Sunday, June 28, 2015

Neurotypical Privilege Part 1: What is Neurotypical Privilege?

The Definition of Privilege

If you already know what the term "privilege" means in general, just skip this part and scroll to the section about neurotypical privilege.

I know, I know, just the title is very divisive. Many of you are likely happy to see this title because it's another acknowledgement of the reality of social privilege based on aspects that individuals usually cannot control. On the other hand, others reading this are thinking, "Oh, great, another self-righteous person who thinks they have all the answers is going to scream at us to 'check our privilege' and guilt-trip us for having the audacity to be a white heterosexual male."

For those of you out of the Internet loop, this is what the term "privilege" in this context refers to: It means that certain individuals have automatic advantages in societal discourse just by virtue of the fact that they are part of a majority group. These same advantages are much harder to attain by individuals from minority groups. Here is a very concrete example of what I'm talking about, in terms of male privilege:

A woman complains that every single time she goes outside, men on the streets start harassing her. One man after another does things like shouting, "Show me your tits", "Baby, come here and let's fuck," or perhaps making humping motions accompanied by sex noises (this did happen to me once). She tells a male friend about it, and the friend says, "Get over it. They're just paying you compliments."

That is a perfect example of male privilege: It's easy for a man to tell a woman to get over it because he is probably never going to be in a situation where he is uncomfortable-- and sometimes physically physically threatened-- let alone day after day. The man in this story cannot put himself into the shoes of a woman who feels that she has been reduced to a receptacle for men's penises instead of a human being with a life. And for the record, fortunately all of my male friends are way above this mindset.

The man in the story needed to check his privilege, but I hate the expression, "Check your privilege". It's just a way of saying, "Shut up!" It becomes a thought terminating cliché. A better way to respond would be, "You're probably never going to be in that situation, so it's easy for you to say that. Think about what it must be like for her to have to deal with this daily." Sometimes people genuinely don't understand that they are in a privileged position and intend no malice. They simply need to have their consciousness raised.

Other examples of privilege: A white person is less likely than a black person to get stopped while driving, a white person is more likely to get a job than a black person, a man is more likely than a woman to get a job in a technical field, and so on. Sometimes the people who disadvantage these minorities do it deliberately because they are explicitly sexist and racist. Other times-- and I think this may even be the majority of the time-- unconscious bias is at work. And I firmly believe that unconscious bias is much harder to conquer. It affects all of us, whether we are privileged or not.

Neurotypical Privilege

Now let's talk about neurotypical privilege. Like the man telling the harassed woman to "get over it", not realizing he's speaking from a position of privilege, many neurotypicals aren't aware of the advantages that they have automatically that people on the autism spectrum have to work for. There is a great blog post about it here. It cites perfect examples of neurotypical privilege that I completely relate to, such as:

Neurotypical privilege is having your mistakes seen as mistakes instead of proof as to why you need to continue to be treated like a child.
Neurotypical privilege is not being bullied for stating you’re a victim of how NT society treats you.
NT privilege is getting to define what qualifies as "reality". 
Neurotypical privilege is your pain being validated
And from another blog, some more examples of neurotypical privilege that I can also completely relate to:

If I am bullied or abused, people will not assume that my neurology means I am at least partially to blame, or that the abuse would stop if I tried harder to behave like someone else.
For a child of my neurotype, everyday teaching of the skills they will need to live in this society is called education or parenting—not therapy, treatment, or intervention. 
People do not constantly tell me that I need to work on the things which I am very bad at, at the expense of things which I am good at and enjoy doing. 
I can reveal my neurology to my boss and coworkers without fear of losing my job. 
I will not be asked to leave a public place, or to change where I live, because people are uncomfortable with my neurotypical behaviors. 
My opinions on social mores and societal issues are not dismissed based on my neurology or on the assumption that I am incapable of understanding how these things work. Likewise, my gender identity and sexual orientation are not discounted because of my neurology. 
I am not expected to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting, or expressing emotion in most circumstances. 

Now that you understand what neurotypical privilege is, check out the next blog post about examples of neurotypical privilege as I've seen them in my own life-- not just from people on the far right, but supposed liberals, the same who would scream at a white man to check his privilege.

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