Pirates and Poems

My special interest as an Aspie is language.

At uni it was the language of power and propaganda. That gets me jobs.

At home it’s poetry and prose. That gives me joy.

On stage it’s comedic poetry, wordplay, political statements through satire and parody. That gives me satisfaction.

Yesterday I performed in a Melbourne poetry event – my first since I moved here.

Got to include another love (costumes) with poetry and comedy and got to dress up as a zombie pirate in a dead pirates themed event.

I’ve poetry slammed twice in Alice Springs and was wanting to continue when I moved. Last Dirty Word I did in Alice I did a serious poem about DV. It was very personal and very hard to do. But I’m glad I did.

Here’s one of my more serious poems…

Me as Zombie Pirate.

Autistic Employment Collateral #1

This is the first of a series of posts about the aspects of something I call “Autistic Employment Collateral” and its impact. I hope it’s useful and that the parents of AS young people and AS young people find it validating. I will examine three traits each post through my own experiences and offer the practical strategies I have learned to use.  *nb: all Autistic people are different, but hopefully some of my experience might help others with may have experienced similar.

The last five years I have shifted from denial to acceptance of who I am – and moved beyond the “collateral” that the world claimed from me. I have stress related illness (including blood pressure) from masking myself to make the world feel more comfortable with my autism and I am done with it.  I will do my best not to mask anymore, unless of course I don’t feel safe, and then it may come back up.

I have also recovered from a trauma and associated brain injury that means I have a complex set of challenges I manage daily. I am tired of not talking about it and the world bullying me into a being just a commodity and not a human being first.

Happy to be a human being and a commodity, but on my own terms.

I also need to say these are Autistic (AS) traits. They can’t be turned off but can be harnessed into skills, but they are not deficits.

Many AS people are tired of being “normalised” as though the “unicorn” of normal is what we are meant to be modelled against.  Unicorns are cute, but I don’t want to be one. I would wear unicorn slippers. Probably to work too. But I digress.

I am Jacqueline (Jacci or Jacqui), depending on what context you know me in.

I am autistic. Here’s an example of some the collaterals that the world has taken from me that I have tried to mask and now refuse to mask –

1. Eye contact drains me, and prolonged eye contact distresses me. Yet the western cultural world tells me to look people in the eyes. If I don’t use eye contact, people think I am being dishonest or shifty, when my senses are just overwhelmed and drained by looking at you in the eyes.

When I studied Anthropology, I was delighted to learn that not all cultures think eye contact is a good thing. I ended up being quite comfortable with working with Aboriginal Australians and having awesome conversations where little eye contact was had.  Without the aggression of forced eye contact, the conversations were so meaningful and rich. I dropped the eye contact mask and I now tell people that I am not good with eye contact.

What I say to people now is, “I may look at the floor, or over your shoulder when we talk. But I am listening to you. In fact this is how I listen to you best”.

2. I see the world and process information visually (in pictures), in 3D detail in my mind’s eye first, then I convert them into words. Yet people think my drawing and doodling is distraction or that I am being rude. In recent years my career has become about helping organisations to represent complex systems and charts and visual representations. That is my autistic superpower.

In the past I was given minute taking roles because people thought I was good with words.  There are people who are great at minutes, but I need to record the meeting and do it later.  I am good with words, words are my passion, but it doesn’t start with words. It starts by images and a lot of them. I sort them out using words, arrows, shapes and I process the relationships between the images and through the words I hear or read visually.

But the words don’t come first and often I have frustrated employers who don’t understand that I need to understand the relationships of things before I write and that I am not just a “scribbling monkey” for their own personal use. I need to walk, move, draw, map the ideas before I can write them.

I once was bullied by an employer because I needed to walk the hall and draw the work before I wrote. They thought I was wasting their time and that I didn’t want to work or that I was “slacking off”. When they forced me to stay in my office and “just write”, I nearly ended up hospitalised with mental health issues.

In recent years I have learned to say to employers and even at interview; “I am a visual thinker. I can break down systems into images and representations and words for you, like you have seen in my previous work, but in that order, not the other way around. I need to walk and draw and mind map before I write and design”.

