What the Hell Is Self-Care, Anyway?

Content/trigger warning: cursing, discussion of ableism

There’s been a lot of kerfuffle over what the clinical/psychological definition of self-care actually is. I don’t believe the term has been so watered down that it is meaningless, as I’ve seen some anti-saneism activists claim, but I do think it’s important that we set the record straight on self-care. I see some people saying that self-care is relaxing and taking it easy. I see some people vehemently screaming that self-care isn’t “drinking tea, taking baths, and lighting candles,” it’s pushing yourself to do chores. Both are wrong, although the vehement screamers are more wrong. Let me explain.

In Psychology Today, the magazine in which Carrie Fisher joked about being the centerfold (gods I miss her), there is an article called Self-Care 101, written in 2018 by a PhD and LiCSW named Dr. Maria Baratta. In this article, Dr. Baratta describes self-care as “the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you…in a way that ensures you are being cared for by you.” I like this definition. Notice that it doesn’t list any specific activities. This is because self-care is going to be different for everyone.

Self-care requires self-awareness. In order to do proper self-care, you need to know when you need self-care. Some people wait until they’re burned out to start doing self-care, at which point it may not be helpful anymore. (I’ve found that in order to avoid burnout, it may be a good idea to try to do self-care every day.) Also in terms of self-awareness, you may have to try several activities before you figure out the ones that do the most for your mental health and/or replenish your fuel.

Here are some self-care activities that work for me:

  • Taking baths, usually accompanied by familiar music
  • Snuggling with my wife (oh yeah, I’m married now…that happened)
  • Listening to my cat purr
  • Reading a comfort book
  • Painting my nails
  • Writing, especially journaling
  • Knitting
  • Taking short naps or just resting in bed

You’ll notice none of these involve leaving my apartment. That’s because I’m an introvert. Going out and interacting with people (who aren’t my wife) depletes my fuel. However, here are some activities that others may find improve their mental health or replenish their fuel:

  • Walks
  • Watching the sun rise or set
  • Going out with friends
  • Exercise (okay, fine, this one does work for me sometimes, but I don’t talk to anyone at the gym) or stretches
  • Low-key social activities like game nights or hanging out at a coffee shop

Some people find that their mental health suffers when their living space isn’t clean or when they eat a lot of fatty or greasy foods, and may feel replenished after vacuuming or making and eating a quinoa salad. But I urge people to exercise caution when thinking about chores as self-care. If some chores are self-care for you, great! But…well, I’m going to circle back to the idea that self-care isn’t “drinking tea, taking baths, and lighting candles,” it’s pushing yourself to do chores. 

FUCK. NO.

Okay, I’ll elaborate. The idea that self-care actually or necessarily means being “productive,” especially according to capitalist ideals of “productivity,” is dangerous and harmful. Self-care can mean giving the finger to those ideals because you need a damn break. My therapist once told me I had practiced good self-care when I left work early after a bad trigger. To me, self-care means understanding that taking care of one’s mental health flies in the face of society’s bullshit. 

Sometimes self-care means ordering out because you don’t have the fuel to cook. Sometimes self-care means asking a roommate, friend, or significant other to help you vacuum because your bad back hurts too much for you to do it yourself. Sometimes self-care means Febreeze-ing a blouse you already wore once and wearing it again because you can’t do laundry. Taking care of yourself now, even if you look “unproductive” or “lazy” (I need to do an entry on how the idea of laziness is ableist), will result in your health being better later.

Go forth and take good care of yourself.

Many thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Karina, Max, and Sean! To be as cool as these people, visit Patreon.com/arzinzani to pledge. Even a dollar a month is massively helpful, and will mean you get to see these entries early AND get to read my Patreon-exclusive novelette series!

Sensitivity Reading

Hello, dear readers! I have something different for you today. I am offering my services as a sensitivity reader. As such, the tone of this entry is going to be different than my usual profanity-ridden, plain language snark.

Here we go.

Education

  • B.A., Biological Sciences, Smith College
  • M.S., Biomedical Sciences, Rutgers School of Biomedical and Health Sciences
    • Thesis topic: Use of linear after-the-exponential PCR with finicky molecular beacons to identify single-nucleotide polymorphisms in KRAS oncogene

Writing Experience

  • Professional medical writing & editing, 3 years
  • Hobbyist original fiction and fanfiction writing, 25 years
    • Winner, Two Sisters Writing & Publishing “It’s All Dialogue” Contest (2017)
    • Honorable Mention, TulipTree Publishing “Stories That Need to Be Told” Contest (2017)

Sensitivity Reading Topics

I offer sensitivity reading services for the following identities with the caveat that these identities, like human beings, are all multifaceted and complex. My services–indeed, the services of any individual sensitivity reader–do not guarantee that every reader will find portrayals respectful and accurate when viewing the work through their individual lens.

