Kickoff: Autism aware… no, acceptance

That time of the year is drawing near, that dreadful one I wish I could just sleep through. Autism Awareness Week is already here, Autism Awareness Acceptance Month is coming up between the 2nd and 22nd of April.

During April, I will use this blog to celebrate autism and actual autistics. We are too awesome to deserve awareness only, being compared to a piece of puzzle, the colur blue or worse. Instead of lighting it up blue, I’m going #REDinstead and instead of awareness I’m aiming for acceptance. To join the celebrations, go to #REDInstead on Twitter, or the Facebook group in Swedish here.

I usually blog in Swedish, but for Week + Month most entries will be in English since I want to partake, discuss and celebrate with the bigger, international community. For more information on autism acceptance month, go here. To read more about the author and this blog here.

Currently there’s three entries in English;

Var inte orolig om du fördrar att läsa blogginlägg på svenska. Blogginlägg på svenska är planerade och kommer fortsätta igenom april, dock inte i samma takt som vanligt.

Getting my autism diagnosis pt.2

Besides the reoccurring ableism, I quite enjoyed getting assessed for autism. As I’ve written earlier, it started out rocky, but in the end it turned out to be a rather fun experience.

For example, I got to talk about myself a lot. Without being questioned in the way you usually are by therapists (fine, it’s their job but it still really grates on my nerves) that is. Talking about myself in this setting taught me a lot about myself that I for some reason hadn’t figured out, but are obvious in retrospect. I also learnt about NTs. I’ve spent my entire life thinking I experienced the world like most NT, so this was quite an eye opener. And I loved it. So many things suddenly made sense. I’ve always been very curious and suddenly I was given a one in a lifetime experience: re-discovering both myself and the entire world. I now ponder how NTs see the world. They always miss so many details, after all. If I seemed like a control freak earlier, I finally got the tools and narrative to understand that I take in information differently. I was able to forgive myself for struggling with, or not being able to do certain things NTs consider easy. I learnt a lot of valuable life lessons during my assessment. Of course I’ve moved on the the much cooler Autistic Community where I’ve learnt even more, but I’m still very thankful for this start.

To my own surprise, I also found the other tests enjoyable. After my therapist explained them thoroughly, I understood how to solve quite a few, something I thought would be impossible. If left to my own devices, I have trouble following simple instructions and I am not able to get out of the second room in Portal.

All in all, I think I got really lucky. It took less than half a year between being asked if I wanted to get assessed to receiving my diagnosis, which I think is uncommon. Both the short time frame, but also that I didn’t have to fight for getting assessed. During my assessment I also had a competent therapist who treated me well and didn’t have a noticeable pathological view of autism. Luckily for me, this turned out to be a fun experience I am happy I went through.

Do you ever get the feeling of déjà vu? Autism och ekolali

Jag måste erkänna att jag inte är säker på vad ekolali är. Tittar man på medicinska källor beskrivs ekolali i patologiska och nedsättande termer som jag mår dåligt av att läsa. Istället har jag tittat på hur autisktiska bloggare, både svenska och engelska beskriver ekolali. Här känner jag igen mig mycket bättre, men samtidigt blir beskrivningarna av ekolali väldigt personliga och kanske inte som jag upplever dem.

Hur ska jag då enkelt beskriva vad ekolali är? Enkelt sätt skulle jag kalla de för upprepningar. Småbarn använder sig ofta av ekolali när de lär sig tala. Autister, barn som vuxna använder oss ofta av ekolali av många olika anledningar? Ekolali kan både vara direkt (immediate): en upprepar meningar / ord en precis hört. Men ekolali kan också vara  uppskjuten (delayed). Då sker upprepningarna vid ett senare tillfälle. Det medicinska perspektivet ser ofta autisters ekolali som något dåligt och onödigt. Jag håller inte med. Ekolali kan användas för att ge talaren mer betänketid. Ekolali är kommunikation. Ekolali kan också vara ett slags stimmande. Många autister använder också scripts. Inövade färdiga manus för att klara social situationer så smidigt som möjligt.

