Tag Archives: representation

Diversity

So I guess I’m feeling kind of negative. This post could easily be called “things I despair of ever seeing in my lifetime.” These are points about civil rights, diversity, and representation that I would like to see, but are so far from happening that many people aren’t even aware of them, or don’t see them as things we should care about.

~ A politician running for office including disability rights as part of their platform.

~ A campaign to increase minimum wage including special minimum wage as part of the overall issue.

~ A visible campaign that includes politicians backing it to get rid of special minimum wage entirely.

~ Actually getting rid of special minimum wage.

~ A person who is too disabled to work being a protagonist in a tv show.

~ A person who is too disabled to work being a protagonist in a game.

~ A TV show with an officially autistic main character, who is portrayed in a positive light without relying on stereotypes.

~ A main character with a variety of intersectional difficulties. Such as disabled AND female AND a POC.

~ Disability rights being broadly seen as civil rights.

~ A political including marriage equality for people with disability as part of their platform.

Ok, so we do have a few partial wins with some of these. We have Professor Xavier in X-men, who is a disabled protagonist. That’s awesome! However, aside from the wheelchair he is as normalized as possible, being white, male, and straight.

We also have Alternate Astrid, from the TV show Fringe. A woman of color who is officially autistic, and her autism is simply part of who she is, rather than central to the story. However, she is a very minor character and we do not see her particularly often.

More on Fringe – they have a number of characters with differences, and again, those differences are never a central story plot, but simply part of who they are. That’s awesome. Again, though, they are always side characters. Main characters are still on some plane of “normal.”

Mad Max, the character Furiosa, who is a woman, kickass, and a fetal amputee. Actually, this one is pretty awesome and her existence as a protagonist is a HUGE deal

Diversity and representation are important. Diversity of color, gender, and sexuality are definitely important, but they are not the whole picture. Diversity of neurology and (dis)ability are also important, but are still not really seen as serious issues of discussion. A while I am seeing baby steps in terms of representation, it seems as though issues of legal equality and civil rights are still only espoused by small numbers of people who are not particularly well listened to.

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More on intersections

Ages ago someone found my blog because they ran a search for “do I benefit from white privilege if I’m autistic.” I wound up noting it down in my blog topics list to get to eventually. Apparently “eventually” has arrived.

Talking about privilege is tough. I’m not good at it  – I hope to be at least somewhat better eventually, but I’m not there yet. But then, I won’t get better at talking about privilege until I actually start talking about privilege, so there you go.

To get straight to be point, before I go off on a ramble – the answer to this question is an unequivocal yes. Yes, white privilege applies when one is autistic and white. Male privilege applies when one is autistic and male. That special combination of straight, white, male privilege exists for straight, white, male autistics. Autistic people of color face an icky combination of discrimination and prejudice that white autistics do not.

Increasingly I think that privilege and oppression really needs to be talked about as an intersectional thing – when the intersections are ignored, the conversation becomes pretty much worthless. Autism sits right at the intersection of disability and mental illness. There are many ways in which this is not a nice place to be. I mean, disability is barely, if at all, seen as a social justice issue. People don’t even bat an eye when disabled people have to go down alleys, use service elevators or that sort of thing to use the the buildings all the rest of us use without even thinking about it. If you bring it up, most people will not think about it in terms of discrimination. Sure, “your entrance is in the rear” is bad for most people, but disabled people? Apparently that’s ok. Or you’ll get a place full of self-professed “egalitarians” bending over backwards to defend paying disabled people less than minimum wage.

Both disability and mental illness are treated in dehumanizing ways. I once wrote a post about wanting to see autistic representation in the media. It was about how cool it would be to see a cool, confident, likable character who happened to be autistic, and about how unlikely that is to happen. But really, in a way, that was setting the bar REALLY low. I mean, the character would almost certainly still be white, male, straight, able-bodied, and have a career. A strong, confident, likable character who’s in a wheelchair, or is too disabled to work, or could work in theory but can’t find a job because they can’t get through the interview process? No, that’s not happening. That’s so far from happening that even thinking about asking for it seems utterly and completely absurd.

Anyway. This is getting a little rambly. Intersections. I am on the autism spectrum. I am female. I have been too disabled to work for many years now (though with meds that might change). I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful and I did not wind up living on the streets – something that was probably more of a risk for me than I care to think about, had aspects of my life gone differently. I don’t drive. There are no people like me on TV, and I face a lot of judgement for being the way I am (that is, when I reveal these things to people who are relative strangers. which is rare, because I don’t like the way people look at me when they learn some of these things).

On the other hand, I am white. I am able-bodied. I can usually hide my differences from random strangers on the street, and just look “quirky” instead. There is privilege in that. No one will judge me because of the color of my skin, no one will make assumptions about me based on the texture of my hair, service people will notice my existence and interact with me without uncomfortable glances at mobility aids. So YES, I am benefiting from white privilege, as well as able-bodied privilege, speaking privilege, sight privilege, cisgender privilege and various other abilities I have that other people don’t.

So, random person on the internet, yes, you benefit from white privilege if you are white, regardless of what other privileges you do or do not enjoy. Privileges or lack thereof definitely intersect and impact one another, but they do not cancel each other out.

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