Archives for the month of: March, 2014

Fuck autism awareness. There, I said it.

Few things irritate me as much as the idea of “awareness” being at all a desirable or good for autistic people, and I’ll tell you why.

For the past two decades, I’ve witnessed “autism awareness” bloat up and become a multi-million dollar campaign funded by hated organizations such as Autism Speaks.

It hasn’t done anything to improve the overall quality of life, access to resources, or liberation from ableism. What it has done, however, is create a hypervisibility of autism. This hypervisibility means that there are very few people, even if they’ve never met an autistic person, who don’t know about autism. But what they know about autism isn’t from autistic people themselves, it’s from autism awareness discourse. It’s this discourse which informs them that autism is a disease that kills marriages, “infects” more people than cancer, AIDS and diabetes combined, and leads to a hollow, meaningless life marred by meltdowns and inability to do anything resembling a normal life.

This hypervisibility means that my diagnosis is frequently dismissed or denied by people with no authority to do so, because they “know” what autism is, and it doesn’t look like me because I’m happy, well-adjusted, and living independently. This hypervisibility means that autistic children who are murdered by their parents are forgotten in the rush to defend the parent’s actions, because who could ever bear the burden of raising an autistic child? This hypervisibility means that before I even get a chance to define myself for who I am, Autism Awareness has decided for me what I must be, and that it must be tragedy.

This hypervisibility kills. But the worst thing is, that this deadliness in’t an accident or an unintended consequence of Autism Awareness discourse; it’s the logical conclusion of two decades of being told that Those People are better off dead, aren’t really living, and that their existence is a burden and a curse.

This April, say no to Autism Awareness. Say yes to dismantling the killer discourse. Say yes to autistic people who are speaking out now and disrupting these mythologies about autism that have permeated into our culture through Autism Awareness.

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I’ve selected four graduate schools that I am going to apply to in the Fall: 

1.) University of British Columbia under Sneja Gunew  (author of Feminism and the Politics of Difference

2.) Queens University under Scott Morgensen (author of Spaces between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization)

3.) University of Toronto under M. Jacqui Alexander (author of Pedagogies of the Sacred: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred)

4.) Concordia University under Gada Marhouse (author of Conflicted Commitments: Race, Privilege, and Power in Solidarity Activism)

I’m applying for a SSHRC grant over the summer, so hopefully wherever I go, I can afford to do so. I’m really nervous, but excited. 

So, Ellen’s come out against the seal hunt, because apparently seals are cute, or something like that. Point is, Ellen is pro seals, anti Inuit food sovereignty. 

I have a message for you, Ellen, and other people in the “South” who are opposed to the seal hunting done by Inuit people, usually to give themselves food or a source of income: 

It is the ultimate colonial arrogance to presume that you know more about an Indigenous people’s food systems than they do, and it is a continuation of colonial violence to attempt to deny them one of the few left forms of food sovereignty available to them just because you think their food is “cute”. 

The Inuit people are among the hungriest in Canada, facing starvation and prices for foodstuffs that would make the sticker prices in the fanciest Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in Ellen’s neighborhood seem outright cheap in comparison. One of the few ways left for Inuit people to feed their families and communities is through traditional hunting practices. I know where my loyalty lies, and it is not with celebrities who value seals above people having food. 

 

As I watch my friends wrap up their Bachelor’s degrees and prepare to enter the workforce, I’m going to take the time to just say how grateful I am that, for however many flaws academia has, and how horrible adjunctification and neoliberalization of the academy are, at least I will not have to do an unpaid internship in order to become a professor. 

Sometimes the small things make me the happiest. 

Let’s hope it stays that way. 

Today I caught the bus with one of my dear professors. We had a conversation that lasted the entire bus ride and then the walk to her house, since I didn’t get off at my stop in order to keep talking with her.

She’s the daughter of working-class Greek immigrants to Canada. Her mother worked in a garment factory and she toiled for years to save enough money to go to school and eventually get her PhD, and now she’s one of the most beloved and respected professors in the department.

This was the first time I talked about my roots with a professor one-on-one; I told her about my father’s family coming from Russia/Poland, and how my mother works as a hotel cleaner and banquet waitress. She gave me the strength to overcome the lingering anxiety that I felt about being the first in my family to go to university. She reminded me that it didn’t matter where I came from, but what I decided to do once I had made it here, and that passion and hard work will get you further than networking and insider know-how.

I am so glad that I stayed on that bus.

The media this week all across Canada is filled with touching tributes to Loretta Saunders and her work. Some of these articles are trying to straddle a fine line between honouring Loretta’s memory and asking why Loretta is really, in my memory, the first Indigenous woman in Canada who went missing/was murdered to be getting this kind of media attention.

There’s nothing wrong with pointing out that indeed, the media in Canada does have a serious problem when the only Indigenous woman whose disappearance/death they decide to turn into a national news item is an attractive young college student who had blonde hair and whose Inuk heritage might not be immediately recognized to a passerby. But there is something seriously wrong with the way I’m seeing it being clumsily framed. Instead of calling out the media on why exactly Loretta was chosen to be the one Indigenous victim of disappearance and murder represented on a national scale and whose name has become known across Canada, I am seeing stories which play a weird, creepy game of victim valuing. Among other things, there’s a strange implication that Loretta is getting coverage because she was exceptional among Indigenous victims of disappearance and murder because she wasn’t a sex worker, wasn’t homeless, and wasn’t a drug user. 

I can’t tell if that framing is intentional, or just journalists clumsily trying to explain the phenomenon they themselves are a part of, but either way, I find it unforgivably tasteless.