T.S. Elliot said that April is the cruelest month and he was right. The main reason I find it so cruel is because its weather patterns are so variable and erratic that it messes with your mind. One day it’s sunny and warm. You’re wearing shorts and it feels like spring has arrived. Then the next day it’s freezing and you’re wearing a winter coat. The violets and cherry blossoms you’re surrounded by tell you it’s spring so you expect to be strolling thorough sunshine but instead you’re shivering in the wind. Then you’re forced to acknowledge that winter isn’t ready to give up it’s hold on the world just yet and it’s not truly spring.
Since April likes to fool people with its weather patterns, I guess it’s only appropriate that the 1st of April is April Fools day. I’ve become a bit of an April Fools Day grinch. I think some of the pranks that are intended to be funny are actually cruel. I’m sure those “I’m pregnant!” jokes are not appreciated by people who have recently experienced miscarriage, abortion or infertility. I think most April fools jokes are just lame and stupid. Perhaps I don’t have any room to be criticizing anyone else’s April fool joke since as a kid my idea of an April fools joke was pouring fish food on the eggs my brother was cooking for breakfast.
On April 1st I posted on Facebook that I was suspicious of everyone’s statuses today but I only encountered two jokes in my feed. One guy was grilling a baby manatee and another guy was getting penis reduction surgery. I also encountered a meme that said April Fools Day was cancelled this year because no prank could possibly rival the ridiculous shit that’s really going on in the world. Seriously, I think that’s the main reason we didn’t see many April Fools Jokes this year.
April also brings with it the holidays of Easter and Passover. Since I have family members who are Christian and family members who are Jewish I get to celebrate both holidays. Holidays can be joyous occasions but they can also be fraught with tension. On the first night of Passover someone who was sitting next to me during the Seder turned to me and said “Does it bother you to hear yelling coming from all sides of the table like this? It bothers me.” Hopefully my Easter family gathering will be more civil. Not that I’m complaining about the Seder. The delicious food made the bickering worth it.
The middle of April brings us Tax Day. Ah, taxes. They and death are the only thing that can be guaranteed in life. It’s hard to say which is more unwelcome.
The other reason I find April to be a cruel month is because its Autism Awareness Month and it’s prom month, which means there are articles circulating around the internet about high school students who were kind enough to take a disabled kid to prom. I’m sure it’s obvious to everyone why I would consider crappy weather, lame pranks, family feuds and taxes to be cruel aspects of April. I’m sure it’s less obvious why I would find Autism Awareness Month and articles about taking the disabled kid to prom cruel. In fact I’m sure many people are baffled as to why I would find those things cruel because they seem kind and wonderful.
Those things do tend to give able bodied,neurotypical , “normal” people warm fuzzy feelings and the sense that they are helping those who are less fortunate but most disabled people just find them hurtful and insulting. They essentially boil down to slacktivism and inspiration porn. I’ve ranted before on this blog about how much I hate both of those things.
If you’re going to use autism awareness month to actually research autism, to listen to the perspectives of people who are actually autistic, to contribute your time or money towards organizations that have the support of people who are actually autistic, that work towards securing support, employment and acceptance for people on the autism spectrum, then good for you. You are making a positive difference in the lives of autistic people.
That’s not what most people do to honor autism awareness month though. Most people light their Facebook profiles up blue and post a few autism facts accompanied by a picture of a puzzle piece. These facts come from Autism Speaks, an organization that is widely feared and hated by people who are actually autistic. They paint autism as some mysterious, horrible, devastating disease that must be eradicated. They suggest that autistic people can best be helped by being cured or being taught to “act neurotypical.”
Well, many autistic people, especially the ones who are using Facebook, do not want a cure and their goal in life is not to pass for neurotypical. What they want is to be accepted for who they are and to have their special needs accommodated. You are not helping these people by posting blue lights and puzzle pieces. By perpetuating the idea that they have a horrible disease that must be cured you are harming them.
Some people do not see autism as a disease or a disability but as a different way of being. Some autistic people see autism as an essential part of their identity that they would’t want to change. Imagine how you would feel if you were constantly told that your way of being was tragic, abnormal, problematic, must be done away with.
What’s so aggravating about autism awareness month is that for the most part it is clearly not geared towards autistic people themselves but towards their loved ones, their caregivers. those who work with them, those “normal” people who supposedly need to be more aware of them. Autistic people are silenced, discounted, made to feel invisible by a campaign that is supposed to help them. They do not need your blue lights, your puzzle pieces or your “awareness.” They need your support, your understanding and your acceptance.
As for those heartwarming, inspirational news stories about the popular high school kid who was kind enough to take that disabled kid to prom, I do not find them heartwarming or inspirational. I find them patronizing and nauseating.
That Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad was immediately criticized as being tone deaf and insensitive. Within 24 hours that ad had been pulled. Yet those tone deaf insensitive articles that hail people as heroes for treating the disabled with basic human decency appear over and over again year after year.
Once again, those articles are clearly not geared towards disabled people. The disabled person is just an object used to make the “normal” people feel all warm and fuzzy. The fact that a popular jock went to prom with the disabled kid is touted as an example of human kindness and goodness.
The implication is that that popular kid made a huge sacrifice by taking his disabled classmate to prom, that he did something really out of the ordinary, that not many other people would be willing to do that, that he made that disabled kid’s night really special, gave her something she’s never experienced before. The implication is that the disabled girl had so much fun at prom and while the popular kid didn’t have as much fun at prom as he would have if he’d taken a “normal” person, the feelings of gratification he got out of doing something kind for the disabled girl made it all worth it.
If we were talking about the popular football player taking the unpopular band geek to prom, no one would dream of writing an article about it. People would realize how incredibly humiliating it would be to that band geek to be publicly turned in to an object of pity. Yet turn that band geek in to a a girl with Down Syndrome and it becomes okay to write an article like that.
The implication is that the disabled person doesn’t have enough cognitive awareness to realize that they’re being turned in to an object of pity, that they won’t Google themselves and feel embarrassed by the way in which they are portrayed. The implication is that they’re just so full of gratitude towards that popular kid for giving them a chance to escape their sad disabled life for one night and get to experience what normal people experience, that nothing else matters.
It makes me sad and angry that so many people need it explained to them why articles like that are so offensive.
On a lighter note, just like April is a cruel month, April is a cruel giraffe. Just like the month of April messes with your mind by giving you false hopes and expectations so does April the giraffe. I’m a celebrity baby names fanatic so I’m used to impatiently waiting for a seeming eternity for celebrities to give birth (and often longer after that for them to reveal the name) but this giraffe is worse than any human celebrity I’ve baby watched. She’s worse than Jessica Simpson and Kate Middleton combined.
On February 23rd live cams were set up and it was said that she would give birth any minute. It’s now almost April 13th and she still hasn’t given birth. I’m starting to wonder if something fishy is going on. Is she not pregnant at all? Is this some media stunt? An attempt by the Trump administration to distract us from their scandals? I don’t know. I just know that April is cruel.