  • LGBTQ+
    • Asexual representation
    • Gray-asexual and demisexual representation
    • Nomaromantic representation
    • Lesbian representation
  • Neurodivergence
    • Major depressive disorder
    • Generalized anxiety disorder
    • Social anxiety
    • Selective mutism
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Complex post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Dissociative identity disorder
    • Bulimia nervosa
    • Anorexia nervosa
    • Other specified feeding/eating disorder
    • Borderline personality disorder
    • Autisticness
    • Sensory processing disorder
    • Auditory processing disorder
    • Executive dysfunction
    • Chronagnosia
    • Prosopagnosia
  • Abuse
    • Emotional abuse
    • Abusive parents
    • Leaving abusive situations
  • Religion
    • Judaism
    • Religious conversion
    • Ex-Christian issues
    • Religious trauma
  • Feminist and gender issues
    • Being a woman in STEM
    • Mainstream feminism (and its failings)
    • Feminism through disability and neurodivergent lenses
    • Femme identity/presentation

Rates

These rates include a full read-through of your manuscript, after which I will deliver a 1-3 page brief analyzing your representation of the identities for which I am reading and, if necessary, suggesting revisions based on my analysis. You are welcome to email me with follow-up questions afterward. If you wish to book me as a sensitivity reader, please email me at arzinzani90@gmail.com.

Note: Upon booking me, I will send you an invoice for my services. You must send me 50% of the agreed-upon rate at that point. I will not begin my sensitivity read until I have received this payment. The remaining amount will be paid after I complete my services.

Rates are as follows:

  • 5,000 – 10,000 words: $75
  • 10,000 – 15,000 words: $125
  • 15,000 – 30,000 words: $175
  • 30,000 – 60,000 words: $225
  • 60,000 – 100,000 words: $275
  • 100,000+ words: $275 + $0.005 per word

I will read work in the following genres:

  • Young adult
  • New adult
  • Science fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Suspense/thriller
  • Horror

I will not read the following genres:

  • Romance, including erotica
  • Historical fiction

I look forward to working with you!

-Amaranthe

Mental Health and Social Justice Call-Outs

Content/trigger warning: emetophobia, discussion of saneism and neurotypicalism, homomisia mention, suicidality mention, self-harm mention

I’ve had a really hard few days. Carrie’s yahrzeit and the anniversary of her death by the Western calendar, for one, and also December 26th is a traumaversary for me. Apparently Christmas is also terrible for my PTSD as well, as I spent half the day being violently sick for psychosomatic reasons. So if this blog entry is a little subpar, it’s because I’m operating at like a 35%.

I recently saw a semi-prominent YouTuber claim that a particular group of people had no consideration for mental health or respect for people with mental illness because they…drum roll please…were upset at him for using homomisic slurs. On the surface, this is bullshit. If you look deeper, it is still bullshit. However, it is still worth talking about mental health and call-outs, because call-outs can be triggering.

But first, I want to say that trying to defend your own bigoted behavior with “I don’t know any better, I’m neurodivergent” is neurotypicalist. Yes, really. Saying that neurodivergence makes a person incapable of understanding morality and justice is a particularly scary type of neurotypicalism and it needs to be stopped, especially if it has been internalized.

The rest of this blog entry is going to be about two things: how to call someone out while minimizing the chance of triggering someone and how to respond if a callout triggers you. Let’s start with minimizing the chance of triggering someone. Here are a few things you can do when calling people out to ensure that you don’t trigger any potential health issues of theirs:

  1. Discuss the person’s actions or words instead of making statements about them as a person. I know, I know, we are all everything-ist because oppression is built into our society and we’re all in the process of unlearning. I know. I’m not being sarcastic, either; I know. But saying “what you said was [blank]ist” instead of “you’re [blank]ist” may keep a person’s douchebag brain from latching onto “they said I’m [blank]ist, that means I don’t deserve to exist/I should self-harm/etc.” And of course, stay away from ad hominem attacks, which are bad social justice praxis in general.
  2. Don’t dogpile. Dogpiling can feel like a personal attack or be overwhelming to abuse survivors. If one or two people have the call-out handled, let them handle it. Only get involved if the person being called out is responding by being a belligerent asshole.
  3. If the call-out is happening online, don’t continually post lots of messages without giving the person being called out a chance to respond. A flood of messages, even from only one person, might be too much to process for the person being called out or might feel like an attack.
  4. This one is really specific, but I’ve seen it. Don’t mock the shitty thing the other person said using the Spongebob meme mixed-case text. That meme is disfiguremisic and ableist against ID/DD/LD people.
  5. If you did trigger someone with your call-out, don’t mock them for the symptoms they’re showing, including accusing them of “crytyping”. You should have seen how shot my fine motor control was after someone complaining about bicyclists riding on the sidewalk accused me of not agreeing with basic human decency because I suggested that more bike lanes might help. My PTSD was having a fit and a half.
  6. This is more of an accessibility thing, but still relevant. Don’t use sarcasm, especially in a text-only medium. If the person you’re calling out can understand sarcasm, it might feel like an attack. If the person you’re calling out can’t understand sarcasm due to neurodivergence…well, shit.

