Ableism in Action: “To Siri With Love”

WARNING: Mentions of medical abuse, ableism, and prejudice

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I was certain I had nothing to say about a book I never read. The book “To Siri with Love” seems to me biased and anti-autistic, with some thoughts about forced sterilization and not being able to picture having sex without the Benny Hill soundtrack in the mother’s head, for example.

Well, here’s a few statements I jotted down in my journal. Take a look, judge if you must:

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Just wondering: how much ableism is “To Siri With Love”? A whole bathtub of ableism, as I have heard. My mother recently told me not to read negative things about autism; trouble is, “To Siri With Love” is one of those things. Saying your son can’t have sex in your head without the Benny Hill soundtrack, that’s ableism. Saying you want to sterilize him by force, that’s ableism. Saying no woman will want him, that’s ableism.

I haven’t talked about it before, because I haven’t read the book. I don’t think I’ll be able to in the near future, unless I rent it electronically. I have a strange feeling that I will be triggered like I used to be in the days of living with my sisters.

I tried to get the book “To Siri With Love” through the library. It was not there. I hear you can only buy it through Amazon. And you can only review it if you can buy it through Amazon. I wanted to come to the book with an open mind, but its mind is so closed that I feel I have to protect myself from Judith Newman.

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Unfortunately, I have not read the book, as I have stated before, but it seems the book was not written for me, as Judith Newman actually states. See, I am autistic. I am also a woman who wants to work with autistic people. So, Judith Newman says this book is written for me. Which one is it, Judith? Am I good enough for you or not?

Forgive me, it is a bit rambling, but I am certain the hatred toward people like me will increase based upon “To Siri With Love.”

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Here’s the lowdown: I wanted to approach “To Siri with Love” with an open mind, but the author has approached autistic people, including me, with a closed mind. And how am I supposed to respond to that?

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Twenty-Six People Dead; NOW Will You Take Spousal Abuse Seriously?

I said it once; let me say it again. Trump is wrong about the Texas church shooter. He said it was not a gun problem; it was a mental illness problem. Now, since it has been revealed that the shooter’s family attended the church he shot up, but not that Sunday, it has been revealed to be a domestic violence problem. Twenty-six people dead, all because he wanted to kill his ex-wife and her family. The Texas church shooting was about the ultimate display of power and control over his wife; the power over life. 

Power and control have been at the core of domestic violence for all time. It was at the core of my family’s fighting and struggle. It was at the core of many a spousal murder and attempted murder; it was at the core of my life for so long. As a matter of fact, I am terrified of getting married, due to the fact that domestic violence was in my family and life for so long; what kind of wife beater will I attract? What kind of pain and abuse will I have to endure just to be comfortable? This is the effect of domestic abuse and violence in my life. As a matter of fact, domestic abuse was in the history of the Texas church shooter. He was dishonorably discharged for cracking his stepson’s skull. And he was convicted on another count for beating his wife. And he was able to buy weapons because the Air Force failed to report these crimes, so he went and shot up forty-six people in a church-where his ex-wife’s family went. So, is the Air Force almost as guilty of neglect in preventing mass murder? You be the judge.  

A Time Magazine article once stated that a soldier was going to have to kill in a big way for the military to understand domestic violence. Well, Air Force who failed to report it – twenty-six people are dead; twenty more are injured, all because the shooter wanted to control his ex-wife and her family. Now will you take domestic violence seriously?  

“Oh No! It’s….DIFFERENT!!!!!!”*

You have to scream the title like a horror movie final girl to get the full effect.* 

How many times have you dealt with somebody who was a little different from you? Many times, I am sure. Trouble is, many of us have not dealt with different in our lives as much as others. And the sad thing is, dealing with different may just be the key to overcoming different. And yet, with the trend toward dividing up and shrinking back into racial and religious divides, fear and hate helps different keep us apart.  

Now, I know that the rich, white and powerful have most of the prejudice and hate on lockdown. That is a fact. That is how they stay in power. What I am saying is, there are people on all sides, not just black and white, need to overcome the prejudice inside their own heads in order to function.  

I’m not even talking about Black Lives Matter or antifascists at this point. I do not believe they are a terrorist group. It’s a shame that it only takes a color of skin to designate one group terrorist and another group not. It is a shame that I even have to waste space on this declaration. 

What I am talking about is the person who shuts their ears to another person, simply because there is a different trait. I am talking about the white person who closes his ears to the understanding person of color, as well as the person of color closing his ears to the understanding white person. I am talking about the person who says “You are just a ______” and name that difference. With a closed mind and a cold heart, they become part of the problem of hate that is about to destroy the United States of America.  

