Josh Susser Profile picture
Jul 28 20 tweets 5 min read
Let's talk about the autistic nightmare known as the Popularity Contest. It's when there is some kind of competition that is supposedly based on how well one competes but is really about how much people like you. …
In middle school, disco was the fad, and also dance contests at the school dance parties. Surprisingly, I was good, and if the teachers judged the contest I (and my partner) would usually win. If the students judged I never made the top 3, and the guys everyone liked won. …
That sounds pretty childish, which is why I used an example from my childhood. But adults do this all the time, and it's not a secret at all. Just look at how we elect Presidents. Or which companies get funded. Or who wins at the Oscars. …
It's also about who gets promoted at work, and who gets picked for the team that gets to do interesting stuff vs latrine duty. It's about who gets to sit at the table where decisions are made. Who gets credit for an accomplishment. Who gets to have their opinion heard. …
I've been on teams where a leadership role opened, and the role got filled, and not only was I passed over for the role, but I was never aware of the opportunity until it was already filled. Because filling the job wasn't about doing the job; it was a popularity contest. …
Managers say they promote people they can trust. But mostly people trust those who they find likeable and feel comfortable around. Autistics are notorious for being seen as awkward and unlikeable. We nearly always lose the popularity contest. And that can effect everything. …
It doesn't matter how good you are if no one ever gives you credit or rewards your accomplishments. And it's abusive to pretend that results matter when they don't, because that's how you gaslight someone into giving their all when there's no chance they'll benefit from it. …
All marginalized folk get excluded, but folks from most marginalized groups can win a popularity contest if they do it right. Autistic folk generally cannot. And it's a big problem, because it's not just in one area of life, but all of them, all at once, forever. …
Autistic folk don't get to play on a level field. We usually don't even get to play the game, let alone have a chance of winning. Even when we have the best skills or could do the best job, that's not what counts. …
Being autistic is an endless slog of trying to figure out which game is actually being played. Is this a dance contest or a popularity contest? And it's nearly always a popularity contest, because that's how society works, but it's rare that anyone will admit it. …
Popularity is extremely popular. People love to be loved! And people love to love people who love what they love, too, or love what people they love love. It's a whole thing. It's not a bad thing, either. That clearly works for a lot of folks. However…
Advocating for autistic rights is hard because we're unpopular, and because everything is a poularity contest. Causes are popularity contests! There's only so much people can care about at one time, so it's the popular things that get the attention, and that's never us. …
We have to figure it out how to escape this trap. If we don't, autistic folk will always be discounted and excluded, never be listened to or get the benefits we deserve. And meanwhile, we can't stop @judgeRC from torturing autistic kids with electric shocks #stoptheshock
That's it for my braindump on popularity contests. Since you made it this far, you deserve a treat!
This tweet (above) did not land how I wanted. Sorry, I didn't mean to set up a competition between marginalized groups, and sometimes I forget how easy it is to do that. My bad. I should have taken an intersectional approach, so let me try that now. …
Adversity is not a competition, and I know all marginalized groups get penalized in a popularity contest, to varying degrees. A lot of the time folks are totally excluded, and it's hard all the time. I don't want to discount that, it's a real problem. …
The point I wanted to make is that it's not exactly the same for autistic people, but I guess it's not exactly the same for any group. And this is complicated to talk about and I didn't want to add a dozen tweets to a tight thread, so I left out stuff that mattered. …
I think what I want to say is that being excluded from the popularity contest is core to the autistic experience, and I presumed it wasn't the same for other groups, but I can see how it can have the same impact even if the mechanism or reason is different. …
So, the point of this thread is that being unpopular is a thing we #ActuallyAutistic folk experience a lot. I won't say that's harder than for other groups, because I don't know that it is, and I don't want to say harmful things from ignorance. …
Things really are different for us. That's why I wrote this whole thread. But things can be different without being better or worse, so comparing groups isn't helpful. Note taken.

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More from @joshsusser

Jul 26
Thinking about that time we had an impossible deadline to meet, and my boss offered me a huge cash bonus to work around the clock for a month to meet it. Got it done on time. Boss said "must have not been that hard after all" and said I didn't deserve the bonus and shafted me.
Then there was the time I got injured badly right before a company retreat and could barely walk. The CEO told me I should fly to another time zone and spend a week laid up in a hotel room so he could have perfect attendance at the retreat.
One time a Director in a different division borrowed my entire team out from under me for 3 months so he could meet his personal metric and get a cash bonus, while my revenue-positive project was on hold. The company lost money and he got a big bonus for it.
Read 9 tweets
May 19
#ActuallyAutistic folk aren't inherently bad at communicating, but we do naturally use a different communication style than allistics. That mismatch creates a communication gap, and it's almost always the autistics who have to do the work to bridge that gap. …
Reaching across the gap is usually on the autistic, because we're the ones who can't avoid seeing it, and who will suffer most for not bridging it. And we have more experience doing that work, so we have some skills, even if they're not ideal. …
Many autistics wish allistics would take on some of that work to bridge the communication gap. WE KNOW THAT IS HARD. We're not asking you because we think it will be easy. We're asking because it's hard and it's not fair for us to do all that work in every conversation. …
Read 9 tweets
Feb 16
There's a thing a lot of us #ActuallyAutistic twitterers do sometimes that allistic folk may not understand. We share our stories of autistic life, so other autistic folk can recognize themselves in their own stories. …
It may sound like we are venting, looking for sympathy, or seeking attention (unlike everyone else on twitter?). It may seem weird that we reveal our shame and vulnerability to the world just to mark the trail for those who might follow. That's OK, we're not tweeting for you. …
Many Autistic folk, myself included, don't figure it out until later in life. Many of us figured it out because we read someone's tweets and finally found someone who knew what life was like for us, and could say it more clearly than we could ourselves. …
Read 7 tweets

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