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to think that Chris Huhne's son was very wrong to call him 'autistic'

(358 Posts)
Sallyingforth Mon 04-Feb-13 17:03:34

He is may be an unpleasant creature but that word should never be used as an insult.

Allinadaze Sun 10-Feb-13 20:40:41


Allinadaze Sun 10-Feb-13 20:09:52

That sounds interesting. I've often wondered if the growth in use of the terms (mostly by younger people ime) has been due to an increased recognition of a "spectrum" (and therefore more diagnoses?) and more "inclusion" in mainstream schools.

I wouldn't necessarily associate that with a "loss" of stigma or misunderstanding though.

Not the only reason by any stretch, but a lot of stigma exists because we generally like to define people by their condition - a "diabetic", an "aspie" a "pschizophrenic" etc, rather than a person diagnosed with "x,y or z".

Spero Sun 10-Feb-13 12:30:21

I read that article - it seems to be repeating a lot of what this thread is angry about as misinformed stereotypes for eg awkwardness in social situations, not able to read others emotions.

Alittlestranger Sun 10-Feb-13 10:51:35

BTW there's a really interesting article in yesterday's Times for anyone who can get behind the paywall. It argues that the terms autistic and aspergers are over-used precisely because they have lost their stigma.

megandraper Sun 10-Feb-13 09:49:52

But if his father WAS black? Would you think saying 'you black piece of shit' was purely descriptive (with regard to his colour). Or would you feel that he was using 'black' as an insult?

Wasn't there a case recently with another footballer insulting Rio Ferdinand in that sort of way? Calling him a 'black **' I believe Rio Ferdinand (and everyone else) took that as a racist insult, not as a neutral description of his colour combined with a separate insult. I can't see how this is different.

Pagwatch Fri 08-Feb-13 17:35:27

Thats fair enough Alittlestranger.
I absoloutely think it was meant as an insult.
So we must agree to differ.

Alittlestranger Fri 08-Feb-13 15:56:28

@bedhopper, no I would not feel the same if he'd used "black". PH clearly doesn't think his father is or may be black. I'm not saying it's a sensitive or sensible use of the word or the right way to bring up someone's potential health issues (as there is very obviously an implied criticism), but I am prepared to believe that PH thinks his father is on the spectrum, so wasn't just using it as the go-to insult.

Spero Fri 08-Feb-13 15:09:16

I would rather have face palming than the particularly obnoxious response that used to be quite common on this site a few years back by constantly linking me to a site called 'derailing for dummies' whenever I asked (in my view) a genuine and sensible question about an issue, wishing to know more.

Well actually, I would rather that neither response was used because it is just annoying and shuts down a debate rather than opens it up.

megandraper Fri 08-Feb-13 11:18:46

i agree with pagwatch.

It is like if someone has red hair. Saying 'you ginger piece of shit' is clearly an insult, and criticises that the person's 'gingerness'.

Or if they are black or gay: 'you black piece of shit, you gay piece of shit' clearly criticises blackness or gayness.

Same with autistic, IMO. Doesn't matter whether or not he believes his father to be autistic - adding the word into the insult clearly criticises autisticness.

Interesting though that you don't see that, alittlestranger. Would you feel the same way if the word used was 'black' instead of 'autistic'?

Pagwatch Fri 08-Feb-13 10:52:17

We will have to agree to disagree on his intent.
He is using it as an insult IMO . People don't tend to talk about a diagnosis with 'you fucking (neutral diagnostic term) piece of shit' wrapped around it.

You fucking person with abandonment issue piece of shit.
You fucking diabetic piece of shit
You fucking epileptic piece of shit.

It only works if you put in something to do with SN or mental health as those are interchangeable in some quarters with an insult

Alittlestranger Fri 08-Feb-13 10:47:01

I'm confused by some of the face palming on this thread. Does autism not effect someone's ability to interact socially then? If not, this website need some serious updating. I also know some professionals who probably have to review their use of the term.

PH was an 18 year old, not a medical professional. From those texts I think he does believe - rightly or wrongly - that his father is on the autistic spectrum and is not using it as a cheap insult. If people object to amateur diagnoses then they really ought to head over to the relationship board and crack down on the use of narc and PND He is also very, very hurt and angry. I do think anyone criticising him for those texts is BU.

megandraper Fri 08-Feb-13 08:52:35

yes, this has been a much better thread than most of the ones on MN that involve disability.

amber's point that disablist (like sexist or racist) terms are just as hurtful if they are innocently/ignorantly/naively meant as if they are cruelly meant is very true. In some ways they are more hurtful, because it makes you realise that people you like/love have such negative feelings about your disability.

I was thinking about this thread during the night (baby keeping me awake). I have a disability (not autism) and all my life I have really hated it when people make jokes/negative comments about it - not meaning to hurt, and often not even remembering/realising that I have that disability. The comments are so ingrained in ordinary speech that they don't even notice they're saying them. I've never said anything, because I realise they don't mean to hurt me, and I don't want to embarrass them (or to appear oversensitive). This thread has made me understand why it hurt so much. It is really alienating when someone makes a casual, negative, reference to your disability - I think only someone who has experienced it (and believe me, it is a regular, everyday occurrence) can understand.

