Sunday, June 10, 2007

T-shirts and Master Status

There is a blog I've started looking at recently which has caused me to think more that usual (which is a lot by the way) about the concept of master status. I found this blog when it popped up on Blogger as a Blog of Note; it is called T-shirts Around the Internet. I have always thought of t-shirts as an important sociological phenomenon as well as a good alternate means of communication. Growing up autistic without knowing there was a name for this collection of oddities, I found myself using t-shirts (some would say excessively) for the dual purposes of identity exploration and public redirect.

If I appeared sometimes "strung out" or addled, the addition of a Wittgenstein shirt was sufficient (in my mind at least) to transform my public identity from "loser druggie" to "person distracted due to heavy thought". Throughout the years, as my master status transformed from hippie (tie dye) to communist (hammer and sickle) to lesbian feminist (womyn's music logo) to punk (too many to list) to artist (Klee, Kandinsky), I collected the shirts of various fringe and outsider movements. Sometime in my twenties, I settled on the plain black t-shirt, identified with multiple aspects of my self image, which remains something of a uniform today. It not only says a lot without saying (directly) much of anything, but is ever so helpful in solving one daily problem of choice which is still at times an issue for me.

Except of course when I'm wearing an oddizm design or another autism t-shirt (edit). I'll never give up my older collections (most of which will never fit again) but I'm firmly convinced I have found my true master status, the thing which makes me who I am and determines most about what I do and don't do and how people view me. (This idea is met with some derision from those who have known me throughout many years of t-shirt collection, but never mind them, they have statuses of their own to contend with).

Reading the recent posts around the hub about Neurodiversity and its relationship to Autism Advocacy and to general disability advocacy, I took a quick count of recent purchases. The score is as follows:
Autism: 5 (one is a sweatshirt, but I'm counting it anyway)
Asperger syndrome: 2
Neurodiversity: 2
I realize now that autistic has always been my master status. I just didn't call it autistic. I called it "being different" or "being weird". Other people called it things like "why don't you just grow the hell up" and "anti-social" and "rude". I think I prefer being called autistic. It doesn't erase or negate any other status you might want to label me with. It doesn't mean I don't have other differences or that I think the ones I have are more important than those of others. For me, it just puts the rest of my life in perspective. It makes sense of seemingly disparate, even conflicted traits. The shirt fits, so I wear it.

The next step will be designing my own. I'm working on that one now.


  1. Small correction. jypsy doesn't have any t-shirt designs. oddizm designed a couple for her son.

    oddizm and jypsy are two different people, I promise!

  2. I love your graphics; you *should* design T-shirts.

    FYI, the oddizmautistry designs are by Autism Diva.

  3. Thanks oddizm and anne. I've made the correction. My apologies to the sublime oddizm/Diva, whoever (?)you are. I'm your biggest fan.

  4. Could we have the labels on the outside [fancy smancy ones sometimes have them on the outside of the side seam] and have them super washed - is that distressed? Anyway it would save a of 'distress.'

  5. mcewen,
    T-shirt tags are the devil, as every autistic person knows. I deal with it now by wearing a (Hanes tagless)t-shirt under my t-shirt. Before they made these, I ripped off all tags prior to wearing, sometimes resulting in ripped collar seams when the urgency coincided with scissor unavailability. If only all t-shirt makers would take a cue from Hanes and put an end to this misery!

  6. No problem with the name confusion. :-)

    Yes, you should design t-shirts (and mugs and bumper stickers...) You have great ideas.

  7. With all the labels others are so eagerly willing to give, one may as well preempt it all and label oneself. lol

    I am lucky, in a way, being from Panama, there appear to not really be any stereotypes for people from my country. There are plenty of stereotypes for, say, Mexicans, Cubans, Puertoricans, and so on, but not for Panamanians, so, in a way, it's probably easier for me to preempt the stereotyping better.

    I find that institutions such as Autism Awareness are adding to an autism stereotype and are seemingly doing it before autistics have had the opportunity to preempt it. So, this appears to be defaulting at the individual level that one must preempt the clich├ęs. But it's like we're running against the wind or rowing a boat in a sea of self-pitying and commiserating NT caregivers who seem intent in making every aspect of what makes us autistic go away.

    Personally, I would prefer to choose what aspects to keep and what aspects to overcome.

    I admit some of the ways in which autism manifests in me I find to be very annoying, but other parts I absolutely love.

    If I can smoothen out the rough edges while polishing my strengths I can have the cake and eat it too.

    Then we can be better than NTs and RULE THE WORLD!

    Muahahahahaha teehee meow xD

  8. Insensitivity to raspy and pokey t-shirt tags is an example of tyranny of the masses. xD


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