Hating on a Muppet

Julia, the autistic character from Sesame Street

I’ve been looking over this new Sesame Street character, Julia, and know she has autism. She carries some of the traits of autism, including sensory issues and social troubles. What I have also come across is the strange stance that there is a giant conspiracy afoot, apparently to hide the “vaccine injury” (I am NOT making this up) known as Autism. Oh, there’s a conspiracy alright. The conspiracy is to save the people from dying from Infantile Paralysis, Measles, Mumps and Rubella. The anti-vaccine people say that Sesame Street in general, and Julia in particular, are puppets of Big Pharma, and are trying to get this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing known as Autism “normalized” into the public. The anti-vaccine lobby is extremely ableist, which means they will hate any effort to bring acceptance to people with so-called “vaccine injuries,” including those with disabilities. Their aim is to cure people of the Autism Tragedy, which cannot possibly have any positive effect. (Even though Dan Aykroyd, Daryl Hannah and Temple Grandin are all wonderful individuals due to their Autism, hmmm?)

First, of all, let me say that much of anti-vaccine agenda is based on false and misleading data. You can Google any source and defend both sides of this vaccine issue, but let me tell you that most of the anti-vaccine lobby boils down to two people: Andrew Wakefield and the Ableist, Emotional Parent. Andrew Wakefield produced one study, whose results were not duplicated, and which was retracted by Wakefield himself, admittedly corrupted, motivated by his own vaccine patent, and who finally got his license revoked. The Ableist, Emotional Parent usually believes that vaccines cause autism because they happen at about the same age. My example of this, Jenny McCarthy, noted that after her son got a certain vaccine, he had a certain look in his eyes, saying “no soul.” Let me give you a note: saying an autistic look means “no soul” is extremely prejudiced. Do I have no soul? Also, to note, the story with Ms. McCarthy is very emotional, so it seems rational in her own eyes…and she talks frequently about the “motherly instinct,” especially when it counters established scientific theory. My question to Ms. McCarthy is: Have you never been wrong? Are you omniscient when it comes to your son? Now, I doubt she knows absolutely everything. But she acts as though she is wise in her own eyes, which is to me a very dangerous thing, especially since she seems to regard autism as worse than the “f***ing measles,” as she once said the autism parents would rather have.

Of course, regarding autism worse than measles is blatant ableism. Ableism is rife within the anti-vaccine lobby, which is why they consider autism a boogeyman to fear and fight. Have you heard of anyone lauded by Autism Speaks as a positive influence? Does Autism Speaks tell you that Dr. Temple Grandin is a top authority in the beef cattle industry, particularly when it comes to leading them to where they are supposed to go? Do they even mention Dan Aykroyd, who has spoken about his particular flavor of autism, and his work in comedy and film? No, they simply say autism will destroy any semblance of a disability-free, and therefore model, life. Ableism is simply looking at anything that makes a person abledly different and counting it as a loss, or a strike against that person’s humanity. Ableism says that the autistic MUST be cured of their autism, or they are not a full human being. Ever.

Where does this leave poor Julia, and the autistic children that Julia can relate to, according to the Ableists? That leaves Julia and autistics alike in a sort of invisible no-man’s land, in a place where the only appropriate response is pity and shame. Of course, that will eventually lead to locking them away in jails, prisons and other institutions, where the poor, pitiful things belong, according to the ableists. Of course, it also romanticizes the murders of autistic children, too, and encourages them to suicide, I’m sure. The truth is, the anti-vaccine lobby hates autistic people succeeding, because it has chosen to hate autistic people. I have decided to applaud Sesame Street’s little creation, Julia. It comforts me to see that there is someone like me on the screen, despite the fact that the anti-vaccine lobby hates her, and me in extension.

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MY Ten Things I Learned From Bullying, as an Autistic:

OK, let me talk about “10 Perks Kids With Autism Get From Bullying,” the article from Autism Daily Newscast that has autistics up in arms. For starters, I ran the title by my mother, who said it was “foolish.” Her word, not mine. Let me say for now that it is like saying “10 Benefits African Americans Get From Racism.,” an article not written (yet) that would cause an extreme outrage and protest all its own. You can google the shameful, ableist article that justifies ostracizing kids through physical and mental violence, which is the textbook definition of bullying.

