Thursday, November 05, 2009

france thinks i'm a tory

or, to be more precise, the french minister pierre lellouche thinks that the tories are "autistic". in an interview published this morning in the guardian, he says of the party's approach to the EU; "they have one line & they just repeat that one line - it is a very bizarre sense of autism". later on today, he clarified: "In French, the term autistic has been totally trivialised through overuse. President Sarkozy is called autistic every day. I understand that in English that this word could shock. That was a glitch. It was a misunderstanding." oh, ok then.
now, i don't normally get into the political (or the deeply personal) on this blog - it's usually chats about knitting & other topics of the light & fluffy variety.

finn closeup
(look, a puppy!!)

however, as an autistic person (i have asperger's, an autistic spectrum disorder), this language usage has made me pretty uncomfortable (& i'm fairly certain it isn't just due to an extreme aversion to having any association, however slight, with the tories!). i've been thinking about it all day, and i'm still not 100% sure how to articulate what bothers me about it.
i suppose the major problem is the use of "autistic" as an insult. some of us have moved on from using terms associated with other disabilities as insults - "lame" & "retarded" spring immediately to mind. i'm not sure if these are mainly north-americanisms, but wherever you are, i'm sure you can think of more/others - i was horrified, when i first moved to the uk 10 years ago, to hear someone use the term "mong" in casual conversation (short for mongoloid, a word of truly sketchy origin & usage). there was also an accompanying face. luckily i haven't heard that one in years, so maybe it's fallen out of use as well (fingers crossed...).
but is that just because they're being replaced with new insults, taken from words used for other, newer minority/disenfranchised groups? things like autism, ADHD, OCD and other neurological disorders are relatively new discoveries (previously, it's probably likely that someone like me would have simply fallen under the now-defunct umbrella of "retarded", "mentally handicapped", or simply "crazy"). apparently, the word "autistic" has become popular in recent years in colloquial french to refer to anyone who is stubborn/doesn't listen, & is used every day in the political world and media (according to the times online article linked to above). nice. so, is "autistic" the new "retarded"? i'm not sure what to think about that.


Kirsten said...

We humans can be so hurtful to each other, which we are often too stupid or insensitive to realise. Thank you, Lilith, for reminding us to consider what we say to each other.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm French, first I've never heard of him. Not sure he is very important. And when you see who we managed to send to Bruxelles...Not always the most Europhiles or Euro-involved!

And I've never heard of autism being an insult. Never. It is very disturbing to see that a member of the government says things like that. But to open the mouth without thinking is a often done of this gouvernment.

Please accept my apology on behalf of this minister, and feel assured that he is not -at all!, representative of what we think.

Karen said...

Horrible for the name of any disability to be used as an insulting term. Good for you writing about it!

Helen said...

"But to open the mouth without thinking is a often done of this gouvernment."

Ahhh, how true, and I'm not just referring to the French either *grin*. Most reasonable people have moved on from this sort of thing. Try not to let the few uneducated idiots get you down too much.

Helen said...

I think quite a lot of things which were unacceptable are sneaking back in under the name of 'edgy', hence the way that comedians like Frankie Boyle thinks it's OK to laugh at, say, girls who have big noses. I sometimes feel as if the last 30 years haven't happened. But at least it's being talked about and I think it won't last very long - teenage slang always moves on and it'll be redheads or something next - although it's horrible for you while it does. There's a piece on the BBC website about it here so a lot of people share your concern. Hugs meanwhile :)