However, sometimes call-outs are triggering no matter what. I dissociate when I get an email from my boss, no matter the contents of the email. It’s annoying, but it’s not my boss’ fault. So if you’re triggered by a social justice call-out, here’s what to do.

  1. TAKE A BREAK. Disengage. Walk away. Count to ten. If you’re triggered, your ability to respond constructively is probably limited. Go engage in self-care, or do whatever you need to do to calm down.
  2. Only go back to the call-out when you’re ready. Evaluate whether or not the call-out used any of the tactics in the previous list, in which case you can–respectfully–tell the person who called you out how to change their praxis in the future. Also, if you can’t go back to the call-out for the sake of your health, don’t.
  3. Whether or not the call-out used any of the tactics in the previous list, evaluate whether or not you did the thing you were called out for. Maybe you did. Maybe you fucked up. We all fuck up. Nobody is a perfect bastion of social justice.
  4. If you did indeed fuck up, acknowledge your fuck-up. (But if you’re tempted to self-flagellate and be like “oh I’m terrible, I am just the worst person, I feel so awful I’m going to go cut myself,” you’re either being deliberately emotionally manipulative or you’re still feeling symptoms. Walk away until you can respond constructively.) Make a real apology, which consists of acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an indication of doing better in the future.
  5. Try to take the call-out to heart. This can be hard because if a call-out was triggering, even measured, respectful discussion of whatever -ism you were called out about can become a trigger or be retraumatic, and you just don’t want to think about it. (This has actually happened to me a few times.) Do whatever you have to process what happened so you don’t end up with a new trigger. If you have a therapist, you may want to talk about it with them.

I think that’s all I have for now. Happy (Western calendar) New Year!

BAD ME I have not been listing my Patreon supporters at the end of blog entries. Many thanks to Ace, Emily, Hannah, Karina, and Sean! To be as cool as these people, visit Patreon.com/arzinzani to pledge. Even a dollar a month is massively helpful!

Today Is Carrie Fisher’s Yahrzeit

Content/trigger warning: death

For those who don’t know, the yahrzeit is the anniversary of death according to the Hebrew calendar. On a yahrzeit, it is appropriate to light a special 24-hour candle and have a moment of silent introspection before saying “may his/her/their memory be a blessing” in Hebrew.

Because I’m converting Reform, I decided to say my introspection aloud before lighting the candle. This is, more or less, what I said:

It’s weird to feel shame about missing someone. I never even met her. But I think what was so extraordinary about Carrie Fisher was how many people whose lives she impacted without meeting them. Or meeting them briefly; she could buy an artist’s work at a con and it would just make their day. She was unbelievably brave and unabashed when it came to speaking out about mental illness self-advocacy and anti-saneism. She was and continues to be an inspiration to me in that regard. I can’t think of anyone else who inspires me the same way in that regard. And while it’s not fair that she was only 60 when she passed, hopefully we can all keep Space Mom’s memory alive by being unabashedly ourselves, standing up to saneism, and flipping off people who deserve it.

Zikronah livrakhah.

May her memory be a blessing.

Some Thoughts on Diet Culture

Content/trigger warning: cursing, disordered eating, discussion of diet culture

I hate diet culture.

You might be saying, “Of course you do, Mara. You hate everything.” And you’d have something of a point, but I don’t hate, for example, my wonderful fiancee. Or coffee. Or The Good Place. (Have you seen the latest season? So forking good. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until January for more episodes.) But I’m getting off the subject.

I’m not an expert on the harms of diet culture. You should go to fat justice activists for that. (For example, @yrfatfriend, @Artists_Ali, @femmina, @KivanBay, and @chairbreaker_ on Twitter). If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m aware that it’s basically impossible for an oppressive system, culture, etc. to be oppressive on only one axis. So while I’m going to talk about how diet culture is ableist in this entry, diet culture is also fatmisic (duh), classist, and probably buys into other -isms that I’m forgetting at the moment. (I’ve had really bad brain fog this………..month.)

