Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Don't blame autism, dammit.

So I've been taking part in conversation over at jimhines's lj about sexual harassment behavior by an editor or editors in our field, and I was kind of waiting for something to happen, and sure enough, it did. It always does.

Somebody conflated predatory sexual harassment with lack of social skills, and both of them with "Asberger's," by which one can only assume they mean Asperger's syndrome/autism spectrum disorders.

I tried to be nice, but listen. Listen. I have run into both. I know the difference. And I hate hearing this crap, because it unfairly stigmatizes people who are not neurotypical, and it also excuses people who are making deliberate bad choices.

A kid I love is on the autism spectrum. He is 8. And you know what? He gets that you do not make remarks at school about other people's bodies. He gets that, as hilarious as he finds bodily function humor at this time in his life, other people's butts are off limits to him. You can explain to him that remarks about boobies are going to make girls uncomfortable and make it hard for them to learn at school, so he cannot do that stuff or it will make school a sad, unfriendly place for the girls in his class. Because he is not stupid, he's autistic. And he is eight. Okay? So if you're telling me that editors who are much, much more than eight--who are in the range of twenty-eight to seventy-eight--and who work with words telling stories of human relationships for a living--are making that kind of remark to writers they work with or may in future work with, because they do not understand that it is not okay because of their neurological condition, I am sorry, but I am not buying that bullshit, and you should not try to sell it anywhere else either.

People who have poor social skills, whether because of a neurological condition or because they were raised badly or because they have disdained to learn them or whatever other reason--those people make their social gaffes in full view of large groups. Their colleagues are never surprised to find that they have been saying inappropriate things to a particular group of people for years, because they have poor enough social skills that they don't get that they're screwing up. So they don't hide it. These are the folks who will be sitting with you in the consuite and blurt out a remark, about two notches too loud, about the size of your breasts. And if you are a kind person and feel that they might learn, you can gently say something about that not being a very appropriate thing to say.

But someone who waits until they are with someone they perceive to be in a position of less power to make their remarks? Someone who makes sure that there are no witnesses who will have the authority to censure them? Someone who makes a consistent pattern of aiming their behavior at people who will have a difficult time making the bad behavior known or a reason not to do so? That is not someone who lacks social skills. That's someone who is using their social skills fairly precisely.

There are, of course, other people who use their social skills fairly precisely. Who wait until they've been friends with someone long enough to know what their sense of humor is before they make off-color or flirtatious jokes. Who ease into that sort of thing and pay attention to reactions and get to know people as people. That's the other very tiresome problem that comes up whenever you discuss sexual harassment: the idea that any time you object to sexual harassment, you must object to all mentions of sexuality anywhere ever. I'm glad it hasn't come up in jimhines's lj, and I hope it doesn't have to come up here, so I don't have to strangle anybody with their own intestines, because I really don't have the energy. Because dealing with the rest of this crap is tiresome enough.

I discover I have more to say about autism and SF, or rather sci-fi: specifically the show Eureka. But I've gone on long enough and need to do some other productive things first. So I'll get to that later.
Tags: social fail

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