Saturday, 26 November 2011

Asexuality and enthusiastic consent

I have started my Auschwitz two blog, so it's coming, I'm just taking some time out to briefly get on my soapbox about somthing that really, really annoys me.

The current definition of 'enthusiastic consent' (That when it comes to sex, yes should mean "YES!" as opposed to "not no") does indeed exclude asexual people, but so many people are fighting that from the wrong angle. The point you should be making is "Hey! There's more then one reason why someone might really, truly want to have sex! For instance, they may not be particularly into sex, but they really want to make their partner's day! Or maybe they don't like sex much, but genuinely want it because they really want a baby!"

That is, "Hey! There's more then one reason why someone might really, truly, honestly, genuinely want to have sex!"

Not "Hey! Sometimes people have to have sex they don't want, because otherwise their partner will leave them!"

That is just screwed up, and shouldn't be defended. If someone is having sex they don't want because they love their partner sooo much and don't want to lose him/her; or because they're in a relationship and sex is what adults do in relationships, so they'd better toughen up and get on with it... it's wrong. 

It's understandable and human, sure, but it's also wrong. 

Nobody should feel pressured into having sex they don't want. That applies to asexual people too. Nobody in the world has an orientation that makes it OK to tell hem that they really should consider having sex sometimes if they want a relationship.

I have seen threads on AVEN containing tactics designed to make sex bearable for aces who find it disgusting, painful, embarassing, or otherwise difficult. This is not, repeat not, OK.

I'm ace, and I agree with enthusiastic consent. It may need it's boundaries shifting slightly, but fundamentally it's a very good- no, very necessary idea, and one that I will defend.

As an important sideline... there is a difference between an asexual person who doesn't mind sex having it from time to time to please their partner; and a sex-aversive asexual person having sex they hate in order to placate their partner. One of these is perfectly OK. One of these is not. And it's time people realised that.

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Eurgh... it feels a bit weird doing one of these after that rant, but here goes. XD

Day 20: If you could dye your hair any colour, what colour would it be?:

Right from when I was ten or so years old, I wanted completely blue hair. It never quite happened, but I'm fine with that.

Well, OK, I would like to have hair that was 100% blue or green, but I've also long accepted that that isn't happening. I have too much hair, for one thing- it's incredibly thick, almost waist length, and I'm planning on growing it even longer. Blue and Green wash out quite quickly, and I'd never be able to afford the amount of hair dye needed to keep it all fully topped up. I'm also pretty wary of bleaching my entire head, for reasons that may be silly or may be sensible.

So right now, I have the next best thing. Most of my hair is dyed black, apart from a couple of strips at the very front, which are bleached and usually dyed blue, green, or both. I'd quite like to make those strips a bit thicker, but then again, growing them out until they're the same length as the rest of my hair (they're currently shorter) would probably do the trick just as well.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Mainstream Nightclub

The Friday before last, I went to a mainstream nightclub.

(Yeah, you can tell I've been meaning to blog about this for a while).

It was called Reflex, it played a mix of popular music from the 80's and 90's (some of which I liked, most of which I did not), there were mirror balls everywhere and a poledancing pole stuck off to one side. I went in because the group I was with at the time did.

At first I just felt awkward and self-conscious. It always is awkward, when you walk in somewhere and instantly feel out of place, especially if you're also slightly drunk and not feeling mentally at your best. I hung back, stayed glued firmly to the main body of the group, didn't go near the bar, and ducked away in a panic when the photographer turned up (which probably now means there's a photo containing six happy people and a mysterious disembodied leg just visible at the back). I did dance a bit, once or twice... when one of my friends grabbed my hands and started "doing the awkward shuffle", leaving me with no option.

Then my head cleared a bit, and I started to acclimatise, and I realised I had a choice. Either I could hang around at the back all evening with a face like a wet Wednesday, or I could try to join in.

Helped by the sudden appearance of a Dead or Alive song I actually quite like, I started dancing and jumping on my own. At first just to decent songs, then to all songs bar the worst. Random dance chains and spontaneous group hugs ensued. About two people kept going back to the bar for huge Jagermeisters with multiple straws, and everyone else rushed to use the extra straws to 'help' them finish their drink the very second they got back.

Within an hour I'd been on the pole. When everyone else in your group has been badgered into having a go on the thing by the metalhead (who liked the music least but was more enthusiastic than everyone else put together), your inner four year old just takes over and all you can think is how you wanna turn too. I wasn't especially elegant- I tripped over my own feet at least once- but that didn't matter. It was OK to look silly.

