The right to be safe.

ASD, autism, equal rights, equality, freedom of speech, mental health, motherhood, neurodiversity, parenting, special needs, special needs parenting, Times Up

The article below was written over a year ago. I would like to say things have improved in the world but the most I can say is that things have improved in my daughter’s world.

She spoke up to us, not for the first time, about being bullied and attacked at school so we’re keeping her at home. Sometimes what’s best for our kids isn’t the easiest option but doing what’s right rarely is the smoothest route in life. I hope my kids see monumental changes in their lifetime of better mental healthcare, equal rights created and protected, and an end to sexual violence.

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“Mama, why am I so different?”

For some reason I wasn’t expecting this question, not yet, not from my six year old. How can I explain to her and convince her of what I see and believe about her when everyone around her finds fault with her for those same reasons? She speaks softly and melodically. They tell her to speak up. She is achingly vulnerable without any guile and it terrifies me every day that she’ll be hurt by someone. They think it’s wonderful that she’s compliant to authority.

You see, she’s every teacher’s dream. A quiet kid who listens to directions and does everything she can to please them and doesn’t question authority. Yet she’s also the kid that gets forgotten, mistreated, fears speaking out, bullied, misunderstood, and is bewildered by the malice of others.

She “can’t find the words” and hits herself, “I’m a bad girl. I can’t get it right.”

She cries easily. Her feelings are often hurt. She feels so intensely the emotions of others around her that her stomach pains her with anxiety. This is autism in girls. This is what PTSD looks like in kids who have been sexually abused.

I love my daughter and accept everything about her but that doesn’t mean I love her autism, or my son’s, or my husband’s. Watching someone you love struggle to navigate the world is never a pleasant experience when it ends in tears or explosive tantrums. There are days where I feel like an incompetent ringmaster running from lions. Please hold my hat.

My least favorite moment recently was when a therapist asked, in front of my very verbal daughter with sensitive hearing, “How did you explain to her she was autistic?”

Sometimes I wish I could pause the world for my children so I could ream someone without them hearing my obscenities. I managed to bite on the inside of my cheek and ask, “Good question, she can hear you so why don’t you ask her?”

Nora smiled good-naturedly, waiting patiently, as the woman blanched in embarrassment. We continued the appointment and I suffered through yet another barrage of convince-us-your-daughter-is-autistic. It’s a great game, it only costs hundreds of dollars an hour, no one wins, and it always ends with, “Oh, yeah, she is…”

Diagnosis isn’t a one shot deal. It’s a process where you try to convince people of what you’ve observed and they test your ability to stay calm as you struggle to understand what the !$#% is going on with your kid. We’re at the tail end now and facing more therapy as we try to grasp at what we can do to make her life easier.

Accepting your children’s autism has little to do with yourself and more to do with what choices you make for them. Constantly debating when to get out of their way and when to push, when to go mama bear on their behalf, and when to let them struggle. I’ve made mistakes. I’ll make more mistakes. I can only hope my kids know how much I love them. Even if I’m the mom that says !$#% a lot.

“Mama, why am I so different?”

I bit back tears, hugged her, and looked her in the eye, “Because you’re wonderful.”

I took a deep breath for the next part, “You know how Owen and Papa think differently than others?”

She nodded and looked down at her lap. I made a mental note to myself as I noticed she was picking at her hands again and the skin on her lips. I would need to tell the doctor. I took her chin gently and kissed her cheek.

“You think differently too and that’s a good thing.”

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It’s been a year since that moment. We’ve since found a Psychologist and clinic that specialize in helping girls on the spectrum and supporting them with processing trauma. Our neighborhood school refused to acknowledge any of the medical diagnoses or recommendations so now we’re on a new adventure of finding what works for our kids. The road is bumpy but the journey is never boring.

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One mom to another.

equal rights, equality, freedom of speech, Me Too, politics, Times Up

My open letter to Ashley Kavanaugh:

Dear Ashley,

I wanted to write to you and let you know that your composure during your husband’s time in front of the cameras is admirable. You were calm, brave, and reserved. My concern, like many parents, is what happens once those cameras have moved on.

As a parent, we worry about the safety and rights of our children. As a parent of children with special needs and one a survivor of assault, I implore you to please be a voice of reason to your husband and others in giving equal rights to all of us. That’s all any of us truly hope for and should expect. The chance to have a say over our own bodies, our health, our lives, the planning of our families.

Respectfully.

It’s just a joke.

equality, freedom of speech, politics, Times Up

The recent revelations about high profile sex offenders are more than a wanted poster for the #MeToo or Times Up movement. They’re living examples of misogyny that have been the impetus to a discussion that at times sheds light on the casual observer more than the accused.

It says more about the people reacting to them than the people themselves. The facts of the scenarios show many of the accused to be criminal yet people like Dave Chappelle and Matt Damon want to joke about whether it’s funny, or “that bad”, instead of using their celebrity to support others who don’t have the benefit of their privilege. Rape and harassment are criminal, it’s not funny, but celebrities like them are insulated and delusional enough to want to argue over the semantics of such crimes as if it is amusing, or theoretical, as opposed to supporting those speaking out about oppression.

Dave Chappelle kicks off one of his latest stand up acts, “The Bird Revelation”, on Netflix with this line, “Sometimes, the funniest thing to say is mean…You know what I mean? It’s a tough position to be in. So I say a lot of mean things, but you guys got to remember. I’m not saying it to be mean. I’m saying it because it’s funny.”