Vad är då ekolali för mig? Jag brukar alltid prata för mig själv och då ofta upprepa samma ord och meningar…. i flera år. Detta gör jag automatiskt när jag är själv. Jag gillar också att upprepa citat från filmer, datorspel och andra medier. Ofta vet jag inte varför jag upprepar vissa fraser, men jag mår bra av det. Ibland betyder orden inte så mycket. Cookie. Cookielookie Cookielookieshund. Hunden Cookan. Cookie vovve. Hunden Cookan hundar sig. Cookiemonster. Cookster. Jag pratar så här med hunden hela tiden när vi är ensamma hemma.

Som jag nämnde tidigare gillar jag också att upprepa låttexter och dialog från filmer etc. Detta är något jag också kan göra med andra, till och med NTs verkar uppskatta detta. Do you ever get the feeling of déjà vu? Let’s try that again!

Jag tänker i en mix av bilder, diagram, pilar och citat. Jag brukar använda mig av just manga-monologer när jag ska identifiera en känsla för mig själv eller någon annan. De brukar hjälpa mig mycket. Mangan Fruits Basket har hjälpt mig att sätta ord och hitta känslor på mycket jag inte alls kunde innan jag läst serien. Låttexter gillar jag också, särskilt Lorde och Tove Lo funkar bra som tal.

”Not the flawless one, I’ve never been
But I have my moments, I have my moments”

Ekolali är naturligt för mig. Precis som stimmande kommer det helt naturligt. Jag måste koncentrera 100% mig för att inte prata för mig själv. Viktigt för min egen säkerhet i en ableistisk värld, men en dag hoppas jag att alla kan hålla på fritt med stimming och ekolali utan några konsekvenser. Do you ever get the feeling of déjà vu?

Goda nyheter till alla autismföräldrar!

April började bra, månaden då autism uppmärksammas. Äntligen får professionella och föräldrar tala ut och synas i medierna. Folk får upp ögonen för hur era liv är. Äntligen! Men så händer något. Några vuxna autister dyker upp och berättar att ni har fel och att de vet mer om autism än er. Inte heller ger de sig, så hela april är förstört. Men vänta lite… var det verkligen de vuxna autisterna som dök upp hos er och inte tvärt om? Ni surfade runt och plötsligt hittade ni några autister som pratade om autism som något positivt och ni var bara tvungna att lägga er i.

Ett stort grattis, föräldrar! Detta tyder på att era egna barn en dag kommer vara stolta över vilka de är. Era barn kommer också troligtvis förstå vad härskartekniker är och när de används mot dem. Precis som vi vuxna autister idag märker när någon patologiserar eller talar över oss. Det betyder att de kommer kunna märka och försvara sig själva när någon är ableistisk. En mycket bra egenskap!

Men som sagt, jag har glada nyheter. Ibland kan det vara lätt att tro det, men ni är inte föräldrar till någon autism som skulle vara separat från era barn. Ni är föräldrar till autistiska barn. Alltså är ni som vilka föräldrar som helst, med alla upp- och nergångar, och växlingar mellan besvikelse och stolthet som det innebär. Grattis! Allt står rätt till.

Jag vågar alltså påstå att en kan ha autistiska barn och ändå vara en bra och lycklig förälder utan att ta på sig identiteten autismförälder. Ta mina föräldrar till exempel. De är långt från perfekta, de har orsakat mig skada utan att mena det. De är NT och jag är autistisk. De är vita och jag rasifierad. Det fanns aldrig någon chans att de aldrig skulle skada mig på grund av okunskap. I det stora hela skulle jag ändå säga att mina föräldrar ändå är bra föräldrar. Hur har de lyckats med detta så att vi alla blivit nöjda i slutändan? Jo, de har alltid älskat, trott, stöttat och respekterat mig. Det har fungerar för vår familj så jag tänker påstå att det fungerar för många andra med.

