On Becoming a Bitch
Before I started writing this blog, I had different online identities that generally reflected a positive and, sometimes, a ridiculously optimistic outlook on the world. For the most part, I went through my days in blissful ignorance of how much evil was still lurking out there. I really believed that the human species had evolved far enough so that we were only a few years away from a rational, civilized society where war and other horrors would disappear forever.
Then two things happened that completely knocked my naive worldview for a loop. The first was 9/11. The second was the anti-autism witch hunt and discovering that I belonged to a minority group that had been targeted for eugenic extermination. Both of these events had approximately the same emotional effect on me. Every morning when I woke up, for a moment the world seemed to be the same as always. Then I would remember, and I just wanted to curl up somewhere and hide, thinking: This can't be real.
And then I decided to fight back.
I chose my screen name to show attitude. The word "bitch" often has been used to dehumanize assertive women by suggesting that they are little more than yelping mutts, incapable of intelligent human conversation. I intended to make it very clear that I would not be silenced by such tactics: So you don't like what this uppity autistic woman has to say? Well, too bad for you, buddy, because I'm going to give you uppity times ten. Deal with it.
Of course, the oppressive language used by Autism Speaks and its minions is not as straightforward in its bigotry as a curse word like "bitch." Instead, when they claim that autistics are incapable of contributing productive opinions to the social discourse, they suggest that it's because we are tragic victims of our neurology. When we express ourselves on matters of public interest, we can't really have thought about the issues and developed intelligent opinions; rather, we are unable to comprehend the issues and are simply reacting out of anxiety, depression, or some other unfortunate psychological impairment.
It comes as no surprise to see dismissive statements like this from Autism Speaks; after all, their very name indicates that they believe autistics are incapable of speaking for ourselves. But to see such language used by a man who claims to represent the interests of autistic self-advocates is very troubling indeed.