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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“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.  

“Good Doctor” Reactions

I am going to put “The Good Doctor” to the test. How stereotypical is it? How real is it? Also, does Freddie Highmore try to create a nuanced autistic man, or does he simply put on the Autism Costume? 

That is what I intend to find out. 

10:00 – A simple routine. Good start.  

10:01 – Mess the hair up. OK. 

10:02 – What’s with the line on the ground? 

10:02 – Saved from the bullies…and we have PTSD. 

10:03 – San Jose Airport: Noisy as can be. 

10:04 – Loud crash. Boy is hurt. 

10:04 – Correcting a doctor. OOOH. 

10:05 – “Not Rain Man. High-functioning. Capable of handling his affairs.” Enough with the labels, doc! 

10:06 – Tamlyn Tomita? She looks great! 

10:07 – Savant Syndrome? OK. I can see that. 

10:08 – Another doctor or two. Good. 

10:10 – Sherlock called – he wants his Mind Palace back. *Visualizations* 

10:11 – Trying to communicate his medical emergency….grabs the knife. The boy’s mother finally communicates his intention. 

10:12 – The doctors are arguing. Trying to give consent. 

10:13 – Another doctor. 

10:14 – Alcohol, tubing, gloves. More visualizing. Incision, tubing in, boy is saved! 

10:15 – Boy saved! 

*Commercial Break* 

I promise I am watching. My rapid-fire reactions are part of my style. 

*Back to Show* 

10:18 – Phone call from hiring manager (?). Trustee and hiring manager debate. 

10:19 – Another flashback. Father is not understanding. Abuse. Pet rabbit dead.  

10:20 – A glitch seen. Listen, OK? 

10:21 – Surgery on man. Pustule exploded.  

10:22 – Echocardiogram pushing, no one listens, tries to rush the ER. 

*Commercial Break* 

10:27 – Going through the hospital. Relax, it’s a revolving door. 

10:28 – Rain. More about the dead rabbit. Looks like a meltdown.  

10:29 – Talking about a surgeon’s needs. “No qualified others without autism.” Comparisons of discrimination. “How will the patients react?”  

10:31 – Sean (the doctor) is described as “the weird guy.” Sean found. Medical jargon. Recommended test found nothing.  

*Commercial Break* 

10:37 – “Sean.” Watching an echocardiogram. Subtle defect. Piece of glass described as hypothesis toward problem.  

10:39 – Youtube video saves the boy’s job, maybe? 

10:40 – Trustee finally sees Sean at work.  

10:40 – Flashback: Sean and his brother on an abandoned bus. A present? A toy knife seen in the episode beginning.  

10:42 – The toy scalpel is revealed. So is the mentioned piece of glass. 

*Commercial Break*  

I find the “symptoms” there. I am also finding a more nuanced character, though I might be wrong. I need to consult with other autistic colleagues. 

10:46 – Finally, meeting with the hirer. Now he can show up for the interview.  

10:47 – The boy is being discussed. Still trying to convince the board he’s capable. “Letting things get personal…?”  

10:48 – Doctor is trying to make conversation with Sean, Sean’s not doing that well. Call-out on the doctor. OUCH. 

10:49 – Well, “I would love to make you happy, but…” Boy, does this doctor hate him.  

10:50 – FINALLY, Sean can speak.  

10:51 – Flashback. Oh, boy. Children on top of a train. Brother falls! No movement.  

10:53 – Struggling to speak and communicate well. Finally hitting his stride near the end. Ms. Tomita’s character welcomes him in. 

10:55 – The doctor is dressed and scrubbed. Gloved. Safety spectacled.  

10:56 – Flashback. “You can do anything.” Begin the operation.  

10:57 – Giving mad props. Now an arrogance callout. He wonders if it works, in so many words.  

10:58 – The Season Preview.  

*Show Over* 

All in all, I liked the show. The portrayal of autism is getting there. Obviously, it’s not there yet, but it’s getting there. I understand that this is somewhat of a checklist of sorts, being the introduction of the character, but it seems to be nuanced. I’m getting a second opinion, in case this is inaccurate.  

Musings on Prejudice

Definition of prejudice  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

  1. 1 :  injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights; especiallydetriment to one’s legal rights or claims 
  1. 2a (1) :  preconceived judgment or opinion (2) :  an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.  2b :  an instance of such judgment or opinions :  an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics 

My first experience with Prejudice was a magazine cover on a news magazine. It was a series of differently colored or shaded(?) fists surrounding planet Earth. I asked dad what prejudice was, and he told me. He also warned me about not having prejudice, since it was one of those evils in society. In my family, we believed in equality. We believed humanity was humanity. This is why, today, I am an avowed opponent of ethnic separatist groups, the Ku Klux Klan among them. I believe separating and segregating people apart causes unnecessary fear and anxiety in people. I believe everybody is in the same race – the human race. There are people walking around everywhere as a testament to it. This is why I say what I say about the events in Charlottesville and other race relations hot spots. 

I cannot sit by while people are murdering each other because of minor differences that seem so much. I cannot sit idly by while hate rules in the halls of American government. I know violence is wrong on both sides. However, when the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and other segregationist groups want to destroy the multicultural diversity that actually makes this nation great, I cannot stand idly by and sit silent. I cannot sit idly by, because I am a firm believer in equality. I was raised as a firm believer in equality.  

I may not go to the protests and marches due to various circumstances, such as disability and economic hardship, but I speak wherever I can. I speak on my social media. I sincerely disagree with Trump’s approach to race relations. Yes, there was violence on many sides. But sometimes, you have to take a side. Unfortunately, you either stand against intolerance, or you are intolerant. The ultimate paradox of tolerance, is that you have to be intolerant against intolerance. The whole world has seen the results of accepting intolerance. It caused World War II, as a matter of fact. 

Sure, you can blame the other side for race baiting and the presence of prejudice. Both Democrats and Republicans do this. But what if we stopped blaming each other, came together as one, and vowed to do something BESIDES blame? Would that not be more effective? If we forgave each other (NOT excused, by the way) for race baiting and prejudice, stopped doing it ourselves, and finally decided to work on it together, would that not be more effective a weapon against hate?  

Dentist Haze Videos and Meltdown Videos: Yes, They are Related

There is a trend of videos, that, to put it bluntly, just angers me. I heard of gymnast Simone Biles being filmed while still being affected by the anesthesia after the dentist. Sure, it was funny, but it was funny in a way that laughing at an autistic person in meltdown mode is funny. It’s humor for bullies and haters. Why do people do that?  

Trust me; I come from a place of familiarity and some guilt on this one. I used to laugh at drunk people’s foibles on videos. Fortunately, I realized that most people who are drunk are not in their right mind. Yeah, acting not normal is funny, but if laughing at people in distress is your thing, that is sad in itself. And that is the trouble: laughing at people who are drunk, laughing at people who are affected by dentist haze, and laughing at autistic people in meltdown is as cruel as throwing water on a drowning man. 

Speaking of a drowning man, you remember the teens who laughed while filming a drowning man? He died. Due to their laughter and not helping him, his blood is on their hands. You who laugh at people in distress, you are no better.  

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?