Mina föräldrar har respekterat att jag bara äter viss mat och har därför lagat annan mat enbart till mig. När jag inte alls förstod det där med vänner när jag började skolan hjälpte de till med att kontakta andra föräldrar och barn som jag redan var på god fot med. Sedan hjälpte de mig att komma på hur man skulle umgås med och leka med vänner. Mina föräldrar har säkert varit trötta på alla mina fobier (mörker, sjukhus, tandläkare, hundar, lastbilar, spindlar, blinkande ljus, insekter, höjder, ljud etc), men de har alltid försökt att hjälpa och trösta mig. De respekterar att jag är annorlunda. Deras önskan är att jag ska leva ett liv som jag mår bra av. Jag kan till och med tänka att de uppskattar mina lite underligare sidor. De är ju stolta över mig. Förresten, det finns ett jättebra uttryck på engelska som kan vara värt att tänka på:

”Stay in your lane.”

Det betyder bland annat att man inte ska tala över andra, utan att istället lyssna och lära. Försök, vet jag. Det är troligt att det kommer berika era liv och göra er till bättre och gladare föräldrar.

 

 

Identity first: I want you to see all of me

Before I knew I was autistic, I was hanging around online when an Autism Expert ™ (most likely a relative) showed up to tell us to refer to autistics as a person with autism, not autistic an person. Or else we would reduce said person to their autism only. You know how it goes. It sounded reasonable to me as they presented it. Therefore, I’m really thankful that actually autistic people showed up and informed us that they preferred identity language first, and why. What if no one had challenged that person? Do these so called experts show up everywhere telling others to separate disabled people from our disabilities? The answer to me, seems to be yes. I’ve seen them pop up in places you least expect them to. I find it really strange.

For me, one of the hardest things in this world seems to be to get people to understand me. To understand me, they first need to see me. That is, see all of me. White people refuse to acknowledge that I am racialised. ‘I don’t see colour‘, they say.

”There’s only one human race. The only reason racism still exists is because people like you split us up in groups. You seem to think that there’s races, I’m just giving you a head’s up, but that’s kinda racist don’t you think?”

All said to me by white people. The last quote was actually from a guy who mods a racist white supremacy group on Facebook.

Time and time again I’ve told people that it’s okay. I am brown. I’m not like you, I’m not white. I will never be like you. I don’t even want to be like you. But all it does is apparently exposing me as an evil reverse racist. And honestly. I’ll be damned before they separate me from my autism too. I’m autistic. I’ve always been autistic. There has never been a me before autism. All parts of me are autistic as hell and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know that there’s a lot of people out there, even in the autistic community that want to
move away from labels. Some might just not identify strongly enough with the label. Others might be scared. Of being dismissed, reduced. But I believe that you can only be reduced to a label if it’s something that you feel reduces you. Which can happen, especially if it is a label with negative connotation not chosen by oneself. In my case? My autism doesn’t reduce me at all. My brown skin doesn’t reduce me at all. Ignoring these these parts of me do, because they make me myself. My autism and brown skin affects how I see the world and how the world sees and treats me. Neither my race or my autism are invisible to the world, I promise. They affect everything. Pretending that they do not matter means erasing the reality I am experiencing and that is dangerous to me. Until you see all of me, you do not accept or respect me at all. And if you don’t? Well, then I am likely to lose any interest in you.

Before I found out I was autistic, I wasn’t able to see myself clearly. I already knew myself like no other could, but I didn’t understand myself the way I do now. I didn’t have a community where I actually belonged. These things mean a lot to me, and because of them I am in a better place now. And it’s all because I learnt that I am autistic. Therefore, this label means a lot to me. I never want to be separated from it ever again.

 

Autism: Awareness, Acceptance, Love.

I’ve earlier written about my stances on awareness, acceptance and allyship in general. These posts have been mostly negative, but hey. I can spin things! Yes, I stole this idea from tonight’s #autchat. Yes, I’m that desperate.

Autism Awareness Month is often harmful to autistics, what with allistics spending April spreading lies about us, without us. Since I support #REDinstead, I’m focusing on actual autistics. Never mind NT opinions, what do autism awareness and acceptance mean to me? My autistic journey also started with awareness. It started when I was told that I was likely autistic. Without this scrap of knowledge I would never have found out what autism really is, and how obvious it is that I am autistic. Although I was happy with this discovery, awareness didn’t do much. I started to learn more about autism and myself, but this goes deeper than mere awareness.