What I Learned From Bullying:

1) Avoid anyone my age. No one relates to me. 

To this day, I do not have any close friends who were born between 1974 and 1983. (I was born in 1977, in case you were wondering.) All my classmates live far away, and I can only contact them through Facebook.

2) Authority does not look out for you; in fact it eggs bullying on

Everybody knows sensitivity training and anti-bullying programs are simply legal and societal alibis, used to shield any responsibility for the eventual school shooting that comes from the eventual loneliness and isolation that bullying creates. Also, when I went to school and church authorities about the bullying I was enduring through the social circles of the time, I was told “Ignore them,” and “Maybe he likes you.” How do you ignore something which gets into your face and threatens physical harm? I hate to say it even now, but one of my youth counselors would join in on the jokes to win the bullies over.

3) Autism Hatred Every Month 

For example: much of the bullying was due to me liking New Kids on the Block. I got most of this in seventh grade. I was so bullied, I ended up feeling this was a horrid secret I was supposed to keep away from the general public, as if liking NKOTB was on par with pedophilia (wanting to sex up kids). I eventually learned Autism = Pedophilia as well, so I kept that a secret until my senior year.

4) My skills I developed were subterfuge, lying, and reclusion.

TRUth and TRUst begin with the same three letters. I learned I could trust no one. The only things I learned were to fight dirty, lie, sabotage, and hide. I was a filthy animal as far as anyone else was concerned.

 5) Built an Abuse-Accepting Pattern of Being Controlled

This eventually led me to believe that abusive behavior was okay. I did not expect any better from people, because I did not know any better. Another maxim I have to still shake off: People are basically evil, and must be controlled by another force. I mean, I expect the worst in people now. Maybe that’s why I am pushing 40 and still single. This leads to:

6) No Friendships, and Extreme Suspicion of Good People

Again, I have nobody my age I can relate to, except on Facebook. In my first post, Facebook and the Mellaril Nightmare, I have expanded on my confusion as to people wanting to even be my Facebook friend. I mean, bullying is a way to ostracize the undesirables out of society. You make fun of the people you hate. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. These people made fun of me to my face and behind my back, and the only thing which made me even want to consider clicking on that Accept button was an apology from one of them.

7) A Decline in Overall Well-Being

With all this swirling around in my head, I was cut off from any help, unless it came through therapy. I hated myself for years, and am only now getting to like myself again, though it still only comes in spurts. Only in the past nine years have I showered regularly without being forced to, for instance. I was not worth it, I thought.

8) Abusive Relationships, because I was a Freak

I’m not going to name names, but I was abused for years because I thought deep down I deserved it. I was an undesirable freak who was lucky that person was in my life to protect the world from me. (That was what the abuser said to me, in so many words.)

9) Decreased Life Skills and Life Appreciation

Why would I take care of myself? How could I love my neighbor if I did not love myself? Was I even worth getting out of bed, and even worth living?
10) No Self-Esteem, and Suicide Ideation

Eventually, this led to not having any appreciation for anything life had to offer, and a general hatred of life. I began to imagine what it would be like if I was dead, and I wrongly concluded that it would be better without me. I also began to formulate a plan: I would find a room or toilet with a drain, and slit my wrists. The blood would be disposed of.

WHAT EVENTUALLY SAVED ME

I learned that the world would be a worse place for my mother, and a few others, if I died. I could not go through with it, once I learned that my mother would be screwed. She should not be responsible for keeping me alive, but God keeps reminding me that if I die, several other people would be screwed, both physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I eventually also learned that bullying is wrong, and I would be letting the terrorists in my life win if I removed myself from living. I could not let that happen. I have had to tell myself daily that I am worth the fight.

