Monday, November 17, 2008

Blend in, or stand out?

There comes a time in the life of a society where the individuals living in it experience a tension in how they respond to their society. Stereotypes and differences seem to prevail, and those experiencing these differences are often pointed at and laughed at. Many responses from this treatment result: the few unique individuals attempt to conform, are faced with depression and many underlying psychological issues, or they simply cannot live in the society they are placed in - they band together with those that are like them to create their own mini-society, or they fall off the face of the Earth. 

In a time of change, however, when these differences are exposed, people must fight back - show your differences, how they affect you, and from these actions change will result. New acceptance will arrive on many different levels. It has happened in history for many different groups, and in time will happen for those on the Autism Spectrum. I know I've been putting a lot of stress on this lately, but believe me: with time, it will happen, things will change.

How do we know, though, when to give up trying to blend in with society and show who we really are?

I was diagnosed with Asperger's just years after it was accepted as a condition. I was force-fed therapy and behavioral training which molded me into the almost-"normal"-seeming girl I am today. If I tell people that I do, in fact, have Asperger's Syndrome, 75% of the time they won't believe me. "You seem so normal! You're going to be fine! I don't know why you're overreacting over your social discrepancies because you're likeable and you blend in socially." 

I don't buy this bullshit. I know I'm good at faking being Neurotypical, but the truth is, I feel so different inside. I'm so critical of my own mess-ups and I always feel like I'm putting on such a facade, to what - be like everyone else? Believe me, I'm only doing this for survival. I only followed through with my parent's demands so that I would be socially proficient enough to get a decent enough job that wouldn't leave me homeless and starving. I want to make enough money to express myself creatively, and that's really it. It's embedded in my brain that I should care about catering to everyone else, but you know what? I don't give a fuck about impressing anyone besides those who will contribute to my eventual survival (or lack thereof). I've been trained to not socially fuck up, but I'm only following through with what society expects of me because I don't like upsetting people with rude comments. I don't care if you don't like me because I unintentionally said something rude, I only care that I made you upset, because well, I don't like making anyone upset, it goes against my personal philosophy of peace and how people should interact with one another. 

Basically, I only make you happy because I believe that everybody should be happy.

I just got out of my Art History class, where we've been talking a lot about Identity Politics and social change. This all happens in the scope of modern art. Let's look at artists like Adrian Piper, who emphasized being African-American when she could pass herself off as white, and Kara Walker, whose work consists of exposing social stereotypes of race in large scale, to the point where it can be seen as highly offensive and even disgusting (I'm not going to provide specific examples here; Google their work if you'd like to learn more). These women use art to work through their issues with how society percieves them; shouldn't everybody find a means of doing that? At the same time, if we expose our differences, doesn't that go against all the work we're doing in an attempt to neutralize them? 

So, if society is inevitably going to change to accept those with neurological differences, should we speed up the process and expose our insecurities and personal feeling about Autism by exposing these traits which society has taught us to hide; or should we conform, and show that an Autistic individual can be "normal" as well? 

I know a lot of what I'm saying here may be contradictory, but I just have to get it off my chest. I had the hardest time sitting through that class because so many thoughts were racing through my head and fighting with one another. It's something I need to resolve. I know we can't predict the future, but how should we deal with things when Autism Spectrum disorders get more exposure? Should we conform with the rest of society or embrace our differences? For those of you reading this, I want to hear what you're thinking, because this doesn't just affect those with Autism, it affects any group of people who stand out. This affects everybody, which is why I think everyone needs a valid opinion on it - we need to act in some way, I'm just having trouble deciding how.


Fleecy said...

Hi. I enjoyed your post (I found your blog through a link on a blog through a link on a, oh god, you get the idea). Uh, I tried for probably the better part of an hour to write a comment, but I'm having extreme difficulty coming up with something that both clearly conveys my thoughts and won't poop up your blog with a huge long text.

I might just have to write my own post in response, when I can gather my thoughts together enough for that.

Just wanted to let you know someone has an intention of letting you know what they think about it, since you expressed a desire to know what people think about the subject after reading your post.

pink said...

Thank you! I'm so happy you read it and want to respond! Let me know when you finally do :)

Fleecy said...

Hi. Uhh, I finished writing the thing, but it kind of turned out horribly long. I'm not good at being brief. Sorry if it's too long to read.

Fleecy said...

Sorry to poop up the comment page with back-to-backs, feel free to delete my comments if you want, just wanted to say that after much thinking on it I managed to write something that's not umpteen-pages long, that still expresses my thoughts on the subject. I'm kinda happy about it (it's at the same link as my last comment).

Also, happy thanksgiving!

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