If You Like It Then You Shoulda Put a Paycheck On It: My Real Problem With The Mighty (#CrippingTheMighty)

The Mighty, a content site catering to parents and families of disabled and chronically ill people, has been criticized repeatedly in the disability community for its continuous publication of mocking, demeaning, or “inspiration porn”-y stories that are, like so many things about disability, about us without us.

This time, the outcry addressed a piece by a parent of an autistic child, called “Introducing: Meltdown Bingo.”  The piece mocked the acute distress that autistic people express during meltdowns.

The Mighty later removed the piece (a cached version is available courtesy of Un-Boxed Brain here). The site also issued an apology of sorts.

Many bloggers in the disability community have called out The Mighty both on this particular misstep and on missteps in the past.  I agree with the way in which posts like these have gone to the heart of the matter, and I see no reason to repeat their many excellent points.

Instead, as a professional writer and an editor who works with a press specializing in disability-related texts, I want to point out a deeper problem The Mighty has: it does not pay its writers.  Specifically, it does not pay its disabled writers – members of the very population it claims to support.

The Mighty actively solicits submissions from its readers, with a large yellow “Submit a Story” link placed front and center on its main page.  Many of the writers who submit pieces to The Mighty are disabled.  In its apology for the “Meltdown Bingo” fiasco, The Mighty specifically asked for more disabled writers to step forward – and the site’s Twitter account, @TheMightySite, “followed” just about every disabled writer and activist whose name was recommended to them in the #CrippingTheMighty hashtag (including yours truly).

The Mighty’s tagline is “we face disability, disease, and mental illness together.”  The stated goal of its founder, Mike Porath, was to “build a media company that actually helps people.”  Boasting hits in the tens of millions each year, the site could be a force to be reckoned with in the battle to end disability discrimination and demand the full respect of disabled people as people.

It could.  But it’s not.  And not paying its contributors – especially not paying its disabled contributors – has everything to do with that.

Disabled people are notoriously unemployed and underemployed.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17.1 percent of disabled U.S. adults were employed in 2014.  17.1 percent.  Employed.  Not “employed full-time”; employed at all.

(By contrast, 64.6 percent of non-disabled U.S. adults were employed in 2014.)

When disabled adults are employed, it is frequently “under”employment: employment for fewer hours per week, or at less challenging tasks, than the individual is willing and able to do.  We are one of the few populations in the United States to which it is legal to pay only a handful of pennies per hour, under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  It’s no secret that undergraduate programs do not want to accommodate us, graduate programs do not want to admit us, and employers do not want to hire us – and that when we are “let in,” we are under-utilized, under-respected, under-retained, and underpaid.

If this sounds like exploitation, that’s because it is.  And The Mighty is participating in it.

Despite being a site dedicated to the topic of disability, The Mighty has yet to hire a single disabled editor.  Despite being a site that actively solicits the writing of disabled authors, The Mighty does not pay these writers – or rather, it claims to pay with “exposure.”

As I said in another blog post earlier this week, a site that offers to pay you with “exposure” falls into one of two categories.  Either it’s too small for the “exposure” to be worthwhile to you, or it’s big enough to make the “exposure” worthwhile – and therefore is big enough to pay you.

The Mighty, with  a claimed 80 million visitors, falls into the second category.  It’s got enough clout to make the “exposure” worthwhile.  And with a seed round of $2.5 million, a claimed 300 non-profit partners, and paid advertising landing in front of the eyes of every one of those 80 million visitors, it has enough money to pay its writers, as well.

Instead, The Mighty does what every “for exposure” outlet does: it begs for charity from its readers by asking them to submit the results of their labor, to generate ad revenue clicks, without compensation for their work.  The Mighty claims to have the backs of one of the most unemployed, unpaid, and exploited populations in the United States – and IT asks THEM for charity.  Proudly.  When asked for compensation, The Mighty pays out – to a non-profit instead of to the writer whose labor pads The Mighty’s bottom line.

In a recent blog post, David Perry proposed two possible ethical futures for The Mighty.  One was to incorporate itself into the community it purports to support; the other was to “be professional” and pay its writers.

I propose that these two futures are actually one future: that The Mighty cannot be an ethical participant in the disability community without compensating the disabled writers from whose work the site generates its revenue.  We are, as I mentioned, an exploited community.

To those who object “But how is The Mighty supposed to pay writers?”, I point back to two facts:

  1.  The Mighty started with $2.5 million in seed money,
  2. Autonomous Press exists.

Autonomous Press, founded in 2015, has published only one book containing the works of disabled writers who were not paid cash money for their contributions.  The writers were, however, compensated with at least one physical printed copy of the book apiece (to my knowledge, The Mighty does not print copies of contributors’ submissions for distribution).  Contributors to the press’s second compilation, The Real Experts, were paid with contributor copies and cash; contributors to its third, The Spoon Knife Anthology, will be paid in similar form.  Every single-author book Autonomous Press has produced to date is also paying royalties to its respective author.

