Imagine, if you will, that an organization existed by the name of “Womanhood Speaks,” which, on the surface, appeared to be in support of women’s rights.
Now imagine that the governing body of this organization only included members of the male gender, with not one female represented in its ranks. Imagine that its actual aim was to create a registry of all females and force them to become more masculine, completely disregarding the fact that a majority of females were perfectly content with their womanhood and even found it to be advantageous. Imagine that members of its leadership appeared on popular TV programs talking about the epidemic of womanhood and how it needed to be eradicated.
Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
This hypothetical situation may seem utterly absurd, but for one segment of the population— albeit a much smaller subset than that identifying as female*— it isn’t all too far from reality.
I’m speaking of autistics, and more specifically, of the organization known as “Autism Speaks.”
Such a deceptive name. After all, a fair number of autistics are unable to speak; the name Autism Speaks suggests an organization that is willing to speak on their part for greater acceptance and improved services that might enable them to more actively participate in the world while still being able to benefit from what strengths autism might provide.
And autism does have its associated strengths: a dogged persistence; an ability to look at matters objectively and logically; an ability to focus on details that others might miss entirely. If we get rid of the “bad” aspects of autism, we’re also likely to get rid of these traits that, to be honest, can be extremely advantageous in certain lines of work.
In truth, however, Autism Speaks is not very amiable to autistics.
First off, despite the group’s ostensible aim of speaking for autism, there is not one single autistic on its board of directors, or otherwise represented within the ranks of the organization. There are plenty of autistics who are fully able to advocate for themselves, who are fully able to express what sort of support they would benefit from, and would have benefited from as children; however, Autism Speaks wants very little to do with them.
(Just for clarification’s sake, I should point out once again that, though I protest cures for autism, I am not against seeking services and support to aid autistics, or even to ease the lives of parents of autistics. This seems to be a very common misunderstanding; see, for instance, this blog post by autistic advocate Joel Smith on that subject.)
Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that some significant members of Autism Speaks’ leadership simply don’t understand the point of view of autistics.
Take, for instance, the case of Alison Tepper Singer, the vice president of communications and awareness for Autism Speaks, who was also prominently featured in “Autism Every Day,” a fundraising film made by her organization. In one rather famous— and controversial— scene, Singer describes a moment in which she was so exasperated, she had seriously contemplated driving off a bridge with her autistic daughter. A pretty callous thing for any parent to say, but particularly so in front of the child being described, as was precisely the case in this video. Should I mention that the child in question is clearly trying to show affection toward her mother, and being shrugged off, mere seconds before this statement is made?
For those who wish to watch the video in question and see the evidence for themselves, I’m not going to give that video any greater Google ranking by directly linking to it, but a link can be found in Wikipedia’s article on the film, which also discusses some of the criticism thereof.
And if you think this sort of rhetoric has no effect, tell that to the family of Katie McCarron, a three-year-old autistic child from Illinois who was suffocated to death by her mother slightly over a year ago. It may be mere coincidence, but it’s worth noting that this murder occurred just four days after the initial release of “Autism Every Day,” as pointed out by Kristina Chew of Autism Vox. Chew also quotes Katie’s grandfather Mike, who has no kind words for so-called “advocates” of the Autism Speaks sort. There’s not even the excuse of McCarron’s mother having been an overburdened parent in the vein of Singer; as the Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois mentions, Katie had not lived with her mother for some 20 months before the incident. Yet that was the primary spin given to the story by the media: an expression of sympathy for the mother, with almost no attention given to the thoughts of those who were Katie’s primary caregivers.
Yet Autism Speaks has major clout. They’ve allied with popular children’s stores such as Toys R Us and Build-a-Bear Workshop, accepting donations from shoppers there (while not making it quite clear what those donations might be used for). Representatives have appeared on popular TV talk shows such as “Oprah,” “The View,” and “Larry King Live,” presenting a very one-sided view of what life with autism entails— while barely allowing critics the chance to present an alternate viewpoint.
Oh, and one of their biggest promoters by far was Don Imus. Draw from that whatever conclusions you wish; I’m not touching that one, other than to point out that he was no stranger to controversy and that he had a large captive audience.
And they’ve been hitting close to home for me lately, in the literal geographic sense. In Atlanta several weeks ago, the combined force of Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now sponsored a so-called “walk for autism” that gained a fair amount of local and regional publicity. (An interesting definition of “for,” to be sure, when one of the organizations involved is clearly against autism judging from its name alone.)
And today, Autism Speaks is going to have an even larger audience, made up of NASCAR fans. No, I am seriously not making this up. The race that used to be known as the Dover 400 is being held this afternoon, but under a new name, thanks to the wonders of sponsorship; it is now the Autism Speaks 400. (Insert your own joke about autism and repetitive behaviors here.)
So that is why I’m posting this blog entry. It’s to get the word out from the other side of the autism debate, the one that doesn’t get all the media attention. It’s in the hope that someone, anyone, who participated in the walk might start to have second thoughts about it. And most of all, it is with the hope that others like myself can get the support we need to live in a sometimes frustrating society, not a cure that is forced on us without our acceptance.
My only problem with this lies in the author’s constant referral to people with autism as ‘autistics.’ On Thursday, I took a class involving cultural competency and inclusive language within the classroom. Our teacher spoke a lot about how important it is to use ‘person first’ language - that is, saying ‘a person with autism’ as opposed to the term ‘an autistic,’ as the author here as chosen. This sort of language allows the individual to be defined outside of their autism (or whatever he or she might be afflicted with). Other than that, I think this is a very important read.
