A woman who is not autistic posted about her campaign for autistic rights in memory of her deceased son. She made this post in the #ActuallyAutistic tag on Twitter and people.flipped.out. It turned into this whole controversy of We Shouldn’t Gatekeep a Tag vs Our Right to Ask a Rude Person to Leave.
Do I think she was rude to do this? Absolutely. It doesn’t matter if she’s a nice person who is working for a good cause.
There’s such a thing as Good Internet
Manners. For example, TYPING IN ALL CAPS is considered shouting,
you always ask and credit if you’re going to repost art, and you
shouldn’t ask questions a two minute Google search could answer.
Another common rule which has sprung into place on sites which use
tags, like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, is that it’s rude to post
inappropriate information in the wrong tag.
“It’s not against the TOS” is not
an excuse. You are not legally banned from sitting down in a
restaurant and loudly talking about your colonoscopy in detail, but
you have to, as an intelligent adult, realize it won’t be met with
a good response. You’re not just risking offending people,
you’re wasting their time by making them scroll through your
irrelevant and/or annoying posts. In the 21st C, wasting
other people’s time online, is considered insulting.
But the autistic world has its own
perception of manners as well. NT often don’t understand these
rules, and dismiss them. It doesn’t occur to them that Autism is
its own culture and that people in that community have their own
opinions and feelings. And that you’re not only not the first person
to do that rude thing to them, you may not even be the first person
It’s something people with certain
types of privileges, interacting with people who don’t have those
specific privileges, don’t always grasp. They’re thinking, “But
I’m a good person and I didn’t mean to cause a problem, I hardly ever
do things like that. It was a mistake!” But to the other person
or group, the thing you just did or said is something they
experience constantly. This is a “microaggression” , small,
constant indignities thrust on you by someone with power over you.
For autistic people (and others with
certain types of disabilities), having other people not respect your
consent, not listen when you say “no”, is a very, very common
microaggression. If you don’t become fiercely vigilant about
maintaining boundaries, even with things that seem trivial, you lose
control of everything.
Posting in the #ActuallyAutistic tag
when not autistic yourself in order to promote your project is
similar to an abled person repeatedly parking in a clearly marked
disabled parking space (maybe even in front of a medical facility)
while a wheelchair user is sitting there watching it happen. When
confronted, the abled driver tries to claim it’s okay because they
have a disabled child but…said disabled child is not actually
present in the car.
#ActuallyAutistic was apparently
created because the other related tags became overcome with non
autistic parents, ABA proponents, Ableism, and supporters of
exploitative organizations. Autistic people wanted a tag which was
filled with the own voices of people who were actually autistic and
not being interrupted, talked over, insulted, ignored or
patronized. Where they didn’t have to listen to sob stories from
people who openly abuse children in ways no one would ever put up
with if the children were NT. So that’s one reason why it’s so
vital for people who are not autistic to respect the request of
autistic people and stop posting in the #ActuallyAutistic tag.
This had already been explained to the
OP more than once. People also pointed her to tags which might be a
better fit for her message. I’m not saying she did it on purpose in
order to upset people, I’m saying there’s a chance she simply didn’t
take autistic people’s feelings on the matter seriously.
There are many people who assume she
made an honest mistake and said it was unfair and unwelcoming to
“gate keep” the tag. That #ActuallyAutistic is a tag anyone
should be allowed to use. Again, technically, there’s nothing in
Twitter’s TOS that says you’re allowed to ban someone from using a
hashtag. But again, this is about what’s legal vs what’s polite.
It’s rude to shun someone who makes an honest mistake, it’s rude to
call out someone else’s rudeness…unless they made said “mistake”
while being fully aware they were doing something they’d already
been asked not to do.
Bullies do this, repeatedly doing
something they know they were already asked not to do, but pretending
they “forgot” or “it’s just this one time, don’t make such a
big deal out of it”. But so do people who have a certain type of
privilege over others (Ableds/NT do it and men do it to women and
white people do it to PoC), they do it not because they’re cruel, or
even because what they want is all that bad anyway (in this case, the
OP was promoting an actually really good cause) but because in their
minds, getting what they want is more important than your need for
them to stop doing that. You let one person misuse the tag because
they “meant well” and “we can’t judge” and everyone will
think they can do it.
Two more non autistic people have
posted in the #ActuallyAutistic tag since then.
But it isn’t just an autistic person
issue, it’s an issue of commonly understood standards of
politeness. Manners are the unwritten rules of a community and
their purpose is to make sure everyone is comfortable. You can’t get
in trouble for violating Twitter’s TOS by posting something in the
“wrong” tag, but you do risk making a lot of people angry
because you were rude.
Because the OP should have already
known, as a prolific user of Twitter, that there are general Basic
Tagging Rules already in place across the entire site (and many other
similar sites such as Instagram and Tumblr). People wouldn’t have
liked it if she’d done something like that with a post about another
subject, in a tag about another subject. Would users in a tag
frequented by more NT respond less dramatically? Mmm…maybe, it
depends on the subject and how inappropriate the post was for the
tag. But people certainly don’t like it when other users hijack a
tag or post to promote their own stuff. Period. It’s called Spam
and it’s a Serious Internet No No.
This isn’t new information. It’s been the rule since like, as long
as I’ve been online and I first came online in like, 1997. Tagging
etiquette is newer, because tagging is a newer development, but the
basic idea is the same. You don’t repeatedly and knowingly post
things in the wrong place and not expect people to get, at the very
least, annoyed. Sites with tagging systems take this more
seriously, because on many of these sites, it’s difficult to filter
posts or make them closed to only certain people. So it becomes
really important that everyone understands and respects the tagging
The OP claims she was invited to use
the tag by autistic people, which is contrary to what a lot of
autistic people are saying, which is that they repeatedly asked her
not to use the tag.
It seems, upon further investigation,
that members of the ADW were involved (“Autistic Dark Web, a cabal
of people who troll… harass and bully autistic people who believe
in Neurodiversity… and try to make them fight with each other).
Associates of the ADW may have been the ones who told the OP it was
okay to use the Actually Autistic tag.