(Incidentally, AutPress’s payment to me for my own contribution to Spoon Knife is the most any publisher has ever paid me for a single piece of short fiction.)

If AutPress can produce physical, printed books with a four-figure startup budget and compensate its contributors, The Mighty has no excuse for running a digital-only realm on a seven-figure startup budget and not paying its writers.  And a print publication outranks a digital one on a CV every time – which means that, in at least one sense, AutPress is offering better “exposure” as well.

As David Perry put it, “I don’t actually think [The Mighty’s goal is to] “give people a platform to share their stories.” It’s to make money while feeling good about themselves.”

And, I might add, while exploiting the very population they claim to help.

This is my problem with The Mighty.  This, as I see it, is a bigger problem than inspiration porn, bigger than all the stories that broadcast the personal details of disabled children’s lives in order to mock them.  As long as The Mighty continues to exploit us by demanding our unpaid labor to pad their egos and their bottom line, the site will do damage to the disabled community that no quantity of good writing from disabled contributors to the site can ever hope to repair.

Want to prove you value the lives of disabled people, The Mighty?  Value our labor.  Pay us.

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How You, the Client, Can Get Fired by Your Freelancer

Sometimes freelance writers and artists just have to fire a client. Here are some of the easiest ways to find yourself searching for a new contractor.

So you want to hire a freelance writer. Or an artist. Or a graphic designer. Or a web developer. Or a drill writer. Or a “consultant.”

There are plenty of articles out there about how to hire a freelancer. This isn’t one of them. This article is about how to get the freelancer you hired to say, “Sorry, I won’t accept any more work from you.”

I’ve been freelancing for nearly a decade now, and in that time, I’ve had outstanding clients, terrible clients, and everything in between. I have been fired by a client exactly twice (both times for the same reason–see below), and I have fired more clients than I can count (every time, for one of the reasons below).

Here’s how to make sure that all the time, money, and energy you put into advertising for freelancers, screening candidates, and developing creative briefs goes entirely to waste:

how to get fired by your_a guide for clients

1. Don’t say what you want up front.

I asked a community of freelancers what it takes for them to fire a client, and some version of this problem came up in every single answer.

To send your freelancer packing, don’t say what you want up front. Provide just enough detail for your freelancer to think they understand the project–but when they turn it in, send it back with demands you never made in the original ask.

Do you want your freelancer to fire you, but you aren’t sure this method will do it quickly enough? Do you want your freelancer to fire you and to call you out publicly at every opportunity, making it even harder to find qualified freelancers in the future (and yes, we network too)?  Then I recommend….

2.  Blame your freelancer for not reading your mind.

Not telling us what you wanted is provoking, but it’s not insurmountable. Provide a reasonable amount of time to make the fix and clarify whether or not you’re going to need the same thing going forward, and generally speaking, we’re happy to do the work (assuming it’s covered by our contract).

However, if you want to torpedo any chance that your freelancer will roll with the punches, blame your freelancer for failing to read your mind the first time.

Both clients who have fired me as a freelancer did so because they blamed me for something that they messed up. The most memorable one was in 2013 or so. The client had asked me to do an extended project that required me to contact their end client and get some information.

I tried. I tried contacting the end client for months, via every avenue my client would allow me to use: email, telephone, you name it. I got nothing. The end client would not communicate with me.

Eventually, I told my client about this, and was told “Okay, I’ll take care of it.” When I emailed a few days later, asking “Do you have anything else you need me to do?”, I was assigned another project. Every time asked if they had anything else they wanted done, I was assigned another project.

Fast-forward a few months. Suddenly, Silent End-Client’s project is coming due, and my client is emailing me in a panic, wanting to know where their copy is.

Excuse me?

Last I heard, client, you were going to take care of it, and every time I asked if there was something I should be working on, you directed me to another task (at one point, to another editor!) instead of asking how this client’s website is coming. I am not the one who dropped the ball on this.

Nevertheless, I got fired. My client found it easier to cut me loose than to admit their own mistake.

I fired a different client some years later for utterly failing to articulate their expectations for copy.: everything from basic organization to what counts as “personality” in tone to when to use a serial comma. When I asked for clarification, the answer was always: “Oh, there are no hard and fast rules….”

So I’d send in the project–and get personally berated for failing to follow some “rule” the editor had chosen not to tell me was a rule when the project began.

Needless to say, I dumped that client pretty quickly.

Definitely blame your freelancer for failing to read your mind. If you don’t want to work with freelancers anymore. Or you could….

3. Presume you’re entitled to your freelancer’s time.

In truth, treating your freelancer like an employee in any way is a great way to get us to walk out. We’re professionals and this is a B2B service, not an employer-employee relationship.

But one of the best ways to treat us like employees so that we’ll walk on you is to act as if you’re entitled to our time when you want it, whenever you want it, for no additional pay.

