Autistic Pride Day — and taking things personally.

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June 18th is apparently Autistic Pride Day.

It’s come to my attention that the people who initially put it together think that there’s been some kind of collossal snub [edit:  Amy says they didn’t say “colossal snub”, but I was told they thought it was something negative towards them at any rate] on the part of autistics.org, in that we didn’t announce it last year on our front page, and Joel Smith wrote an article about his reservations towards the way some autistic people conceptualize autistic pride.

So just to clear that up:

Last year on June 18th, one of the webmasters of autistics.org was in the midst of a 3100-mile move, others were preparing for Autreat, and another was sick in bed with an infection of some sort. I can’t speak for the others, but at the time, Autistic Pride Day was barely making a blip on my personal radar screen. It was just one of a whole lot of events and such that people were talking about. And, just for more fun, we were experiencing a website outage.

As far as Joel was concerned, I’m not going to claim to read his mind, but I’m going to hazard a guess from what I know of him. Joel, like me, is very concerned about a false form of “autistic pride” that is really merely “pride for some auties at the expense of others”. The kind of “pride” that allows Temple Grandin to say that she’d rather non-speaking auties not exist, but auties like her are okay and beneficial to society.

I doubt he knew much, if anything, about who was putting on Autistic Pride Day, and the reservations were probably of a more general nature. The notion of “I hope this isn’t yet another form of disability pride that’s founded on fundamentally ableism principles” is one that tends to cross my mind when presented with any form of “disability pride”. I kno someone who was surprised to find out that among many wheelchair users, “disability pride” was actually some variant on “At least I’m not retarded.” As someone involved in several disability communities, I know that many do have ableist versions of “pride”, this is not something made up to spite a particular person.

(Unfortunately, the opinion Joel voices is one that often gets wrongly condensed into the notion of “We shouldn’t talk about our strengths,” which is not, I think, what he’s saying at all.)

So, no, nobody on autistics.org was insulting any particular person who put on Autistic Pride Day by either failing to mention it on our front page (we don’t mention everything in the world on our front page anyway), or by the article Joel wrote.

Unless, of course, anyone celebrating on Autistic Pride Day did turn out to be doing the things Joel wrote about, but given that I don’t think he knew anyone putting it on, he wasn’t talking about any particular person involved in it, and wasn’t trying to undermine the whole day. It was in fact my impression, reading the article, that he was in fact attempting to enhance Autistic Pride Day by providing discussion of what were good and bad ways to celebrate being autistic.

So as tempting as it might be to consider oneself to be under extreme attack by reading a whole lot that wasn’t said into that article and into our silence, there was no attack, extreme or otherwise, there. You’re not dealing with hostility, you’re dealing with (mostly) some combination of incapacitation, being busy, unawareness, and indifference, as well as enough experience in the autistic community to know that “autistic pride” can be done both well and badly and to desire that it be done well instead of badly.

So, again, no snubbing is or was going on here. It might be useful to make fewer assumptions, though. I find it very strange that failing to link to something would be considered an attack in the first place. If I thought that anyone who didn’t link to autistics.org was attacking us, even if I limited this to the autistic community I’d be imagining myself a lot of non-existent enemies. This aspect of things reminds me of people in the offline world who think that by failing to notice or talk to them I’m being stuck-up or rude, when really I am processing them as a bunch of moving shapes and incapable of conversational speech.

So consider this my announcement of Autistic Pride Day, and my explanation of why what some people apparently think they saw, wasn’t actually there in the first place. I don’t know a lot about Autistic Pride Day, even still, so I can’t really point out what it is or anything, but it’s out there.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

13 responses »

  1. The reaction to the fact that autistics.org didn’t have anything about Autistic Pride last year reminds me of the “reading into” that has always gone on where autistics are concerned. Specifically, attributing all of these Meanings into Why Autistic Children Don’t Talk or Make Eye Contact (since it was assumed that all autistic children didn’t do those things). I’ve seen every reason proposed, from Oedipal conflict to refrigerator parents and ‘all autistic children are telepathic and they keep thinking you’ll pick up their mental transmissions’ (no, I’m not making that one up, and one of these days I will do a Joan Borysenko rant). More later…

  2. We celebrate APD. I’d instituted our own day (A’s diagnosis day)before APD started but changed it to APD because that was a better day for us. Despite supporting the concept of APD, I too believe we have to be careful of what we are celebrating and why we are celebrating it… Temple Grandin style ‘pride’ is as useless and harmful to Boy and I as Autism Every Day is.

  3. I have some trouble with “pride” as it’s practiced across a lot of groups, too, because in actuality it often seems to work out either to what you mentioned– “pride” as actually only for certain types and not for others, or valuing one group of people over another, or ignoring some groups entirely– or because “pride” seems to be defined as “We should be proud of ourselves because (group defined as dominant norm) does these awful things, and our way is better.” Defining your worth in relation to what you’re (allegedly) not, in other words.

    Or “we should be proud of ourselves because we all have x/y/z skill.” This conveniently manages to send the message, without ever having to say it explicitly, that everyone who lacks x/y/z skill is not allowed to be part of your definition of pride, and should not be proud of what they are. As well as the message that x/y/z skill *is* the reason for our worth as human beings.

    We actually ran into this in multiple groups before we ran into it in autistic groups. There were some things we read about ‘why multiples should be proud’, but all of them went off the premise that we all had DID and had all split from abuse. “We should be proud because we’re survivors.” Or the old superiority crank: “doctors say that a child must be exceptionally creative and intelligent to become multiple”; “we survived things that no single person could”; “we can be far more productive than a singlet”; etc. Or they defined it as “pride in having overcome my mental illness.”

    The ‘more productive’ thing, FYI, has never held for us– the way I see it, if there’s only one body, there is a limit on what you can do to it without driving it to the point of exhaustion and unusability. Which is what most of the “three degrees in two years” types of multiples we’ve known did– they were experiencing massive health problems due to overwork, and somehow denying that they needed to take care of their body just as much as a singlet would. (Because if they thought they were okay, they would be, and if the mind believes it, it can do it, or something.)

    The whole “at least I’m not retarded” version of “pride” has some analogues that I’ve seen too. I’ve seen some people in multiple communities get quite serious about things like “At least I’m not schizophrenic/bipolar/etc. Multiplicity is just several people sharing a body, but those other things are serious mental conditions that require you to take medication for the rest of your life.”

  4. On the issue of elitism, and acceptance and pride being only for certain kinds of autistics, there’s a book out now called “The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Aspergers Syndrome and the Arts,” with more Temple Grandin-like prejudice. http://joyofautism.blogspot.com/2006/04/outsider-art-and-value-of-human_25.html Apparently, you can get lavished with praise for being all sorts of wonderful things, nowadays, if you say you have Asperger’s Syndrome instead of saying you are autistic.

    I really hate the term “outsider art,” by the way. What are we supposed to be outside of?

  5. The way I explain things to Alex is… I like to eat nuts, and he doesnt… he likes broccoli and I dont. That’s Ok. he’s not bad for not liking nuts, and the same for me with broccoli. Its OK if people are different, and diversity is a good thing. Not ‘we’ are good, ‘they’ are bad.

    Perhaps ‘pride’ is the wrong word to use? For us its a good excuse to have time aside to talk about difference, diversity, equality (at Alex’s level) do fun stuff and eat too much takeaway pizza. Its also a good reason to mail people I know on the internet to tell them about neurodiversity etc, which often opens up conversations and challenges preconcieved stereotypes (mine as well) that wouldnt otherwise have happened.Plus, however hard I try to keep it from him, Alex inevitably hears bad and hateful stuff about autism, so I see this as part of keeping it in balance.

    I think we all have to work very hard on not being exclusive while being proud and celebrating who we are, didnt Ballastexistenz write an entry not long ago about how being bullied did not mean that person could not bully? so people who have been excluded or shunned are equally capable of excluding. Maybe even more so, because they have hurt and anger to deal with too.

  6. Exclusivity isn’t necessarily an awful thing (it can be, but not always).

    Demeaning others is always an awful thing.

    It’s possible to have some parts of autistic culture and community that are exclusive, without demeaning others. In some cases, I think this is necessary – we need to have organizations, for instance, run by ourselves (other disability communities have done the same thing – google “Deaf President Now”). Limiting certain leadership positions or direction setting in the organization to autistics only isn’t the same at all as implying that someone is worth less because they are NT or labeled as mentally retarded.

  7. Quite. The word ‘pride’ I think has a specifically political connotation in that it is asserting our right to be who we are, to be confident and open about who we are, and to celebrate who we are. It’s in opposition to the dominant ideology of stigmatisation and pathologising of autistic people as impaired or having something fundamentally ‘wrong’ with them.

  8. Yeah, that does end up being the problem.

    “Pride” can turn into the formerly-bullied becoming the bullies. One of the more destructive forms of social hierarchy-chasing, and one that autistic people, despite myth, are not immune to.

  9. “June 18th is apparently Autistic Pride Day.

    It’s come to my attention that the people who initially put it together think that there’s been some kind of collossal snub on the part of autistics.org”

    Well my husband and I put the idea together, we never thought, or said, that there was a ‘collossal snub’, in fact it seems that something is being presumed about us, rather than us presuming something about other people.
    Wouldn’t it be easier to ask us what we thought and whether it was a snub or ‘chinese whispers’? Email?
    Oh well, these things happen.

    Hope you all have a great Autistic Pride Day.

  10. I don’t know:

    What any particular person will do when I say something privately or publicly (some take offense to one or the other of those but not both, others will use one or the other but not both against a person, etc).
    How to, in particular, not say something that will either confuse or offend you.
    Precisely what was said, since I am not on the AFF boards, because of #2.

    I opted for saying it as well as I knew how, in public, where at least things would be visible to more than one person if I got something wrong. (That is what I tend to opt for in situations like this, because it means that there’s no “he said/she said” stuff later.)

    But whether or not I got the exact words correct, I’d heard that you and others there had said that the lack of mention by autistics.org and the particular article by Joel Smith probably meant something negative about our attitude towards you, and it really didn’t, and that was the main point of what I was saying. I’ve edited the above post so that people know I didn’t mean “colossal snub” (although I left the words in because I didn’t want to just edit it out and then have your comment not make sense). I’ve also edited and re-edited this comment for clarity. I hope that’s clear enough, and non-confusing and/or non-offensive enough, and gets the point across, the main point I was making, which was that there was nothing negative about you in particular implied by either our action or inaction.

  11. Pingback: NTs Are Weird » Blog Archive » Criticisms of my views

  12. For me, Autistic/Aspie pride is about the rejection of shame. This is a shame-based culture and NT approaches to “fixing” us are often coming from a place of parental shame and fear. I prefer to look at our son (and indeed, my own self) and look at all the things we should be proud of. And to the extent that spectrum things affect those other things – that too. There are a lot of things in my mental toolkit that come from being an aspie multiple. But nonetheless, I used the tools and I’m pretty darn proud of the results.

    And some quantity of the above has to be credited to my wetware; there are things I can do and can see that it would be difficult to impossible for more common wetware configurations.

    So yes, I am proud. As should you be. But not in the sense people are saying above.

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