“The Help” Bothers Me, and For the Right Reasons

My mother does not know this, but “The Help” bothers me to no end. It makes me uncomfortable when a perfectly smart and caring woman is mistreated, forced to use a glorified Porta-Potty and (SPOILER ALERT!) eventually fired for being black, and having an opinion different from utter devotion and praise. (I told you it was a spoiler.) I believe in giving everyone respect, regardless of description. That includes blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, and LGBTs. This is by no means an exclusive list, of course. I believe cordoning off and determining people are better or worse keeps people from achieving their full potential. “I am better than you” is holding us back as a society.

What does this have to do with “The Help?” Plenty. Women are absolutely cruel to other women, even their daughters, due to the fact that they don’t live up to some expected image of the Happy Servant, or the Thin, Perfect Daughter, or the Happy Slave Master. (No more spoilers; watch the movie or read the book.) A side plot revolves around one of the rich white women’s daughters being too fat for her mother to accept her as she is. The mother is told in the end, “Give that sweet girl a chance,” but to me, there is this unfortunate feeling that the girl will die of anorexia nervosa in the 1970s, the decade after the movie/book takes place. One sad side effect of childish thinking is that the child feels responsible for the parent’s happiness, and any negative message received is blown up into monstrous, self-harming psychological damage. For instance, a note on “chubby” or “fat” can turn into a toxic relationship with food, and that eventually develops into an eating disorder. I myself, as another example, turned to food to stuff down any feelings of betrayal and rejection inside my own life, and became a compulsive overeater. But this damaged relationship with food can go a myriad of ways, from overeating, to the binge-based bulimia nervosa, to anorexia nervosa. I guess this anger at her daughter for being too fat is a form of cruelty which resonates with me.

“But you’re not talking about the racism enough!” The excessive Jim Crow laws of 1960s Mississippi and the cruel treatment of blacks and servants in general is enough to make me vomit. Fortunately, it keeps much of it in the visceral, and exposes it deftly, and rightfully. There is so much cruelty across race, across class, across body, across society. Why are women so cruel to women? Were they born that way, or was it extreme competition for the few token spots at the Table of Love and Acceptance? It troubles me that women could be so cruel. It’s just like the bullies in high school.

Truth is, I only have a few friends, and they are a good split between male and female, I think. “The Help” is, to me, a study in female cruelty, and I don’t like that female cruelty exists. Stop it.

Autism Does Not Cause Shootings, Autism Does Not Cause Shootings, Autism Does Not Cause Shootings….

Autism Does Not Cause Shootings, Autism Does Not Cause Shootings, Autism Does Not Cause Shootings….

Smooth move, CBS, CNN, NBC and other outlets. By putting autism in the headlines of the news concerning the Oregon Shooter’s mother, you have inexorably spread fear and hate against people with autism, like me. Your penchant for bodice-ripping headlines has made me even more hateful towards you. I am feared and hated as ever, especially now, that I have been linked to a man who killed ten people, including himself. Here’s a twist: I would have been shot for admitting I am a Christian, too! So what do I do? Where do I go for help and assurance that I am not going to get killed or run out of town a la Frankenstein’s monster?

First of all, I must say this: Autism is not linked to violence. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/12/16/aspergers-autism-not-linked-to-violence-experts reports this fact. As a matter of fact, it is more likely that I would be the victim of crime, not the criminal. Here is an article about the continued stigmatization of autism, perpetuating the likelihood of being murdered for my autism. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelle-sutton/autism-stigma-and-murder_b_5211817.html

This brings me to another point:  Do you think because I am autistic, I am going to go get a gun and shoot people? I hat guns. I know that is an unpopular opinion among my peers, especially among fellow Republicans, but I am just absolutely frightened that we have to invite an instrument of death into our houses in order to feel any sort of power over our situations. Do you think I want to involve an instrument of death and harm in my everyday life? I am not going to deny you your right to self-defense, but I am not going to be made to wield death because I am feeling a little cowardly. Even as I go about this world mostly alone, I am constantly reinforcing my bravery to live in a world which is afraid of me.