I fired a client just a few months ago for this exact problem. I warned this client up front that I do not do the sort of copy the client sought with fewer than seven business days’ lead time (now, thanks to this client, that’s a month’s lead time). The client decided that “seven business days’ lead time” meant “three to five calendar days’ lead time, always over a weekend” and threw a complete fit when I refused to turn work around in that time frame.

Oh, and of course this client never offered to pay me extra for the rush job. Which reminds me: you will find yourself out on your freelancer’s curb posthaste if you…

4. Screw with payment terms.

Early in my career, I did $1500 of web copy once for a client and was immediately ghosted by not one but two editors on the project. Attempts to contact them were unsuccessful. I never saw that money. Meanwhile, I know the end client used the copy because I saw it on their website.

The second client who ever fired me only got the title because I was lazy about firing them. I was planning to walk because they were a stellar example of Point the First (don’t articulate what you want), but they sent the Dear John email first.

Honestly, that’s fine. It wasn’t working out, and had that email been the end of it, this client would not have made my Wall of Shame.

But they’re on the Wall of Shame now because, after firing me, they then decided to announce they were only going to pay me about 2/3 of what they had initially agreed to, based on terms they made up as they were writing the email and that had never appeared in the original contract.

Thanks for confirming my decision to stop working with you, former client!

Wait! What If I Don’t Want To Be Fired?

Naturally, the inverse of this post is also true: if you want to keep a freelancer around (and save yourself the time, money, and hassle of hiring a new one), clarify your expectations from the start, take your share of the responsibility for errors or miscommunications, respect our time like you would any other business you do business with, and pay promptly and fully according to the agreed-upon terms.

For every client I’ve fired, I have one in my portfolio who has been there for years and for whom my work is practically magic. They tell me what they want, I send it to them. Voilá. You, too, can have outstanding relationships with your freelancers–if you treat them right.

Freelancers love coffee. Buy me one.
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How to Get Motivated to Write Your Novel

Many writers struggle with motivation. Motivation is a fickle thing; it comes and it goes, and its visits rarely coincide with several free hours in which to focus on writing.

Yet people do, in fact, manage to finish writing entire novels. Or stick to an exercise plan. Or build a house. As someone who has managed to complete two of these three goals, I frequently get asked, “How can I maintain the motivation to write a novel?”

My answer: Don’t try.

how to get fired by your_a guide for clients(1)

Motivation is the drive to complete a certain action. That drive can result from a number of factors, whether internal (like interest, hunger, or pain) or external (rewards and punishments). For most writers, the trouble lies not in the drive itself but in channeling it in the ways and means most effective for writing.

In order to goad ourselves into writing, we often turn to extrinsic motivators. “If I write for half an hour, I can have two cookies.” “No video games until I finish this chapter.”

It’s common to turn to rewards and punishments; after all, they’re a pillar of our educational systems and workplace environments. The problem is that they not only don’t work, but they actually degrade our intrinsic motivation over time. In other words, giving yourself a cookie or time on the Playstation in exchange for writing actually makes you less likely to want to write – and it makes you less likely to turn out quality work when you do write.

If you’re seriously considering writing a novel, however, you already have some intrinsic motivation. The key, then, is to provide yourself with the support you need to move from motivation to a finished product.

Planning: The Key to Motivation

Motivation is a primarily internal sense, feeling, or drive. To create tangible results, it needs to be focused into action. That’s where planning comes in.

A 2002 study in the British Journal of Health Psychology split 248 adults into three groups. The first group was given motivation to exercise in the form of a pep talk and a pamphlet on the benefits of exercise in reducing heart disease risks.

The second group received the same pep talk and pamphlet. However, before Group 2 left the talk, each member was asked to complete the following statement: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].

The third group got none of the above, thus serving as the control group.

Each group then tracked their exercise: day, time of day, and place. The control group, who had received no motivational materials at all, saw 38 percent of its participants exercise at least once a week.

The first group, who got the pep talk and pamphlet, had a 35 percent exercise rate – actually lower than the group that got no motivational materials at all.

And the second group? Ninety-one percent (91 percent!) of its participants exercised. By writing down what they would do and where and when they would do it, this group managed to boost its ability to achieve its goal by more than both of the other groups combined.

The takeaway? Motivation doesn’t matter. Planning matters.

How to Plan to Write an Entire Novel

Writing an entire novel is a big task. Getting it published adds additional challenges. But since your manuscript has to exist before you can pitch it to publishers, let’s start with how to get it written.

1.  Break down the goal.

Your ultimate goal is “finish the novel,” but that’s a big task. Broken down into smaller pieces, that task might look like:

  • Create character profiles.
  • Create a timeline.
  • Choose major plot points.
  • Outline the novel.
  • Outline a chapter.
  • Write a chapter.
  • Write a paragraph.
  • Write a sentence.