As I discovered the autistic community, I started to accept myself. I’m not a failure who can’t do anything right. I’m autistic. This world simply wasn’t made with me in mind. That’s the problem I’m facing, not myself or my autism. My autistic traits make me what I am, how I experience the world and let me memorise any information I find valuable. Without my autism, I wouldn’t be me. Therefore I have gladly accepted my autism.

This means that I have accepted my needs. They might make me stand out, and they might make me seem strange to others; but adhering to my needs have improved my well-being.

  1. I have accepted that I cannot socialise like NT people. Socialising is very draining, and I need to recharge afterwards. That is, I have to plan my social outings and making sure I don’t over-assert myself. I’ve also accepted that I’m not going to crack the social code, which I was desperately working on pre-diagnosis.
  2. I’ve accepted that stimming is vital to my well-being. My autistic body language is me. It’s a lovely, flappy part of me. Finding out what echolalia is, it no longer makes me ashamed. I actively try both stimming and echolalia to boost my own brain & abilities.
  3. This is a hard one, but I’ve accepted that I just don’t have as much energy as the common NT-person. I have struggled with lacking energy and being ill almost daily trying to keep up with the normal 9-5, knowing it would kill me if I continued. I will never be able to work full time, and that is alright. At the moment I’m struggling working 12 hours only.
  4. I have accepted (to be fair, I accepted this long ago but still felt guilty about it) that my sleep pattern is not in tune with society’s. I always have been, and always will be a night owl. My most creative and productive hours and are usually around 10-1, or later during the night.
  5. I’ve accepted the way my brain works. This took having to learn how my brain works in the first place. I no longer worry about my ‘intellect’ or ‘brain capability’ (which don’t matter in the first place). My brain can do a lot of awesome things I don’t ever want to be without, but can’t and never will work as an allistic brain, and I will probably never understand simple logic.
  6. In accepting that I’m autistic, I realise that I will not be able to pass as NT. I have known for years that I don’t quite fit in and have settled with standing out in a good way. After my diagnosis I’m even more comfortable with standing out. I was planning of scrapping my girly princess-look when hitting 30, but  screw that. I’m sticking to pink and red dresses and skirts. As well as my morbid, somewhat sadistic personality.

For some reason, accepting myself as autistic is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. I still have many other areas in my life that I have to work on, but right now I’m focusing on this. I have been made aware of my autism. I’m now working on gaining greater understanding myself and my needs. Understanding myself has led to acceptance.  In accepting myself, I can also appreciate who I am as an autistic person. I’ve come to love myself because I am autistic. I think it’s time for the allistic world to do the same.

This seems interesting, let me find out more

Suddenly, it happens. Something catches your eye. Something interesting. SO very interesting. And that’s it, really. Whatever plans you have already made don’t matter anymore, you’ll be damned before you quit what you’re doing now. You’re not stopping until you’ve found out all there is to find out about this lovely subject. You’re lucky as well. There’s so many sources, so much information, and hey, at your best most of it sticks after one read-through! The best thing about this? It could be anything, really. History. Linguistics. Perhaps just comparing things. This is seldom predetermined, it might be a surprise even to you; this very interesting thing.

If you are autistic, you have probably already guessed what I’m talking about. I’m referring to what autism experts refer to as ”special interests”, a well-known stereotype when it comes to autistics. I’m not very fond of the expression ”special interests”. It not only pathologises autistics, the phrase is nowadays used for NTs with uncommon interests, but in a positive light.

To be honest, a lot of things that interest me. This seemed to confuse my therapists who desperately wanted to narrow down any ”special interests” before and during my autism assessment. It doesn’t work like this for me. I love storing information in general. I’m lucky, this world is filled with so many interesting, amazing things.

