It’s a Circle! It’s a Square! Wait, How Can It be Both and Neither at the Same Time?

I was just perusing Twitter and I found the following tweet.  I wanted to answer in 150 characters, but my thought is too complex to do that justice.

What is the following object?

the shadow of an oval on a yellow background
the shadow of an oval on a yellow background

If you said a circular-type thing, you are correct (you could also have used the word oval, that works too)

Let’s try this again with this image.

An image of  the shadow of a square on a blue background
An image of the shadow of a square on a blue background

If you said a square, you would be right (parallelogram, rhombus, etc. also work here).

Now, here’s a tough and seemingly obvious question: are they the same image?  By me asking that, you probably already think that it may not be as obvious as you may think.  Look at the following image.

An image of a room with a cylinder in the middle of the picture. Light is shining on the rounded end of the cylinder onto a yellow wall highlighting a circular shadow. Light is also shining on the curved edges onto a blue wall highlighting a square shadow. Below the cylinder is the phrase: "HOW SOMETHING APPEARS IS ALWAYS A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE..."
An image of a room with a cylinder in the middle of the picture. Light is shining on the rounded end of the cylinder onto a yellow wall highlighting a circular shadow. Light is also shining on the curved edges onto a blue wall highlighting a square shadow. Below the cylinder is the phrase: “HOW SOMETHING APPEARS IS ALWAYS A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE…”

Now, what do you think?  Are they basically the same image?  Yes and no, their images of the same object.  Their, as the quote at the bottom of the picture says: different “perspectives” of the same object.

Now, I want to address the tweet that I began this post with.  Can Autism Speaks become the group that autistic people and our families need it to be.  I don’t think so.  Because just as these images are two different perspectives on the same thing, they are still the SAME THING.  Autism Speaks began with the mentality of Autism as a negative thing as a thing that needed to be fixed and cured.  That is the cylinder in this picture.  “Autism as the Pathologization of the Other.”

Michel Foucault defines the Other (with a capital “O”) as anyone who has had the power of knowledge forced upon them by people with particular self-aggrandizing agendas.  The Other, in other words (Wow, I didn’t even intend for that to happen), is someone who is subjugated by people in power using knowledge (if you want, you could read science here).  Scientific knowledge like, for instance…oh, I don’t know, Theory of Mind.

No matter how much Autism Speaks changes their perspective, they are still looking at it from the idea that it needs to be fixed.  Even in the article the tweet cites, Magro, an autistic worker at Autism Speaks, talks about how he needs to fix parts of autism.  Now, I don’t know if I even agree with any of the things that he mentioned because, let’s look at it.

  1. speech difficulties
  2. making friends
  3. communication delays

Number 1 & 3 are very similar to non-native English speakers.  Autism develops into a unique way of communicating and interact.  But number 2 isn’t a symptom of autism, but a symptom of our ableistic society refusing to embrace or even allow people to be different.

I don’t think Autism Speaks can change because no matter how they say or look at the object, the object that they are looking at (autism needs to be fixed) will always be there. Even if they move away from the epidemic rhetoric, they are still saying autistic people need to interact like all other people do because that’s just how humans do it (which creates another dehumanizing enthymeme: humans do this, autistic people do not, therefore…autistic people are not human).

No matter how you look at it, Autism Speaks is flawed because they advocate for 1) the parents and 2) the eradication of autism.  They do this by subjugating the autistic into silence which they then use as further reasoning to eradicate autism.  It’s messed up and its all based on the object they are looking at.  And I don’t think an organization that makes money off the object that says autism is something that needs to be fixed can change the object because it is so ingrained not just in the culture of Autism Speaks, but in our society as well.

So, that’s my short answer to the Twitter question (a bit more than just 150 characters).

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