Letter to the Editor

Opinions

CW: Ableism

Editor,

I despair to see yet another article cast an infantilized autistic other as the burden of allistic (or non-autistic) people in my name. This allistic self-congratulation for not being autistic is as far as could be from a healthy relationship between autistic and allistic people, and it is time it was supplanted with a model in which autistic people lead and allistic people follow as we build a post-ability world.

I fear that many allistic peoples’ own false assumptions about mental ability and intelligence has obscured a straightforward relationship of oppression. “Since autistic people are too stupid to lead their own lives and uniquely need charity,” I imagine the argument going, “it is we, we rational independent animals, who need to make sure nobody calls them a retard.” But autistic people are not too stupid to lead either their own lives or a political movement; and conversely, no allistic person is independent of her society or any more rational than autistic people, either. The allistic person and I depend just as much on society; the difference is that the specific machinery built, the way we as a society have decided to structure meetings and jobs and bathing, is much more comfortable to her than to me, and I want to do something about that, and she does not.

Almost every social justice space I’ve been in has carried with it the assumption that autistic people cannot think or act for themselves in a way that improves their society. This is unequivocally false; universally the autistic people I meet have sympathetic and nuanced political stances on ability. Allistic people, on the other hand, are always too busy enjoying the distance between themselves and autistic people to do much good; they’re convinced beyond rational investigation of an unbridgeable gap between themselves and autistic people, an irreducible and meaningful difference.

There is no such difference. I do funny little dances when talking to others; I have trouble showering and have a different approach to coursework than my allistic peers; I bite my nails to the quick, and I love absolutely myself. Allistic people gape, they point, they fasten onto anything that can help them pretend they’re invisible, they’re private, they have full control of their bodies. It is pathetic. They are allistic people who are the freaks, and we had better all hope they start to grow up.

Benjamin Falli​s

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