When I discovered feminism, I discovered an identity, a label which suited perfectly how I defined myself, how I wanted to define myself. It helped my self esteem, it helped me recognise that everything I had struggled with had a name - patriarchy. It made me identify with a group of people who thought like me. I grew confident of my opinions, I was proud of my personality, my feminist personality.
The Personal is Political doctrine of the feminist movement was extremely empowering for me. It helped me talk of my personal experiences to illustrate discrimination and injustice. It empowered me to call out bigotry and sexism with family, friends, acquaintances. It turned my gloom to anger. An anger that was ready to be channelized into activism. Through activism came empowerment. I think I can safely say my confidence came with my feminist identity, it helped me to yell at any guy who harassed me on the streets, to call out guys when I was a witness to harassment or violence against women on the streets. It helped me develop my capacity to say 'No'. This made me fear harassment less and keep my self esteem intact after incidents of sexual harassment.
I believe activism is empowering, I believe being part of a rights movement is empowering. There are so many parallels to be drawn between the various rights movements, feminism, Dalit rights, homosexual rights, autistic rights, disability rights. We are fighting against discrimination because of an identity, we are fighting for equality, we are fighting for our right to public services, we are fighting for representation, we are fighting for our voices to be heard.
The more I learn about the neurodiversity movement, the more I realise it could bring the same empowerment to autistic people, feminism brought to me. It is important for professionals, parents working with autistic children/adolescents/people to teach self-advocacy, activism, the right to say NO. It is vital to provide them with a communication tool and a language, that they can read, express and understand in order to advocate for themselves and inform themselves. It is important to introduce them to the neurodiversity movement, to other autistic people, talking, writing about their rights.
Read this brilliant article about the right to say 'No' for people with autism by Kassiane Sibley one of the editors of Thinking Person's Guide to Autism