Throughout the show they pan over the audience and make a point of zooming in on women laughing (most of whom are doing so while looking down) as if to show this is proof that they agree with him rather than politely acquiescing, as all good gas lighted women are expected to, or possibly reacting out of shock. Because if anything, our societal gas lighting has taught us as women that we need to give in and “take it”, as Chappelle says himself, because we need to be in on the joke. That true comedians know what they’re getting themselves in for since harassment and abuse are part of that world.

This is nausea inducing, this is misogyny, and this is someone rationalizing their part in enabling such behavior. Simply put, if that were true for all comedians and not just female comedians, then Dave is saying he’s ok with being raped.

“And everything is funny until it happens to you…,” If only he listened to his own advice.

“Yet, and yet, it is important that I acknowledge ladies. You are absolutely right. There you go. And we gotta all be mindful of that, guys, because…this could have happened to any of us. It could have happened to me. I can see that.”

He then proceeds to insinuate a connection between attractiveness and the likelihood of giving consent because apparently if Brad Pitt wanted to rape you it would be acceptable as opposed Harvey Weinstein. I’ll take the non-rape option, thank you. It’s easy to joke about rape if you haven’t experienced it, if you haven’t had a loved one attacked, or as he likes to say himself “everything is funny until it happens to you”.

He makes jokes implying that the victims should have known what Weinstein intended when they were asked to meet “at 3am” but then contradicts himself by saying what a “nightmare” it would be if someone “pulled their dick out at a meeting” to him. Why, yes, Dave, half of the population can imagine that since most of us females have experienced criminal behavior of some kind at work or otherwise in regards to being harassed or abused.

He goes so far as to label victims to have a “brittle spirit” if they couldn’t withstand being abused and to say that Louis C.K. losing his career was “disproportionate” to the crimes he committed. Those with similar views to Chappelle don’t call these events “crimes”, which by legal definition they are, they call them “sexual acts”. Much like Alec Baldwin coming to Woody Allen’s defense or the schmuck clapping Trump on the back (take your pick as to which one).

“This is all happening for a reason. And, ladies, I want you to win this fight. Ten years ago I might have been scared, but, you know, I got a daughter now. So if you win, she wins. So I’m rooting for you. And I agree with you. At least, ideologically, I do. I don’t know if the- I don’t know if you’re doing it right, but I mean, who am I to say? I don’t think you’re wrong. I just think that…You can’t make a lasting peace this way. You got all the bad guys scared. And that’s good, but the minute they’re not scared anymore, it will get worse than it was before.”

“Fear does not make lasting peace.” Now isn’t THAT amusing. His contradictions epitomize the no-win scenario most women face. If we speak up then we’re bitches and if we stay silent then we’re complicit with our attacker. If we strike fear into the hearts of those that oppress us then we’re causing civil unrest apparently. Here’s an idea, maybe make jokes about the attackers and stop tearing down their survivors. Maybe be a positive force in helping out other comedians to be able to perform without fear of harassment or attack from fellow comedians. I would imagine it’s pretty difficult to be amusing when someone is cornering you backstage and threatening you.

“Because men want to help, they’re just scared. Ben Affleck tried to help. “What happened to these ladies is disgusting.”” Then makes an exclamation about Affleck’s past abuse and jokes that’s why men are unsupportive and unwilling to get involved in the discussion around misogyny is out of fear. If that were true, that all “good” men didn’t want to get involved in supporting their fellow citizens out of fear of incrimination doesn’t that mean in essence that these men are not all that great? If you have nothing to fear about your past behavior then why would it be an issue to stand up and say “Times Up”?

“Yeah, man. Well, you ladies were right. Be honest with you, your lives look terrifying to me. They do. Man, I know nothing about being a woman, but I know fear.”

He goes on to equate being a woman with carrying around a backpack full of money. “Then I thought, “Holy shit, what if I had a pussy on me all the time?”

Scattered male laughter, “That’s what women are dealing with.”

No, Mr. Chappelle, we’re dealing with living in a world that is shaped by people with opinions like yourself that equate women to a commodity. Reduces our existence to a monetary value of our genitalia or the quality of our work and art by how attractive we are. The reality is that people still pay money to go to shows like yours and have their hatred perpetuated and supported by your jokes that make them feel ok about objectifying women. It is terrifying to be a woman because I know that I am not given the same rights as a man and that if I’m attacked I will most likely need to justify why I’m the victim and the attacker is unlikely to be found or convicted. The Equal Rights Amendment never passed, our rights are eroding as fast as the environment that is now largely unprotected that we live in, and I am horrified at the prospect of what this means for not only our daughters but our sons.

“Everybody gets mad because I say these jokes but you gotta understand that this is the best time to say them…you have a responsibility to speak recklessly…”

It’s probably the one redeeming part of the act I agreed with yet it just made me shake my head, not laugh. I wish I could go back to when I found Dave Chappelle funny and thought he was kidding but we all know there’s little that’s funny about the times we’re living in and that we all were kidding ourselves in the past by smiling and trying to be in on the joke.

Freedom of speech is just that, the right to speak freely; however, it is not freedom from consequences. It gives you the right to speak recklessly but it does not forgive you from the responsibility of doing so. If you shout fire in a crowded room you are responsible for the mob. If you perpetuate stereotypes, even as a joke, you have the freedom to do so but not the right to cry foul when others find fault with you. Who has the brittle spirit, those that survive or those that simply deride?