What you do have to know about diet culture for this entry is that diet culture is based on 1) the fatmisic idea that thin bodies are better than fat bodies and 2) the scientifically inaccurate idea that caloric intake/expenditure is the only factor in body size. Now, there are many reasons why diet culture is ableist, mostly because fatness can be directly caused by or related to disability. Weight gain and/or fatness can be features of some disabilities; for example, PCOS or hypothyroidism. Many medications cause weight gain (Carrie Fisher, may her memory be a blessing, often talked about this). Some disabilities prevent people from exercising. Also entwining fatmisia and ableism is the fact that diet culture holds that healthy = moral and thin = healthy, so by the commutative property of diet culture bullshit, thin = moral. So disabilities that cause or are related to fatness are also seen as immoral/wrong/bad.

Also, diet culture encourages people to yammer about their diets to everyone they speak to. Why is this ableist? Because eating disorders are disabilities, and diet talk can be immensely triggering for people with eating disorders. I recently went to a Friendsgiving, and two of the people close to me at the table would not shut up about dieting and weight loss, and it’s a fucking miracle of self-control that I didn’t run to the bathroom and ram my fingers down my throat. So if, for whatever reason, you are on a weight loss diet, keep your fucking lips zipped about it unless you have permission from the people around you. Yes, I am saying this now because it is almost Turkey and Genocide Day. But even when food-centric holidays aren’t happening, use content warnings when you talk about your diet on social media and ask for permission before talking about your diet in person. And add content warnings for food too.

Speaking of which, diet culture encourages judge/shame people for making supposedly unhealthy food and lifestyle choices, so don’t fall into the diet culture trap of policing people’s food choices at Turkey and Genocide Day dinner. Or, you know, fucking ever. Even if there were no possibility that the person whose choices you’re scrutinizing had an eating disorder, it’s rude and none of your fucking business. The same goes for judging/shaming people for not going to the gym/doing yoga/running/whatever; even if it’s not a disability keeping someone from exercising or making “healthy” lifestyle choices (which may not be healthy for them, hence the quotes), it could be a class issue or other issue related to being part of a marginalized group, and it’s rude and none of your fucking business.

Another thing about diet culture that triggers my eating disorder on the regular is this trend that restaurants are hopping on of having calorie information for all the dishes on the menus. My feelings about how calorie counting for a so-called diet is a slippery slope to an eating disorder if not an eating disorder itself aside, many people with eating disorders or who are in recovery from an eating disorder can’t handle seeing calorie information. I don’t mind restaurants having calorie information available if a customer asks, but having calorie information right smack dab on the damn menus can make a restaurant inaccessible. I wish I knew how to actually do something about this. If you have any ideas, by all means, let me know.

So tl;dr diet culture is harmful as shit, keep quiet about your diet or make sure you have permission to discuss it so you don’t trigger anyone, and restaurants need to stop it with the calories on menus.

That’s all I have for now. I hope everyone survives Turkey and Genocide Day.

I Can’t Even Fucking Listen to Music

Content/trigger warning: cursing, slurs (censored), disordered eating mention

So I have a new job.

It’s actually great. Well, mostly great. I’m doing something I love and that I’m good at, the location is fantastic, and most of the people are nice. Unfortunately, there’s always food around the office, which TFED (The Fucking Eating Disorder) is not pleased with. But anyway, I was at my new job and needing an afternoon caffeine fix, so I headed to Dunkin for their $2-latte-after-2-PM promotion. (I’m weak for espresso and deals. I admit it.)The music was too loud in Dunkin, which was almost an accessibility issue for me, and I was struggling to tune it out while I waited for my latte. A pop song was playing. I don’t like pop, so there was nothing remarkable about the song to me, but it was so damn loud it bored into my head. A generic female pop voice was singing some laterally misogynist sounding crap about another woman, and I barely had time to be annoyed by that before the song called this other woman “sweet but ps*cho”.

I swear.

For those of you who don’t know, I also curate two YouTube series, one about asexuality and one about my special interest in rock music. So you’d think this is the part where I say “well, pop songs may have saneist slurs in the chorus, but you wouldn’t find that in rock, metal, or punk!” Yeah, I fucking wish. There is ableism out the ass in those genres. In metal, vidist expressions are extremely common, right up to and including Trivium having a song literally called “Blind Leading the Blind”. Punk music loves to use ableist slurs and terms to refer to oppressors and/or bigots, with even bands like Bad Cop/Bad Cop that are usually aware of intersecting oppressions dropping “l*natic” and “ins*ne”. Rock music in general uses ableist language like it’s going out of style; I could name you several rock songs that have “ps*cho” in the title.