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 18:29:04

Good. I just remember David Aaronovitch interviewing some woman about romantic Mills and Boon type literature and asking her - couldn't the heroine ever have a disability, like a limp? And the woman replying, sounding really shocked 'of course not'. Which was nice.

happybirthdayHiggs Thu 07-Feb-13 18:03:48

I think the Richard III thing has been taken somewhat out of context.
The Richard III society have spent years trying to denounce the Shakespearean/Tudor (ie. hunchback/withered arm/evil) version of Richard III as propaganda, and had convinced themselves so completely of this that when his remains did actually show him to have scoliosis, Phillipa Langley (R.III Society rep) was visibly shocked.
I don't feel she was intentionally disrespectful.

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 17:43:56

Bloody hell, I have only just registered the stuff about Richard III and his hump. Now that is close to home. Looks like we have a very long way to go...

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 17:41:01

thank you for validating my hurt feelings. I don't think anyone was having a go but I was conscious I was banging my drum perhaps a bit too long. But I think Pagwatch's summary is concise and fair.

I think this has been a brilliant thread actually and didn't descend into the kind of awfulness that sometimes happens. I shall certainly be more mindful of what 'shorthand' terms I use in the future.

the poor dog blinked in the daylight and looked very uncertain. She hasn't been walked that often since I became a slave to the internetz.

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 16:47:29

Basically that to use the term as an insult is always wrong but some instances merit far greater condemnation and some instances serve as an opportunity to teach the relevant person (and others) what the term really means

I get your point, but the instance in which you feel serves as an opportunity to teach someone something, is still equally as hurtful to the person being insulted.

This is not about teaching people, there are better opportunities to learn that aren't at someone elses expense.

megandraper Thu 07-Feb-13 15:20:57

I have learnt a great deal from reading this, including that what I believed to be my 'rough' understanding of autism is pretty damn inaccurate. I am really grateful to have had my eyes opened.

what a lovely post, imustbethepatient - that makes me really happy to read.

drjohnson - i know! on the tv programme, at one point, the presenter said, in a wondering sort of tone 'I suppose perhaps he could have had a hunchback, and still be a nice guy?^ No-one responded. Crazy thought, obviously.

imustbepatient Thu 07-Feb-13 14:36:56

Thank you everyone for your posts on this thread. I have learnt a great deal from reading this, including that what I believed to be my 'rough' understanding of autism is pretty damn inaccurate. I am really grateful to have had my eyes opened.

I would never have used the term as an insult anyway but now understand so much better how deeply hurtful it is when people do so and will challenge it when I hear it used in this way in future.

Spero I agree with you on the 'scale' point you have been making. Basically that to use the term as an insult is always wrong but some instances merit far greater condemnation and some instances serve as an opportunity to teach the relevant person (and others) what the term really means.

drjohnsonscat Thu 07-Feb-13 14:02:19

I don't feel it's our place to intrude to be honest. Don't want to read the exchange, just feel very sad for the boy and am not going to judge anything he said in private to his own parent.

By contrast I was a bit alarmed by the stuff about Richard III. The speculation that if he didn't actually have a hump, he perhaps wasn't the monster that he has been portrayed as being. As if the disability made him a monster rather than the behaviour iyswim.

Pagwatch Thu 07-Feb-13 13:23:23

I know Spero. I'm not having a go.
It's true on all contentious threads.
You can be having a reasonable thread but the longer it goes on the more polarised it gets. The middle ground gets ignored as the extreme ends of the debate get more and more incensed.
You are getting frustrated that people are judging PH far too harshly when compared with really intentionally nasty stuff.
I am getting frustrated that almost everyone has said that PH is more to be pitied than blamed yet this thread is being presented as a lynching all the time.

But go. The dog will shit in the house otherwise grin

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 13:20:28

grin Spero! I know exactly how you feel.

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 13:19:47

YY to Pagwatch.

Spero Thu 07-Feb-13 13:18:46

I do notice the 'does it matter stuff' and I think that is profoundly wrong because of course it does matter, which I hope I made clear.

I suppose I find it hard when people disagree with me because I am right ALL the time. However luckily for this debate I now have to take the dog out.

AmberLeaf Thu 07-Feb-13 13:18:22

It isn't being ignored, not by me anyway.

But this is not about some sweet old lady/angry teen saying something without realising it is offensive.

It is about someone saying it as a clear insult.

No one is launching into anything, people are saying that it matters not what the context was, it is either wrong or it isn't. There are no excuses.

Are we discussing engaging with people who are ignorant? or did you say something about PH not being as bad as RG and FB?

I suppose the crux of this particular point is that you appear to think PH said it in innocence? whereas I and others think he deliberately used the term as an insult. While many have said several times that they feel for him, he still said it in that way.

People can chose to educate themselves, there are many non hostile platforms for discussion and it isn't that hard to learn about what is and isn't acceptable with regards disablism/racism/sexism etc if you want to

But I believe that there should be a no budging condemnation of disablism in any form and if you allow for 'grey' areas then you are saying it is ok sometimes

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