Every item on the list should be something that leads in a concrete way to the goal of writing an entire novel manuscript. “Research cover artists” won’t help you get anything written. Neither will “buy the perfect notebook.” If it doesn’t lead to you putting story words on paper, save it for a later list.

2. Work out timing.

How much time do you have to devote to writing each day? Write it down, whether it’s 12 hours or 12 minutes.

At what time of day can you take this time to write? Write it down, whether it’s 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.

On what days of the week can you write? Write these down, whether it’s “all seven” or “just Tuesdays.”

Congratulations: That’s your writing time.

Put this time in your calendar. Right now. And treat it as scheduled time. When something or someone else wants that time (and they will), say, “Sorry, I have something scheduled then.” You don’t have to tell people what it is or why it’s more important than their yearning to binge-watch Seinfeld or rinse out their socks in public drinking fountains with you. “No” is a complete sentence here.

You may find yourself adjusting this time period, and the days of the week in which it occurs, as you write. That’s fine. The focus is to find your time to write and guard it against all other possible intrusions.

3.  Slot #1 into #2.

You might get profiles for every character written in 12 hours. You might get a sentence, or even two, written in 12 minutes. Once you know how long your writing time is and on what days, you can break down the first list into chunks that are as large or small as you need in order to spend your writing time on writing.

Voice of Experience: I recommend being flexible here. Show up to your writing time intending to outline a chapter, only to have a character in your head insist on spilling their life story? Write it out. Tempted to skip writing time because you don’t know what comes next? Show up anyway and freewrite about the worst things that could happen at that moment.

The point is to land your butt in the chair during writing time and to put down words that directly relate to the story, whether those are plans and outlines or the story itself.

4.  Save other plans for later.

The urge to edit while writing overwhelms a lot of writers, especially on their first novel. If it arises, remind yourself that you will plan the editing and revision phase after you are done with the writing phase – not during the writing phase.

Then, do that. Once you have a novel’s worth of story on paper (or in pixels), follow the same steps for your revising and editing time. Then for publishing. Then marketing.

By building a plan and sticking to it, you eliminate the need to “feel motivated.” Instead, you turn writing into a habit – allowing you to focus your energy on the story itself.

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I Want to Believe (In Myself): The X-Files, Star Trek, and (More Than) Autistic Special Interests

There’s a post at Chavisory’s Notebook today that I recommend you read before reading this, because context.  Also so I don’t have to repeat it.  Picture it cut and pasted in this space (except with more citing and less plagiarism).

I was obsessed with The X-Files as a teenager.  Obsessed enough that, unlike any of my prior so-called “special interests,” my family actually knew about this one* and, to a certain extent, supported it.**  Enough that I actually made a couple friends, the first friends my own age I’d had since elementary school, based on our shared interest in the show.

But even to my friends and family, I concealed the depth of my absorption.  I didn’t really understand it myself.  It lasted from a few weeks after the series’ premiere (“Ice,” actually) until just after the first movie- the second-longest-running special interest I’d had until that time.  The first one was Star Trek.

Watching the new episodes has been hard for me.  For one thing, they’re intensely triggering.  It took me three and a half weeks after they began running to convince myself to watch them at all – merely thinking about The X-Files was stirring up all kinds of amorphous emotional crap I thought I had resolved in my teen years but had in fact simply left behind.  Watching the new episodes themselves stirred up more amorphous emotional crap.

I almost didn’t watch “Home Again” at all.  I’m tired, tired of having spent the entire past week in a PTSD fog, tired of trying to figure out how it is that I’ve rewatched all of The Next Generation and Voyager since my teen years without my PTSD making a peep, tired of carrying, always carrying, this trauma.  I can forget about it at times but I cannot put it down.

But of course, the scariest questions are the ones that most need an answer.  And the answer to this one – why Star Trek still excites me to the point that I literally taught a class about the Borg in Voyager last year but why The X-Files is an emotional minefield – is becoming a way in for me to start to unravel the trauma of my teenage years.

I didn’t have the word “trauma” when I started watching The X-Files.  In fact, I didn’t have any words at all for what was happening to me – for what it’s like to go through puberty, without friends, with a mother who insists you pull a perfect Elsa, while autistic but without the word “autistic.”  If I’d had words like “trauma” or “autistic,” I don’t think I could have accepted them.  Not on my own; not without help.  And the help I would have needed to accept them would itself have greatly reduced the trauma.

The words I had were words like weird.  Wrong.  Secretly insane – literally; I believed for a long time that I had what my parents’ 1970s psych textbooks called “childhood schizophrenia”***.  Crazy.  And, yes, spooky.

Both Star Trek and The X-Files stick with me because each of them gave me a vocabulary for who and what I was, at a time in my life when I desperately needed a vocabulary.  They are two very different shows; they generated two very different vocabularies.

