Dear World At Large,
Stop using “autistic” as an insult.
Maybe you claimed that a certain politician must be autistic. Or maybe you used autism as a metaphor to describe the problems of a particular country. Or maybe you laughed at someone and said they “look autistic.”
When you use the word “autistic” as a way to insult someone, the message received by those of us who actually are on the spectrum is not that the object of your insult is bad. It’s that being autistic is so completely awful that it’s a good way to belittle someone. It’s saying that autistic is synonymous with stupid, or unworthy, or rude, or whatever else you mean to imply. It’s showing what you think autistic people are like, as well as showing that you think it’s so inherent to autism that it makes sense to sling the word around as a way to insult people.
Of course, this is nothing new. People have been taking their prejudices about various groups of people, loading those prejudices onto certain descriptive words, and then hurling those words as insults for a very long time. Words like retarded and gay have also been used in this way – and all too often still are. It’s a problem.
Personally, I find it dismaying that instead of reducing the number of words we’re doing this with, we’re increasing them.
Of course, I say words, but it’s not just about the words. It’s about the people. Real, autistic people who are dynamic and interesting and strong and so much more than a collection a deficiencies, being used wholesale as a way to insult people. It reduces our entire reality into little more than a way to say “you’re bad.” It may be a by-product of the fact that it is socially acceptable to blatantly mock and belittle disabled people, but I maintain that neither of these things are in the least bit ok.
I have Asperger’s. I’m on the autism spectrum. I have friends, a significant other, hobbies, skills, interests, humor and so much more, and I am NOT an insult.