How does this manifest in my own life? I am glad you asked. This manifests in my life with a chilling precision; I fear these words will not get to the people who need to hear them, because I am autistic, and white, and cisgender, and female, and fat. I have just listed six reasons people shut out my words. I am sure there are many more.  

 

Hollywood Autism: It Is Definitely Wrong

I have noticed that there are many stereotypes associated with autism, and I intend to knock every one of them down every single hour of my life if I have to. I have a list of these stereotypes, along with a response on each one of them.  These stereotypes are often applied to characters who are not canonically autistic (like Sherlock Holmes 2010 and Sheldon Cooper), so they get the diagnosis, too.

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Here are several stereotypes: 

Stereotype: Autism is a White Person’s Disease 

Almost every portrayal of autism is marred by the fact that it absolutely HAS to be portrayed by the people in power. As a result, most of them are white. This might lead most people to believe that autism is simply a consequence of something in white civilization. As a matter of fact, the only non-white portrayal of autism I knew of until I did a Wikipedia Search were of Billy Cranston, of the Power Rangers movie, and Isidore Latham of Chicago Med, of a Very Special character arc.  

Stereotype: Autism is Male Only 

This is shown in the disparity of male-to-female portrayals of autism. Of the 67 listed Film Characters listed as autistic, only 12 are female. Most people think that, due to the mostly male portrayals of autism, especially in more popular film and television shows, that autism is more male. As a matter of fact, there are women I have spoken with online who are still awaiting a paper diagnosis simply because they are female!  

Stereotype: Autism is Rain Man 

Now, Rain Man was a groundbreaking movie in its time. It brought awareness to a little-known diagnosis back in 1988. But we have moved beyond Rain Man. Autism diagnoses are being given out at a proper rate. People do not have to meet all the criteria of autism in order to get a diagnosis…or do they? More on that later. 

Stereotype: Autism is Savant Syndrome 

Now, this might be wishful thinking on the part of the parents, who want their children to be something more than the tragedy that people make difference out to be, but most autistic people I know have no savanthood. As a matter of fact, the most recent television portrayal, Freddie Highmore’s The Good Doctor, had to differentiate between autism and savant syndrome, to literally spell it out and drop a house on the viewing audience. This stereotype is common among the non-official portrayals, as seen in the Progenitors Section. 

Stereotype: Autism is a Lack of Empathy 

How many times do I have to tell people this? Just because they express something differently does not mean they have something more or less!!! Autistic people express themselves quite differently from others. It is a hallmark of the condition. Just because we aren’t born with a capacity to “read between the lines” when someone is talking, does not mean we cannot feel what others feel. If you want us to read between the lines, teach us! 

Stereotype: Autistic People are Cold and Uncaring 

Again, another stereotype that relies heavily on the fact that some things must be taught. If a person must be taught to be warm, why not see and teach them? (In the case of Rick Sanchez, I think he drinks because he cares so much for most members of his family.) This stereotype also goes to the parents, and in my own case, I can tell you it is wrong. My mother is one of the warmest people you will ever meet. She taught me how to be warm and expressive.  

Stereotype: Autistic People Can’t Communicate 

This is a folly on the part of most neurotypical people. Just because we communicate differently, does not mean we aren’t communicating. Far from it. The tugging of the autistic person on your shoulder? Communication. The stimming? Communcation they are uncomfortable. The refusal to go into a certain place? Communication. The crying? Communcation. The meltdown? Communcation. We are communicating; YOU ARE NOT LISTENING. 

Stereotype: Autistic People Are Violent 

This goes back to the meltdown that is imminent when a person is overstimulated. This can easily be avoided by simply asking the autistic person, “Are you okay? Do you need to go somewhere?” Or similar questions. They are simply trying to escape.  

Stereotype: Autistic People are Math Geniuses 

The stereotype that does not ring true with me at all. I am NOT a math genius. I need a calculator for the simplest of math problems. This is one I fell victim to my entire life. I thought I was stupid because I was not a human calculator. This also helped me realize that there are stereotypes in media portayals of autism. 

Stereotype: Autistic People Have Marilu Henner Memories 

Of WHAT, exactly? Just because we remember different things about events and people does not mean we remember everything. If I had a Marilu Henner Memory, I would be able to use it! 

Stereotype: Autistic People Have No Sense of Humor 

This is also something that can be taught. Get off your high horses and do it, people! I learned humor through my family, and I can wield it expertly. 