On person-first language…I have heard that some individuals affected by autism consciously choose not to use person-first syntax because they don’t see autism as a thing you “have.” Anyone feel free to correct me if I am mistaken here. As someone who is outside of the autism community, I would always use person first language until a member of that community specifically asked me to do otherwise in their case. But the OP is a part of the autism community, and should (IMO) be free to choose whether or not person-first is the most appropriate way to express the identity of their community.
It’s pretty sad that I’ve been working professionally in this field for a year and I’ve been editing since college, but I still expect potential clients to wade through my vimeo site to get an idea of what I can do. Anyway, I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t had time, and also because it’s really tedious. Today I watched every single video I’ve made in the past year, stopping and going back and taking notes, and then playing again. The first watch through was deciding what I want to showcase, and my second go through will be deciding in which video I did it best. Which footage of a bus pulling up is going to get me a job? This is very similar to transcribing an interview.
Once I get this initial reel finished I want to use my unemployment to start filming some new clips to put in there. I would like to give the impression that I’m capable of editing more than just property videos. I’m really excited for that step, and even if I get a job soon, that’s how I plan to spend my weekends for the next few months.
Anyone else have their own struggles pulling together a reel? Any advice?
Please start watching Fringe so I can talk about it with you
The Olympics are currently dominating prime-time hours - but let’s be honest, we need something to break up the monotony of Michael Phelps winning all those medals. Now is the time to pick up a new show and marathon 4 seasons to prepare for the fall premier!
Fringe is for Everyone
Do you enjoy watching attractive people engage in action adventure situations? Are you drawn in by emotionally complex and compelling relationships? When you hear witty dialogue, does your heart skip a beat? Is it satisfying for you when a show answers the questions it raises?
Then Fringe is for you!
Do you generally have plans on Friday nights other than watching TV?
Well, we may have identified the reason you are not already a Fringe fan.
Fringe is sort of a modern day X-Files, but with a very different mythology, partner dynamic, and its own distinct themes. The show focuses on an FBI team investigating “fringe” events - cases that involve incidents inexplicable by mainstream scientific knowledge. The first two seasons consist almost entirely of procedural style episodes, but every one contains hints that lay the groundwork for the serialized elements of the later seasons.
After the heartrendingly shallow conclusion of the Lost finale, Fringe’s careful plotting and quick pacing comes as a relief. Instead of continually raising new perplexities and only giving the audience the occasional vague, cryptic explanation; Fringe began answering its own questions in the second season and then shifted from those reveals to even more intriguing mysteries. Walter Bishop’s (John Noble) connection, as the mad scientist whose obscure research in the 70s and 80s seems to have influenced the emerging pattern of “fringe events”, injects every case with a sense of personal investment for each of the central characters. Immediately establishing the existence of a pattern and Walter’s association to it has allowed a mythology to grow organically.
Following the first few episodes there is no question that strange, “other-worldly” occurrences are possible, (in the pilot episode the protagonist psychically communicates with her comatose partner); conflicts arise from how suspects implement these phenomena. For instance, if someone discovers a way to time travel, can that knowledge be used ethically?
While the scenarios aren’t exactly ripped from the headlines the themes of terrorism, national security, and the relationship between scientific advancement and the evolution of ethical standards certainly resonate with current events.
Powerful character relationships elevate the show beyond standard sci-fi fare. Romantic entanglements are poignant and inventive. The writers have managed to maintain romantic tension without drawing out a forced will-they/won’t-they situation. Peter’s (Joshua Jackson) charming sincerity and Olivia’s (Anna Torv) introspective and cautious nature somehow overcome the cliche of partners falling in love. Seeing their relationship blossom is engaging, but Walter and Peter Bishop’s father/ son dynamic is the show’s true emotional core. Their family history is perhaps the most complicated on the current television landscape. Walter’s missing memories and Peter’s attempts to connect with his inscrutable father are somewhat analogous to losing a parent to Alzheimer’s disease. It is fascinating to watch the two struggle to build trust, even as they continuously uncover the damage Walter’s ego-maniacal research has caused.
Fringe has gained a strong cult following by cloaking its varied philosophical musings in a reliable procedural style. It’s thought provoking, humorous, heart-wrenching, and manages to deliver a few original twists for even the most cynical of television viewers. Give the Fringe team a chance and you’ll have something to root for when the London games end.
Fringe airs on FOX, Fridays at 9pm, returning September 29th
It doesn’t have a specific theme, I just needed something I could put on resumes that shows employers I can write, I have thoughts, and I can use the internet. I like how frivolous my tumblr is, and I want to keep it that way. I’ve decided to hazard a little bit of cross promotion though, because I just don’t think anyone would ever be motivated enough to try to find me on here.
Anyway, if you guys want to check it out and leave comments like “omg this post is so pretentious. why so many words?” feel free. I do plan to import all of my tv reviews over to tumblr. But the full blog will also have podcast and book reviews, general thoughts on life, and hopefully less complaining than this one.
This is an excellent summary of every infuriating detail of this episode. With every episode of this show Sorkin devolves further into stale, condescending schmaltz. I’m a little bit terrified that my love of the West Wing will be diminished in future viewings. Was Sorkin always this shallow and insensitive? Will my fatigue with his overused dialogue quirks and plot structures transfer back to my all time favorite show? These questions keep me awake at night.
“There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all”—