3. I do amazingly well at detail and logic and can focus on tasks for long periods, but people think I am being harsh or critical or nit-picky or, in the extreme example, they “diagnose” me with depression or anxiety. I see the world in complex ways. This is not a problem. I can relax. I know how to relax. I just don’t need somebody who isn’t autistic telling me how to fit in with their way of seeing the world.

In fact, let me distil this down. When you try and force me to lose the detail, you are telling me I am less. You are turning me into a problem. I do then start to develop mental health problems – panic attacks primarily. These are such that I must withdraw from the world and take time off, which can put me at a financial disadvantage and have long term negative health impacts.

The other issue is like the one at #2 in that I get shoved into an office and get too much detail thrown at me, because I am good at it. But it takes its toll and I need to walk, draw and talk to people to stem the constant flow of information in my head – unless it gets too tiring. Think of the matrix, yet you can’t unplug without conscious effort and to seek quiet or nature or meditate or engage in a mind stilling exercise that best works for the individual concerned.

But my mental health problems are caused by the world insisting I should “dumb it down” and that my expression of detail is unwanted. It is a rejection of my very person, my very humanity. When I employed for my detailed analysis and supported, these mental health issues abate, and I operate far more efficiently.

Now, I have learned to say to employers, “I can process a lot of detail for long periods. I can then analyse and distill it down for various audiences very quickly. However it takes a toll on me and I need to break up my duties so it doesn’t exhaust me.  If I am allowed to do this, you will get large amounts of clear and precise work from me. So I am not ‘slacking off’, I am processing.”

Illustration of an isolated line art comic balloon with  a broken shieldFinally, let me conclude with this.

The mask is off. Women with autism have exemplary masking ability. That is because the world expects different standards of us as women to begin with and we are therefore better at it.

The mask is not a lie. The mask is a way of coping with a world that turns us into medical problems rather than see that our “issues” are superpowers when harnessed and valued correctly.

I will not put my mask back on. I have smashed it. It is gone.

Reflections on The Bachelor – Desperation TV

It’s been a while since I posted. Post Fringe Festival lethargy!

But this TV show The Bachelor and the recent uproar! Wow! I don’t watch commercial TV, but “The Bachelor” came on my radar this last two weeks, so I watched the last two episodes. It’s not that I dislike all reality TV, just the non-sensical dating versions.
Apparently, the Honey Badger (seriously, wtf? his name is Nick Cummins) decided not to pick either of the two women the shows twisted process of shortlisting had reduced the pack down to.
Outrage! Some defended him, some defended the women. I’d like to say – let’s not focus solely on the contestants and look at the format as a whole and how it diminishes men and women.

I found myself angry at the rubbish being peddled as journalism. The whole thing is a capitalist neo-liberal wank-fest aimed at diminishing women to good looking brides and diminishing men to muscle bound bread-winners who call all the shots.

The 1950’s I hear you calling and I wish you would sit the fuck down and remember you lost.  Oh! How dare you! I hear some fans say. But hear me out because you don’t have to like the show less because someone else dislikes it (fancy that!).
“But the women are smart and he is successful and…” Blah. Blah. Blah.
Yes, but the entire premise is basically about the idea that women are only handbag like accessories to men and men are supposed to wear all the responsibility and make all the important decisions.

Even “The Bachelorette” is about old toxic ideas of men competing for sexual and/or social access to a woman. Dog eat dog, get the woman at all costs. Men, don’t be vulnerable or real, women be passive and nice even when you choose the men (cause you can’t really be in control because they will have “killed” each other to be front and centre). I am not the first to say this either…

But the offshoot of that is, in the recent Bachelor Nick Cummins, who allegedly told us all to “get over it” (and I agree with him), he decided to “shock” us by not picking anyone.  I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Some commentators were horrified that he defied his duty of objectifying a bunch of women and not culling the herd to just one of beautiful “girls” (for fucks sake they are women) who gave up jobs and lives to be on the show. Whilst there is some part of that resonates because women often are the ones to move to be in relationships, I think they had more agency than that – cause they are successful women in their own right before and after they were on The Bachelor.

Perhaps we should be horrified at something else. The fact that women with successful lives and careers and still in their “prime” physically should by portrayed by the media as not having any choice but to accept him and that somehow he took away that choice. The problem is not them as individuals, I respect their choices to be there. The problem, as I see it, is that this show exists to perpetrate the view that these women are still incomplete without a man and the backlash to no one being “chosen” is proof of that.

Folks, kisses are not contracts.  Remember that? And thank fuck they are not.  I don’t want to go back to the days of being forced to marry someone cause I kissed them or slept with them and the social authorities (as the media sometimes place themselves) deemed it necessary penance for being “sullied” (such bullshit). Fuck that shit.

I need to stress that the “contestants” on these shows do have agency in the perpetration of the networks dumpster fire delusion and that I don’t see them as victims.  I hope they turn it into something worthwhile (which many of them do). But the narrative impact on the masses is worrying. I think someone should do a study on what it does to their lives long term and have contestants reflect back every five years for the next twenty. Now that would be interesting TV! Maybe that would be worthwhile to counter the sexist rubbish the current show format is.
There are no winners here from a media point of view and there should be. Some parts of the media are using this to cling to old century views of rigid gender stereotyping.
The media has infantilised the women as “girls”. Nick should “explain himself to the girls” as though they can’t have an independent thought without a detailed analysis from him. Nick is diminished for not being decisive enough and for not being sure in something that could be predation and for being honest about being “a bit lost”. What crap.
Let’s look at this through a less old fashioned lens:

  • Well done Nick for not putting these two women through any more indecision and being honest and open about your feelings on air to millions of viewers. You are not less of a man because you decided not to stuff them around any further and were uncomfortable with playing with their feelings, despite what the network may or may not have told you to do. If more men walked away when unsure rather than play head of the household power games we would have less women and children being psychologically abused or, worse, dying each week at the hands of their intimate partners because they “can’t let go”. The pressure on men to be in charge is huge and it results in suicides and other toxic behaviours.
  • Well done to Brittany Hockley and Sophie Tieman and the host of other women who put themselves out there. But most importantly bravo that you all have lives to go back to and can make choices to be able to take this time off for a potential extension of your career to TV. How you have agency in the world is a choice and you are what we all fight for, women with choices who could take time off and enter this show. It may be a career move for many of you. Even if I think the show is rubbish, the fact you got in there and were successful before and after the show and have the ability to be mobile professionally to do so is a testimony to your personal agency as women. May you go from strength to strength.

But I do think we should create a whole new channel called DTV (Desperation TV) just for histories sake. So once, these things are history, we can sit and watch them as a glorious guilty pleasures of old.

Like the time we now go to the museum and gasp at the old washing copper boilers and wood fired ovens that we once slaved over by candlelight with six children at our feet.  Cause this is where this patriarchal bullshit belongs.

We can gasp at Desperation TV just for shows like The Bachelor, Farmer Wants a Wife, Paradise Island and The Bachelorette.
We can gasp at when people watched (and often modelled their lives off) the beautiful ones in captive environments like “Ken and Barbie Zoos” preying upon each other in some inane perfection quest to maintain a rigid gender trajectory that doesn’t really exist anyway.
Heteronormative bullshit at it’s best. I do love that Vietnam’s The Bachelor had two female contestants fall in love and it went to air. That is refreshing.
So let’s call this new TV channel – Desperate TV. Not because the individuals in the shows are desperate, but because the existence of these ridiculous and insulting programs is because the old world is hanging desperately on and clinging to the patriarchal life raft that is dating based reality TV.

I hope contestants are well paid – but they are probably not and that is a blog entry for another time…

*By the way, why isn’t The Bachelorette named “The Spinster” (which is the gendered term for older unmarried woman past her “prime”)? Oh…that would mean that it is clear that the entire show is measured against the old-school gender gaze…or symptomatic of the patriarchies desperation to keep women in their proper place. Young (or young looking), pretty, dependent on men for everything and happy to be so. The fact that older, successful, happily single women of all shapes and sizes who are independent in their own right (and queer too) exist would not make good TV according to the reality TV schtick. Sigh.  Can’t wait to shove that shit in a museum.