And it gets worse. Punk music has a tendency to med shame in the name of going after “Big Pharma”. “OxyM*r*nic” (which also has an ableist slur against ID/DD/LD people in the title, would you look at that?) by NOFX and “Limiter” by Descendents (which is on an album called Hypercaffium Sp*zzinate WHY DO I LISTEN TO ANY PUNK MUSIC EVER AODSHUAASDOBASDAFFFF) come to mind. It’s not only punk music, either; Delain, a Dutch symphonic metal outfit and one of my favorite bands of all time, has a song called “Your Body Is a Battleground” that not only med shames, but implies that psychiatric disabilities aren’t real.

It’s not only the music itself, either. People who are into the rock scene, especially the reviewer sphere, also love their ableism. I recently watched a popular YouTube music reviewer I don’t ordinarily watch trash the Nostalgia Cockstain’s The Wall album, and the reviewer joked about losing his sanity and having a panic attack as the result of the badness of the album. Another YouTube music reviewer I like and respect and even support on Patreon is fond of calling 2edgy4u musicians “p*****paths” and “s****paths”. Pitchfork Media’s website contains album reviews that straight up use the fucking r-slur.

I’m not sure what the point of all this whining is. I guess everything I have discussed here is a good example of just how entrenched ableism is. Not just entrenched, either, but terrifyingly normalized. And the pervasiveness of ableism in punk is a good example of how even leftist spaces condone ableism.Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Emilie Autumn, who writes about mental illness from the perspective of “wow, misogynableism sucks”.

Misogynableism and Greta Thunberg

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, misogyny, and misogynableism; cursing

As with most of the things I blog about, I’m sure someone else has done a better job writing about this, but I’m going to try anyway.

I’m going to preface this entry by saying that Greta Thunberg, while she’s awesome, is not the only young climate activist we need to be paying attention to. Others include Autumn Peltier, Helena Gualinga, Tekanang, Penny Tovar, Lamboginny, Sarah-Anna Awad, Bertine Lakjohn, Liza Zhytkova, Veer Qumar Mattabadul, and Daniel Gbujie recently participated in the first UN Youth Climate Summit. They hail from all over the world and many of them are teenagers. Greta shouldn’t be getting all the attention because she’s white.

But we do need to talk about the misogynableism against her. Greta—who, for those who don’t know, is a sixteen-year-old Swedish climate change activist who recently testified about climate change at the UN—is Autistic, and unapologetic about it; she says being neurodivergent is a “superpower” for her. (I personally don’t like the supercrip narrative, but she’s sixteen and the narratives about Autisticness are different in Sweden compared to the US; give her a break.) Fox News recently called her mentally ill because she is Autistic, intending it as an insult and misunderstanding that Autisticness is not a mental illness but a neurodevelopmental disability. (Note: if you’re reading this blog, you damn well know that calling someone mentally ill shouldn’t be an insult. But Fox intended it as an insult because they’re saneist.) When Greta was preparing to speak in public a few weeks ago, she uttered the phrase “Sorry, my brain isn’t working properly.” Keep in mind that many Autistic people struggle with speaking and that English is not Greta’s first language. But Twitter took this and ran with it, with scores of people retweeting the video and calling Greta any number of ableist insults.

I saw at least one article calling the bullshit Greta was receiving misogyny. Do I think that Greta would be receiving less bullshit if she were male? Absolutely. Do I think that “misogyny” fully encapsulates the bullshit Greta is receiving? Absolutely not. This is especially evident in the way people insult her facial expressions. Greta has been described by the Autistic community as having “resting Autistic face”. While allistic people often make the effort to contort their faces into pleasant expressions with fake smiles in order to appear more…I don’t know, approachable? I don’t really get it…Autistic people often don’t bother with that (or if we do, we’re aware we’re only doing it to fulfill some bullshit allistic social contact). Greta doesn’t bother with that. She’s talking about serious issues and she looks serious while doing it. So she gets a lot of the misogynist “she’d be prettier/have more success/be more personable if she smiled more” and a lot of the ableist “look at her affect, she’s clearly [ableist insult of choice]”. The misogynist bullshit and ableist bullshit inform each other, resulting in misogynableist bullshit.