Star Trek was (as it has always been) an aspirational vocabulary.  It gave me hope for a world run by and for the benefit of humans in which I, markedly “other,” could be accepted and valued nevertheless – valued for my otherness, even.  This, I think, is why I don’t find rewatching Star Trek triggering.  The Star Trek universe in general, and Deep Space Nine and Voyager in particular, are about places I could belong.  I don’t identify with Barclay but I get Barclay.

The vocabulary The X-Files gave me was more realistic.  The X-Files was, for me, a show about the dangers of being different and the impossibility of being anything else.  It was a show about my reality: about the obliviousness with which most people go through their lives until you scratch the surface of that life, and about the incredible risks that boil out when you do.

As a Facebook friend of mine recently pointed out, autism is not an invisible disability.  It shows in our movement, our behavior, our use of language in various ways.  Difference frightens the human brain, especially when it is close enough to be “just like us” but…not quite.  Freud’s word for it was “unheimlich,” or uncanny.  Star Trek made aliens just like us; The X-Files made them….not quite.

To be uncanny is dangerous.  And we know it.  This is why parents of autistic kids spend tens of thousands on therapies whose only goal is to make the kid appear less uncanny.  Those parents are terrified.  That terror is a survival mechanism.  It arises pre-conscious thought, and so its presence, itself, is not cause for judgment.  It’s what people do once that terror becomes conscious that is a cause for judgment.

Star Trek presumed that humans would “grow out” of that pre-conscious terror of the uncanny, essentially rendering it canny.  The X-Files disagrees.  It does not have a particularly optimistic view of how people will react when faced with the uncanny – or, indeed, how they will react when faced with the idea of the uncanny.  Sure, there are moments, like “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” or Season 10’s “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” that can be remarkably accepting.  But this is largely a show about danger.

It’s also a show about the importance of being right – even when you are wrong.

The X-Files was my anti-ABA.  It taught me that one could get away with being weird or crazy or spooky, as long as one was, at least, not wrong for being so.  It taught me that “weird and crazy and spooky” and “wrong” are not synonyms – that there is a way to be right even while being uncanny.  It taught me that pursuing that sense of being right, even when it made me uncanny as hell, was good.  And it taught me that it was okay to believe that I was maybe not wrong even when the whole world was telling me I was.

That was my fascination with The X-Files, and with Mulder in particular.  I could sound completely crazy but maybe I was not wrong.  

It took over twenty years and four new episodes for that message to sink in.  Like Mulder, I wanted to believe.  But it was not the same thing as believing.

And maybe there would be someone – someone who wasn’t uncanny, who spoke the language that in my wrongness I didn’t speak, someone ordinarily human – who would back me up on this.

*(and still gives me shit about it, as if it were nothing but a garden-variety crush which of course had to have been on David Duchovny and could not possibly have been on Gillian Anderson – but I digress)

**By which I mean “they let me commandeer the VCR to tape episodes and rewatch them until the tapes wore out, and also bought me the show guides, several of the novels, and both “Songs in the Key of X” and the Mark Snow soundtrack,” and also “they did not actively try to stop me being interested.”  They would have said “Oh, The X-Files is her favorite TV show,” as if “favorite” could begin to adequately encompass what that show did for me.

***Turns out I was right: “childhood schizophrenia” was the diagnosis given to a great many people in the mid-twentieth century who actually had – you guessed it – autism.

Posted in neurodivergence | Tagged , , , , , ,

Emotional Labor, Gender, and the Erasure of Autistic Women

This post was originally published at Autistic Academic.

Yesterday, I stumbled across a listicle at My Aspergers Child, titled “Married to an Aspie: 25 Tips for Spouses.”  As you might expect from a title containing the word “Aspie” and the improbable number “25,” this list was terrible (and did not, in fact, contain 25 tips).  Emma and I unpacked several of its varied problematic assumptions here; I spoofed it on Field Notes on Allistics here, and The Digital Hyperlexic did some more unpacking here.

What I’d like to do now is to discuss the intersection of gender, assumptions about emotional labor, and the erasure or overlooking of autistic women that results.  This is a topic I’ve discussed more than once on this blog in various ways, although I’ve never quite gotten to the heart of the emotional labor question.

What is emotional labor?

Emotional labor is the work done to organize, remember, prioritize, sort, and structure daily lives and relationships.  In short, it’s the effort put into giving a fuck about other people’s thoughts, needs, and desires.  There’s an excellent introduction to emotional labor and the ways it manifests (as well as ways to do it) at Brute Reason here.

The problem with emotional labor, of course, is that generally speaking it is not considered “work” at all.  Rather, women in particular are expected to provide it “out of the goodness of our hearts.”  Emotional labor is actively cast as not-work by being cast instead as a natural urge women simply have – as if, rather than calling on women to generate effort, we’re actually doing them a favor by foisting the world’s give-a-fuck duties onto them.

