What do we say to the God of Real Life?
“Yeah, let’s have a moment today.”
I haven’t been posting on social justice much outside of occasionally working it into my Game of Thrones analysis. There are reasons for that, mostly having to do with the fact that I am a tall stack of anxieties and neuroses held together by carbs, alcohol and Twitter interactions. Making a long story short, I have to face up to the fact that I am too sensitive to be the activist I once thought I could be.
Which is not to say I’m giving up on being a good intersectional feminist writer. I still care about social justice in the real world. I also need to take care of myself, however, because if I rely on anyone else to take care of me, my needs will go unmet and my mental health will suffer accordingly, and I’m a much better contributor to society when I’m healthy. I’m gradually figuring out how to take care of myself while doing activism for the real world. I’m not there yet.
One of the hazards of Real Life is that people whom I thought were good eggs keep turning out to be awful. This is a hazard of social life from any angle, but when the social circle is built around progressive activism, it’s especially upsetting when a supposedly decent guy turns out to be a predator.
I would like you to take the time to read Heina’s post on the reality of Dan Linford, who was among my Facebook friends up until he deactivated his account.
He has behaved inappropriately in a deliberate way that lent itself to plausible deniability (a classic manipulation tactic), up to and including his confessions of sexual assault, along with the stock-standard patriarchal use of women and people perceived as women for emotional labor.
He uses autism and mental illness to excuse his behavior, but that’s not a reasonable excuse or explanation especially when many of the people caught up in this latest round are autistic and/or mentally ill themselves. Indeed, in my own case, I feel my autism made me more vulnerable to his tactics. Furthermore, his pattern of predatory behavior speaks to a level of manipulation and sophistication rather than to random social blunders or awkwardness. The dots connect into a clear picture. As of this writing, a conservative estimate places about two dozen people as having put forth personal accounts of his predatory behavior, many with eerie similarities.
That’s the beginning. Please follow the link and read the rest.
I am not among the people who were affected by Dan’s predatory behavior; I suppose I never got close enough for him to pull his fuckery on me. It probably helps that other Real Life upheavals have largely driven me away from Facebook in favor of Twitter. Anyway, Dan never did anything inappropriate to me, but he hurt others, and he got away with it for much too long.
What is possibly the most offensive aspect to his story is the part about him using autism and mental illness as distraction tactics. I’ve seen this before in the atheist/skeptical community and I’m sure I’ll see it again and again. Dan may (or may not) have mental illness, but that does not give him the right to disregard boundaries. Dan may (or may not) be autistic, and I’ve seen the “but what if he’s autistic?” derailment used to scold women away from pointing out men’s predatory behavior enough times to suspect Dan saw it as a matter of his own self-interest to be seen as autistic in this context.
Short version: I don’t know whether Dan is actually autistic, but he should NOT be able to use that as an excuse.
On that note, please read this Facebook post by Radical Neurodivergence, in which she details how “but what if he’s autistic?” is used to prevent women, especially including autistic women, from defending themselves against male violence.
STOP saying “well he’s autistic; he doesn’t know better” to excuse autistic or possibly autistic men for creepy, predatory behavior.
He does know better or he needs a behavioral aide and SOMEONE is failure. Autism and creep are not the same thing. There’s loads of effortlessly non predatory autistic men.
Also, a WHOLE LOT of these men who you are defending with this ableist crap? They are targeting autistic & otherwise neurodivergent women.
You know what happens to us?
We’re told we have to be nice and gentle because he’s autistic and doesn’t understand and don’t be mean to the poor autistic man.
We’re told that we have to send the ‘right’ signals.
Nobody ever looks at a woman who’s complaining about a man who didn’t respect her boundaries, and comes to her aid with, “Well, what if SHE’S autistic?” There’s no allowance made for women to struggle with reading nonverbal cues, or for women to have sub-par social skills, or generally to have been less than perfect in interacting with other people.
I have chronic anxiety and intermittent depression, and I’m expected to regulate myself well enough to avoid lashing out at other people, even when I’m sick. My mental illness isn’t an excuse to hurt people.
I have some neurological quirks that may be familiar to many autists, and I was rather delayed in learning social skills, but I’m still held responsible when my behavior makes other people uncomfortable.
You’re either responsible for your actions or you’re not. If not, why should anyone trust you?