Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On Becoming a Bitch

There isn't much that merits a response in this comment by Michael John Carley on my recent guest post on Wrong Planet. But on this New Year's Eve, as I reflect on the Spirit of Blogging Past, there's one point that could use a little clarification—I've never explained my reasons for choosing my screen name.

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.

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  • I've always liked that "Give 'em Hell" attitude. It looked good on Harry Truman, and it looks good on you. It's entirely appropriate, given the forces arrayed against us.

    And MJC only represents himself, and his financial interests. There's always money to be made in "selling out".

    By Blogger Clay, at 1:30 AM  

  • Talk about missing the point while proving it, and being a condescending jerk all at once.

    You know you did it right. You made him mad.

    By Blogger Kassiane, at 4:30 AM  

  • MJC's rebuttal was actually pretty pathetic. His post seemed to be made with little thought and less substance. Also, he seems not to be in touch with the activist community because he seems unaware of the myriad issues, condenscening his remarks to the idea that the word "cure" is the only issue and when was the last time he visited AS's site? The word is all over it. When was the last time, or the first time for that matter, that Mr. Carley ever "condescended" to speak with front line internet activists? He seems to be in a bubble. He has no legitimacy.

    He says that he felt compelled to speak because your post appeared on the front page of Wrong Planet? Sorry, no offense to Alex, but Wrong Planet is a chat board, its not an activist site and has little importance to creating change. That to me was enough to tell me that he doesn't know anything about the activist community.

    I also was a bit annoyed by his continued disparaging remarks about autistic communication styles. While I think autistics can do many things well, most of us would be horrible diplomats. Diplomacy doesn't change societal thinking, never has. If you look at all the great activists from the past such as MLK, Ghandi, Gueverra, Mandela and many more, they weren't diplomats, they were confrontationalists. Where does he get the idea that by appeasement and collaboration with a group sworn to your own destruction, who does nothing to promote inclusion, opportunity, education and independence, is somehow going to change because of the "quiet" diplomacy of one man and his little group putting out statements of support for useless research?

    I have a message for Mr. Carley, the vaccine wars have nothing to do with furthering any of the above objectives for autistics. Its a sideshow and a distraction. Get out and meet some autistics in the trenches.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:10 AM  

  • Umm, maybe Carley has some problems dealing with a girl who's just not going to go back to the kitchen and bake a pie.

    His post isn't really an argument it's a personal attack. So, I'll continue in the same vein:

    What drives Carley; does he want a seat on the AS board and a girlfriend like Jenny?

    There's a time for minor league diplomacy and there's a time for kicking arses.

    Singer said:

    By shining a strong spotlight on autism spectrum disorders we can create a brighter future for all those who are affected.

    No, what she means is:

    By shining a spotlight on autism spectrum disorders, we can create a future free from autism

    Ohhh, I shouldn't be writing after last night... My head hurts, the room's revolving clockwise and I can still hear the fireworks and church bells from last night.

    Back when I'm more capable.

    By Blogger Socrates, at 7:13 AM  

  • Maybe MJC is the Neville Chamberlaine of our movement, an appeaser.

    As for me I am not known for diplomatic language either toward our own side or the opposition.

    Maybe it should be my new years resolution to change, but I doubt it, as I get increasingly frustrated with the world I get less likely to compromise. In order to compromise I need the concessions to be coming from the other side too, and I do not see that from Autism Speaks.

    By Blogger laurentius rex, at 8:30 AM  

  • I just read MJC's response to ABFH's post on WrongPlanet, and my first reaction was "Oh, for fuck's sake, man... grow a fucking penis, please!"

    He can trust ATS all he likes, but I wouldn't trust a woman who can behave as ATS did on that fucking outrageously inaccurate video put out by Autism Speaks.

    Of all the things on his 'response', this one is the most arrogant:

    "There is one thing I do want abfh to know, however. Whether her use of the word 'bitch' is meant as a double-entendre, or some wordplay meant to turn an insult into an empowering source of pride; I do not believe that anyone can be much of an advocate for themselves, or for others, when they literally call themselves a 'bitch'. Internally, and over the long haul, I don’t see how that can work. She’s unhappy, and maybe there will come a day in which this will change. I hope so."

    The bit I've emboldened: last I knew, MJC is not a bloody psychologist or psychiatrist, so how the fuck would he know?

    I think your post keeps its merit purely by virtue of the crappy response it got from MJC... let alone the points you made in it.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 9:24 AM  

  • "In order to compromise I need the concessions to be coming from the other side too, and I do not see that from Autism Speaks."

    Exactly, Larry... and there is nothing coming back from Autism Speaks... ergo, it isn't even compromise... it's resignation!

