I have been working on a feminist project/organization that will not be named at the moment because I Suck At Naming Things, and this is why.
Common signs of autism are defined by the NINDS as difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and don’t watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior. They may lack empathy.
They may lack empathy.
Now, I know what empathy is. I have 10+ years of customer service experience and now work in quality. It is my job to define empathy on a daily. Though I realize not everyone does. So, per Google:
- the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
I have the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I just don’t care.
I know. I’m an asshole. Maybe. But do me a solid by giving me the opportunity to break it down:
Let us just say that I work for a Fortune-500 that makes shoes. (I do work for a Fortune-500 but we don’t make shoes. That would be awesome, though.) Now, you, a customer service specialist, have a customer on the phone who says, that they were running and the bottom of their shoe tore in half and as a result they tripped on a crack in the sidewalk, got distracted while catching their fall, sideswiped someone riding a bicycle, making him fall, and she feels you should not only give her and her husband a free pair of shoes because the man she knocked over is now in love with her (a hot ass runner chick), but you should pay his medical bills.
I said 10+ years. I know this may sound ridiculous, but this shit happens on the phone every day; trust me.
Now, as a very good customer service specialist, what is the first thing you do? That’s right. You empathize.
“Oh my gosh, that’s horrible! I am so sorry you had to go through that; how embarrassing.”
Now, would you, as a customer service specialist who takes these calls day in and day out, take that complaint home with you? After you left the office at 5:00 and drove in LA traffic anywhere from one to three hours, would you sit at home after you’d had your dinner, like, fuck, that sucks, that poor woman, I think I’m gonna send her some of my shoes.
Hell no you wouldn’t and if you would, you need to find a new job immediately because you are going to be out of shoes and money in about three days.
Now if we can take this one step further (or probably like, five) and step out of our corporate shoes and into our creative shoes, where most are way more fucking emotional (sorry, writers, we are) and unfiltered (hello, social media).
My creative shoes, for example:
- VP for a mental health non-profit organization
- Lead Project Manager for a publishing imprint
- Book Marketing Manager
- Something else I’m not allowed to share yet
With that in mind, imagine that you have to take every situation with about ten gallons of empathy. Would you get anything done? And, no.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Look, I’ll be the first one to admit to you that I am a straight up, hard ass professional. My corporate background coupled with my years of self-training on logical thinking affords me this outlook. When I’m teaching you how to be professional, I will tell you all of the things you are doing wrong in a capacity that is straightforward to eliminate the possibility for error and miscommunication. I want you to be better. I want to see you grow and I want you to be the best you can be. When I need you to do something to make things better, I’m going to ask you to do it and I’m going to thank you for your help when applicable. I am not going to sugar coat your life and I am not going to hold your hand. I am not going to ease your emotional issues. With all do respect, that is not my fucking job. I am a business woman and your emotional tendencies have nothing to do with our business transaction. Business is business and you better suit up or move over because I need people on my team that can get shit done. Call it ruthless; call it heartless. I call it business. It’s how I got to where I am now.
That’s not to say I don’t empathize, because I do. I am in a mental health business and it is necessary for the sanity of the people I work with. I am schizophrenic; trust me, I know what you’re going through and I am sorry. But. The second you start taking your emotional issues out on me because I am not as emotional as you, we’re going to have a real fucking problem. I can guarantee you that if not necessary from a professional business standpoint, you will never hear from me again. And if I must continue to do business with you, it will be strictly business. You will get no empathy from me because, yeah, you guessed it, just because you’re mentally ill doesn’t give you a right to be an asshole.
Sarah Fader, CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, and the person who I wrote the blog with on this very topic, has a running joke on me wherein she quotes me on a daily:
“Yes, period.” -Allie Burke
She is a very good friend, and she understands me. Do we butt heads? Yeah, all the time. Business partners are bound to do that. But, she does understand me. And it’s funny, in a way, that with her, I run an NPO that focuses on mental illness — people who are notorious for overanalyzing and overexplaining — and I’m the person who always responds only with “yes” because, well…ain’t nobody got time for that. But then when you think about it, it’s not really that funny.
In time, in working with people with mental illnesses, it has come to my attention that people are intimidated by me. Because I’m a hard ass. Because I respond with yes, period. And in digging deeper in the general opinion, it has also come to my attention that people have been comparing my personality to those with autism.
Am I a hard ass? Yes. Anyone who knows me will tell you that. Am I autistic because, in business, I am more logical than I am emotional? Because I don’t bring my emotions (for the most part) into my social media presence, and I’m supposed to because what, I’m schizophrenic? What? No.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended by the word autism. One of my very good friends is autistic.
But every personality trait does not need to be linked to a mental illness/developmental disorder/issue with the body and/or brain. Seriously. I am logical and I am a hard ass and I get shit done because I taught myself how. There was a time when I was on medication shortly after I was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was suffering from depression and that was not because I was schizophrenic; I was depressed because there were things in my life that needed to change. The exact ideal that they teach you in therapy when you are being treated for depression (if you go to therapy).
When people (society) don’t like something, when it is outside of their norm, they attach it to something wrong, ie an illness. Something that can be cured or treated or fixed, and I’m here to say that just because it’s different from how you choose to live your life, does not mean it is wrong. You all know this, right?
So, why? Why am I autistic? I am just a professional business…
Oh, right. Right.
I am a professional businesswoman.
Feminism, people. This is feminism at it’s fucking finest. So all you motherfuckers who claim to support feminism — especially you, women — who think it is strange or wrong or autistic to be a logical woman, without any emotional attachments, who gets shit done in an executive capacity that we have only before seen a man do, I would like to see what feminism means to you, exactly. Define it for me, please. Because I just can’t even.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.