14 November, 2009

Privilege + ASD

This is something I said to someone in the comments of my Mad Men Asperger's post on livejournal, about Fuck Pete Campbell and its ilk:

I don't know, I mean I'm white so I feel like it's not really my place to say how people who aren't white should feel; I don't know if I would enjoy watching the show if I wasn't white. And I think that having a lot of privilege and being really unhappy about it is sometimes hard to sympathize with if you don't have privilege. For example, as a gay person I tend to get pretty bored when straight people complain about how hard it is being straight.

Also (I think I wrote about this a bit in the original post, or intended to) it's interesting to think about how different Asperger's looks in different people. For example with women you can't really tell. It seems pretty likely to me that this is because society comes down harder on women who have bad social skills. And it's probably the same with people of color. I mean, Pete's life is crappy now, but if he was a black guy in the 60s with the kind of social skills and temper he has, his family would probably be scared that something would happen to him; like, something violent. (I also think that they'd have more of a sense of him having a disability, even if they didn't call it that. I wonder if he would be sort of a family responsibility, like "shit, who's going to take care of Pete now that so-and-so died.") The way I'm writing this essay comes off as a little anti-Peggy, but of course it's totally not her fault. Peggy would have been fired if she acted like Pete. Peggy sure doesn't have the option of muddling around until she meets a nice guy who will devote all his energy to managing her social impairments.

When Pete feels powerless he kicks around women. When Peggy feels powerless--well, she better find another outlet, because she doesn't have anyone to kick around.

I hope it doesn't come off like I'm saying this all in response to what you said, and trying to correct your reaction or something--I just started thinking about it while I was typing. To be honest I do feel personally hurt when I see all this "fuck Pete Campbell" stuff, or just sort of this attitude that guys who pretty clearly have some kind of social impairment are just The Oppressors, and there can't be any more to them than that. I remember seeing this a few years ago in a post about RealDolls. The guy the article was about clearly suffered from a lot of social anxiety that made it hard for him to handle relationships (or even find them), but everyone on this blog was just like "oh, he hates women, he thinks women are untrustworthy." I love Pete, very much, probably more than someone should love a fictional character. I don't want to ignore his privilege but I don't think it's fair to ignore the fact that he has lower status as a disabled person, whether or not other characters consciously perceive him that way.

1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting point about autistic social agnosia looking like privileged arrogance. (And I think your point about how much harder Pete's life would be, if he were as naive, short-tempered and impulsive as he is if he were poor or black, is a good one. As it is, he's not taken seriously at work, and he has very strained relations with his own, and his wife's, family --- which impacts his work, since he was effectively hired for his Impressive Connections --- but he doesn't have to worry that he'll be beaten, or lynched, or jailed, or run out of town, because he's pissed off the wrong people. He *IS* "the wrong people"!)

    Anyway, I've written about this with respect to gender --- as I was reading about male privilege, and what it means to live as a man or as a woman in a sexist society, I became confused because I took all sorts of things for granted that apparently most women can't. The most obvious instance of this is the expectation that women be the tactful, flattering Caretakers of Everybody Else's Emotions in conversation --- this has never been expected of me, probably because I have always been manifestly incapable of that level of social observation and self-control.