Let’s Not Tear Each Other Down

I recently read a blog post that upset me a bit. It got quite an aggressive response by others it upset and I don’t condone that at all. But I would really rather have preferred if the post had never been written.

This autistic person (I won’t call them an activist as they hate that term) went along, for their first ever time, to an Autistic Pride Picnic, somewhere local to them in the UK. And didn’t enjoy themselves. But apparently their ideal Autistic Pride Picnic would have been indoors, with no people. So there would have been no pleasing them, no matter what. But their child had wanted to go. Pity they couldn’t just have endured it, gone home, and never spoken about the ordeal again.

Granted, they didn’t name any individual event, or any individual organisers. But apparently they’re a well known autistic person and people saw them there so knew what they were writing about anyway. They kept pointing out that they didn’t name names. But in this case that doesn’t actually matter. And even if their comments were about Autistic Pride Picnics in general, they were still quite hurtful to anyone who has ever organized one of those.

Here’s a thought experiment: I won’t name their name. Let’s see if anyone who has been following such events can possibly guess who I’m talking about. It’s a small world.

They had numerous complaints. None of which were anything like access issues or specific things that could be put right for next time. It was more like they were taking shots at the whole philosophy of Autistic Pride events.

They questioned the word “Pride”, asking why autistic pride is good yet white Pride is bad. It was obvious that people had tried to explain that one before. And either they genuinely weren’t getting it or were being deliberately obtuse.

They gave out about the Artistic Art on display. Art that people put their hearts and souls into. Just because their taste in art is different, they didn’t need to tear others’ art down.

They called the speakers angry and depressing. They did not want to hear their sad or angry stories. Um. A happy clappy kumbaya type event is hardly the point of Pride. Autistic Pride developed from LGBT Pride, which was about PROTEST. With a dash of joy and humour too of course. But we are not going to achieve any rights by sharing only happy stories and letting people think we’re happy with the way things are. Seriously, they seem to have missed the whole point.

They said it was all words with no action. Pride events are often the public side of the action. The speeches. The visibility. That is not to say there is never action developed behind the scenes. It’s also where many autistic advocates meet each other, in the flesh, for the first time and develop the bonds from which further organizing and action develops. They seem to be involved in AutScape, and though they had to then keep saying in the aftermath that they were at the picnic in a private capacity, they seem to think that the way things are done in AutScape is the only “proper” way for action to happen.

But for me, the worst point in the post, the point at which I thought they had gone much too far, was when they questioned the autistic credentials of the organizers. They implied the organizers were “too” autistic ie not autistic at all. That they were pretending to be autistic. That, for me, is a line not to be crossed.

Not saying they deserved what they called “cyber bullying” in a later post. But, really, what on earth were they thinking when they wrote those words? Why did they feel the post needed to be written at all? Enough derogatory posts are written about autistic people by non-autistic people. We really don’t need to add to them.

If the writer had complained about lack of accessible toilets, or poor choice of location, or poor sound quality, or some other actual, tangible, component of the event, then fine. But attacks on the art? Tone policing? (Which is another thing I absolutely can’t stand) Personal attacks on the organizers? Really not on.

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