How Autism Awareness Goes Wrong

I am not a fan of Autism Speaks and their tactics. There is not enough autism and too much speak in their club. So much of their work goes toward demonizing autism and terrifying parents into supporting them and their “cure” theories. Really. Folks. Stop patronizing us.

Remember to put the person first! It’s a “person suffering from allism” not “allistic person” no matter how many times they try and tell you otherwise. It’s disrespectful to allow them their own choice in how they’d like to be referred.” (Tone it Down Taupe)

The word NO written in capital letters from a pile of blue and orange jigsaw puzzle pieces with a gray cardboard back. Pictured separated on a white background. Can also be turned upside down to spell ON.
flickr/Horia Varlan

April 18, 2016 | by

Friends, I want to talk to you about autism awareness awareness. We are, I fear, on the verge of an autism awareness epidemic, a veritable tsunami of awareness. Once a relatively rare phenomenon, the ailment, which is most commonly characterized by non-autistic people engaging in public handwringing about autism and/or feeling inspired by those tragically touched by neurodevelopmental disorders, has become increasingly common over the past decade. Some speculate that, within the next few years, as many as 1 in 2 people could have an awareness of autism.

In theory, more people knowing more about autism spectrum disorder would be a good thing. Autistic people, like me, could certainly benefit from the general public having a greater understanding of what our lives are like, and maybe even some genuine acceptance of those lives in whatever form they take. Increased awareness would be an excellent first step toward those goals. But the kind of autism awareness that is currently celebrated in day (April 2) and month (the rest of April) form was never made for people like me. I’d argue that it was never really made with anyone on the spectrum in mind at all.

The most nefarious incarnation of autism awareness is the kind espoused by Autism Speaks, which treats autistic people as little more than props in its various campaigns. The prominent charity’s simple and dishearteningly effective message—autism is bad and it must be stopped—misrepresents a complex condition and identity as a sinister looming specter that can and should be cured. It reduces the people who have autism to damaged, voiceless zombies bringing suffering to everyone who loves them, when in fact we are disabled human beings who might require treatments and accommodations unique to our circumstances. And Autism Speaks’ ends might actually be worse than its means, given that so little of its budget goes toward helping autistic people and their families……………………

The rest of the article may be read at The Establishment

How We Talk About Women And Sex

As I said in a previous post, I have been raised Mormon. Their ideas surrounding women and sexuality are, as most conservative religions, are detrimental to sexual well-being. Sex before marriage is a no-no. If that rule is broken, and a leader finds out, a person loses privileges. It is a girl’s/woman’s responsibility that boys/men are not tempted. Language in the Mormon faith is patriarchal and male privilege laded.

Christene’s article about linguistic patterns specific to women’s roles in sex and relationships exemplifies how we, both men and women, nurture these patterns and speaks of how we might learn to listen and read more carefully. Once a person becomes aware of just how patriarchal English (and Norwegian) is, that genie is out of its bottle forever.

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Lead image: Flickr.com/José Manuel Ríos Valiente

April 16, 2016 | by Christene

In February, I wrote a piece on having been raised by a sex-positive mother. It was a topic that had been stirring in the back of my mind for a while, as my mom’s parenting style largely cemented my belief that open communication about sex, relationships, and reproductive health is crucial among families and in schools.

One of the many reasons I’m glad I was brought up with a sex-positive outlook is that I developed a clear sense of sexual agency and bodily autonomy. Or, as Emily Heist Moss worded it, I grew up with the understanding that “expressing sexuality is not the same as being sexualized.” As the male gaze continues to pervade everything from music to advertising, we must reframe the choices that girls and women make as their own and not “for” their male counterparts.

Much of this, in my view, has to do with the language we use to reference women’s sexuality. Linguistic patterns hold over time with repeated and widespread use, contributing to our culture in ways that often fly under the radar. For example, our common use of the “male default” when referring to creatures of unknown gender (animals, deities) or groups of both men and women (“mankind,” “policemen,” and the insidious “you guys”) enforces a standard with myriad far-reaching effects. Women are not only categorized as “less” or “other”—they are defined relationally.

