Health Magazine

The Poor State of Social Acceptance

By Gbollard @gbollard

Recently I was looking at Music Videos on YouTube when I found some videos by Adele, a singer whom I only recently discovered sings several songs that I like.  I watched the video and happened to glance through the comments. There were a couple of positive and negative ones, after all, not everyone likes the same music.  Then I found the unacceptable; "she's fat", followed by a few cries of dissent then a whole lot more "trolls" repeating the mantra.
The Poor State of Social AcceptanceIt's reading comments like this which really makes me despair for the future of the human race.  We think that we're so far evolved from the haters of the 1940s but in truth we're not. We're every bit as judgemental and unaccepting as those we strive to distance ourselves from.
It didn't help that shortly afterwards, there was some kind of US political debate about an overweight politician and then our local radio station here in Sydney, Australia started having a discussion about why "fat" mothers were not acceptable parents.
It just makes me sick - and here's why....
So much of our bodies is determined by our own particular genetic heritage. You'll find that families have major similarities not only in facial components but in general body shape as well.  You'll discover that twins separated at birth grow into the same sorts of people even though they live in entirely different circumstances.
You'll find thin people who eat more and exercise less than many "bigger" people so what gives them the right to be judgemental? Getting the "normal" body shape is the luck of the draw.  Why do these so-called "winners" feel that they have the right to pass judgment upon the "losers"?
The Relationship to Autism
So, the real question is why am I talking about weight issues on my Aspergers Autism blog?  Well, it's because there's very little difference between the two when it comes to the concept of "demonizing the genetically different".
Like "bigger" people, those with autism didn't choose to be the way they are.  Many people with autism are fighting their condition, trying to pretend to be "normal" as a way of fitting in - this pretense is no different to trying "diet-after-diet" as a means of "becoming" socially acceptable. Again, similarly, there's a shark-pool of quacks, offering expensive, ineffective and dangerous treatments -- and then there's bullying and stigmatizing. There's the social pressure to conform.
Hand-in-hand with that pressure of course comes depression, torture and at its worst, suicide. Many people with weight issues go through some very dark times indeed, as do those on the spectrum when bullied. While others comment, laugh and point, they smile weakly and try to pass off the taunting which does permanent psychological damage. Friendships are damaged when "friends" turn for no apparent reason and anger often ensues.  Why are we so quick to judge when a bigger person lashes out at their bullies?  Why do schools place the blame on our autistic kids for doing the same?
The fact that many people who are "bigger" are that way because of genetics rather than lifestyle choices is not well understood by the general public.  This is the same as misunderstanding autism as "having been dropped on your head".  Muscle-brained cures for weight include suggestions to not be so lazy and to stop eating - how different is that from the suggestion that people with social difficulties simply "get over it".
There are drawbacks to the condition. Many tables and chairs in public areas are designed for "normal" people, just as our classes in school and our noisy shops are "designed" for those without sensory difficulties.
I could probably go on forever but I think I've made my point.  Acceptance isn't about "tolerating" a particular subset of people because you think they deserve your sympathy.
True acceptance is the understanding that in humans, there is no such thing as "normal", there is only diversity.  Everyone has things they do well and things they do badly.  Everyone has feelings and everyone has the right to be treated as an equal without predjudice or judgment.
It's ok to like or dislike someone's work but if you feel that you need to make negative comments about their person, then clearly YOU have an issue with tolerance and with not knowing when to simply "shut up".
It's my hope that one day we'll throw off our human shackles and leave our 1940s selves behind but until then, at least we can all TRY to be accepting.

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