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 10:37 AM  

  • Is it just me, or did MJC totally just play the "women only disagree because they are hyperemotional" card? Or maybe it was the "oppressed people who speak out are angry and need to change their tone" card:

    "I don’t particularly want to be the one to point out how unhappy she was long before Autism Speaks began."

    And this matters because why (especially since he has no real arguments proving it, although he does keep saying it throughout)? Oh, that's right...because then he doesn't have to engage the points you actually made.

    By Anonymous Tera, at 1:18 PM  

  • CS wrote:

    "When was the last time, or the first time for that matter, that Mr. Carley ever "condescended" to speak with front line internet activists? He seems to be in a bubble. He has no legitimacy."

    Let's let that letter of his prove to be his undoing. Let's let him know that he does NOT represent us!

    By Anonymous Clay, at 1:33 PM  

  • Well, just stay yourself, please.

    Happy New Year!

    By Blogger Aspie Bird, at 1:42 PM  

  • Oh Dear abfh,

    you've gone and gotten me all riled up:

    Utter Fucking Sleeze Bucket and All Round Horsed Faced Bitch Slapper, Maxine Aston, continues to absolutely rake it in with her Completely Fictitious Atrocious Affective Disorder discovery

    By Blogger Socrates, at 2:03 PM  

  • Tera,

    It could have been either.

    Either way, it was fucking patronising.

    What a tosser.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 2:17 PM  

  • Did Alex not allow anyone to comment on MJC's guest comment?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:07 PM  

  • CS: I don't know. I just posted this entry here without first trying to reply on WP.

    Socrates: Your comment doesn't have a link to your post on Maxine Aston and other assorted scum of the autism world, so I've provided one.

    By Blogger abfh, at 4:12 PM  

  • abfh, propriety and modesty prevented me linking ;-)

    By Blogger Socrates, at 5:55 PM  

  • Honey, you came to your bitchiness honestly, albeit early. Most of us don't take pride in being called a bitch until we're post menopausal. It's a badge of honor then.

    I love you as you are, and have never thought of you as anything but clear headed and fair minded.

    I didn't read what MJC said, or your rebuttal. I just know you're right.

    By Blogger r.b., at 8:08 PM  

  • when i read his response, my mind was thinking along the same lines as tera. the idea that any work done by someone in the minority is in reaction to our experience with dominant culture completely disregards our love for our people, what we want to see for our community, & our vision for the world. it's such a cop out to say we're angry, irrational, etc b/c like tera says, the person who utilizes that arguement never actually engages in any points we bring up.

    there is a hip hop lyric i think of often:

    I'm quite sure that people will look upon my attitude and sentiments and look for hypocrisy and hatred in my words. My revolution is born out of love for my people, not hatred for others.
    ---Immortal Tech

    anyways. props for speaking the truth & being a badass autistic bitch from hell. : )

    By Anonymous cripchick, at 9:34 PM  

  • What you have just experienced is Michael John Carley’s customary method of discrediting his autistic opposition. He spouts some pseudo-psychological diagnosis (suggesting that he has personal knowledge of the person’s mental and emotional state) based on autistic stereotypes (that he knows will most likely be believed by those who accept autistic stereotypes). But Carley’s own autism (according to his self-analysis) never takes that particular form, so he is always better equipped to represent autistics and determine their real needs – kind of like Autism Speaks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:28 PM  

  • I've truly admired you and your attitude and have been fortunate to have learned so much from you in the past couple of years.

    Keep it up. You're an important voice out there!

    Wishing you and your family the best for 2009!

    By Blogger Attila The Mom, at 7:15 AM  

  • For those who'd like to comment on Carley's comment:

    If you're a member of wrongplanet.net (free registration), you can. Just go to abfh's original piece and scroll down to his reply.

    By Anonymous Tera, at 3:42 PM  

  • Great name, great blog, and definitely the best post title I have seen in 2009!

    By Anonymous Lori, at 5:06 PM  

  • You can add me to the chorus of people who see a dismissive tone in Carley's response to you. It seemed to me like equal parts "pay no attention to the hysterical woman" and "shush, the grown-ups are talking."

    It reminds me of the tone taken by many a (usually young) political moderate of smug superiority to those with more radical views. "I'm so reasonable, unlike you with your emotions cluttering up your politics." (Like complacency isn't an emotion, or something.)

    By Blogger Lindsay, at 5:58 PM  

  • So, reclaiming hateful language as a tool against oppressors is self-hatred, apparently. Asshole... of the "will never, ever get it" variety.

