Friday, October 28, 2016

Reverse Discrimination

When I was attending a predominantly Native inner-city school for grade 7, a girl told me I was "too white to be a person".

To their credit, the teachers took that seriously, despite ignoring the many other hurtful taunts I got on a daily basis because I was a nerdy undiagnosed autistic kid with mental health issues. They challenged her about how she'd feel if someone said the reverse to her.

Unfortunately, many people wouldn't take that nearly so seriously. There are a lot of people claiming that 'reverse discrimination doesn't exist'. This article specifically lists off reverse racism, thin-shaming, and misandry as types of reverse discrimination that "don't exist", and claimed that they don't cause systemic harm.

My own brush with reverse racism didn't cause harm because it happened once and received an appropriate response. If I'd been told "stop whining, white people are privileged so it's not a big deal to make fun of them", then it would have caused harm, just as all the other times my experiences of bullying were invalidated. And the girl who'd insulted me would have learnt that it was OK to make hurtful comments about my skin color. So it might not have been such an isolated incident.

And especially misandry. I'm not a man, but even I can see that both sexes are targeted by sexism. My WGST prof outright claimed that men couldn't be raped because an erection indicates consent, and accused a music video depicting a male musician's experience with an emotionally abusive woman partner as sexist because it showed a woman in a negative light.

She's not the only one. The idea that "women can't victimize men" is something male victims of female-perpetrated sexual assault and domestic violence run into on a regular basis. Even male child sexual abuse victims are less likely to be seen as victims, especially adolescent victims of sexually abusive women. (A 25 year old having sex with a 13 year old is seen as assault if it's a man and a girl, and as a "kid getting lucky" if it's a woman and a boy.) The harm of not taking victimization seriously is very severe.

In addition, fathers are subject to prejudice when involved in active caregiving. Men's bathrooms rarely have changing tables, paternity leave is harder to get and brings more negative judgment than maternity leave, a man sitting at a playground watching children is assumed to be a pedophile rather than a father, and men are told they're "babysitting" their own children. All of these enforce the idea that men aren't supposed to be active fathers. Some men are distanced from their children, harming both them and their kids, while those who stick it out face consequences for doing so.

As for thin-shaming, body image is a problem for women of all sizes. Even thin women frequently feel ashamed of their bodies. And for men, thin, nonmuscular men are seen as weakly and "feminine", definitely not the ideal. This harms men by encouraging them to endanger their health to build more muscle, exercising in dangerous ways and in some cases taking steroids.

The discrimination is often less pervasive and has a different flavor to it, but the same can be said when you compare the experiences of Jews to blacks. Similarly, my experience as a sexual abuse victim with supportive parents who immediately acted to protect me on their first suspicion of abuse and stood up for me when others tried to invalidate my experiences is very much different from the experiences my abusers had, where their abusers included at least two different parental figures, and no one acted to support them until adolescence. Their abuse experiences were far worse than mine on pretty much any dimension that you could measure abuse severity. But my abuse experiences were still wrong and hurtful.

There are also examples of historical situations where the discrimination has reversed. For a period of time in England, religious discrimination regularly reversed depending on the beliefs of the current monarch - Catholic monarchs persecuted Protestants, and Protestant monarchs persecuted Catholics. A number of colonized countries, during revolutions, reversed the racism in their society and began persecuting whites.

Some people do make false claims of reverse discrimination, but again, that's true in other cases, such as the girl my brother knew who claimed a boy was "raping" her if he accidentally bumped into her, or the Jewish classmate he had who claimed anyone who objected to anything he did was anti-Jewish. Or the boy who accused me and my friend of not wanting to play with him because he was disabled, when in reality we just didn't want to play with a stranger.

It's important to recognize the historical weight behind some forms of discrimination, and how it hasn't been supporting other forms of discrimination. But discrimination is still wrong, even if it's directed towards someone with historical privilege. A double standard that judges the same act differently depending on the identity of the target is wrong, regardless of the historical benefits or disadvantages of the group. And if one person has suffered 3 wrongs, those are no less wrong just because someone else has suffered a thousand.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Explaining ART with Up-Goer 5 Text Editor

In a previous post, I explained the Up-Goer 5 Text Editor made by XKCD, and used it to explain learning differences using only the ten hundred most commonly used words. Now, I decided to explain assisted reproduction techniques:

