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.

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