Monday, May 22, 2023

Heteronormative sports and fitness, and workplace (sexual) harassment

I have been abruptly sent on a journey of exploration and acceptance of myself. I will finally be going through a process to get an official "diagnosis" about Autism. So many people around me suspect, and so much of what I read/hear/watch resonates with me.

I am an open (source, government, access, etc) type person, and this blog is all about sharing and exploring thoughts (well -- my thoughts -- after all, it is all about me, me, me -- ya, right. Please share your thoughts in comments, as long as they aren't Austism Rejection).

At the moment I am at Movati waiting for a class. The classes are amazing, but the environment regularly reminds me of how I didn't fit into specific aspects of high-school and earlier.

I am not individually competitive, and I hate team sports as I always felt like I am causing the team to lose. I'm awkward, both in my sometimes overly expressive movements as well as my communication. I don't like watching sports as it is the fun that matters to me, so I don't care who wins or loses. I don’t see the point of picking favorite teams, brands, whatever. I enjoy watching my godchildren play -- but it is the play and their having fun that I enjoy, and I can't remotely get excited about who scored/won/etc.

I strive to be my best self, but my concept of best most often doesn't match the concept of best or the expectations of other people around me.

I find the change rooms at these types of venues very problematic. I am aware of my cis-heterosexual privilege. So many people are walking around naked/etc, and these environments are designed based on the oddball notion of a heterosexual gender binary.

I have had to train myself to accept the classes. For Zumba classes I even felt the need to ask permission of the instructor to be learning the moves from her. Other instructors will demonstrate a pose or the use of a ball/foam roller/etc on their own bodies or touching someone that they ask to be a "model". All of this is declared fine, but I have to get used to that.

For Zumba I didn't want to try to learn dance moves from fellow students. Even in the co-ed section of Movati (they have a “women’s” only section), classes are female dominated. Not 50%+1, but more like 90+% women. It feels creepy to me to be looking at a female student as closely and as long as I would need to in order to learn the moves from them.

Some of the discomfort is the physical environment, such as the offensive cis-hetero-normative design of change rooms, bathrooms, etc.

Other aspects are social norms. My brain has a hard time figuring out the magical line someone else has drawn between being your happy friendly self in a multi-gendered environment, and what someone might consider to be sexual harassment.

When I was younger I was able to help girls/women in my age range. I was a good listener, and could offer logic in response to questions. I was perfectly willing and able to tell them how beautiful they were on the inside and on the outside. In some cases I learned at a young age how many females are victims of various forms of rape. That reality of women's lives is far more common than I believe most of the general public is willing to admit.

I have a (married, family, etc) male friend that made the "mistake" of trying to do the same type of comforting interaction as an adult. A female co-worker was feeling very depressed, including feeling they were ugly. My friend mentioned that she was attractive and should feel more confident in herself. No problem in the moment, but later this became a whole workplace sexual harassment accusation. The lack of trust grew between him and his workplace, and eventually he had to leave what had become a toxic workplace for a growing number of reasons.

It was only in 2012 that I became aware of so-called "Workplace Harassment" policies. This is when Ontario added the grounds "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the human rights code.

The closer I looked at the policies of my workplace, the more I knew I would eventually be slapped and possibly even terminated for violating that policy. And this was a full 7 years before the concept of Autism became real to me, as well as the possibility it could apply to me.

Let's clear up something that should be obvious: women are treated horribly in the workplace under the "Canadian", "United States" and similar governments/cultures. I don't mean some Mad Men misogynist past, but ongoing today. Androcentrism, Capitalism and Colonialism are core to what Canada is, and I would suggest that misogyny is a core part of Canadian identity, values, and culture.

However, workplace policies rarely (if ever) take an intersectional approach. In order to harm-reduce in one area caused by Colonial Canadian culture, policies generally involve harm-increases in other areas.

There is a whole concept of TERF, which is an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. Rather than taking an intersectional approach, we have activists focused on the needs of their specific demographic trait to the exclusion of the other. This issue is not one-sided, as some trans activists simply don’t care about the ongoing reality of misogyny and rape culture. These trans activists speak as if those issues are somehow in the past because -- well -- likely some man on the TV said so.

These workplace policies are WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), which means there are subjective definitions of nearly all aspects of the policy: using the phrase "known or ought reasonably to be known" is extremely culturally specific. Who subjectively decides what is reasonable?

As a likely autistic person, these "workplace harassment" policies essentially put a massive target on me. They are all effectively about rejecting people like me, and many other forms of diverse people, as valid persons in the workplace. In my case they are seeking to ensure my autistic mask remains thick to retain what some call "collegial" or "professional" work environments.. If my mask ever slips and my true Autistic self is exposed in the workplace and a non-Autistic person gets "offended", then I will be disciplined.

There are ways to orient policies and workplace cultures that don't generate offense, but those are rarely (if ever) how these Western European worldview imposing workplaces are set up.

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