The Mighty & Autism Speaks, Part Deux
Yesterday, I wrote a letter to The Mighty about their support of the hate group Autism Speaks. This was their response.
Thank you so much for reaching out about your concerns. Unfortunately, there is some misinformation circulating regarding the nature of our relationship with Autism Speaks.
The Mighty has a non-profit partnership program which takes a variety of forms. The purpose of the partner program (which does not involve money) is to bring free resources to people through stories on our site. We partner with hundreds of organizations, including but not limited to the following autism-related organizations: National Autism Association, Sesame Street, The Art of Autism, ACT! Today, Geek Club Books, Asperger Experts, AutismTalk, The Color of Autism, Global Autism Project, Autism Speaks, and STAR Institute for SPD.
We do understand the concerns about Autism Speaks. We added them to our partnership program only after they announced the change to their mission in the fall of last year. As a company, we believe autistic people and their families need acceptance and understanding, and we do not support curing or eradicating autism.
We do believe a crucial element of our partnership program is that our site and community helps the partners’ audiences. By us sharing more content by autistic writers and autism community advocates, it can help educate and change perspectives for the better both within and beyond our Mighty community. We are now one of the largest platforms for autistic writers, and sharing our writers’ stories with Autism Speaks can help their readers who may still be struggling to understand and accept autism.
All of our partners have a “partner box” (we sometimes refer to it as a “module”), which can appear at the bottom of stories and offers links and resources on the partner’s website. We generally add one of these boxes to stories based on the content, but writers who are associated with a partner as employees, volunteers, or supporters can choose to have that box displayed below their stories. Autism Speaks’ partner box is only supposed to be used when a contributor has expressed support of the organization — we do have a number of autistic writers who are affiliated with them. However, an oversight led to the box being added to an autistic writer who does not want to be affiliated with Autism Speaks. When this individual contacted us, we immediately removed the partner box and apologized. We want to assure you we will work harder to make sure contributors are always comfortable with the partner organizations in their stories.
We are open to feedback regarding our partnership program and would especially like to add additional partners in the autism space that you, our writers and readers, support. So if you are part of an organization or can recommend one, please let us know!
Our health and disability community is very diverse, and opinions differ on important issues. We do evaluate our partnerships periodically, and we never compromise our editorial standards for a partner. We actively work to fight ableism and content that disparages the disability community. We are committed to sharing the voices of autistic writers and the diverse voices of the larger disability and health community.
We hope this helps to alleviate your concerns.
— The Mighty Staff
I appreciate your response. My concern was not that there was any financial benefit, but that The Mighty is legitimizing AS as an organization — an organization with a history of legitimizing literal torture, speaking over people who are actually autistic, and promising things for publicity’s sake without any intent of following through.
You say sharing these stories with AS may help them understand. Unfortunately, autistic people and organizations have been doing this since AS started. AS does not care and does not understand. They are using The Mighty to legitimize their place as a ‘charity’ and to try to change how people see them. Until they have actually made changes, this is hurting you and your readers more than it’s helping them.
Not much has changed within AS since the changes you’ve spoken of. Regardless, their history of supporting torture of autistic people as a means to finding a cure is barbaric and I’m surprised that The Mighty has not taken these things into account.
Again, I will point you to various articles and ask that you actually read them this time as it’s clear you did not from your response. I would hope you’d have more respect for your supporters and writers than to simply send back a form letter and forgo reading the links I included. I put this masterpost of pieces against AS together last night and will be pulling articles from it.
Autistic people across the internet are up in arms over this partnership. Yes, as I already did before your response, they understand this isn’t financial, etc. Marginalized people — in this case, autistic and neurodivergent people — are speaking up and calling for a change here. If your goal is truly to provide an intersectional and safe place, you’ll start to listen. Otherwise, you’re losing readers and supporters by the minute.
Want to support Actually Autistic organizations? Here are a bunch that aren’t ableist in nature and *actually* include autistic people on their boards, etc (unlike AS):
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
The Autism National Committee
Autism Network International
Autism Women’s Network
American Association of People with Disabilities
National Council on Independent Living
National Youth Leadership Network
Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE)
Self Advocates Becoming Empowered
I urge you to check your social media mentions because, as this gets out more and more, people are extremely upset and swearing y’all off as a resource. This is going to lead to a lack of writers because of people like myself leaving, too. You’re associating yourselves — and, by association, your writers — with an ableist hate group created for parents (not autistics) that has the support of eugenicists and white supremacists. I hope that you can see why this is a bad look.
Want to help share with The Mighty why supporting Autism Speaks is wrong? Do what I did — email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out part three here.
If you’re looking for further evidence against AS, please visit my new masterpost. You can add resources to that page by commenting on it.
Kirsten is a genderqueer writer, sexuality educator, and chronic illness/disability activist in Wisconsin. She runs Chronic Sexwhich highlights how illnesses and disabilities affect ‘Quality of Life’ issues such as self-love, self-care, relationships, sexuality, and sex.