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Boycotting ableist memoir


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I think I'm going to puke, I'm so sickened. A woman recently published a memoir about her life raising an autistic son (I'm never sure if I should say "autistic person" or "person with autism," but I know a lot of self-advocates prefer the former) and his connection to Siri. Anyway, from what I've read about it it's absolutely vile. It's gotten rave reviews for her openness and honesty, but recently #BoycottToSiri has gained popularity on Twitter. 

Here is a review from an autistic person that a friend just shared with me (CW: Eugenics)

https://bookriot.com/2017/12/05/an-open-letter-to-harpercollins-about-to-siri-with-love/

I'm so sick I can't think straight and don't know why I'm sharing my pain with others. I heard about the boycott earlier this week, and was appalled to learn she wants to get medical power of attorney when her son turns 18 so she can forcibly sterilized him, because she doesn't believe he could ever be a good father, and also can't imagine him in  romantic situation or a woman being attracted to him.

TL;DR of the review:

I gets worse. Not only does she openly talk about wanting to make her son get a vasectomy, she brings up how she knows people would question her promoting eugenics, and calls people who forcibly sterilized people with intellectual disabilities and Nazis "well-intentioned." Not sure how she goes from that to justifying herself, since the review cuts off.

She also disparaged a friend of hers for including her own daughter in her writing process, saying that including the child and respecting what they want is stupid. She also insults her friend for respecting her daughter's wishes to use "they/them" as a singular non-gender specific pronoun. She calls it the butchering or erosion of the English language or something. And insults her friend for using the term "cisgender" and the whole idea of gender inclusivity.

Basically she's a trash person. I'm so disturbed I can barely think straight.

 

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I read the linked excerpts on twitter - seriously it reads like a stream of consciousness on a blog more than anything. I am wondering how much editing and review there actually was of this book... and the mental gymnastics to get from the history of eugenics to "but it's OK if it's me doing it" are Olympic standard. There is part of me that wants to read this just to see how far she tortures the logic - she's fine if he has a reversal and fathers children later (she mentions age 35 for some reason), but she wants power of attorney to sterilise him now?  I mean... huh?! 

I just finished reading Neurotribes (which I really enjoyed but which also stressed me a lot), I might stop with that.

 

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The scary thing is, there are enough doctors in America who would do a surgery like that. Just look at how many doctors perform surgeries on intersex kids "for their parents own good" I would hope she'd get shot down by an ethics committee at the hospital, but I could see her doctor shopping until she found someone who would be willing to do it.

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@Ozlsn I haven't read Neurotribes, but I've heard great things about it. I imagine it would be emotionally draining since the author really gets into the history of autism and I know he talks about eugenics and other awful things. I follow Steve Silberman on twitter. He's very insightful, funny, and outspoken.

Here is a series of tweets from a woman who live tweeted her thoughts reading the book: https://storify.com/KaelanRhy/boycotttosiri

I haven't finished reading her tweets yet, but some of the problematic/scary things she's highlighted:

1. When the author's autistic son, Gus, was 7-months-old he didn't play with his favorite toy the way she wanted him to in front of her parents, so after they left she put it down the garbage disposal. She reflects on this as an early sign something was wrong with him. Nevermind that it's absolutely normal for a baby/child to do refuse to do something they know how to do...

2. When her kids were potty training, Gus' twin gave him credit for going in the toilet when HE did. It's concerning a small child would feel the need to protect his twin.

3. The author makes sweeping, damaging generalizations (saying she's never met an autistic person with a "theory of mind").

4. She doesn't use the term "autistic person" because that's what a high percentage of self-advocates prefer, but because it's too cumbersome to say "person with autism" over and over.

5. She talks about people, using full names, without permission. This includes an autistic self-advocate YouTuber, who the author referred to as looking like, "a manic pixie dream girl." The YouTuber was offended and called her out on Twitter, and questioning if she would do that to a man, and the author non-apologized and doubled down.