Lots of grown-ups want to have children. To have a child, you need to put together something made by a man body part with something made by a woman body part, and then have the baby grow in a woman body part that was made to grow babies in.
Most men fall in love with women, and most women fall in love with men. When a man and a woman are in love and want to work together to make a baby, it's usually pretty easy. The man and woman work together to put the man's baby-making stuff in the woman's body, where it meets the woman's baby-making stuff in the place where babies grow. The baby grows in there for a long time, and then the woman's body pushes the baby out so the baby can grow and learn outside of her body.
Sometimes a man and woman don't have an easy time having a baby, though. Sometimes the man doesn't make enough of the man's baby-making stuff, or the woman doesn't make enough of the woman's baby-making stuff. Sometimes the two kinds of stuff have trouble getting together in the woman's body. And sometimes the woman's baby-growing place is missing or not working very well.
Sometimes a man has the woman parts or a woman has the man parts. They can sometimes still have a baby, but sometimes having the wrong parts makes them so sad they need to get a doctor to help them change their parts. If they change their parts, they might not be able to have a baby anymore.
And some people have trouble because they don't have both a man and a woman. Some women fall in love with other women, and some men with other men. And some men and women don't find anyone to fall in love with, but they still want a baby.
No matter why they have trouble having a baby, there are lots of ways to help. Some men and women just need help getting their baby-making stuff together, so a doctor gets baby-making stuff from each of them and puts it together outside of their bodies. Then he puts it in the woman's baby-growing place.
Some people need help getting some man baby-making stuff. Either their man doesn't make any, or they don't have a man. So they get a different man to give them his baby-making stuff. They can either put that in the woman so it can meet her baby-making stuff, or take her baby-making stuff out and have the two kinds of stuff meet outside.
Some people need help getting some woman baby-making stuff. Either they don't have a woman, or the woman doesn't make that stuff. Sometimes a woman might be too old to make baby-making stuff anymore, or her body might not be able to make it. If a woman has the baby-growing place but can't make the baby-making stuff, the doctor puts together a different woman's baby-making stuff with a man's baby-making stuff and puts it in her baby-growing place.
But some people don't have the baby-growing place. Either they don't have a woman, or the woman's baby-growing place doesn't work. In that case, they need another woman to grow the baby for them. Sometimes the same woman gives them the baby-making stuff and has the baby grow in her baby-growing place, but more often they use the baby-making stuff from the woman who wants a child or from a different woman.
Who gives the baby-making stuff and who grows the baby in the baby-growing place is important for the baby to know about. But the most important people for the baby are the ones who look after the baby. Those people are the baby's real parents.

Friday, October 14, 2016

21 Days of AAC - Numerical Results

During the 21 Days of AAC challenge (which took 32 days for me to complete), I purchased tracking for my AAC device. I'd had logging turned on, but no way to access my logs until I made the purchase.

I know that subjectively, the 21 Days pushed me out of my comfort zone in a way that I found quite valuable. But what do the numbers say? To assess that, I compare the 32 days of the challenge with 32 days before and 32 days after the challenge.

Note that the 'after' results may be biased by several things. First, I was still within that period when I had the idea to write up the results, so I knew I'd be analyzing data and felt motivated to do more in response. Secondly, my tablet carrier arrived in the mail 9 days ago, so I've been carrying my tablet around with me more. And lastly, I found some good homeschooling early readers and I've been trying to read them with AAC.

Total Sessions
Before: 285 sessions
During: 151 sessions
After: 223 sessions
Sessions are divided based on a long stretch of time without any button presses.

Sessions were down during the challenge, and haven't quite returned. However, since sessions are divided by a break of time, this could simply reflect longer sessions.

If I look at the 8 days before and after getting my tablet carrier, I find that I had 32 sessions before and 119 after. So it seems that either the early readers or carrying my tablet, or knowing I'd be analyzing data, has caused an increase in the number of sessions. I think it's the readers - when I come across a word I don't have, I tend to immediately stop and add it, which involves leaving speak mode. I suspect this sometimes triggers a session break.

Total Words
Before: 5490 words
During: 6975 words
After: 10769 words

A slight increase during the challenge, and then an enormous increase just recently. My guess is that reading the early readers has greatly increased my use of AAC, but it does look like the challenge increased it a bit as well.

Analyzing before and after the tablet carrier arrived, I find I used 2078 words before and 2713 words after. Looks like a big jump. However, if I hadn't used my tablet at all for the last eight days, I would have still used 8056 words since the challenge ended, which is a big increase. So I think the challenge may be responsible as well.

Total Utterances
Before: 673 utterances
During: 842 utterances
After: 1214 utterances
Utterances are defined as hitting the "speak" button to say everything on the message board.

There was a large increase for the challenge, and an even bigger increase afterwards. Apparently I've been saying a lot more with my device lately.

For the 8 days before I got my tablet carrier, I said 265 utterances, and after the tablet carrier I've said 391. I'm guessing it's the early readers that did it. Still, my usage was not back to baseline before the tablet carrier arrived.

Total Buttons
Before: 8756 buttons
During: 10449 buttons
After: 16436 buttons

Button presses have gone up during the challenge and even more afterwards.

