I didn't say anything months ago when autistic advocates began running a series of memes that turned inspiration porn upside down, using photos of "neurotypicals" and the rhetoric used when it's someone with a disability doing something, with the goal being to point out if they can do it, so should fat, lazy slobs. These were meant to be snarky, and many autistic advocates and their allies had a blast making and sharing them.
Who wants to be wet blanket when people are lashing out against something that has cut them, worn them down, made them marginalized? I could understand the impulse.
Inspirational memes are not new, although the photos and rhetoric going viral on facebook might be a relatively new development. Human beings love to root for the underdog, look for inspiration everywhere, and the disabled people who overcome adversity to become homecoming queen or to play on a basketball team in the last minutes of the last game of the season are all the rage.
Reacting angrily over these stories and how "neurotypicals" use these feel-good stories to feel good about themselves is also all the rage. And also understandable.
I also didn't say anything when my friends into fitness posted their version of inspiration porn--oversized women exercising. You see, inspiration porn is everywhere, and constantly policing other people's freedom of expression would take up more time than I have and lead everyone to the conclusion that I'm a bit of a pedantic dick.
Speaking of which, reviewing Socrates' Apology leads me to wonder if he wasn't a bit autistic--no, not because Athenians thought he was enough of a pedantic dick that they sentenced him to death, but because his concern for and desire to understand how people acquired knowledge or lacked it seems a bit autistic to me, at least the way he appears to have pursued it. And there we'd have our first apparent case of an autistic individual being persecuted for thinking and experiencing the world in a different way than is typical.
But I, as usual, digress.
There's a serious and real divide in the autism-related community that is further isolating all of us from the wide diversity of human experience.
I'm not blaming autistic advocates who, rightfully tired of being marginalized not only throughout the year but especially during April Autism Awareness Month, are counterproposing a similarly snarky comeback, that of the Tone it Down Taupe Month (see Judy Endow or Radical Neurodivergence). --readers, please see comments below for Neurodivergent K's responses and criticisms of this piece--also, I reacted to a specific paragraph that appeared snarky in K's post. The remainder of her post was not, nor is Judy Endow's facebook status about this campaign. My apologies for the misconstrual and the conflation--the Taupe campaign notes that 49 "lack autism" which is not the same as "are neurotypical" (my quotes for emphasis).
Far from it. It's an active, clever and snarky attempt to point out how marginalizing and demeaning the fear rhetoric that many autism organizations pull out all the stops on in the month of April with the intent to increase donations. Fear sells.
But... 1 in 49 people are not neurotypical. --again, the Taupe campaign does not claim they are, just that they lack autism-- Far from it. If we start to actually look at the number of individuals impacted just neurologically with a diagnosis that removes them from the arbitrary and false idea of neurotypicality, then the clash between autistic advocates tired of rhetoric that is hurtful, stereotypical, and dehumanizing and those who perpetrate that rhetoric could be targeted directly where it needs to be.
Please let the remainder of this post stand separate from the Taupe campaign. One of the things many of us do in the autism community is forget that autism is not the most prevalent neurodiverse condition. My main contention is that neurotypicality is a myth, and that the numbers below should show that. I didn't even look at those with learning disabilities, for example. I would be surprised if there are even 47% of people who could be said to be neurotypical--a stereotype of normality that I don't believe exists.
After all, all the other neurodiverse individuals should be allies in the fight to change how we talk about the human condition.
The numbers may keep changing about autism prevalence, but that doesn't mean that everyone else is normal and outside the group.
We need to think inclusively. We need to remember that the human condition is a complicated, diverse condition.
1 in 50. 1 in 38. 1 in 88. Whatever the true prevalence, the reality is that the prevalence of BAPpy is even higher.
Let's quadruple that number, and use the 1 in 50, which we'll make 2 in 100 for easy math because I can do that math without a calculator.
8 in 100 people experience BAPpiness. They stand in solidarity with their autistic kin, who got the spread of BAPpy traits in spades. (Okay, some of them might be curebies and standing against them--not sure how we'd figure out that number).
Shit, the math is going to get complicated, but if autistics and allies are going to go Taupe, let's get the number right (well, estimated, but right). Do we really want to paint BAPpy people taupe? Or our ADHD brethren? Or bipolar or schizophrenic brethren (surely we don't count them in with neurotypicals)?
So here are the NIMH's numbers, so we can crunch them.
ADHD in adults is 4.1% or 4 in 100. (higher in children)
MOOD DISORDERS: 9.5% or 10 in 100
No way folks dealing with these neurological existences should be thrown in with neurotypical.
Major Depressive: 6.7% or 7 in 100 (rounding up)
Dysthemics: 1.5% or 1 in 100 (rounding down, inappropriate, politically uncorrect joke withheld as to why)
Bipolar: 2.6% or 3 in 100 (rounding up) [in the family]
Schizophrenia: 1.1% or 1 in 100 [in the family]
Anxiety Disorders: 18.1% or 18 in 100 [WAVES HELLO FEVERISHLY!]
