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Women’s News: My Value: Autism, Feminism and Poverty

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Bridget Allen

Autistic Woman, Mother

There is a dollar figure attached to my right to exist. Do not tell me it is not there. That is a lie. I see it every time I look in the mirror, as if tattooed on my forehead. There exists a ledger; a balance sheet of what I contribute and what I take.

Intangibles count for nothing.

Joy counts for nothing.

Nothing.

Every op-ed piece I read defending food stamps or other benefits bends over backwards to point out the majority of recipients are employed. The majority are good people. Good people work.

But I do not work. I am autistic, and being the autistic I am means I am real-world, social-model- disabled. I do not work because I cannot. There are a dozen hypothetical ‘what if…’ or ‘should be…’ scenarios in which I could hold down a job, but that is not my reality.

How much of myself do I have to lay bare for you to accept that work, as it exists today, is a thing I cannot do? I tried, and I had to choose between powering through another year or two that would kill me or come damn close, or admitting I cannot, so that my children could grow up with a mother.

My childhood was infused with a popular feminist theme. I was taught that a Real Woman is financially independent. She doesn’t need a man be it a husband or larger entity (The Man) to support her basic needs or the needs of her offspring. A Real Woman knows children are an accessory to a career, not something one builds a life around. I regularly heard the words “housewife” and “brood mare” used interchangeably. I am loathe to believe this is real feminism, because empowerment that exists on the denigration and neglect of other’s needs empowers no one.

Growing up, I was also told over and over again my worth was tied to doing Great Things. That lesser people lived ordinary lives, and that for me to live an ordinary life would be tantamount to complete failure. In order to be a worthy human, I needed to be financially independent while actively improving society. Nothing less would do.

So do I own my complete failure, or do I redefine what it means to do Great Things? I embrace both, which yields a very messy work in progress.

I started to apply for disability once, but every worker I spoke to asked the same question: If you are too disabled to work, how can you be a fit mother? I was told, repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that if I submitted an SSI application, a Child Protective Services investigation would be in my future. That is not a risk I could take. My children need me. I know this as much as I know anything. I am the best possible mother on earth for those particular children. That is not negated by my sometimes inability to speak, or walk, or work.

I cannot do it, and I am sick to my teeth justifying myself on this. I had to justify my dirt poor, EBT-dependent self daily. Now I am privileged enough to not be poor. Now I am loved unconditionally for exactly who I am by a partner who can work, but I refuse to hide behind that veneer of acceptability. I cast off strangers’ easy assumption that I choose to stay home. If I could choose, I likely would stay home, but I don’t really have that choice. I’m too disabled for gainful employment, and it would be a slap in the face to too many people I respect to fake that.

So here I sit, grateful for the privilege of things I still do not take for granted. Indoor plumbing on demand. Food my children can actually eat. Health insurance, and the ability to make copays. But all those privileges; privileges that should be rights, do not make me a better person than I was when I bartered baked goods made with food stamp purchases for enough cash to make sure my cancer was still in remission.

I am just as autistic,
I am just as disabled, and
I am just as valuable.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bridget-allen/my-value-autism-feminism_b_4297914.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

Women’s News: Howard Schatz’s Images Of Female Athletes Are Unbelievable

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The Huffington Post  |  By 

The images, taken by photographer Howard Schatz for his 2002 book, Athlete, recently resurfaced, reminding us of the diversity of women’s bodies.

Schatz interviewed and photographed hundreds of athletes for the book, a project he says was inspired by his interest in human variation and the musculoskeletal system. “I was also interested in passion,” he told the Huffington Post in a phone interview. “I was interested in what got them to do this. Because to become a champion, you have to put away so many things in life.”

During his interviews, Schatz noted very little difference between how the male and female athletes approached their sport. “I found that [the women in the project] were simply athletes,” he told HuffPost. “Their commitment, their focus in life, their goals for winning and championship were not different from the men’s. [T]here wasn’t a feminine focus, a feminine ambition.”

The only gender difference apparent to Schatz was how the athletes approached the issue of having children. Some of the women mentioned that they would put off having kids until they were past their physical prime. “Men didn’t really have to delay having families, and having a family didn’t seem to interfere with their pursuits,” Schatz said.

Throughout the project, Schatz says he remained in awe of his subjects. He told HuffPost: “Focus, determination, competition and pursuit of a goal do not have a gender.”

Howard Schatz’s most recent book, Caught In The Act, features portraits of actors including Hugh Laurie, Whoopi Goldberg and Amy Poehler.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/19/howard-schatz-photos-women-professional-athletes_n_4297902.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

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