When I was a kid I liked ferries, and especially Stena Jutlandica (a much better ferry than Stena Danica, I swear) which used to operate between Fredrikshavn and Gothenburg. I also collected My Little Pony. When I got older I got into the English language (not that you can tell) because I wanted to talk to people all over the world. Learning English enabled to talk to and join with fans across the globe. I spent a lot of my youth in the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fandoms. Delving into worlds full of characters and lore is one of my favourite things in the world

I’ve always loved animation. Nowadays I mostly watch anime, but any good animation will do. I find key frames and a high hps nearly orgasmic. My love for the animes Kyousougiga and Uchoten Kazoku got me really interested in the temples of Kyoto. In 2014 I made an attempt to visit as many of them as I could in a week’s time.

I love aesthetics. Pretty things, simply put. Anything can be devastatingly beautiful. A leaf. A tiger. A dress. Really good typography. Seeing beautiful things not only makes me happy, but also energises me. When I lived in London I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum as often as I could. I tried my hand at becoming a designer, because I love beautiful things. Sadly, creating these things myself wasn’t for me.

A friend got me into Playing World of Warcraft about ten years ago. Vanilla was ongoing and I loved exploring Azeroth. It didn’t take me long to re-roll on a role playing server. I’ve played back and forth since then, but I’m now heavily invested in this world. I have eleven level 100+ characters, all with their own names, personalities and backgrounds. I love their individual reactions to being sent to the Broken Isles… for both the same and yet very different reasons.

Politics and social justice have been important to me since I was very young. Throughout my life I’ve learnt more and more as I’ve gotten older.  I decided to study social sciences and languages (samhällsvetenskapliga programmet med inriktning språk) in high school. I later ended up studying the humanities, culture, linguistics, discourse etc at university. All this knowledge, and knowing that I know less than I think I do (which means that there’s so much left to learn) is at the core of my being. It’s why I’m running this blog. It will likely influence my future. Without my passions for these subjects I wouldn’t be capable of storing this much information. I wouldn’t be autistic. I wouldn’t be me. And because there’s so many things yet to explore, I’m glad to be me.

Autisters matvanor är helt ok

Eftersom jag (tyvärr) flyttat hem till min mamma och hennes pojkvän i deras nya hus delar jag också kylskåp med dem. Ett litet, men proppfullt kylskåp. Med en massa saker som jag inte har någon aning om vad de är och inte heller vill veta. Detta fick mig att fundera på det här med autister och mat. Det brukar ofta beskrivas negativt, eller som något lustigt.

Jag älskar att laga mat. Det ger mig en slags härlig avkoppling som jag inte vill vara utan. Det roligaste är att reda såser (vitvinssås till fisk är en favorit) och improvisera marinad. Jag skulle kunna stå och vispa grytor, såser mm i all evighet. Saken är att som många andra autister är det mycket mat jag helt enkelt inte klarar av att äta. Jag är väldigt smakkänslig samt att det är många konsistenser jag inte klarar av. Detta bekommer mig inte alls, förutom då jag skulle vilja laga mat som verkar intressant som jag sedan aldrig skulle äta upp. Jag äter bara det jag vill, och kommer fortsätta så. Mina föräldrar har respekterat detta och har sedan jag varit liten lagat annan mat till mig.

Något de gör fortfarande, eller så fixar jag mig något eget. Inga problem alltså. Överraskande nog anser sjukvården att detta är ett stort problem (jag vet inte varför). Mina psykologer har påpekat gång på gång hur jobbigt det måste vara för mig. Problem blir det bara om jag går på restaurang och ska försöka hitta något jag kan äta. Min ekonomi tillåter inte några större utsvävningar och jag har heller inte någon vidare lust att äta ute eftersom jag hellre är hemma (take away <3).

Habiliteringen tycker också att något ska göras åt det här. Enligt Hab måste jag lära mig att laga (och äta?) mer varierad kost och där uppstår faktiskt ett problem. Jag förstår helt enkelt inte NT-anvisningar, vare sig skriftligt eller i bild. Jag måste få se någon göra en sak flera gånger och sedan måste jag få prova själv. Jag är nöjd med de matlagningskunskaper jag redan besitter (den matlagning jag kan har jag memorerat. Mina föräldrar, särskilt min pappa har lärt mig laga mat genom att vi har samarbetat i köket sedan jag var liten). Jag tycker själv att jag lagar god mat.  NT-människor tycker jag lagar god mat. Jag kan laga allt från soppa till ugnsstek.  Utan lök, kryddor mm såklart. Därför förstår jag inte vad problemet är. Jag tycker inte ens det finns något problem. Att däremot försöka tvinga mig att lära mig laga (och äta?) mer mat skulle påverka mig negativt. Dels har jag inte energin, jag blir stressad och att försöka tyda recept leder mest till frustration, dålig självkänsla och förstörda maträtter.

