I originally had no intention of creating a second post on Temple Grandin but I have received some criticisms (irl) for the first part, saying that I was too dismissive of her and even kind of arrogant. While there’s admittedly some truth to that in that the tone was inappropriate for taking on an authority figure that stands much taller than anyone in the field (particularly if the field is autism), I still stand by a great deal of what I wrote. In light of this, I hereby present what is essentially a more sane, more reasonable, and less sarcastic version of my last post.
Here’s something that I forgot to mention in that post: She is one of the first people with autism to talk about autism. Granted, that’s cool but it by no means follows logically that her work is any good or even faithful to the reality. The Beatles have revolutionized pop music but I am not obligated to like them (moreover, I think the Beatles suck. There. I said it). Karlheinz Stockhausen was one of the first electronic musicians but he bores the shit out of me. Aristotle is one of the most important philosophers who ever lived but that doesn’t mean that I should agree with everything he says.
I don’t doubt that Temple “thinks in pictures” as she keeps saying and that she has her place in the history of autism but I don’t want her saying that I “think in pictures” because, well, I don’t. I actually find her to be alienating when she talks about the autism experience because even though we have the same condition, I find it difficult to relate. My father said that he read Temple Grandin when he was trying to “figure me out” so to speak but when I read her, I find myself estranged from my own condition.
Temple and I write about the autism that we individually experience; this is the only aspect of autism that any autie (or anyone for that matter) can write about sensibly. This blog represents my own phenomenology and my spot in society. There can be no spokesperson for autism. Temple may be the best we have but it’s not good enough for me. Her experience is nothing like mine but at the same time, my experience is not the truth of autism. As I keep saying, I speak for no one but myself. We need realize that autism is a decentralized and non-universal experience and we need to stop thinking of it as a mystery that needs to be solved.
I guess my main beef (get it? Because she works with cows!!) is that I’ve had adults speaking for me for most of my life. This is one reason I’ve started this blog and why I’m “Angry Autie.” For me, Temple represents yet another person in a long line of people who have thought they could speak for me. I don’t find Temple to be an empowering or inspiring figure anymore. I find her very dogmatic and I think that because of her appeal to science and pure materialism, all she does is reinforce the subtle, unconscious notion that autism is nothing more than a thing that needs to be understood and that auties are mere specimens.
Again, there cannot be anyone who speaks for an entire minority. Autism is best handled on a case-by-case basis. Temple Grandin represents the need to not only understand everything but also the desire for simple and broad answers to messy and complex questions. We need to at least decentralize Temple’s position to include other autistic people.
And I still think that her thing about the screwdrivers is ridiculous.