Much to my chagrin, it isn’t only misogynableist cockwaffles that are giving Greta bullshit. Some of the Autistic community is writing her off too. Why? Because in the United States, most of the Autistic community looks down on Aspie supremacy, and most of the Disabled community looks down on the supercrip narrative. For those who don’t know, Aspie supremacy is an attitude that some Autistic people who were diagnosed with Asperger’s have toward the rest of the Autistic community. This attitude can be described as “Oh, we’re not like ~*~those~*~ Autistic people who are low-functioning; we’re brilliant and gifted and better”. The supercrip narrative is a common ableist trope depicting Disabled people as “making up for” their disability (ugh) by doing things like climbing Mount Everest or making groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Disabled people doing those things; it’s when abled people start blubbering about how “they overcame their disabilities” and then expecting other Disabled people to just not be Disabled because “if xyz Disabled person can do abc, then clearly you don’t need your mobility device/accommodations/etc.” that it becomes a harmful supercrip narrative.

So yes, okay, some of what Greta Thunberg said could be interpreted as buying into the Aspie supremacy and/or supercrip narratives. I get it. But she also isn’t USian; my understanding is that Aspie supremacy isn’t really a concept that is discussed in the Swedish Autistic community. She also isn’t speaking her first language when she’s talking about Asperger’s being a superpower. Most importantly, she is fucking sixteen. I wonder if all of the grown ass Autistic people pooh-poohing Greta for not being intimately familiar with harmful ableist narratives knew about those narratives themselves at sixteen.

Tl;dr Greta Thunberg is a badass and shitting on her for being female and Disabled is terrible and bigoted, but shitting on her for not being perfect about Autisticness-related social justice concepts through a USian lens is also bad. Also, listen to young climate activists of color too, because many of them paved the way for Greta and they’re still out there kicking ass.

BAD ME I have not been listing my Patreon supporters at the end of blog entries. Many thanks to Ace, Emily, Hannah, Kael, Karina, and Sean! To be as cool as these people, visit Patreon.com/arzinzani to pledge. Even a dollar a month is massively helpful!

Goddammit, Sesame Street!

Content/trigger warning: discussion of virulent ableism including filicide, Autism $peaks, cursing

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH.

Why am I even doing this? Sara Luterman already wrote an article for Slate about this. I haven’t read it because I’m afraid I would just copy what she said for this blog entry…but if I did that, it’d probably be better than whatever I’m about to spit out.

ANYWAY. Some background.

Sesame Street has just partnered with the organization Autism Speaks, so I’ll give a little background on Sesame Street’s Autistic character, Julia, as well as some background on Autism Speaks. Julia was introduced to Sesame Street in 2015 as part of an initiative called “See Amazing in All Children”. One of the aims of Julia’s character was to introduce young allistic children to the idea of accepting Autistic people for who we are, even if we seem strange and unusual at first. (I would hope that the aim was also to allow Autistic children to see themselves represented, but I’m not that optimistic.) For example, “The Amazing Song” was used to demonstrate that Autistic people can feel, and Julia wore ear defenders when she was featured in the Macy’s Day Parade, normalizing Autistic people needing sensory protection. Julia even stims; her puppet has a special pair of arms that allow her to flap her hands.

Now for some background on Autism $peaks. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that Autism $peaks is a pseudoscience- and fearmongering-peddling hate group that would love to see Autistic people eugenically eliminated. If you haven’t been reading my blog, now you know that. For more information on why A$ is a hate group, I wrote a blog entry about it: https://thisisforyoucarrie.blog/2018/04/03/autism-speaks-is-a-hate-group/

I believe that Autism $peaks, much to the chagrin of Autistic people, was involved from the get-go. To be frank, I’m not positive about that, and I don’t know exactly what hand A$ had in Julia’s creation or if they influenced Julia’s portrayal before now. I had trouble researching this because, like many Autistic people, I find reading about A$ triggering. (Also, Googling “Sesame Street Autism Speaks” seems to only bring up recent entries.) I do know that ASAN, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, an Autistic-run org, was also involved in Julia’s creation. This was crucial because we hardly ever get to be the arbiters of our own representation. So what has changed? Well, Sesame Street is partnering with A$ to—I swear to fuck I’m not making this up—push a “kit” that is supposed to help parents of a newly diagnosed Autistic kid to process the diagnosis as if their child were dead.

Again, I’m not bullshitting. I wish I were.

The 100-Day Kit, as it’s called, has a section outlining the five stages of grief. This is unbelievably harmful because it buys into the narrative that when a child is diagnosed as Autistic, any child that the parent/s could have wanted is dead and a new incomprehensible monster has taken their place. It paints Autisticness as a tragedy. Fucking excuse me but my brain is not a tragedy, thanks very much.