In case you haven’t noticed, there is one thing I must admit: I am the only autistic my age that I know. That troubles me. I feel so alone in all this. All the people who seem to understand me are on the internet, and most of them seem far away. This troubles me, because the distance makes me feel all alone in this world. I know that is not the case, but there are no people here with autism to dispel my loneliness that I know of. This also makes me fear for my safety.

Do I have to pick up a gun and show that I will not use it for you to believe I am not a danger to society? To end the fear of neurotypical people because I am different from them? Being feared like this is shameful, it is discriminatory, it is the textbook definition of prejudice. I’m sorry, I did not know I had to cower in the corner to appease it.

But if you want my opinion on the subject of shootings and autism, read the title again, and again, and again…until you believe it.

#MasculinitySoFragile, Part 2: It Does Not Have To Be

My sister has a son, whom I love very much. (I love my sister, too, by the way.) One Christmas, when he was just entering his teens, he got clothes and accessories which were dominated by hot pink. He got pink Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, a pink studded belt, pink shirts from skateboarder-favored brands, you name it. His father was there for the opening of these gifts. I noticed the entire time that he acted very stiff and threatened. What threatened him so? It seems that the color pink threatened him. Now, in this culture, pink has been assigned a feminine status, and is still worn mostly by women. During the time my nephew received these gifts, it was rebellious for a boy to wear pink. I think it still is today, for I have generally not seen pink in men’s clothing as an acceptable piece, unless it is upper class or for a cause. Relax, guys. His #MasculinitySoFragile, it seems to be threatened by pink.

Alright, let’s clear the air. The hashtag #MasculinitySoFragile is not an insult to men. It’s not even an insult to masculinity, unless you let it be. What #MasculinitySoFragile intended to do was to expose cracks in masculinity that needed to be fixed. Masculinity does not have to be fragile. What we need to do is allow certain things that are assigned as “masculine” and “feminine” and make them universal.

For instance, let’s look at what masculinity is. Masculinity seems to have evolved from a philosophy known as Stoicism. You can look up Wikipedia for the information on it, but stoicism believed negative emotions (such as fear and sadness) came from errors in judgment, and having a will to be brave and happy, independent of circumstance, was ideal. I will not give my personal judgment on the possibility of this ideal, but it seems to have heavily influenced the concept of what it means to “Man Up.” Another tenet of masculinity is aggression and strength. This I will give a personal opinion on. Aggression and strength are both fine in controlled manners. However, if you let them, they will rule you, as possible. The best example of uncontrolled masculinity in action is the general arena of professional wrestling. Now, don’t get me wrong: I used to watch professional wrestling well into my thirties. It provided some great emotional release, and very sexy men, if I may say so. My beef with wrestling is, aggression seems to be the only emotional response deemed useful and even appropriate. Any other response is relegated to the villains of the show, aka the heels. Everybody seems to be primed for a fight. The trouble is, constant fight response taxes the physical body to an early grave, and there are many professional wrestlers who have gone to an early grave. You can also easily find the names of these men in any web search engine. In many psychology therapy sessions, chronic stress is known to cause health problems. This is why men suffer from earlier onset of health conditions, as well as earlier death. This is what I can see.

How do we remedy this? The remedy comes in acknowledgement of men’s feelings, which do exist, and in widening the arena of appropriate masculine behavior. Men, if you feel like crying for any reason, go ahead and cry. A man crying is quite manly, if I may say so. It shows you are tender, and strong enough to do it. According to my current society, men are not supposed to cry, so for a man, crying is a revolutionary act.

Now, I believe masculinity and femininity are social constructs, where things are assigned one gender or another. Apparently, this is masculine and that is feminine and never the twain shall meet, but this standard is almost never met, especially in 21st-century America. Men cry all the time, for instance. It’s just that crying in men is triggered by different things than women. The winning of the Super Bowl by your favorite team? Assigned as a masculine crying trigger. A dramatic movie? Assigned feminine crying trigger. Now, if masculinity and femininity are social constructs, then are not the tear triggers social constructs themselves? Why don’t we accept emotions as universal experiences, regardless of gender? Society says not to, that’s why. But why don’t we change society itself? We can all do it together. And in this, Masculinity is NOT so fragile.