Saturday, January 26, 2008

nts & NTs

Permit me a rather extended analogy.

In the late 1970s when feminism was the object of considerable public focus, I worked as a tech writer in the petroleum industry, in good-ol'boy ground zero, Tulsa, Oklahoma. I remember attending a feminist poetry reading there & then and found myself feeling dirty, unacceptable as-is to those present. I wasn't conspicuously so but I knew I was unlike the women present--women certain they were, by contrast to men, the loving ones, the caring ones. (I refer you to my 11 December blog for an explanation of my estrangement from this thinking at a deeper level.) Up top I was working among misogynists all day long--and had been in previous workplaces in Detroit & Toledo. I was stuck with them. I had to deal with them. I had to make concessions & compromises just to get my work done. I was very seldom the object of sexual harassment--co-workers said the executives saw me as "brilliant" & "scary"--but I experienced my second rate humanity at every turn.

I struggled to keep it together and failed to be compliant enough to be successful in the business world--managers would crack what they believed was a joke, gave that visual survey of nearby women underlings to receive the requisite chuckles of appreciation & I would either exhibit flat affect, or no reaction to something that didn't strike me as funny, or barely suppressed huffing over the obvious manipulation. One awful man relied on me for ideas
he couldn't invent on his own, since he spent his MBA studies chasing freshman students. The women who were successful in Tulsa were with no exception daughters of prominent men, who learned at their "daddy's" knee how to handle "daddy" admiringly. My experience with workplaces was a veritable socio-pathological circus.

The thing is, as child growing up in an Irish family with deep roots in poverty & despair, I didn't have the luxury of the kind of pristine feminism the women at the reading had embraced. I had to get my work done. I had to keep my job. I had to get it done.

Even the presence at the reading of my favorite feminist, Germaine Greer, didn't help, though I thought, considering her writings, that she may have felt somewhat restricted there. I remember her saying to someone that she rather liked North Tulsa, the most unfashionable, working class part of Tulsa, and the woman said something that presumed Greer was talking about hip, aesthetically funky, Reservoir Hill, a
charming sliver of the north side. Greer, a woman passionate about her working class roots, meant no such thing. She meant the nice serviceable, unassuming, modestly priced cottages, charming enough were anyone to notice.

This was a eureka moment for me.

But one of the concurrent realities in the workplace has always been the presence of men who were not misogynistic, were not suits, didn't have executive airs & often made good work buddies. Were they sexist? Yes. Sure. But they were such a far cry from the creepy & treacherous misogynists, they were impossible to classify with the hubristics of the corner desks. This means it was necessary to make distinctions. When asked as a high schooler what my t-shirt would say, make distinctions was my answer. People who don't make them create much mischief. And one troubling thing the avid feminists began doing is venting their indignation upon lower case men because they were accessible and non-threatening. I've seen professors be stomped on for the use of male pronouns by such women, while their often misogynistic significant others, upper case Men, are off the hook.

I now feel an urge to transfer this case to the way things are in neurotypicalism. I'm not sure I can put my finger on it but I fear that a distinction may not be made often enough between nts & NTs. NTs are the embodiment of the dominance of NT hegemony. They are at one with the institutions & centers of power responsible for brain hegemony. Chances are they align themselves on the culturally rewarded side of all the isms. They have high social fluency & associate with others like themselves.

NTs are the beneficiaries of the goods of cultural hegemony. nts, on the other hand, either eschew those benefits for reasons unknown (some may choose not to be assholes), or have become estranged from the bennies & perks for any number of realities:
  • lack a high social affiliation need and/or dislike those with a high social affiliation need
  • are shy, introverted, and/or reclusive
  • have other neuroatypicalities besides autism, to include things we call mental illnesses (e.g., depression)
  • are slow to catch on to subtle, unspoken cultural rules (sub-clinically, you might say)
  • grew up in a different national or regional culture than the one they are presently expected to function
  • have roots in poverty and/or lower social class
  • have been devoting significant time to managing an illness or caring for someone with one
  • grew up pre-occupied with competitive individual sports, dance, music performance
  • find socializing tedious and highly social people insufferable
  • find odd ducks worth the effort of knowing
  • are eccentric, disdain conformity
  • are sensitive and perceptive
  • and more?
Trouble is these nts will blow it. Sometimes a lot. They are inclined to blow a hoped for bond with an a-typ by failing to recognize informative discourse for what it is. An a-typ mentions a difference in circumstances and abilities only to have the nt jump to the conclusion that the person is asking for commiseration or consolation. Responses include: "I get that way, too!" "I don't think you're like that at all." "Yeah, but you are so successful." All of these leave people like me heartbroken. We have been telling something as a matter of fact and hoping that the friend would put it in their field notebook on us so as to, perhaps, anticipate the impact of a particular issue or event on us--the way we, out of necessity, take note of significant others' requirements and limitations. I tell these things so that friends may know me in greater depth than is available through my social interfaces. I tend always to hope that my matters of fact will also serve an educational purpose for the confidant, enabling them to grasp the range of brain wiring they have access to in their daily lives. They just sometimes don't get i and that can be bitterly disappointing. But they are not the problem. They mean no harm. They are, in the main, accepting. Often they like us. They are nt in an NT culture, just as we're nAt in an NT culture. They are not NT culture itself nor its minions. We must make this distinction, despite its heartache, frustrations, and interpersonal burden. Because there are some with considerable power who do not wish us well at all, mean us harm, would do away with us if they could. They are behind our powerful institutions and don't want anything to do with us, much less be our allies. We need to cut our allies some slack even when hard-pressed to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment