To Dare in an Age of #HowDareYou

#FeministLeadership #MentalHealth #AspiePower #HowDareYou #GretaThunberg

This week, many around the world witnessed the young climate activist Greta Thunberg accuse the UN General Assembly with an emotional speech:

“…We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Media and social media were full of inspired accolades, calls to action, denunciations from those threatened by a strong young woman and the climate action cause, as well as plenty of commentary.

While this wave of #HowDareYou swelled, I found myself pondering the role of daring in the face of power.

I have heard this same phrase of “How Dare You” many times throughout my lifetime as an accusation from my father, who incidentally has Asperger’s Syndrome like Thunberg. So on hearing this from her I was triggered. Even recently, just before my father chose to end our relationship, he sent an email with this very phrase in the subject heading. From what I can understand he can’t cope with me being true to myself.

Now I’m not interested in psychoanalysing my relationship with my father publically, but I am called to address an aspect of this dynamic that I think is relevant in these times. What’s more, there are so few resources and support for the children of people with Asperger’s (unlike for Asperger’s children and their families), that I have given myself permission to process some of my own experience openly.

My father is a baby boomer son of refugees and has had his fair share of trauma. I’ve spent my life respectful and sensitive to this, often excusing his behaviour for it. But as I’ve got older, I’ve begun to understand that he – and consequently me – is a product of systemic patriarchy.

The more I have dared to go my own way – to invest in my personal growth, my career, my own views, my own values, my own voice, my own honour – the more my father seems to have become threatened. What I’ve come to understand is that he can’t actually see how he has been conditioned to feel threatened by me. Even further, as an Aspie his mind-blindness (or ‘Theory of Mind’ – a common quality of Asperger’s Syndrome [1]) means that he can only actually hold on to one story about me.

Thunberg speaks proudly of having Asperger’s and her #AspiePower. And it is easy to see how the Asperger’s quality of unedited and honest speech (due to a difficulty in interpreting the social and emotional world [2]) are a great asset to her activism. Over and above that, in the call for inclusion across gender, culture, race, class, religion, disabilities and more, it is vital that we have neurodiverse leaders in the public domain.

For this very reason – for the diverse people who are taking Thunberg’s lead and standing up, speaking out and following their heart – I feel compelled to include mental health and the principles of feminist leadership in the #HowDareYou momentum. Even further, in an era of rising mental illness and incoming eco-anxiety amidst the younger generations, mental health and regenerative practices are key.

It seems to me that if we don’t acknowledge the impact of the powers that have held us back while we make a stand, then I suspect we are at risk of propagating further trauma. While I revere Thunberg’s bold accusation this week, I also see it as posturing the same hardened stance common to second wave feminism. That being: to meet patriarchal power with the same level and type of power, and thereby continuing dynamics of exclusion and trauma (albeit different ones).

In 2019, we now have other approaches to systemic change than meeting force with force. In fact, the complexity of inequalities and challenges are unleashing creative and collaborative approaches that open people to the change being called for. One such approach is feminist leadership: not simply about women or female identifying people in positions of leadership, but fostering orientations and techniques of patience, inclusion, collaboration, spaciousness and care (among others).

Thunberg has catalysed an incredible wave of solidarity around the world and I am grateful for her.

Yet I want to see this movement mobilising around climate action to not only step up but step in. To open our arms to the leaders that are failing us and let them know we are here to help. To become peaceful warriors. To together navigate through the complexity of shifting a political and economic system based on inequality and excess to one based on symbiosis and humility.

Because in the end, I’m inclined to believe that the next step after any #HowDareYou, is to dare to be the fullest version of our magical and caring selves.

anique vered, Sept 2019


[1] “Parents with Asperger’s Syndrome.” The Neurotypical Site. Accessed 8 May 2019.

[2] “Asperger’s syndrome: problems interpreting the social and emotional world.” Interactive Autism Network. Accessed 25 September 2019.