I read Coble’s post today and then I took the dog for a walk and her post was all I thought about on the whole walk. I couldn’t shake that there was something important I could almost see. And then it dawned on me.
Throughout this whole fiasco, you never see anyone arguing that Valentine might have undisclosed Asperger’s Syndrome as a way of calling for people to have more compassion for her.
Now let me be up front that I’m trying to thread a specific needle here. I don’t actually think it matters if anyone involved has Asperger’s. I especially don’t think that it’s relevant to try to decide if Valentine might have it in order to argue that she was just misinterpreting matters. And most of all, dude’s behavior was completely inappropriate, no matter what, and he knew it.
What I want to argue is that we are trained, constantly, to do all kinds of emotional work for people and who those people are tells us a lot about our priorities in a culture.
The undisputed facts are that
Russo Walling harassed Valentine. He doesn’t deny this. And so here we are in a situation where one person has done another person wrong and who is the one who garners the excuses and compassion? The armchair diagnoses of Asperger’s–which leads to the calls for compassion for him because of his disability, which has been diagnosed not by a doctor, but as a way of excusing his behavior?
Here we are, as a whole community, teaching that, when someone we respect, who has contributed to the community, does something wrong and admits it, it is our job to protect him as much as possible and to justify why, though his actions might be wrong, maybe they weren’t that bad.
Let me be clear, I think it’s problematic (to put it mildly) to speculate on whether he has Asperger’s. And I think it doesn’t matter if Valentine has.
But I want you to consider this. Why, when there are issues of harassment, do we reach for Asperger’s as a way of excusing harassers or potential harassers instead of pointing out to harassers and potential harassers and their defenders that the people they pick on may have added challenges that aren’t readily apparent? No one should have to face harassment. But why should someone with Asperger’s, who is just trying to enjoy him or herself at a convention and share his or her love for something with other huge fans, who maybe has to do real work to monitor to make sure he or she doesn’t get way overstimulated and thus ruin his or her time there, have to have the added worry in the back of his or her mind that he or she–in the midst of their own community–be the victim of sexual harassment?
Why is Asperger’s always trotted out as an armchair diagnosis of people who clearly and admittedly know better and never as an actual factor for some folks attending cons which might make them more vulnerable to harassment?
People with Asperger’s are far, far more likely to be the victims of harassment than they are to be harassers. They are far more likely to have their condition used against them rather than have it used as an excuse for their behavior–“Oh, he didn’t mean anything by it. You’re just not good at picking up on social cues,” or whatever bullshit people might use to justify why someone with Asperger’s is “misinterpreting” harassment.
Why are we constantly taught to flail around for any reason to have compassion for the perpetrator of whatever bullshit than to have compassion for his victims?
Edited to add: I fucked up dude’s name, which caused Johne Cook to come up with the best idea for a movie EVER in the comments.