This is the final post in my "Double Rainbow" guest blog series. I've had a great time with this guest blog, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it. As part of wrapping up the series, I wanted to leave you with something fun. In the spirit of finding autists in popular fiction, I'm going to speculate about a character whom I almost included in my Valentine's Day post, but who I ultimately decided to save until the end.
I'm talking about Elphaba Thropp, as she appears in Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked.
Yep. I think the Wicked Witch is a little bit autistic.
If I could time travel without, like, disrupting the space-time continuum, one of the many things I would tell a younger me would be that: It’s not the interest in appearance that’s wrong, it’s how you do it. Fascination with the visual is something as broad as the history of human signing (as well as something that underlies ubiquitous ableism in the social and built environment, since not everyone has the ability to see said visual). Sometimes I like to put it in perspective for myself like this—if I were thinking about non-Western cultural and aesthetic forms, I would be less likely to criticize and more likely to think about these practices as a way of being culturally competent, enjoying shared symbols, and evoking continuity with a cultural history.
Look, I get that Angelina Jolie is thin, and that she also burns the brightest of all of our Bright Hollywood Stars and is therefore subject to more scrutiny than your average woman. However, body snarking of the "eat a sammich, skinny" variety is hardly different from body snarking of the "stop eating sammiches, fatty" variety that we (hopefully) know better than to post in our Facebook feeds. Yet I've seen lots of people across the World Wide Web today—including people I know to be smart, savvy feminists—crack wise about Jolie's arms, legs, and weight as if, because she's beautiful and thin, policing and commenting on her body is more than acceptable.
The history of autism is necessarily woven into the histories of any and all populations effected by autism, yet what one would term "autistic history" is largely treated as monolithic. Overwhelmingly, race is neglected not only in tracing the history of autism, but in contemporary research and coverage.
I'm an affectionate person, almost everyone I've dated or been friends with commenting on that. But whenever I am out in public with my fiancée, I become self-consciously affectionate. Not because I'm concerned about what nasty thoughts people might think about seeing such queerness, but because of what they fail to think.
This post is about what I consider to be one way of being the change I want to see. I think of it as a small public education intervention that I do almost every day.
We’re elaborately taught how to relate to ourselves as gendered beings. It’s been a long time that people have been building on the critical observation that there’s no natural connection between pink/girl or boy/blue, yet kids continue to be the targets of aggressive marketing that creates profitable niche interests—a collection of stereotypes from which gender binarized consumers are “free” to choose—and of subtler gender conditioning (as my friend Ember is finding out, swaddled babies, though indistinguishable, are praised as pretty or strongdepending on how parents advertise their sex). I’ve mentioned how a lot of kids are skipping the closet and, consequently, finding themselves at the forefront of advocating respect toward sexual difference. What about trans youth? There’s been increasing attention to “gender creative” or “gender independent” kids as social space opens up in which to discuss, rather than repress, their behavior. Could these terms reflect a reluctance to apply the concept of transgender to youth of a certain age because of its association with sexual identity (I am thinking specifically here of the historical, medical roots of trans-related descriptors in the West that have stemmed from the word "transsexualism" coined as "transsexualismus" in the early 1900s by Magnus Hirschfeld and later "trans-sexual" by Harry Benjamin in the 1960s)? Conversely, does the usage of the trans label problematically continue to lump the T in with the LGB? (Not that the B gets much visibility, either).
A few posts ago, in Slut Shaming and the Empowered Young Woman, one reader commented on the way that asexuality is written out of a lot of the most visible debates on what it means to be mature, empowered, and sexually self-aware. She also observed that asexual feeling, identity, and relationship practices are so nonexistent in pop culture that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin analyzing it. In her high school experiences as well as in mine, dating was one of the biggest status symbols you could achieve, and it was fairly well assumed that dating was the gateway to rounding those bases and scoring a home run, as it were. (I’ve never been too clear on that base analogy, and the fact that it doesn’t really seem to translate for GLB people isn’t its only problem.) As The New Goodnight Kiss documents, for some young people, sex has become a lot more openly casual than what I remember. But that activity still has a lot to do with teenaged pecking orders, even as it may also have to do with fulfilling experiences of sexual freedom or the development of positive relationships for some young people. So what about asexuality and youth culture? How do kids learn to associate certain values with being sexual and not being sexual?
For a lot of people, the idea of a sleepover conjures an image of wholesome youthful fun. In a culture that assumes that close friendships are usually same-sex, these occasions represent something platonic. At the same time, from an early age, a disproportionate degree of social anxiety and moral panic manifests around the bedroom, the nighttime, and the ambiguous meanings of the verb “to sleep.” Why so much parental concern over making sure that, as their kids grow older, they aren’t sharing any of these activities with others of the “opposite” sex (as though there is an opposite to a person’s experience of self!)? What about the queer kids?
I've touched upon the construction of autistic masculinity and the construction of autism as inherently masculine a few times already in this series. In this post, I'd like to take a little bit of a closer look at the relationship between autism and masculinity.
PETA isn't content to restrict its sex-sells messaging to the porn site, either. The latest campaign features a woman walking down the street in her bra and underwear in a neck brace, a result of rough (like, put your head through the wall and land you in a neck brace rough) sex with her newly vegan boyfriend. Is this a PSA for sexual assault? No. It's PETA's attempt to shock us into adopting a vegan diet (or making our partners eat vegan, thus giving them the skills to leave us neck-braced and dazed enough that we forget to wear clothes to the grocery store). Because PETA thinks we should want sex to end in a neck brace, I guess?
Offensiveness of this ad aside (read more about the ways it normalizes violence against women in this post from New Black Woman), this and other similar PETA spots are just plain fucking lazy (heh). Next time they might as well skip the ad altogether and instead make a SEXXX PORN BOOBS VEGETABLES HOT BRAS word association game. Oh, wait...