There are other problems with the 100 Day Kit, such as A$’s usual pseudoscience-pushing with a “cure” diet backed by precisely zero reproducible scientific research, but I don’t think I have to belabor the point. The 100-Day Kit promotes the idea that Autisticness is a tragedy and that parents should mourn for the precious allistic child they didn’t get when their child is diagnosed as Autistic. I mean, how the fuck do you think an Autistic child is going to feel when they see this shit? They’ll think their parents wish they were an entirely different person, or that their parents don’t love them. How is that seeing the amazing in every child, Sesame Street!? Not to mention the autism-as-tragedy narrative contributes to filicide, as I mentioned in the previously linked blog entry.

This decision is incontrovertibly harmful to children who see themselves in Julia, Sesame Street. This is why ASAN severed ties with you. This is why the Autistic community is begging you to reconsider your partnership with a hate group that would rather people like Julia—like me—not exist.

I have to stop now. This is too fucking upsetting. I’ll conclude with a quote from Jim Sinclair about why messages like A$’ are so harmful: “This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.”

Mara’s First Protest

Content/trigger warning: cursing, Autism $peaks, discussion of ableism

I’m not quite sure why I didn’t think to write about this earlier, but I went to my first protest last month (June). Fittingly for me, I was protesting at one of Autism $peaks’ walks.

I went with a nifty little group called Autistics Against Curing Autism (AACA), and my fiancee accompanied me. We both made signs; my fiancee’s said “Autism $peaks doesn’t speak for me” and mine said “my brain is not a puzzle, goddammit”. (The “goddammit” was in much smaller letters.) My sign also featured a crossed-out A$ blue puzzle piece and a multicolored brain. The brain was hard to draw.

Here is my sign (photo taken by Timotheus Gordon, who can be found on Twitter at @timgordonjr):

Protest of one of [Autism Speaks'] Walks

The protest was harder than I anticipated it would be. Standing while holding a sign for several hours wasn’t all that bad, as I was wearing comfortable gym shoes (protip: if you’re ever attending a protest, wear comfy shoes), but what I didn’t anticipate was how fucking intimidating it was to see an unending wave of people whose views were diametrically opposed to mine, people who believed in a hate group’s mission, coming straight at me for three hours solid. I know intellectually that A$ has many supporters, but I have a hard time conceptualizing large numbers. And even if I could conceptualize large numbers, seeing concrete evidence of so many supporters buying into A$’s pro-eugenics ableist bullshit who think they’re supporting their Autistic family members by hating them was. Fuck, I can’t even describe it well. It felt like the bottom had fallen out of my stomach. I pitied the people in the walk who were ostensibly there out of love, but I was also angry at them for supporting a hate group that wanted me—and their (supposedly) loved ones—to not exist. I felt completely helpless, like I was trying to climb out of a pit of black holes using a ladder that was also made out of black holes. At least there weren’t pigs there; that would have terrified me even more.

We got…reactions. Some good, some bad, some weird. One allistic woman with two Autistic boys came up to us because she liked my poster(!) and asked what our problems with Autism $peaks were, because she just wanted what was best for her kids. We gave her a flyer and pointed her in the direction of some Autistic-run organizations. The only other possibly good reaction was someone in the walk noticing us and saying cheerily, “Look, they’re back!”. We puzzled over this for a while, because the person’s tone seemed very chipper, but why the hell would you be happy to see protesters two years in a row and still do the thing being protested? Oy, allistics. As far as the other reactions…well…

The worst was someone, a white man, who yelled at us “What’s wrong with you people!?”. That scared me, but I was pissed, too. I wanted to say “I know what you think is wrong with us” or something, but I wasn’t quick enough to come up with something pithy, and it wouldn’t have been a good idea to antagonize him anyway. Also, I’m kind of pants with facial expressions, but it was…weird to see people’s faces look bright and eager to read our signs, then watch their expressions turn to confusion or dismay. Part of me took a perverse pride in it. Part of me was scared. I don’t understand allistics at the best of times, and I was afraid of confrontation. My CPTSD does not like confrontation.

One of A$’s board members also came by and tried to tell us how he was glad we were advocating for ourselves and that he wanted to make sure the organization worked with self-advocates. I didn’t believe him for even a zeptosecond. I refused to shake his hand and gave him my best Eat Shit and Die look. This was rude; I don’t care. I was protesting, dammit.

Making matters even more uncomfortable was the radio station covering the event. (I would totally name names if I could remember which station it was. I think it was an Xstian station, but I’m not positive.) The DJ kept asking people in the walk what team they were on, and everyone was just so damn enthusiastic and happy to be promoting ableism. Despite the raging CPTSD, I was there to make a statement, and I wanted to go up to the DJ and say that I was part of a group protesting the walk. The person who organized the protest advised against it because it might invite pushback like a police presence (meep) at next year’s protest. So I hung back until after the event was over, and then another member of AACA and I headed over to the DJ and gave him a flyer. He seemed receptive, but maybe he didn’t like confrontation either.