During the eight days before getting the carrier, I pressed 3198 buttons. After, I pressed 4154 buttons. So a big increase, but even if I hadn't pressed any buttons for that time I'd have still made 12282 button presses, which suggests a steady increase from the time of the challenge.

Words per Utterance
Before: average 6.12 words per utterance
During: average 6.37 words per utterance
After: average 6.28 words per utterance

During the challenge, I had an increase in average sentence length. It's gone down afterwards, but hasn't returned to baseline. The early readers are probably dragging down the average, but mostly I think the challenge had me communicating my actual messages, and therefore more closely reflects my non-AAC communication skills.

When I got my tablet, average words per utterance dropped from 5.79 to 5.34. Interestingly, both are much lower than the average for the entire 32 days. It seems like my sentences have been steadily getting shorter.

Words per Minute
Before: average 3.26 words per minute
During: average 3.94 words per minute
After: average 5.57 words per minute

I've been talking faster with AAC. It does seem like there was also an increase during the challenge. I did notice that as I was trying to talk to people I was making an effort to speed up to keep up with what was happening.

Pre-carrier, my words per minute were 7.78, and they've dropped to 5.14 since. This is not what I was expecting. I would have thought the early readers would have sped me up, but they don't seem to have. Maybe it's because they have some new fringe vocabulary that I don't know very well yet, so I have to stop and search.

Utterances per Minute
Before: average .4 utterances per minute
During: average .48 utterances per minute
After: average .63 utterances per minute

Similarly, utterances per minute have gone up a lot lately.

Pre-carrier, utterances per minute were .99, and they've dropped to .74. That mirrors the drop in words per minute, however, both are much higher than my overall average post-challenge. Although it's bumpy, I seem to be improving.

Buttons per Minute
Before: average 5.21 buttons per minute
During: average 5.9 buttons per minute
After: average 8.51 buttons per minute

Again, similar results.

Before the tablet carrier, I had an average of 11.98 buttons per minute, which has dropped to 7.88. Again, what was going on before I got the carrier? This is baffling. But, in any case, my numbers are still higher now than during the challenge.

I'll probably gather similar data after the next challenge, when I do it. It'll be interesting to see how it compares.

Friday, October 07, 2016

How A Parent Can Break The Cycle

My mother is going through a tough time right now. She finally got a lawyer job a few years ago, after having been a university student and or sessional instructor for most of my life, and for the first time since they married, she's been making more money than my father is. But now, the firm she works for is having trouble, and it looks like they're thinking of getting rid of their only female lawyer to save money - even though she's not the most junior lawyer, and she's been bringing in plenty of money.

In response, Mom is considering starting her own firm. It's an exciting prospect, which could turn out really well, but it's also very scary. And Mom is especially struggling, fearing that she's not good enough, getting down on herself, etc. Several times recently she's broken down in tears and asked us to convince her that she's a worthwhile person.

Just recently, she revealed that deep down, she feels that she's inferior because she's a woman.

Now, if you knew my Mom, this would be very surprising. She's a staunch feminist, who has taught Women and Gender Studies, did her law thesis on a historical rape-murder case and a deeply sexist 19th century historian's analysis of it, and raised her son and daughter in accordance with feminist ideals. Basically nothing in her behavior suggests that she values women less than men.

But her family did. She was born in 1962, the youngest of six children. In her family, girls and women were expected to serve men and boys, as was typical of the time. Her mother was a loving woman, but she was also a housewife who took sexism for granted. And her father was a deeply selfish man, who acted in some ways like a seventh child for her mother to look after.

And there was even worse going on. He sexually abused my mother, and she suspects that he abused her two sisters as well. My mother only realized the abuse when I was a toddler, around the same time that unbeknownst to her, my cousins on the other side of the family were abusing me.

She has done a lot of work to heal, and from the sounds of it, she's made tremendous progress. She's not the abused little girl who thought her body belonged to her father, not anymore. But the echoes of that experience are still there, deep inside her.

But you know what? They're not inside me. When I'm at my worst, when I feel like a piece of garbage and my mind is listing off my faults, my gender never even comes to mind. I can honestly say that no part of me believes that being a woman is in any way inferior to being a man. And that's because my mother never taught me that lesson.

Which brings me hope for my child. Because despite being a staunch advocate of neurodiversity, despite liking my autism and feeling proud to be who I am, in my worst moments, I am ableist. Deep down, a part of me believes that I'm not really disabled, just lazy and dumb. (Yes, even though I have an IQ of 137. That self-hating voice isn't rational.) Part of me believes that my executive failures are signs that I'm a failure, and that my sensory issues are just me being unreasonable and selfish.

I may never get rid of these echoes of my childhood. But, like my mother, maybe I can raise a child who never develops them. Maybe, as long as I fight back, my child will grow up free of my burdens. Maybe I don't need to fix myself, not completely.

Thanks, Mom. For breaking the cycle, and for showing me that I can, too.