So this happened. (It would be better to link to a summary by an autistic person, but my time/spoons for trawling around to find one are very limited right now, and Jim explains it well.)
I’ve been very swamped with school. Last night I got home late after running a study with a bunch of people as part of my graduate research, peeked on to Twitter, and found everybody yelling about something.
A lot of people were very angry, triggered, shaking with rage. They’re not wrong to feel that way. My own response to the article was more muted. I was not very angry. I was too tired to be angry. To me it just read like more of the same BS that we get from well-intentioned, but VERY CLUELESS people… all the time. There’s too much of it out there for me to even feel very disappointed by it anymore – except that I was disappointed, profoundly disappointed, that it was showing up in a column which was supposed to be about disability representation.
I took another look at all my angry friends, but was too exhausted to respond or even note that I was there, aware of what was going on. Instead I went “fuck this shit,” ate some fruit, read some Darths & Droids because that’s all I had any brains remaining for, and went to bed.
I feel like I should be saying something, because I’m the Autism In SFF Person? But other people have already explained what the problems are. SF Signal has also apologized and taken down the post. (I am more triggered by arguments about whether or not a particular apology was “enough” than I was by the post itself, so I won’t be getting into that side of the discussion.)
Just know, if you’re non-disabled and reading this, that if people’s anger seems disproportionate it’s because we literally get this all the time. There is no escaping it; even bailing out and turning off the computer, as I did, is temporary.
I also want to write a brief note about empaths, because unfortunately, the author of the article opens by claiming to be one. Look, I’m someone who knows and loves empaths. It’s an actual thing. It involves picking up on people’s emotions so strongly that it becomes a sensory experience, sometimes a painfully overwhelming one. (It’s a thing that occurs a lot to people on the autism spectrum, and contributes to sensory overload. It’s not as helpful in dealing with social situations, or even in treating people with respect and courtesy, as one might think – because knowing or even feeling a person’s emotions doesn’t mean you necessarily have a fucking clue what you’re supposed to do about it. It’s also a concept that gets thrown around, distorted, and used unhelpfully in many New Age and neopagan communities, but eh, you could say that about a lot of things.)
When I read the opening of the article, I was actually kinda excited, because I thought, wow, maybe we’re going to have an interesting discussion of empaths from a disability perspective. Unfortunately, instead of describing her experiences and as an empath and how they interact with ableist expectations, the author goes on to just sort of meander around saying condescending and clueless things about people with other disabilities.
I’m not saying we should give the author a free pass for claiming to be an empath. Or anything else. But I’d be happier if we were able to discuss the very large problems with her article without a lot of the snide comments I am seeing about how empaths are not real, or assholes, or how their empathy should work differently, or whatever. Just as how I’d hope that we wouldn’t be making snide comments about any other group identity that the author of this bullshit happened to have. That would be great. Thanks.