@nomoxian I can definitely see this woman hospital shopping. And it is horrifying that intersex kids are subjected to surgeries without their consent. If I had an intersex child I'd let THEM decide what they wanted, and fight like hell for their rights and to protect them.

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I haven't read the book but I have a son with Asperger's and if I ever see this woman on the street I will kick her ass.  

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Horrible parent,throwing his toy away at 7 months because he wouldn't perform for her parents is sick, kids at that age are too young to understand properly.

How does she know if he would be a good dad or not lots of people with mild disabilities can raise kids with support. Her actions have not helped her son in any way.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would hope that, being 18 and a legal adult, this horrible excuse for a mother won't be able to just take her son in and sterilise him, Aspergers or not.

Also, well done her. There's now official documentation on how she really feels about him and how she has somehow turned this around to make this all about her. What kind of mother destroys her child's toy because he doesn't play with it the way that she wants him to? I would suggest someone who is extremely insecure but somehow still thinks the world revolves around her, if that makes sense. A kid who is neurotypically and developmentally different isn't going to serve her and make her feel better as a mother so they will clash. Just a thought. I just hope she has a way of keeping all copies away from her son so he never has to read the book. Unless he asks Siri for a copy ...

I'll also echo that Neurotribes was an amazing book (and at a time when I was learning more about myself and my own neurodiversity) but at times it can get very heavy emotionally and I had to put it down because I got angry or depressed. The horrors and neglect done to children and their families in the name of a 'cure' are hard to take in and what disturbs me more is what society, even now, with this book, are willing to just pass over, because ASD is 'so hard'.

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  • 2 weeks later...

What an absolute monster this mother is. Catapult her to the surface of the sun.

Im so glad I wasn't diagnosed until I was 19. I didn't trust my mom when I was growing up, but it seems like "autism moms" are the absolute worst.

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Gosh, what a horrible book! Why would anyone even think to write about how they want to have their son forcibly sterilised? In some ways this makes me glad that I wasn't picked up until I was 22, I missed out on all the autism parent fun. When this kid grows up I hope he never has to read what his mum wrote about him.

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This breaks my heart. My daughter is on the autism spectrum and I have tried so hard to parent her as she needs. I have faced so much opposition from nearly everyone over the way I parented her. After her diagnosis people have conceded that maybe I did know my child best. I hope that my daughter feels that I am her biggest advocate and supporter. It is so sickening that this child's mother thinks and proclaims to the world how she really feels about her son. It might never be proven but I'm convinced that parents can and absolutely do exacerbate children's issues instead of helping them adapt. Stop the planet and kick this woman off.

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My kids are autistic and struggle with numbers pretty horribly.  When it comes to taking care of others, you would find it hard to find better care-takers.   If my girls want to be moms, I will support them because they would be wonderful mothers.  A lot of non-autistic parents are absolute shit-head monsters, like the mother who wrote that book and the mothers of Brianna Lopez and Victoria Martens (a very severe warning: Do not look into those cases unless you want to be so upset that you might need antidepressants for a while, like I really did).  And, you know, pretty much ever fundy mother we talk about.  It's not autism that makes a bad parent.

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She sounds like she is exaggerating how bad her son is and trying to drum up more sympathy. While I'm sure raising a child with autism is hard, her attitude is probably made hasn't helped her son and he probably hates the fact his mother is trying to make life choices for him. My cousin was originally considered to be on the autistic spectrum but it was found parts ofor her brain under developed but she is now aged 21 and engaged and while her development is slower than most people her age, she can live a normal life. Her parents didn't let her condition stop her experiencing life, they were more cautious with her but gradually let go of boundaries as she matured. 

I hope her son realises his worth and gets any support he needs.

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Sadly forced sterilization does still occur for people with autism and intellectual disabilities, sometimes in the form of coercion. 

Also the practice of preventing children from maturung, look up "pillow angels" if you want to be disturbed.

And my own perspective having 2 sons who have autism, one needs a lot of support and the other moderate support, parenting them is not hard. Different, sometimes, but not hard. What's hard is a system, from special education to housing and employment services, that receive funding to support people with disabilities and yet are a beurocratic morass that keep people trapped in a cycle of segregation and poverty. 