Min poäng är att autisters relation till mat inte alls behöver patologiseras. Det bör den inte heller om inte målet är att patologisera autister ytterligare. Låt oss sköta oss själva, hjälp oss om vi ber om hjälp angående förskaffande av mat eller matlagning.

 

 

Stimming – it rocks!

I stim. I can’t remember when I started to stim, I must have been doing it even before I had control of my body movements, or maybe around then. Stimming comes naturally to me. I usually pretend to be NT around others (a waste of time, I know), that is, I’ve settled with standing out in a positive way.

I have no idea of when I stopped stimming in public. As we were moving, mum found some old recordings of my brother and me from preschool. I stim. A lot. I jump up and down and excitedly flap my hands as I direct all my attention to the camera. I do all of this happily. Watching this made me happy. But at one point I stopped flapping my hands in public. Instead I obsessively picked my skin, wounds and body hair in public. My parents kept telling me to stop, but I couldn’t. I did it when I was nervous, when I was concentrating, without even noticing.

At some point in my life I noticed that when I was alone, my body language would become very different from how I acted around people. I also did what I now know is echolalia. This type of body language came naturally to me and felt really good. I did this for years without knowing I was autistic. Leave me alone and I’ll start flapping my hands, do raptor hands, anything really. When I have to be around people for several hours / days, I’ll act as NT as I can and then get my much needed hand flapping done when I’m alone in the bathroom.

Stimming also allows my facial expressions to become more animated. I can’t fully use my face to express my emotions if I have to mind my body language. If my body has to shut down, so does my face and my emotions become dulled as well. In the NT world I always have a small smile plastered on my face. My big smiles are usually slow and fake. But if I flap my hands, my entire face will be lit up and I really mean it.

I have always stimmed. But finding out that I’m autistic and what stimming actually is I’m now able to regulate my well-being on a whole new level, and it feels great.

 

#redinstead An actually autistic party post

Congratulations! It’s autism awareness acceptance appreciation day! I am aware of how exhausting this month is to many of us, and it’s only just started. I’m not going to focus on that today. I’m going to focus on the awesome autistic community. Because this is where my road towards self-acceptance starts. You’re literally life savers.

About two years ago, my psychologist told me that he suspected that I was autistic. He wanted me to think about if I wanted to get an neuropsychiatric assessment. The very second he asked, I wanted to shout yes. Someone has finally noticed that I’m different. I was so relieved. Since I wasn’t sure of what he was talking about, I told him with a very neutral autistic poker face that I would think about it until next appointment.

As I’m sure many of you have already guessed, I spent the next two weeks researching neuropsychiatric disabilities and autism. The sites offered by health care and charity (intresse) organisations had at least published the new diagnosis criterias for autism, as well as the old ones. Oh, my senses are heighted, but I can do theory of mind? I couldn’t see myself at all.

I then remembered that I had been linked to a blog by an autistic writer a while ago. I looked it up again, and from there I found many other blogs. I was amazed by how these awesome bloggers wrote in a way I instantly understood. Not only did their writings all make sense, as well as the way they described their lives, experiences, feelings and thoughts…  There was a specific blog post where the author discussed how she sometimes, on good days wondered if she really was autistic. Then she recounted all autistic things she did  during a day and came to the conclusion that of course she’s autistic. That was it. She had pretty much described my life. I was finally home. Sadly, I never managed to find that blog again.
I continued to read. I learnt about identity first, neurodiversity & the social model of disability. Lovely things that have changed the way I think about myself and the world. A few months later I was relieved to receive my autism diagnosis (I was worried that I wouldn’t be seen as autistic enough). I had already embaced being autistic.