I had fun. I actually did. No, it wasn't my kind of place, but if you have to be somewhere that isn't 'you', being a good sport, sticking your tongue firmly in your cheek, and making the most of it is definitely the best thing you can do.

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Day 19: Share beauty advice and take a photo of your make up: 

**Bursts out laughing at the idea of me, someone who relates all too well to Katharine Whitehorn's Sluts I article, giving people beauty advice**

Anyway... to begin with, here's a photo of my eye makeup on the day I happened to remember that this question needed a photo. This was a college morning, I think I'd overslept slightly, and I didn't have time to do anything flashy, so it's pretty basic. And the lighting's not great, because I'm really no photographer. As for what I used... pencil eyeliner to do the basic outline around my eye, liquid eyeliner to draw the line, and plain 'glittery neutral' eyeshadow, which I applied to my eyelid then smudged around a bit.

So... beauty advice. I don't have much of it. I'm the sort of person who goes to sleep in their fiundation on a regular basis because I'm too tired to take it off. When it comes to makeup my general tactics are "play around with it a bit until you find something that looks decent". Nonethless, I'll try.

First, I'll buck the trend slightly, and say that it doesn't matter if your makeup isn't perfect. Obviously it's good to get it perfectly symmetrical and non-smudged, but it's really not the end of the world if it's not. Also, if you make a mistake whilst applying eyeliner, or find that you just can't get that bit right... improvise. Incorporate the mistake in, or change the design on the problem eye and be asymmetrical for the day.

If you like an eyeliner design... feel free to use it, even if it's cliched. I personally find tear dribbles absolutely awful and have no idea why anyone would want to look like they've been crying, but  at the same time, I understand that that's just my opinion. If you like tear dribbles, feel free to draw them on, and then tell me to go and do something unpleasant involving a porcupine. I'm not much better, anyway, with the cheesy little curliques I occasionally doodle around my eyes.


Ah, yes. This is probably a bit Captain Obvious, but if your hair dye is prone to bleeding, washing your hair gently, and in cold water rather than hot, will reduce the problem a lot. Oh, and bleach is good for removing hair dye stains from the bathroom door/tiles/sink/floor/wall.

... and, yeah. That's pretty much all I have.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Confessions of a Procrastinator

Good news: I'm alive!

Bad news: Auschwitz 2- the monolith  was meant to be up two days ago, and I have a half finished light hearted post that should have been up by the start of last week.

So, why aren't they?

Because I'm up to my eyeballs in Extended Project.

No, seriously. This is the 5000 word essay we were, in theory, supposed to start in January. For a multitude of reasons, some within my control, some not, I didn't start until the end of July.

I meant to use the Summer holidays to catch up with everyone else.

I didn't.

There are many things I can blame for this. Some of them are quite depressing, so for the sakes of this post I'll point the finger at and leave it there.

Now there's a fortnight to go before the final deadline and I've only written about 1000 words of my first draft. I should be nearly done by now, but I've got a way to go, and I'm starting to realise the next two weeks might consist of me working like a machine (possibly a slightly faulty one that gets stuck and crashes from time to time, mind you) for a few hours every day after college.

So, blogging is well and truly on the back burner for a bit, which is a bit of a bugger as I was planning to up my post count this month. I do have a day off on Thursday, though, so provided I decide to stay at home (well, my Dad's, which is where I am this week), I might be able to get my delayed posts up then, although one of them may as well be ancient history by that time. XD

No question today either. I would if the next one was a few-sentences thing, but it requires a photo and I'll need a few paragraphs to get across what I want to say, so... yeah. Not now.

Anyway, I'll be back... when I'm back, I suppose, which will hopefully be really soon. In the meantime, I'll let the spiders squat here for a while; they can put back all the nice cobwebs I so cruelly brushed away back in August.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Auschwitz: Part 1

As in, part 1 of the three other posts I can't attach a question to.

The Learning From Auschwitz project is an annual event made up of four parts: A pre-seminar in London, a one-day visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a follow up seminar, and a project. Generally only two people per college get the chance to go, and after putting my name down, initially on a whim, I somehow found myself one of them.

I wasn't sure how to feel when I was told I was going. The two attendees are chosen by lottery, and I hadn't really expected my name to get pulled out.You can't really be excited because of what it is, and worrying about the practicalities, such as the 7AM flight to Poland on the 10th of November, and the fact that I'd need to travel to London twice, feels kind of... trivialising. When it's a place like Auschwitz, navigating the Underground and filling out paperwork seems a bit beside the point. I could say I was expecting it to be interesting, but that sounds limp somehow. I'm going to a place of mass-murder. How can I possibly describe that in a way that does the victims justice?