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@Aimtomisbehave read about the "pillow angel" thing. JFC what is wrong with people? Even the term pillow angel feels icky, it's almost a cutesy way of saying "vegetable". 

 

I agree that support sucks. I don't know where you live but here in the UK, the right to support is being systematically withdrawn from disabled people. Everything from adapted housing to access to care is being sold by our government to the highest bidder and the people who suffer are the folks that need it. It's not so much due to bureaucracy but more down to the fact that there are literally no services to offer anyone. I guess I'm lucky since I can mostly pass for normal.

(Also, side note, I love your screen name :D)

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On 12/6/2017 at 7:58 PM, cindyluvs24 said:

I haven't read the book but I have a son with Asperger's and if I ever see this woman on the street I will kick her ass.  

I'll gladly help with any bail.  

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Ugh, yes, "pillow angels" (gag me). "Gee, rather than try to fix  broken support system for the disabled, we'll just mutilate disabled children."

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This is really disturbing, and from other things I've read, the author has had followers report negative Amazon reviews as abuse in an attempt to make the book look like it's getting great reviews. This monster is also the type who would kill her child, especially if she's unable to find a doctor willing to sterilize him against his will.

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On 12/28/2017 at 6:59 PM, Glasgowghirl said:

She sounds like she is exaggerating how bad her son is and trying to drum up more sympathy. While I'm sure raising a child with autism is hard, her attitude is probably made hasn't helped her son and he probably hates the fact his mother is trying to make life choices for him. My cousin was originally considered to be on the autistic spectrum but it was found parts ofor her brain under developed but she is now aged 21 and engaged and while her development is slower than most people her age, she can live a normal life. Her parents didn't let her condition stop her experiencing life, they were more cautious with her but gradually let go of boundaries as she matured. 

I hope her son realises his worth and gets any support he needs.

Yeah, she seems like an unreliable narrator so it’s hard to tell what her son’s support needs/disabilities actually are. I think he’s also 16 and he was 13 at the time she wrote the book? So she’s judging a 13-year-old’s ability to parent and assuming that he will make no progress. You can’t judge ANYONE’S ability to parent based on what they’re like at that age. 

And she calls him selfish and says he has no sense people exist outside himself. For one, she’s describing herself. Secondly, he was/is a teenager. Being focused on yourself is normal at that age. I don’t think the reader gets any sense if this is the focus of a any teenager you’ll meet or not because she questions if he even has the ability to think. 

I hope she never meets JRod.

34 minutes ago, ADoyle90815 said:

This is really disturbing, and from other things I've read, the author has had followers report negative Amazon reviews as abuse in an attempt to make the book look like it's getting great reviews. This monster is also the type who would kill her child, especially if she's unable to find a doctor willing to sterilize him against his will.

She’s also responding to the backlash in a super childish, asshole way. The boycott began with a YouTuber who was mentioned in the book calling her out. Asshole author talked about the YouTuber without asking permission and reduced them to their appearance and was sexist (click the tweet to look at the images of the public twitter exchange) 

And then the author sent the YouTuber this private message:

67A127D7-0B7B-4638-A3EF-3104A403C8DA.jpeg.1abd5bbcbf19c9933dece4651c2c28a9.jpeg

What kind of asshole insults someone’s parents like that?

Also at first the author told the boycotters that her words were taken out of context (Lady, comparing yourself to Hitler and talking about eugenics has no positive context), and that people should read the book before they judge. Then people said they DID read the book and were offended, and she claimed, “the book isn’t written for people who have autism, it’s written for people who have an autistic person in their lives.” And she said her book was supposed to be funny (like saying she can’t imagine any girl being interested in his son, and can’t picture him having sex without the Benny Hill soundtrack playing in her head), and that people on the spectrum don’t have a sense of humor. No, people just don’t think it’s funny when you insult your son.

So, fuck you, lady.

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