Are you using your Feminist lens?
I have recently listened to “The Guilty Feminist” after a recommendation from my young teenage niece and her mother. Their wonderful enthusiasm sparked off an inquisitive interest in me that I simply had to pursue. I call myself a “feminist” but I have never said it out loud to too many people as I feel a bit of a cheat. But, it just so happens that this is exactly what the Guilty feminist is all about. I listened to the audiobook with excitement; at how the Guilty Feminist spoke for me and for many of my friends. Yes, I too rage at the inequalities that are faced by women and girls all over the world and right at our doorstep, in the workplace and in the media.
I can bet many of you reading this will relate to the Guilty Feminist. Yes, I do like my hair to look nice on the occasional day that I give a crap. Yes I do like to wear a bit of make-up – still totally rubbish at it so won’t go as far as to say I like to doll myself up. That, however is due to having an inner “can’t be bothered” voice and not because I don’t have the desire. I do wonder what I would look like with a bit of contouring. But, I don’t think I can chuck that on my face in the two minutes I allow myself for putting on make-up.
In true ADHD style I heard what I needed to hear in the Guilty Feminist Audiobook and it was inspiring me with books, blogs, letters to MPs. However, not a day had gone by that I was on to something else. But, I am back to it still with over 7 hours of listening, which I will endeavour to finish.
So, this got me thinking about what I have been observing in the world of Neurodiversity, in which I have witnessed arguments, fractions, upsets, breakdowns – you name it. And who are the people most impacted – the female of the species! The neurodiverse girls and women and the mothers of the neurodiverse children; they are disbelieved, misdiagnosed, pathologised, blamed, gaslit and ignored.
I will blog about each and every one of these areas and would welcome contributions fro those that have first hand experience. I will endeavour to tell you story too.
To start the conversation of looking at Neurodiversity with a feminist lens, I want to start with the the topic of 'blame'.
I have read countless incidents of mums being disbelieved that their child is struggling and or the verge of suicide. These children are very distressed. The parents are distressed and desperate for help and then some of these desperate families are then accused of fabricating the child’s symptoms. Women in the realms of Neurodiversity are accused of “fabricated illness and injury” … which dear readers not familiar with this “label” was previously widely known as Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy. Those of a certain age will remember "The Angel of Death" Beverly Allitt – the nurse who murdered 4 children, attempted to murder 3 others and committed grievous bodily harm on 6 other children. For me, born in the 1970s this is the first and last time I have heard a Munchausen's by Proxy with such a media profile. As it was deemed then it remains incredibly rare Yet, social workers regularly receive training on this and many parents of Autistic children face this accusation with. the new term Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII).
I personally know many women who are treated as if this is the issue, yet as soon as the child’s father enters the scene or meeting, more respect is felt. However, some have gone through the process of having this term associated with them, missing out of vital time to get their children help and crucial time to be connected with their child during the stress of being under Child Protection or even care proceedings.
Not only do I struggle with this because I cannot, for the life of me, see how someone can fabricate or encourage a child to display behaviours related to their neurological pathways. (sidenote: I do believe that troubled families and trauma can cause similar presentations, but this is not fabricated – it just is!) But I also struggle with it because it’s women who are accused of this. I worry for the parents of the child that masks at school but meltdowns at home for no-one to witness, which seems too be a more common presentation of girls! We're told not to film the children in distress but sometimes it is the only way we can manage to feel believed. If you do feel that this is your only option, please rest the phone out of sight of the child so as not to fuel the meltdown further. Just hearing a meltdown can be enough evidence.
The NHS give clarity on this
Fabricated or induced illness (FII) is a rare form of child abuse. It occurs when a parent or carer, usually the child’s biological mother, exaggerates or deliberately causes symptoms of illness in the child.
FII is also known as “Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy” (not to be confused with Munchausen’s syndrome, where a person pretends to be ill or causes illness or injury to themselves).
Blame is structural and that is hard to combat without big discussions. Blame is also in your families and within your friendships groups. Neurodiverse families get gossiped about, they get unfairly judged but they work a damn sight harder than the ableist community could ever imagine.
My next blog will look at blame in the family.
Let’s start looking at what is going on with a feminist lens!!