In cishet relationships in particular, women are raised to, are generally expected to, and frequently end up doing a disproportionate amount of the emotional labor, as this massive MetaFilter thread on the topic attests.  (The days – literal days – it will take you to read the entire thread are wholly worthwhile.)  We cast emotional labor not only as “women’s work,” but as not even work.  Women who fail to put up with “affirmation, forbearance, consultation, pacifying, guidance, tutorial, weathering abuse,” as Jess Zimmerman sums up emotional labor (at the link in the above paragraph), are not only punished for it socially but are in a sense not considered women at all – and the enforcers of this, as N.I. Nicholson also points out (at the Digital Hyperlexic), are frequently other women.  Certainly, as Nicholson also points out, failing to do the emotional labor “correctly” is cast as social and romantic suicide: “no man will ever want you.”

What does this have to do with autism?

Consider, first, how autism in general and Asperger syndrome in particular are portrayed as deficits in emotional labor, specifically.  The DSM-IV criteria for Asperger Syndrome (which differ from the criteria for autism only in their willingness to allow for a broader range of features in speech development) specifically target certain differences, difficulties, or absences in expected displays of emotional labor:

  • marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction,
  • failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level,
  • a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
  • lack of social or emotional reciprocity.

The last criteria in this section, “lack of social or emotional reciprocity,” is a demand for emotional labor, full stop.  Emotional reciprocity is the one thing all forms of emotional labor have in common.  The other three are more specific examples of emotional labor: using nonverbals that make the other person feel noticed and attended to, energy invested in “appropriate” relationships, and “sharing” (the ambiguous construction “of interest to other people” in the list of examples, implying “of interest to the patient, pointed out to other people” and “of interest to the other person”, is particularly telling).

It is the lack of “appropriately” displayed emotional labor that leads researchers like Simon Baron-Cohen to cling to the notion of a “theory of mind” deficit in autism and similar developmental disorders.  In In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, authors Donvan and Zucker accuse ASAN founder Ari Ne’eman of “unmistakably” having autism and of possessing no Theory of Mind because, in a conversation with “autism parent” Liz Bell, Ne’eman expressed disagreement with Bell’s position on autism, but did not do the emotional labor of making that disagreement palatable to Bell.

And, of course, “25 Tips for Spouses,” many of which boil down to assumptions that the “Aspie” half of an Aspie-NT marriage is failing to do his (always his, according to “25 Tips”) fair share of the emotional labor, and that this is somehow autism’s fault:

3. Although he genuinely loves his spouse, the Aspie does not know how to show this in a practical way sometimes.
12. Because the Aspie does not have the same relational needs as the NT partner, he may be unable to recognize instinctively or to meet the emotional needs of his partner. Marriages can thus form some dysfunctional relationship patterns.
13. For NTs who had normal expectations of the mutuality of marriage, there may be a sense of betrayal and a feeling of being used and trapped while in a relationship with an Aspie.
15. In the privacy of their relationship, the NT partner may become physically and emotionally drained, working overtime to keep life on track for both of them.

18. NT partners may begin to feel that they are entirely defined by the role they fill for their Aspie partner. There can be a sense that there is little mutuality, equality and justice.
19. NT partners may feel that they are daily sacrificing their own sense of self to help fulfill the priorities of the Aspie partner.
20. NT partners may resent the reality of living on terms dictated by the needs and priorities of the Aspie partner.

Insofar as Asperger syndrome is understood as a deficit of emotional labor, these statements make a certain amount of sense.  But notice how “Aspie” and “man” are perpetually conflated – not only here, but in most dating guides for people with Asperger syndrome (as Emma and I have discussed in previous posts), and in the literature on so-called “Cassandra Syndrome.”  The overwhelming majority of people who claim “Cassandra Syndrome” are non-autistic women married to autistic men, and the fundamental claim is that the man in question has so terribly neglected the emotional labor of the marriage that it has caused actual trauma to the woman.

How Autistic Women Get Lost

Emotional labor is a demand we place primarily on women.  We expect men to do far less emotional labor than women; socially, we tend to punish men who do “too much” emotional labor as excessively “effeminate.”  We expect autistic people to do even less emotional labor – to the point of doing none at all – and we pathologize this lack of emotional labor-doing as both a tragedy and a fault.  Meanwhile, autistic girls and women get lost, both before and after diagnosis.

We know that girls and women don’t get diagnosed with autism as frequently as men and boys.  There have been a spate of articles in recent years on why this might be happening and how to address it.

One answer that has been floated in several circles is that we “miss” autistic girls and women in diagnosis because girls are taught and socialized, from birth, to perform emotional labor.  When the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder still emphasize deficits in emotional labor, clinicians are looking for lack – not for difference, which is more likely to appear in girls who have been socialized to perform emotional-labor rituals without being given any insight as to their meaning or purpose.

(This, by the way, has nothing to do with whether girls are “innately better” at emotional labor than boys.  It has everything to do with how both girls and boys are raised.  Girls are expected to at least make the effort; boys are not.  Girls, therefore, show up in clinicians’ offices making the effort; boys do not.  While no studies exist yet, I suspect that a study of boys who are raised in households that demand more emotional labor from them also “fly under the radar” of diagnosis more easily than boys who are raised without such demands.)

