In this blog I will summarise selected episodes and then show and analyse scenes that depict common autistic experiences. My main focus will be on Abed’s fear of abandonment and his striving for relationships and, well, community.
This blog is wonderful. I’m crying. I am reminded how good it felt watching such fully-developed and compassionate representation. I’m also reminded of the intense feels as Abed processed trauma that hit close to my own experiences.
When I first watched the show, I was thrilled to have found autistic representation, that didn’t make me cringe or feel like I had to correct it all the time. But I soon found out that with accurate representation comes accurate depiction of trauma.
Lines like “With any luck, your group identity will be the least interesting thing about you” from techbro rationalists and other assorted white boy whisperers wrapped in reason bother me for many reasons. This from Tressie McMillan Cottom’s “Thick” captures a big one:
In a discussion of methods and theories and other such things that comprise a significant part of my job, one of the women—we were all women—said assuredly that we have moved on, past black and white. Hence, “black people are over.” I did not feel over and I am most certainly black. But it was said so casually because of the kind of black that I am presumed to be in rooms such as these. There have been many such rooms and I end up in more of them, more frequently, the more I inch up the class ladder. The proclamation makes a mistake of assuming that black people, like me, were only ever a problem and not a people.
The lyrics referred to the way many people viewed fans of punk rock (who often endured stares, slurs and assaults at the time), but they could just have easily been about people diagnosed with mental illnesses, who are frequently looked down upon as crazy, violent and unintelligent.
A long-standing and influential theory regarding disability is the “social model,” initially advanced by Mike Oliver. The social model argues that “disability” does not reside within individuals, but is actually created by a mismatch between social structures and individual capacities. These structures can include obvious physical barriers (such as stairs, which could make it impossible for people in wheelchairs to enter a school or workplace by themselves), but can also include intolerant social attitudes which make it very difficult for people who don’t act in a manner that is considered “acceptable” to participate socially or avail themselves of community resources.
British human right activist Liz Sayce has specifically extended the social model to explain much of the disability that is experienced by people diagnosed with mental illnesses, and has argued for the establishment of “inclusive communities” to facilitate greater community participation among these individuals.
I found community amidst online genderpunks, neuropunks, and cripplepunks conversant in the social model. Here’s some collected listening that covers a gamut of punk and punk-adjacent music on mental health and living in divergent bodyminds. “Everything that was normally supposed to be hidden was brought to the front.” This playlist, in part, seeks to bring to the front. Suggestions appreciated.
It’s about rejecting pity, inspiration porn, & all other forms of ableism. It rejects the “good cripple” mythos. Cripple Punk is here for the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t “tried everything”. Cripple Punk fights internalized ableism & fully supports those struggling with it. It respects intersections of race, culture, gender, sexual/romantic orientation, size, intersex status, mental illness/neuroatypical status, survivor status, etc. Cripple Punk does not pander to the able bodied.
Before I discovered Cripple Punk – a term originating as an angry post on someone’s blog and transforming into a global movement for disability pride – it never occured to me that I could like my leg braces.
Genderpunk: a colloquial term for culture and resistance against gendernormativity; an identity that in and of itself is a resistance against gender norms, homophobia and transphobia, oppression and societal status.
Your gender has nothing to do with your eligibility to be genderpunk. If you agree with the mindset, no matter how you identify, you can be a part of the movement.
It is very rare, as a disabled person, that I have an intense sense of belonging, of being not just tolerated or included in a space but actively owning it; “This space,” I whisper to myself, “is for me.” Next to me, I sense my friend has the same electrified feeling. This space is for us.
Members of many marginalized groups have this shared experiential touchstone, this sense of unexpected and vivid belonging and an ardent desire to be able to pass this experience along. Some can remember the precise moment when they were in a space inhabited entirely by people like them for the first time.
Crip space is unique, a place where disability is celebrated and embraced—something radical and taboo in many parts of the world and sometimes even for people in those spaces. The idea that we need our own spaces, that we thrive in them, is particularly troubling for identities treated socially as a negative; why would you want to self-segregate with the other cripples? For those newly disabled, crip space may seem intimidating or frightening, with expectations that don’t match the reality of experience—someone who has just experienced a tremendous life change is not always ready for disability pride or defiance, needing a kinder, gentler introduction.
This is precisely why they are needed: as long as claiming our own ground is treated as an act of hostility, we need our ground. We need the sense of community for disabled people created in crip space.
How can we cultivate spaces where everyone has that soaring sense of inclusion, where we can have difficult and meaningful conversations?
Because everyone deserves the shelter and embrace of crip space, to find their people and set down roots in a place they can call home.