    I don't really bother with Wrong Planet any more, tbh. Too much reactionary conservatism, too much totally unchecked class previlege, too much hideously stereotypical views on gender/sexuality issues, and too much "Aspie-supremacism" and bigotry against people with any impairment/disability other than autism (often other than "high-functioning" autism).

    I do keep getting tempted to post regularly there again when a few promising threads come up (often when Amanda is involved), but it usually devolves rapidly to shit again.

    And, yeah, what Tera, Lindsay and cripchick (3 of my favourite blogging people) said...

    By Blogger shiva, at 10:08 AM  

  • "Whether her use of the word 'bitch' is meant as a double-entendre, or some wordplay meant to turn an insult into an empowering source of pride; I do not believe that anyone can be much of an advocate for themselves, or for others, when they literally call themselves a 'bitch'."

    This guy doesn't know much about the women's rights movement, does he?

    By Blogger Joeymom, at 11:37 PM  

  • Joeymom: "This guy doesn't know much about the women's rights movement, does he?"

    Doesn't seem to know much about anything, really...

    By Blogger David N. Andrews MEd (Distinction), at 10:15 AM  

  • The posts and the messages here have succeeded in making me feel quite depressed, disheartened, and shocked actually. However, this appears to be the obvious purpose.

    As the grandmother of a precious boy whom we witnessed being pushed right over the cliff by vaccines, does anyone here have any compassion for those of us who are certain by the evidence that the vaccines absolutely produced the autism in our loved ones? Are we to be written off as fools for pursuing therapies to reverse the BRAIN DAMAGE which has been caused by the VACCINES. If so then Love is Foolish???

    There is obviously different subsets of Autism. Many environmental toxins have been implicated in the scientific evidence, many of which occur in vaccine ingredients. It is anyone's right and choice to believe that the vaccines have no impact regarding their own situation, however is it really fair to degrade your own fellow autistic "brothers and sisters" and their families who are suffering and fighting desperately to find answers for their loved ones. Where is the compassion and understanding HERE? (Have no fear of any future unwelcome comments from me as I shall not return)

    By Blogger ThinkAbout-It, at 12:59 AM  

  • The term 'us and them' has taken a whole new meaning.

    By Blogger Beastinblack, at 5:57 PM  

  • Wow - what a terrible letter to have written about anyone! It reads like he doesn't think you're human. What a strange opinion.

    Terrible things happen when people stop viewing others as humans. Nanking, Auschwitz, Bosnia and Rwanda, eugenics...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:01 AM  

  • Good on you.

    I hate Autism Speaks. They say they're a voice for autistic people, when in fact they're busy making them voiceless.

    What drives me crazy are the conferences and things where there's psychiatrists and people giving talks on autism/aspergers, but autistic/aspergers people aren't allowed to contribute, because, you know, what would THEY know? 's not like they STUDIED it, or anything...
    the worst case I heard of was where some American state had some huge conference where they were planning to discuss what should be done about autistic people and support, run by the government and Autism Speaks, and autistic people were NOT ALLOWED TO ATTEND.

    By OpenID felinophile, at 9:55 PM  

  • This is ridiculously late (four plus months?!) but I just read your post on your name. About a million years or so ago there was an article inWorking Woman (a now defunct feminist mag) about bitchiness. The author wrote that BITCH stands for Being In Total Control of Herself, and that when people call you one they are usually pissed off that you are not under their control.

    By Anonymous Doc, at 7:56 PM  

  • give em hell...well thats exactly what you sound like dear. as for bitch ...that too.

    as for consciousness..well..that will take a little more than accepting that you are rude and downright angry. why else would you need to use such aggressive language...and you seem to talk like your referring to animals not other people. Get used to it..you just really dont get it do you..you refuse to take any responsibility while the rest of the planet has to put up with the crap relationships they get snarled into thinkihng you are capable of expressing normal emotion. You dont...they get sick..and youstill ..think you can talk about giving them hell...well lady ...news for you..while you refuse to get conscious about your lack of consciousness...thats exactly what you do...give us all hell..So heres the last thing before you talk about your diversity, as if no one else had any to deal with...if you are so big and so able to deal with how wonderful you and your neuron assembly are...just make sure you keep it all to yourself and dont relate to anyone else unless you want to own your f..ing differences and the difficulties that arise from them for others...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:21 PM  

  • To the anonymous FAAAScist Cassandrite... I totally own my differences, my life, and my experiences... and when I get sick I have enough maturity and self-awareness not to blame it on my husband.

    It's past time for you and the others in your poor-pitiful-victim cult to grow up and start taking responsibility for your own lives and relationships, too.

    By Blogger abfh, at 5:02 PM  

  • Project much, anon?

    By Blogger r.b., at 7:13 PM  

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