What of the girls and women who are diagnosed – who are, as I was, probed by clinicans until our difference in emotional labor’s performance becomes apparent?  Well, if you ask the authors of “25 Steps,” we don’t exist – or we don’t marry NTs, or our marriages are never affected by our autism.

(If this last one were true, one would expect a crusade to demand equal emotional labor from boys and men.  Emotional labor “cures” autism!  Except, of course, it does not.)

I’ve written about this question before.  Long story short, autistic girls and women are subjected to the continued demand, attached to our (actual or perceived) gender, to do the emotional labor, no matter what it is, and certainly no matter whether or not we have a developmental disability that specifically lists deficits in emotional labor ability in its diagnostic criteria.  What becomes a convenient scapegoat for men in emotional-labor-lopsided marriages (it’s not him, it’s his autism!) becomes a whiny excuse for women.

This is also why creepy male behavior is excusable with the reasoning “but he might be autistic!,” while curt female behavior is not.  His autism is a reason to pity and excuse his lack of emotional labor; our autism is no excuse to skip out on our expected over-share of the emotional labor.

And this is why there are no “25 Tips” for autistic women married to non-autistic men (like me).  I’m presumed not to need them.  As a woman, I’m presumed to have the (innate or trained) ability to do a disproportionately large share of the emotional labor, to absorb my husband’s disproportionately small share.  (It is also assumed that the shares are lopsided in exactly that way; no one asks how my husband and I have negotiated the emotional labor in our own marriage.)  It is presumed that he will never feel “betrayed,” “used,” or “trapped” by me and my autism, or that he will never need to turn to an Internet listicle for help if he does.  Because I’m a woman, and disproportionate unpaid emotional labor is my birthright.

Thus autistic girls and women get overlooked before diagnosis and erased after it.  Our cultural presumptions about who is able and equipped to do emotional labor make it easy to both diagnose and dismiss autistic men as “just like that,” while blaming and burdening autistic women with “doing it anyway.”  When autistic women don’t “do it anyway,” they’re de-feminized in countless ways.  It’s a lose-lose game.  Crone Island beckons.

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How Much Is My Girl Scout Handbook Worth? Part Two: The Market

Part One of this post ran in 2011, and it’s always been in the top five most popular posts on this blog. Based on the search terms folks use to find it, it appears that the sequel is both desired and long overdue. So here it is.

Part One covered the basics of appraising the condition of your handbook(s). I highly recommend reading it before moving on to Part Two, since it explains why not every book actually has value as a collectible (and how to tell if your book does or not).

Assuming you’ve already determined that your handbooks are in Very Fine or Fine condition, however, here’s what you need to know about the state of the market.

Which Girl Scout books are worth the most?

2011-12-28_18-57-40_511

1947. From my personal collection. Background courtesy of our linen closet.

As of late 2018, here’s a rough approximation of which Girl Scout items fetch the highest prices in the rare and used book world and what their price ranges look like:

1. Well-preserved personal ephemera.

Items like scrapbooks and photo albums are by far the most valuable, especially if they are well-preserved and provide details about the people, places, and dates shown in the photos/clippings within them. Prices for these items currently run in the $500 to $2,500 range, with higher values typically being set on photographs taken prior to World War II.

As far as price goes, I strongly suspect that Mariner Scout documents also fall in this category. I say “suspect” because I have yet to actually find any for sale.

2. Ephemera from the National office.

Cookie campaign advertisements, brochures from events held by the National office, and similar non-book items fetch higher prices than nearly any book. Currently, most of these fall in the $200 to $500 range (and yes, that means sellers are asking $500 for a single piece of paper in some cases!).

3. Certain books.

Currently, only a handful of Girl Scout-related books exist that are consistently listed at $100.00 or above – and only one handbook makes that list.

That handbook is How Girls Can Help Their Country, the first Girl Scout handbook ever written, published in several editions from 1912 to about 1917. Most editions I’ve seen on the market are priced at about $150.

How Girls Can Help Their Country was very cheaply produced. At least one edition is bound together with actual staples. Like most cheap books published in the 1910s, it was printed on acid-containing paper. Very few of these still exist, and those that do are disintegrating rapidly. My rule of thumb is to buy any copy I find for under $100 (so far, that’s been one).

If you want to read How Girls Can Help Their Country without investing in one of the delicate few remaining copies, Applewood Books issued a reprint a few years ago.

The other “Girl Scout books” that consistently sell for around $150 apiece are Very Fine copies of Edith Lavell’s and Lilian Garis’s respective adventure series, published in the 1920s and 1930s. If you have one or more with pristine dust jackets, congratulations.

4. Ephemera at the council level.

Songbooks, training manuals, and other items published at the council level typically run anywhere from $0 to $150, depending on the item and the demand for it. Training manuals from National tend to fall into this category as well, rather than category #2 above.