Stereotype: Autistic People Can Melt Down at the Drop of a Hat 

Again, not true. There are usually signs that the person is about to melt down. Are they stimming? Do they look uncomfortable? Have you asked them if they are okay? As a matter of fact, there is this really radical, out-there method of finding out if autistic person is okay. It goes like this: 

YOU: “Are you okay? Do you need help?” 

Most of us are verbal and will answer truthfully.  

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Now that I’ve hopefully cleared up some misconceptions about autism, are there any more I need to clear up? Tell me.  

Autism Reality Show: A Reality Show No One Wants, But One We Need 

I Just read an article about a TV show concerning an autistic character. According to the review, it is simply the same “Experts because they know someone autistic” who gets a LOT of autism wrong. The show has not even come out on Netflix yet, and I’m disappointed. Maybe it could apply to one autistic character or person, but not a great majority. See, there is autism in all races, cultures, genders and sexualities.

I somehow think that the best interpretation of autism on TV is one which groups several autistic people together, of different ages, races and genders, and simply follows them around. You know, an autism reality show. No inspiration porn, no neurotypical censorship, no getting autistics wrong. Just autistic people, navigating a world that is not for them. But I think nobody will take it. Neurotypicals like to get autistic people and put them in a little box. Trouble is, if you don’t fit in this little box, you’re not autistic. Even professionals withhold help because women and people of color, and successful people too, do not fit into this little box. They withhold help in the form of refusing to diagnose autistic people with their autism. This is why we need an autism reality show in the form I described.

Besides, if you were a bird who could fly, would you rather not learn how to fly from a bird?

Take Them at Their Word 

Have you noticed that the more different a person is from you, the less likely you are to take them at their word? Case in point: I have an African-American neighbor. She experienced racism when she once called the police to report criminal activity. The policeman threatened to lock HER up, even though SHE called the police. The policeman did not back off until a white man intervened on my neighbor’s behalf. While this is shocking to most white people, I decided to take her word for it, because I know racism persists like a virus in this world. I wonder, why do people deny the different person’s experience? Is it that people are more likely to trust their “Own Kind?” I do not have that luxury. I have met very few of my “Own Kind.” My “Own Kind” are autistic women, who have been taught by society’s wishes that they barely exist. Also, I was often taught to doubt myself and my own instinct in my family, and that kind of betrayal gives you a major distrust of anyone. So, what is taking a person at their own word? To me, it is revolutionary.

Some people have the luxury of trusting their own kind – mostly, white males. I’ve observed their behavior, these people who can trust their own, and it seems that they trust their own because they seem themselves in them. Why don’t you try to see yourself in people different from you? Is it because they are “less human” because they are not your clones? How much like you does the person have to be for you to trust them? Also, how much faith do you put in similarity anyway? Similarity is no guarantee of safety.

The Incredible Shrunk World of the Disabled Person  

Now, I am currently on vacation at my aunts’ place, who live in a small town in southern Kentucky. Now, this is unremarkable. What is remarkable is how incredibly small one of my aunts’ world can be at most times. It is hard for her to even get to the most basic, menial places. The place is fairly isolated, and the aunt I’m referring to has disabilities, too. It would be hard leaving her without any help for me, so I’m glad my other aunt can be somewhat helpful. What I marvel at his how small and shrunken the world for her seems.

I’m a person with a shrunken world, too. My parents divorced when I was sixteen, and my elder sister had already moved away, so nobody taught me how to drive. I need my mother to drive me places. On most days, my world does not extend past the end of our street. At least I walk the dog. Yet, on most days, my mother can barely walk upright, let alone get to the car. I do the cooking for both of us. At least it’s a short distance between her spots around the house. We live in a rather small apartment, and for me, at least, the walls can close in around both of us. When I write about these things, know this: I’m not writing for sympathy. I am writing to let you know how incredibly small the world of a disabled person can be.

Just so you know, I am turning forty in a few weeks. By comparison, many forty-year-olds have a job, a spouse, maybe some children, and a few activities to immerse themselves in. They often commute to work. They may have to drive some distance to get to the grocery store. My most common grocery store is just three blocks away. Fortunately, I can walk to many of my favorite places because they are within five blocks. Now, to get to something like paying the electric bill, I need someone to drive me. Good thing my mom drives. She also helps with my mental and emotional health, too. She’s very useful on several things. Of course, I cook and clean, and she appreciates it. We do for each other.

I never said either one of us is useless. We help each other daily. Without the other, it would be a very small world for both of us.