my comments were misunderstood but I've probably belabored the point already in trying to clear them up. :)

I think what doesn't translate so well in writing is the glint in my eye and the mischievous grin on my face when I communicate. I enjoy sarcastic wit. Not intended to be mean. I don't like mean humor. But irreverent? Yes.

It's play. Never meant to hurt anyone. I can't sugar coat things because it feels skeevy to me. Condescending. I treat others the way I want to be treated. Openly, honestly and assuming of their intelligence and perceptibility. C

Come and friend me on FaceBook and you'll see I'm really not the cruel selfish person you might think I am. But I do have a raucous sense of humor. :D :D

LunaTec said...

Kelly in Big D, I used to live in the Big D. :D How ya doin'? :D

About religion. No one loves Jeshua, Jesus, more than I do. Which is why I refuse to support the lies that religions are based on. The ancient Sumerian tablets are the source material for the Bible, according to my studies. There's a web site for the archeology dept (I think) at Cambridge in the UK that has deciphered what these tablets are saying. It's like reading the Bible. And these are thousands of years older.

According to them, who we call God, was a man, (Genesis -- they heard him walking in the Garden) who created the human in a test tube basically. It's a long story and I can't write about it without really researching it again, for fear of the wrath of those that would pick all the nits right off my head so... :D :D But the data is out there and it's free.

That doesn't mean there isn't a Creator of the All That Is. That quality remains a mystery. I think quantum physics is getting close though.

I differentiate between the two. I love them both by the way. Jeshua knew of these secret teachings. Remember one of the the apostles asked to learn the deepest mystical teachings from Him. When he asked Jeshu for these secret teachings, Jeshu said, and I'm paraphrasing, "if I told you, you'd stone Me in the street".

I've read the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel Thomas and the Nag Hammadi library. Also studied kabbalah at one point and of course the Bible. I was a Buddhist for awhile too. It was clear to everyone that I had been one before. Went through the New Age data, which is just another religion in my view. Never did I understand the old documents so well, as I did after I read the ancient Sumerian tablets. I read both Sitchin's translation and the team at Cambridge. (I think it's Cambridge, I could be wrong.)

If you're interested in this subject, friend me and we can learn about it together. I love Jeshua and the Creator more than life itself. (And the man that created the human. Love him too.) That's why I want the Truth.

And that's why I'm vegan. The Creator's beautiful creation is being raped and pillaged and her children (Earth babies I call them, the animals) are being abused horribly. My spiritual practice is doing all I can to ferret out the Truth and protect the Earth and her animals. I take my responsibility as a witness very very seriously. And I refuse to pander to the common consensus. :)

Thank you so much for your kind words and taking the time to comment. I hope you check out this material. The Truth really does set you free. And it explains the cruelty in creation. You don't get apples from an orange tree. If the Creator is all good,and I believe she is, then all this evil couldn't exist unless something, or someone, else created it. :)

LunaTec said...

Cute but Clueless,
LOVE your name.

In order for me to be tactful, I have to just shut up. :D I'll joke and say, "I have no opinion", a line from Annie Hall. :D :D Sometimes I don't utter a sound all day long. But now that I'm around animals all the time, I chatter baby talk a lot. I know I know. Nauseating.

I also talk out loud to myself in public. I can't help it. It just comes flying out my mouth. I hear it for the first time the same time everyone else does. Not too long ago, I was standing in line at the check out counter at the grocery store when I saw that the woman in front of me had super low cut tight jeans on. Her butt cheeks were spilling out all over the place!! If you looked closely, which I didn't, I'm sure you could see toilet paper back there!! It was disgusting. I of course blurt out, "God her ass is hangin' out all over the place!" :D :D Thank God she just ignored me. :D :D But come on. Not everyone wants to see your genitalia when they're out buying lettuce. :Q

It can be a real problem. So I just stay home, all alone with my critter friends, and coo at them all day. That keeps me out of trouble. ;)

Pagan Sphinx said...

Is Asperger's fashionable now, or what? Everyone who feels a twinge different from the crowd seems to be analyzing themselves with it. It's annoying.

I don't meant to be rude here. Honestly. When I read the guest blogger's post, I found it no more and no less interesting than anyone else's account of their struggles with personality, society, ideas, or bad body odor. I've read blog posts by people who let it all hang out and they do not have Asperger's. People on the spectrum are not the sole embodiment of the oddness in the world.

I said this in the comment on the guest blogger's post: my mate has asperger's and I don't but we're both pretty weird. I hope I've made my point.

LandonLand said...

I think the fact that you published hateful words to an audience full of extraordinarily sensitive person indicates that you do not understand autism or aspergers as well as you claim. Do you care that your blog be accessible to the people that need it? If so, refrain from bigotry yourself and edit it guest posters.

John Elder Robison said...

LandonLand, I respect your point of view and your objections to what you see as her bigoted attitude. However, I don't think it's necessary for me to censor her because it's her point of view, not mine, and many people have weighed in on both sides of this issue.

Whatever you think of her views the fact is, she has sparked a very productive discussion and we have new ideas on the table.

I have never moderated or edited blog posts here, and I'm not inclined to start now.

Tidoubleguher said...

Truthfully, I didn't find the writing abrasive. I did however gather there was a bit of sarcasm floating about. But then, I tend towards sarcasm myself. :)

I am happy that a female perspective has been shared. There is so little out there on women with AS. I'm reading all I can on AS because of my son, but since I suspect that the apple really didn't fall far from the tree, for myself as well.

Thanks again for sharing this.

Eilidh said...

thanks for sharing! :D
this is sooooo similar to the way i think!!!....i was suprised by how many people think its 'harsh' or ''too abrupt'' . To me , it just sounds like your getting to the point, directly and saying it how it is. It makes things much easier to understand and far less boring!!! ....i also agree with what you say about fat people, it is disgusting!!!...although even i think that your opinions sound too strong and dont take into account the reality of alot of fat peoples lives etc ect...i mean, if you think its greedy for fat people to over eat....then isnt it just as greedy for you to have a bottle of chardonnay to yourself everyday??? (like you said you did/do in the essay). I am also Vegan by the way! :) for the same reasons, i love animals, and farming is destroying the planet!!