It'll be an Experience. That's all I can say at the moment.

Anyway, the first part, the pre-Seminar was last Wednesday. The Venue was about a five minute walk from Farringdon Station. It was buried into the side of an overpass, and would have been difficult to spot were it not for the stained glass windows. There were more people there than I'd expected- around 200. An entire planeful, more or less. Naturally, we got seated right at the back of the room, and as a result the first speaker, a man called Alex, was reduced to just a head bobbing about in front of the top half of a projection screen. His main job seemed to be to take us through proceedings, introducing everyone else and giving instructions. To start with he just gave us some background, telling us a bit about Auschwitz and what we'd be hearing about it over the course of the afternoon.

Then he handed over to a survivor. This was the second time in my life I've heard a Holocaust survivor speak, and the first one always sticks firmly in my mind. It had been in year 10, and our entire year group had been gathered in the hall to hear this man talk about his experiences as a young boy. Throughout the entire thing, everyone was silent. Silent, that is, not quiet. I don't mean quiet. I mean the kind of absolute silence that just never happens in schools. With us, there would always been someone talking, or moving, but not then. There was just... no noise, no teacher got up on an errand, no student lapsed in concentration even for a moment. Just... nothing, for over an hour. It was amazing.

This time round was similar, of course, but it didn't seem so out of the ordinary. The structure was different too. The first speaker, Joseph, had been linear, and talked about his experiencess in depth before asking for questions briefly at the end. This second one, Bob, told us in brief what had happened to him in the Jewish Ghettos and the two different camps he'd been held captive in, and then, after a brief break in which I made a dash for the liquid caffiene jug because I'd barely slept, spent far longer answering questions.

How this worked was one of the volunteers, Anna, wandered around, going over to anyone with their hand up and handing them the mic. Having come up with absolutely nothing to ask during the break, I suddenly got hit with inspiration and asked whether or not his experiences had had any lasting effect. Fortunately, he insisted they did not.

One of the things the LFA Project aims to do is to rehumanise the Holocaust. To remind the world that everyone involved, both victims and perpetrators, were people. They had names, they had lives prior to the war and many went back to those lives after it. We were shown photos of Holocaust victims before they became victims. A little boy on his first day at school. Two women on holiday, wearing fancy dress. We were told about a case where one of the camp commandants recognised a woman as being from the same part of Germany as him, and saved her life. Bob told us about his Wife, also a survivor, who was rescued by Nuns who were nominally outside the whole system. The entire point of this was to remind people that it wasn't straightforward, to take everything away from statistics and into names and choices.

After that, we split up into our assigned groups (Me and Chris, the other Itchener, were 10) and got taken through some of the finer details more thoroughly. It's probably worth mentioning here that the first sheet we were handed contained the first subject of discussion- an advert for "Auschwitz Experience Stag and Hen nights- bars, clubs... and a visit to the camp if you want to tick the culture box!" React to that however you like. I didn't know either. It sounded like something Chris Morris had made up, but we were all assured it was completely real. The mind boggles. Anyway, after that talk we were given lists of things it was reccomended we bring, and taken through the daily plan for Thursday, when we go to Poland. It turns out our destinations include some of the areas of the... more jarring areas of Auschwitz. The bunks. The Gas Chambers.

The Hair Room, where photography isn't permitted.

We were told here that nobody would force us to go into anywhere involving torture or death if we didn't want to. I know I will go in- I'm the type of person who always has to see- but I have no idea how I'll feel once I'm there, in a room where people were once murdered. Especially as my reactions to emotionally charged situations like that tend to be a bit unpredictable- sometimes I'll be in floods of tears, others I'll feel nothing.

I'll try and take a few photos for part two (which will probably be huge), but obviously not too many. I might have to take some voice recordings too, for my Journalism teacher, who seems to think it would be a good idea.

Clothes wise... I'll be toning everything down to go. It feels necessary. It appears I'll still be wearing my platform boots, though- I wasn't going to, but it soon became clear they were the better option, and the volunteer greenlit me.

Anyway, the Seminar rounded off with a typical closure, including more instructions and general anticipation.

It was a strange walk back to Farringdon Station.

