suddenly everything has changed: Wayne Coyne was probably talking about my PhD [an update]

beth-gibbons
current mood: contemplative, thinking, are we still in 1994, let’s have Beth Gibbons pictures everywhere

Hello everyone. I know I don’t really update this corner of the internet much anymore. I’m currently in the third year of this PhD, so TWO MORE YEARS and YOU SHOULD BE WRITING and GET OFF TWITTER and YOU STILL AREN’T WRITING are the slogans marching around inside my head for the last month or so. I’m teaching, too — since earlier this year I’ve been given the opportunity to teach undergraduates solo, which is exciting and challenging. I get to work with some brilliant students. All good.

I’m at the stage of my thesis where I’m starting to believe that I’ve found my focus, so to say. My research has now become a study of Shakespeare performance in Ireland in relation to how it operates in and out of current Irish debates on gender and sexuality, as well as issues of national identity. This makes sense to me, this excites me, and this allows me to take ownership of this work. It’s funny, because in some ways, that focus has been there since the beginning: being adamant about taking an intersectional feminist approach to my work regardless, becoming invested in the #WakingTheFeminists and #repealthe8th campaigns, and unconsciously taking an interest in women and queer people’s approaches to Irish Shakespeare.  I had been thinking about the project so broadly beforehand, and spent ages struggling with how to siphon everything down. So, when I walked into a supervision in August saying ‘I get to write about #WakingTheFeminists in my thesis now!!!’ (after having seen the wonderful and distinctly Irish Globe The Taming of the Shrew), that was a clear indicator to my supervisor as to where the thesis ought to go. And, eventually, to me, too. [I’ll actually be talking about this production in relation to Irish feminism at this symposium in Maynooth at the end of the month, fyi.]

And what’s the most wonderful thing about this development is that my feminism, my queerness, and my research do not need to be separate from each other. They co-exist and they inform each other. And despite my own fears and hesitations, I know that can be possible. Just yesterday, I attended the second day of the 1916: Home: 2016 conference (co-organised by brilliant colleagues of mine at NUIG), in which a panellist stated that ‘I don’t see why I can’t be both an activist and a historian.’ And we, as younger scholars, need affirmations like that, as we try to carve out our own paths. At the same time, Academic Manel Watch is gathering steam on Twitter, as is the hashtag #WakingTheAcademics. Conversations are happening.

So there’s that. Our objectives now are to keep those conversations and actions going. In the meantime, myself and three brilliant colleagues/friends/sisters-in-arms are running our own podcast called Feminist Theatre Squadron: you can listen to us talk about theatre, feminism, and being cranky here. And sure, that sounds like a cynical shill. But given our own current political situation (Brexit and its aftermath, the rise of the alt-right, so much inaction close to home, #WakingTheFeminists offering some semblance of hope and change), I think it’s important that we talk, and keep talking, and refuse to stop. I’m sure it won’t be our only contribution to this conversation, but it’s a start nonetheless.

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Autistics Speaking Day 2013: This Is What Autism Looks Like

Today is Autistics Speaking Day. It’s a day intended to highlight awareness, to encourage acceptance, to allow autistic people to speak for themselves rather than a panel of allistic ‘experts’ creating a panic over ‘national epidemics’ and DOES MILK GIVE YOUR CHILDREN AUTISM, etc. It’s a day to make our voices heard. Inspired by the posts written by autisticook, Feminist Aspie, and at Musings of an Aspie to mark the occasion (and believe you me, they are excellent posts), I’m writing a blog post too on something that tends to be a running theme throughout related posts on this blog: what does it ‘look like’? And is it a question we should really ask? (Quick answer: No.)

Also, before I get any further on the subject, this has also been largely inspired by Kelly Martin Broderick’s work on We Are What Feminists Look Like. You can read about why Broderick started the website here. ‘Feminists are not a monolith’, she says. ‘We are diverse and unique. We don’t fit into every stereotype.’ This was perhaps crystallised for me when I went to visit NUIG’s Feminist Society table at Societies Day this year. They had placed a mirror on the stall, with the words ‘This Is What A Feminist Looks Like’ on top of it. You can wear ‘girly’ (ewww, hate that word) dresses and be a feminist. You can wear nothing but hoodies 24/7 and be a feminist. You can watch WWE and classic Doctor Who and be a feminist. You can be a man and be a feminist. And so on and so forth. There is no one ‘model’.

I guess this isn’t really the same thing (intersectional feminism ftw), but it does lead me onto the nub and thrust of this post.

Here is a recent photo of me:

uh, hi
uh, hi

This photo was taken just this week, as I was going off to do some errands that morning. I had my headphones in because I was obsessively listening to the new Arcade Fire album (still am, it’s ever so good). I actually made an effort to put on some make-up, and I was wearing my lovely winter coat. I’ve also recently finished my masters (hurray!) and making plans for the future, which are pretty damn exciting if you ask me. But more about that at a later date.

Do I look normal? Or should I say, do I look normal… by your standards? What are your expectations of what autism looks like?

There is no one ‘model’ for an autistic person. We all have different experiences and different lives. We are a diverse community, and we have our own stories to tell. That’s not to say that we don’t have shared experiences (I can’t measure how grateful I am for the above blogs, they put into words the things that are so hard to express about being autistic). Additionally, someone might comment that I look ‘high-functioning’. When, in fact, they probably don’t know about the meltdowns, the frequent bouts of anxiety, those days when you feel so incapable of doing the smallest household thing, those days when the simplest of things seem so alien or complicated to you. The days when you just can’t do anything.

Those labels are useless. We can be both ‘high’ and ‘low’ functioning. (Again, autisticook is great on this: you can read her thoughts here.) It’s a spectrum, after all, with different degrees. There’s really no way to prescribe exactly how it works. And people really shouldn’t try to.

So, if there’s one thing you do today or this evening: listen to us. Listen to our stories. Give us a chance over those ‘experts’, for a change. We’re more than willing to talk. We just want to be heard. We are what autistic people look like.