I then did the awful mistake of not starting to interact with the online autistic community for almost one and a half year. Or perhaps it was a good thing to wait. Even though I identified as autistic, I still didn’t know how to talk about my experiences.
I joined a few local groups and events in my area, but I quickly realised that these people were not into neurodiversity & identity first. Disappointing, but it meant a lot to me to share experiences with others like me. Still, hearing these people’s opinions only made me more sure of my own convictions.

And now, quite recently I decided that I was ready to take the plunge. I started a blog and started interacting with other bloggers. And then I ended up on Twitter, just to find out that not only are these very thoughtful & interesting people, they are lovely and very easy to socialise with as well. I feel welcomed and accepted, and that’s all I really asked for. Being in contact with other autistics (that care about disability rights, not the boring aspies in my hometown) has allowed me to speak up and work with them to fight ableism.

Therefore I hope everyone in the autistic community will be proud of themselves through April. Practice all the self-care you need. If it’s too much, feel free talk to me about anything, really. We deserve more than simple awareness. We deserve to be loved and accepted however NT or autistic we present. We deserve nothing else than to partake in society on our own premises and get the accomodations we need in order to do so. This is why I’m going #Redinstead.

A circle of ignorance: whitewashing & white habitus

As many of you are aware, the film Ghost in the Shell featuring Scarlett Johansson is coming out in many countries this week. This isn’t a review, but a few arguments for why you should avoid this movie and other media that use whitewashing. In an interview with the magazine Marie Claire, Johansson talks about the controversy and says:

”I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”

It becomes apparent that Johansson doesn’t understand why exactly the movie is being criticised; the actual problem is that she is playing a character that in the original reads as Japanese. This might not be offensive to her, but it is to many of us. When people of colour point out the dangers of whitewashing the standard replies are often ”trololol triggered” or  ”focus on real racism”.  In fact, whitewashing is ”real” racism, and this kind of  racism affects our lives and society at large. Since racial minorities tend to know what whitewashing is and how it affects us, I’d like to spend this post talking about how whitewashing affect the white majority that often points out how meaningless and a waste of time our critiques are. So why is this topic so divisive?

I believe that Johansson and the film’s producers, along with many other white people are stuck in ”white habitus”. “White habitus” is used by scholars to describe racial dynamics occurring in real life. This refers to the socialisation process that ensures that the perceptions, feelings and views on race by white people remain in power and unchallenged  Whiteness is reinforced as the human default,  that is not a race or ‘the’ race. Being seen as not a race but a universal category, this view on whiteness helps hiding the power, practices and ideas between racial relations as well and also deflecting any group-based blame or privilege.

In films where the main characters are mostly white, the movie reinforces whiteness and white features as the norm. Choices like these by the developers do not only reflect values and
norms of a society, they also reinforce them . Moreover, studies show that the lack
of racial minorities in the media also reinforces whiteness as the human default, which is not a
race or ‘the’ race. As mentioned earlier, whiteness becomes simply a state of being and not a race, leading to whites being seen as individuals, while minorities are seen as representing their racial groups. This helps explain how society sees and blames the acts of racial minorities, who often are victims of group-blame.

White habitus can, and should be challenged. Mainstream media, including films often show ethnic minorities as threats, such as offenders of crime and terrorism, but also as competitors for other resources such as jobs in the context of stealing these from the majority. In a study from 2012 by Durkin et al, the researchers come to the conclusion that children appear to learn from media messages promoting ethnic inclusiveness. The results showed that white children were not inherently prejudiced against other racial minorities, but if the overarching attitudes towards ethnic minorities are hostile, it is very likely that children of the white majority will pick up similar attitudes. In conclusion, a more positive representation of ethnic minority groups might lead to a more positive attitude towards these groups.

Johansson’s choice to take this role helps preserve a society with racial inequality. I believe these are very important things to keep in mind when discussing inclusiveness and representation. Discourse often focus on minority representation only and is therefore seen as problem to be discussed in minority communities only. But this clearly isn’t the case. We need to hold the perpetrators accountable. A great way is to speak up and refuse to see movies that contain whitewashing and other types of harmful representation.  Let’s make it impossible for these companies to keep producing non-inclusive media.