Then AACA went for lunch to recoup fuel and discuss the protest. I feel like that was key. It definitely helped me recoup fuel, and I felt like the discussion was productive. It was also comforting to be around other Autistic people. Post-protest decompression and discussion seems like good social justice praxis to me for multiple reasons.

I’m so glad my fiancee was there. Watching the three-hour cavalcade of blue coming at our tiny group—even though they kept moving their trajectory father away from us, as if we were scaring them—might have been too much for me otherwise. I don’t know if I would have been able to last all three hours without my fiancee standing next to me.

I’m definitely going to next year’s protest (if my fiancee is able to come with me), but fuck do I hope there still aren’t cops.

P.S. I can’t figure out how to use tags anymore…WordPress, did you change something? I’m Autistic! I don’t do change!

The Story of My Twitter Handle

Content/trigger warning: cursing, mention of several forms of bigotry

Story time.

Those who follow me on Twitter know that my Twitter name is now “Mara The Id of Social Justice RAGE Lee”. This is because of a horrible interaction I had with a popular elitist, fauxminist YouTuber several years ago, and I’ve decided to laugh at it. But I want to talk about the story because I feel like call-outs happen in social justice, and how to reply to being called out constructively. That’s related to the horrible interaction, I promise.

Anyway, Elitist Fauxminist YouTuber (hereafter referred to as EFYT) was dating another YouTuber, hereafter referred to as YouTuber Boyfriend, when this happened. YouTuber Boyfriend made one too many neurotypicalist comments and had also been bad at checking his cis privilege and had been…let’s just say clumsy when discussing anti-Black racism. So I left a comment about all three areas of fuck-uppery.

Anyway, I posted on Tumblr about my feeling like I’d acted like an ~*~SJW~*~ and was hoping to not have that internal struggle next time I called someone out.

That was a mistake.

EFYT saw the Tumblr post.

She agreed that I had acted like an “SJW” and, bafflingly, thought that I was making all of her boyfriend’s fuck-ups about race. She even said “why, oh why are you making this about race?” Uh, I wasn’t. You just misinterpreted what I wrote. Maybe you don’t know what “neurotypical” means, EFYT.

It gets worse. She then encouraged her followers to correct me about how I had fucked up/been an “SJW”. I was not just dragged, but drawn and quartered. It got so bad I dissociated for…I want to say two days. Too damn long, in any case.

So what does this have to do with my Twitter handle? Well, EFYT included the phrase “the id of social justice RAAAAAAAAAAAGE” in her Mara-sucks-let’s-tell-her-why post. And something about that phrase actually appeals to me. Probably because it nicely encapsulates both her hypocrisy and someone who’s supposedly a feminist using her advanced vocabulary to rub it in people’s faces that SHE IS EDUMACATED AND THEREFORE A BETTER PERSON THAN YOU. I also like that it is an Ayn Randian level of sounding high-concept but actually being utter bullshit. I mean…she wants to tell me I’m mired in “the id of social justice rage”? Fine. I guess I am (whatever the fuck it actually means). So sue me. I’m so sorry I am passionate when it comes to caring about other people.

Am I biased because she used the word “id” and I think Freud can get fucked in the ear with a Saguaro? Probably. Am I biased specifically against this person because seeing her face pop up in my YT recommendations is a dissociation trigger? Uh, YEAH. Of course I am. But I thought she was an elitist fauxminist before she retraumatized me, so. Make of that what you will.

You know, even though I remember this like it was yesterday (thanks, PTSD), it actually happened sometime between 2012 and 2014. So hopefully EFYT is a better person now. I still think having “The Id of Social Justice RAGE” in my Twitter name is funny.

What’s the takeaway? Don’t mess with Maui when he’s on a breakaway! Er. Sorry, I was just listening to the Moana soundtrack. The actual takeaway is that the knee-jerk reaction to someone calling out someone you care about is to defend the person you care about or even to attack the person doing the call-out. Assuming it’s a real call-out and not a shitty ad hominem attack…look, no one wants to believe that someone they love did a bad thing. But we’re all fallible, and I don’t know a single person who isn’t still unlearning at least some of the lessons the kyriarchy taught us. So when your partner fucks up, try to help them learn constructively. Comfort them if they’re upset and tell them you know they’re capable of doing better. And don’t send your followers after the person doing the call-out. Even if you don’t ask your followers to be abusive, they will be.