So... I have no idea how I'm going to work out 'sleeping' between Wednesday and Thursday, seeing as I have to go to college as normal on the Wednesday but still be up at three to get to Gatwick, but I'll manage somehow. It'll be difficult- it already has been, what with us nearly getting lost on the London Underground- but it'll definitely be well worth it.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Autistics Speaking Day Post- Reasons I support Neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity, as a movement, isn't always taken seriously. I've heard everything from people calling it a joke to people calling it a cult. Many seem not to understand, completely mystified by why anyone would want to be 'proud' of a 'disease'. Others argue that it is all very well for people with Aspergers, ADHD, Tourettes and other so-called 'high-functioning' neurotypes to shout for acceptance rather than cure, but they have a child who can't speak, can't sleep, can't read and needs treatment. A lot of people just flat-out don't see it as a legitimate movement, or misunderstand horribly and think the whole point of ND is to take liberties and make neuroatypical people legally and socially untouchable.

I have a lot I wish I could say to these people. I have supported neurodiversity since I was thirteen years old.

I am a woman with mild Aspergers- mild to the point it took them around seven years of dithering to decide that I definitely had it. I can 'pass' reasonably well, and usually just come across as an eccentric NT. I wasn't bullied that badly at school, my family have never abused, discriminated against, or tried to cure me, I have had friends far more often than not and I have only been faced with institutional discrimination once, and that was a mild case. I am, technically speaking, one of the lucky ones- but after battling long periods of depression and very low self-esteem, I certainly don't feel lucky. Which begs the question... if I, one of the 'lucky' ones, can get hurt this badly, where does that leave people who had it worse than me?

I support neurodiversity for those people who had it worse and suffered horribly simply because they were different in a way other's couldn't understand; and I support neurodiversity for other like me, who got off likely in comparison and still had a rough ride.

I support neurodiversity because I am yet to meet a neuroatypical person who has not suffered from stereotyping, bullying, and discrimination at one stage or another, and I support neurodiversity because for many of these people, the discrimination has come from parents and teachers they should have been able to trust.

I support neurodiversity because the rate of mental illness amongst neuroatypical people, especially people on the autistic spectrum, is through the roof, and nobody seems to see it as an issue. Many professionals accept this as 'a natural part of autism', rather than looking for an external cause and trying to treat it, like they usually would with a neurotypical patient.

I support neurodiversity because I believe this high rate of mental illness is caused by the stress of trying to 'pass', and because the amount of pressure placed on people to pass is most likely damaging. Neuroatypical children are not taught to be themselves like neurotypical children are. They are taught to suppress themselves and be someone else, someone more likable, someone more sociable, someone less 'weird'. Neuroatypical children are taught, effectively, to be people pleasers, to place their self worth in how much other people like them, and in turn consider it a fault with themselves if someone does not like them. I support Neurodiversity because this is wrong.

I support neurodiversity because I believe there is space for a massive variety of people in society, and that including those who are different rather than trying to mould them into a prescribed 'norm' is the way forward.

I support neurodiversity because some of the treatments and medications given to neuroatypical children are unfair, have bad side effects, or are downright dangerous. Many children are harmed or denied a childhood by parents desperately trying to change them into something they're not.

I support neurodiversity because the ND movement challenges Autism Speaks, who contribute heavily to this by exploiting the fears of parents rather than offering them genuine help.

I support neurodiversity because neuroatypical people seldom get fair or accurate representations in the media. I know fictional Aspergers characters are virtually interchangeable, and in the media we are often described with patronising language such as 'weak', 'naive', and 'vulnerable'. To name some other examples, Dyslexia is often taken to extremes in fiction for the purposes of drama, Kanner's Autism is seldom depicted, and when it is, it's often in a plucky-heartstrings 'my tragic child' kind of storyline. Good luck finding a depiction of Tourettes that isn't a) focused exclusively on coprolalic tics and b) played for laughs. When the best you can hope for is for your neurotype to be featured in a supercrip storyline or article, or not be too stereotyped or infantilised, you know there's a problem.

I support neurodiversity because neuroatypical people are almost always shut out of decision-making that concerns them. If they get involved at all, it's to tell their story and then leave the important talks to the NTs. We seldom get the chance to suggest improvements or challenge the status quo, and when we do, we often find our input was unwelcome, far more so than if a parent or professor had said it. Even the UK's National Autistic Society, in most ways very good, is guilty of this.

I support Neurodiversity because the current system places 'looking normal' in front of the feelings, desires, personality and emotional wellbeing of the neuroatypical person.

I support neurodiversity because searching for cures takes away from searching for productive workarounds, alternative communication and learning methods, education, and support.

I support neurodiversity because so many neuroatypical children and adults have to battle and struggle when the vast majority of their peers do not.

I support neurodiversity because I care about equality and social justice in general. To me, being in favour of neurodiversity is as obvious a thing to do as being against racism.

And I will continue to support neurodiversity in the hope that with enough time and effort, eventually everything I've written in this post will simply go without saying.