Here are a few linguistic patterns specific to women’s roles in sex and relationships that, as part of our modern vernacular, rob women of their agency. ……

The rest of the article may be read at Role Reboot

The Pendejo Game and Autism

Body mould - woman
Credit: AAA Cosplay

I was introduced to something Aida Hurtado calls the Pendejo Game by a friend of mine and wondered how it related to me and my autism:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51XFxNcwpoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTrick Number 6: The Pendejo Game

When you, the outsider, come close to subverting my power through the sheer strength of your moral arguments or through organized mass protest, I will give you an audience. I will listen to you, sometimes for the first time, and will seem engaged. At critical points in your analysis I will claim I do not know what you are talking about and will ask you to elaborate ad nauseam. I will consistently subvert your efforts at dialogue by “claiming we do not speak the same language.” I will assert that many of our differences, if not all, are due to our different ways of communicating. I will ask you to educate me and spend your energies in finding ways of saying things so that I can understand. I will not do the same for you. Instead of using your resources to advance your causes, I will see you like a rat in a cage running around trying to find ways to explain the cage to me, while I hold the key to open the door. At the same time, I will convince you that I have no ill intentions toward you or those like you. I am simply not informed. The claim of ignorance is one of my most powerful weapons because, while you spend your time trying to enlighten me, everything remains the same. The “Pendejo Game” will also allow me to gain intimate knowledge of your psyche, which will perfect my understanding of how to dominate you. (Aida Hurtado, 1997)

Listen!
Listen! by Twin72

As someone explained it to me, the person maintaining status quo already knows the answer/solution ahead of time and is using their questions to keep you in your place. They have no intention of listening or letting you share in their power.

It would be fair to say that autists belong to a minority group in society. We are considered atypical, abnormal, deviant, diseased and flawed by the majority. Neurotypicals (or non-autists as I call them) consider themselves the template for how a brain should be. In my case, I also belong to two other minority groups. One is my X-chromosome and the other is my walking and sitting challenge. Growing up in a fundamentalistic church certainly taught me a lot about gender imbalance. Society in general taught me more about the imbalance that follow with being in perceived flawed groups.

Bullying has been one arena where I have been exposed to the Pendejo Game. And that set me to thinking about myself and how I have treated others.

There is this “game” that parents often play with their children when their children are fairly young. This is not a true game, where there is balance, but it is an introduction to power imbalances. The parent has something that the child wants. They ask the child if she/he wants it. Of course, the child tries to communicate their yes. Then the game begins. The parent asks several times in various ways if the child wants and adds a certain tone to their voice. As the questions continue the child becomes frustrated. Once a tipping point is reached and the adult has achieved whatever reaction they wanted the child is given their object of desire.

Bullying eggs
Bullying by Kung Fu Plum

I cannot remember if I did this to my children. Most likely, I did. In this so-called game, I see the beginnings of learning the Pendejo Game. Bullying carries with it the same sort of painful communication. We have all seen it. Perhaps we have been both victim and perpetrator in our lives. While writing this memories of unpleasant old interactions between fellow pupils drop into my thoughts.

As an adult, I find it more difficult to recognize when someone is using me in their Pendejo Game. Not until afterwards, do I realize that I have been played the fool. My sincerity met their insincerity and lost.

Recognizing when non-autists are being insincere is incredibly difficult. Their emotions are so chaotic. Insincerity seems to be the main ingredient in the Pendejo Game. Insincerity and fear of having to share. Whether or not autistic people are able to feel empathy seems to be one such area that non-autistic people are afraid to share. Why that is, is completely baffling to me.

According to Wikipedia:

Empathy has many different definitions that encompass a broad range of emotional states, including caring for other people and having a desire to help them; experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions; discerning what another person is thinking or feeling; and making less distinct the differences between the self and the other.

It also is the ability to feel and share another person’s emotions.

Credit: Health Psychology Consultancy
Credit: Health Psychology Consultancy

All of the autists I know seem to have this range of emotions. Speaking for myself (and only for myself) I care deeply about a great deal of people and objects. Because I know how certain emotions feel, I am able to guess how another person might feel. But I also know that I will never be able to put myself in their place, because I am not them. No one is truly able to empathize, we are only able to project and use those projections to our best ability. Then I act – most likely in an unconventional manner, but the person knows that I am trying to be there for them.

Sometimes I feel as though non-autists are the ones who lack empathy. They want autistic people to express their emotions in a manner that fits whatever definition the non-autistic person has created. When that does not happen, we seem to lack empathy. This desire to see autistic people as non-empathetic becomes extremely problematic when so-called experts become stuck in a non-autistic definition of what and how emotions are. Defining the autistic world in this manner does not fit with the definitions of empathy that I have seen.

Repeated questions that seem to do their best to keep me (and other autists) in the mold of atypical, abnormal, deviant, diseased and flawed only serve to prove that the other person somehow sees autistic people as a threat. In answer to those questions, my only alternative ends up being to leave, thereby proving their hypotheses once again. They win.