Panic Disorder: 2.7% or 3 in 100 [I regularly deal with panic attacks]
OCD: 1% or 1 in 100
PTSD: 3.5% or roughly 4 in 100
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 3.1% or 3 in 100 [umm, ding ding ding]
Social Phobia: 6.8 % or 7 in 100
Next category up is Personality Disorders...hmmmm. Well, some of those are undesirable, aren't they? Who wants to be lumped with antisocial personality disorder? Huh, this is going to be tough. Do we separate them out from neurotypical but not be inclusive of them on our side? Wow, that really is tough. Let's count them so that we can remove them from that neurotypical number, although we could argue that some of the people with the most hateful rhetoric are probably sociopathic or at least assholes, am I right?
Personality Disorders: 9.1% or 9 in 100.
Alrighty, let's see if there are any "normal" people left. After all, we haven't counted the cases of Epilepsy, of genetic variants/disabilities like Down Syndrome, or Cerebral Palsy, or the physically disabled...There's a lot of people we haven't accounted for. Damn shame to lump them in with neurotypical people.
Autism 2 in 100
BAPpy 8 in 100
ADHD 4 in 100
MOOD DISORDERS 10 in 100
MOOD DISORDERS 10 in 100
Anxiety Disorders 18 in 100
Personality Disorders 9 in 100
51 in 100
Down Syndrome .1 in 100
Cerebral Palsy .33 in 100
Intellectual Disability 1.5 in 100
(according to CDC) _________
53 in 100 (approximate)
Weird, though how numbers are calculated because according to the CDC, 1 in 5 Americans report a disability, or 20 in 100. Now, you can have a disability and be lumped in with neurotypical, I imagine, as long as your disability is only physical, but is that fair or even correct, as a physical disability can and does lead to being non neurotypical? I mean, we're defining neurotypicals as assholes with privilege who unfairly stigmatize and marginalize those who are different, right? Well, I am, anyway. Wait a minute...if I start to marginalize and stigmatize assholes, does that make me an asshole? Oh, the conundrums.
I don't think we can get a clear count of this at all.
I mean, do we go with 47 in 100 or 1 in 2 people are neurotypical or do we go with the lower CDC number of 4 in 5 people are neurotypical?
It's dicey. Which will really pack the most punch? Give us the most bang for our buck, so to speak, although obviously we're not going to give money to these people--they have the money, right? They're the ones walking around marginalizing and stigmatizing the neurodiverse and disabled, after all.
The problem is that all of these people are people. You know? They're flawed, and just because they have one disability doesn't mean they aren't shitting all over people with another disability.
Choosing our ingroup is a right bitch. I mean, do we reserve it for just those people who agree with us on one issue? Do we widen it, so we have greater numbers? Or do we want to make ourselves as small as possible so we're as marginalized as possible? We do like those underdog stories...
Humor is good. Humor can cleanse our souls and rid us of bitterness and rage and despondency. Humor is a hell of a weapon to wield.
I'm all for it.
Snarkiness is a rich tool, as well. The difference between humor and snarkiness is there--snarkiness is sliding into snideness, and I don't think any of us want to go all the way to snide. No winners there.
Humor and inclusion. I'm going to go with those and suggest that rather than pitting the autistics against the elusive neurotypical tribe that casts everyone not autistic into it; that we pit, if we must, all of us against the assholes who marginalize, trivialize, stigmatize, and fearmonger (and hope we aren't pitting ourselves against ourselves).
The problem with that is how do you get that number? And what color are assholes? I'd say we darken the taupe to shit-brown.
If we must.
Huh. Or we respect the infinite diversity of humanity, that we are flawed and all going to fuck up several times, and we cut some slack for those who are sorry when they fuck up.
Yeah, and throw in some snark when the despair gets up to the throat.
*To those who are tired of the shit being constantly thrown at them, I understand, I do, and I respect your right to throw it back. It's the human condition. I wouldn't dream of coming onto your blog and telling you what to say or not to say--I used to do that with Age of Autism, and then it happened to me. I got the shit thrown back. Wow, that was not fun. It was soul-crushing.
I hate the thought of people having shit thrown at them, of having their souls crushed, their spirits stomped on. I hate that it happens to so many of us so many times a day. We are all walking wounded, and I would hate to hurt another.
So wear taupe and scream and rage because you have that right. And somebody's got to hear you--got to get that the rhetoric of fear hurts real human beings.
My children are not tragedies and do not need to be cured or prevented. They need to be acknowledged as precious, valuable human beings who deserve respect and concern and provided the tools to overcome their challenges or work around them. As do we all.
Vonnegut often failed to live up to his ideals, but that doesn't mean his ideals weren't right: