The other day on Twitter, Bogi Takács said:
the @bogiperson test of non-tokenized QUILTBAG representation: more than one QUILTBAG character. um that’s it?
Which of course got me thinking of Bechdel variants of all sorts. I actually went in and counted up the number of autistic books/stories that passed an autism version of the Bechdel test.
If you go with the simplest version – more than one autistic character, full stop – then a bunch of good stuff by autistic people passes but some of it doesn’t, and “The House of Idiot Children” passes even though it’s about as horrible as you would think from the title, because the story is set in a special school for autistic children and there happens to be more than one autistic child there.
If you start adding more criteria – more than one autistic character and both of them talk to each other – then everything actually gets even more problematic because:
- Both of Meda Kahn’s amazing short stories fail this version of the test, even though both of them show awareness of a multiplicity of autistic people and an autistic community, but people in the community who are not the protagonist don’t actually end up getting speaking roles, and any test that Meda Kahn keeps failing at is clearly the wrong test
- How exactly do we define “talking” here? Typing something meaningful is “talking”, right? Sign language is “talking”, right? AAC in general is talking and behaviour is communication RIGHT YOU GUYS? *stares meaningfully*
- No, actually, I take back 2 because with a disability defined at least partly by communication difficulties THERE IS NO NON-PROBLEMATIC WAY TO INTERPRET THIS RULE. Really. No. Back away slowly, please.
(Also: You know what definitely does pass an autistic Bechdel? The Big Bang Theory. But only because I read Amy as autistic and I am constantly confused and frustrated at how nobody else appears to read her this way. I mean GUYS, everyone on that show is ridiculous and offensive anyway but in my opinion, Amy is actually a slightly MORE realistic ridiculous depiction of an autistic person than Sheldon. She tries very hard to be socially acceptable to the normal people and just can’t quite get it, but she is completely on Sheldon’s wavelength and knows exactly how to deal with him, even though he treats her like crap. Seriously. I hardly even watch this show anymore and this still bugs me.)
Maybe we need an autistic Mako Mori test instead. This accords a lot more strongly with my general intuitions about which stories suck and which ones don’t. But then, that’s me.
(And oh hey it turns out there are actually even more feminism tests besides these two, although it looks like many of them are specific to the issue of sexism and wouldn’t translate well to judging ableism without a LOT of adjustment.)
I wonder how many autistic people, in real life, have talked to other autistic people? I have heard people saying that they are surrounded by the autistic community, that autistic people are their family and their peeps, etc, that they feel close to other autistic people even when meeting them for the first time and separated by what NTs would classify as a large difference in functioning or other symptoms. I have also heard people saying the opposite, or saying that they simply haven’t ever had the opportunity to meet other autistic people in the first place.
I keep running into autistic people these days (gee, I wonder why? *stares at blog which is all about autism*) and that’s cool and all and I like them, but there was a time earlier in my life when I didn’t know anyone autistic outside my family. I got put in a high school social skills group for a while but I had approximately zero interest in any of the other people there. I know it’s probably internalized ableism but I still kind of roll my eyes when I get emails about ASAN fundraising galas because, seriously, a gala? I think if I went to a gala for autistic people I would just stand in the corner awkwardly the way I do with everything else. I don’t think being around other autistic people would actually help all that much for that purpose. But on the Internet, on my Internet turf… Well, that’s different.
Just because you share a diagnosis with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get along. Just because you have no autistic friends doesn’t mean your story as an autistic person isn’t worth telling. Being in the “autism community” (which is actually a lot of different communities if you look at it closely) doesn’t somehow make you more autistic.
By the same token, just because you have a diagnosis associated with social skills difficulties, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be isolated or the only one, and I think NTs don’t realize how common it is for us to “get” each other and become strong friends.
It’s hard to get across this complexity in just one story.
I don’t know.
What do you think?