5.  Everything else.

Some old handbooks are more in demand than others, and surprise: they don’t follow any predictable pattern. For instance, handbooks published in the 1940s and 1950s tend to be cheapest to acquire – probably because a lot of them were published and they were the only ones published in hardcover, making them more durable.

The handbooks published in 1994 and in 2001 are selling, on average, for more than the 1940s/1950s handbooks. Copies in their original packaging can easily fall in the $100-$150 range. But before you get too excited: Copies in anything but new-in-the-package condition are selling for about $10 or less, which is probably less than you paid for it in the 90s.

Where can I find up to date prices for comparison?

The best way to figure out how much your Girl Scout handbook, novel, or ephemera might sell for is to look up similar books through used and rare book dealers.

Luckily, there’s an easy one-stop way to do this: AddALL (link opens in new window). AddALL searches several used and rare book databases, and it can give you a look at what’s out there and what people are asking for it.

That said, remember: Used and rare books are ultimately worth only what someone is willing to pay for them. Until you have cash in hand, all you have is a book.

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Gambling on Gamble: The Case That Made Us All Wish We’d Paid Attention in Civics

What’s the deal with Gamble v. United States?

The case, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for 2018-2019, is getting a lot of attention in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings. So far, I’ve spotted this Facebook meme:

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Facebook meme text:

On next month’s SCOTUS docket is Gamble v. US No. 17-646. This is what the rush is about. Yes, they want him to overturn Roe, yes they want him to drag us all back, but they need him seated for October to rule on that specific case. At stakes [sic] is the “separate sovereigns” exception to double jeopardy. If he (and the other 4 conservative judges) vote to overrule it, people given presidential pardons for federal crimes cannot be tried for that crime at the state level. Bam. Trump can pardon the lot of them and they have nothing to fear from state’s attorneys. We’re all looking at the shiny coin and not seeing the bigger picture.

The Atlantic has this article, which appears more or less to support the meme’s position; but see this post by Ed Brayton at Patreon, which points out at least one flaw in the meme’s reasoning.

A fun true fact about me, for new readers: I used to be a lawyer. These days, pretty much all I do with my law degree is use it to interpret one of my top hobbies, SCOTUS-watching, for amusement and edification. Here’s what I can tell you about Gamble.

What is Gamble v. US all about, anyway?

On its face, Gamble is pretty straightforward. Back in the day, Mr. Gamble got convicted of a felony. Under both the law of his state (Alabama) and federal law, that felony conviction meant he couldn’t legally possess a firearm.

Fast-forward a few years. Mr. Gamble is pulled over by police one day. Inside his vehicle, the cops find a loaded weapon. Mr. Gamble is prosecuted by the state of Alabama for being a felon in possession of a firearm and convicted, under Alabama state law.

Then, the federal government decides that it wants to prosecute Mr. Gamble for being a felon in possession of a firearm, too. It convicts him under federal law. The federal conviction adds about three years to the almost-four-year sentence he’s already received for the state conviction.

Throughout the process, Mr. Gamble continually points out that, hey, this should be double jeopardy. And judges agree with him! One even said that, were it not for the “separate sovereigns” exception to double jeopardy, Mr. Gamble could not possibly be tried twice for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

So Mr. Gamble appealed. And has kept appealing. And now he’s got a hot date with the U.S. Supreme Court.

So is this really “double jeopardy”?

Yes. The Fifth Amendment reads:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

(Important bit in bold.)

Mr. Gamble was convicted in Alabama under Alabama Code section 13-11-72(a), which reads:

 

No person who has been convicted in this state or elsewhere of committing or attempting to commit a crime of violence, misdemeanor offense of domestic violence, violent offense as listed in § 12-25-32(15), anyone who is subject to a valid protection order for domestic abuse, or anyone of unsound mind shall own a firearm or have one in his or her possession or under his or her control.
He was also convicted in federal court under 18 USC 922(g)(1), which reads:

(g) It shall be unlawful for any person— (1) who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year…

to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
The text matters in double jeopardy cases, because being tried on two charges for the same action isn’t always double jeopardy. How many acts occurred matters less than how similar the charges are. (I’ll come back to this in a bit.)
For now, just keep in your head that yes, being convicted of both of the crimes quoted here counts as being convicted twice for the same crime.

 

What’s the “separate sovereigns” exception?

The short and dirty version is “Trying someone twice for the same crime is not okay, unless two separate governments do it.” And in the U.S. federal system, a state government and the federal government count as “two separate governments.”

The “separate sovereigns” exception isn’t in the text of the Constitution. It arises from British common law, much of which we imported way back in the late 1700s because it was, frankly, what we were used to. I won’t get into its background here, but if you want to read 150 years of precedent supporting it, check out the lists of cited cases in the briefs for Gamble, which are available at the SCOTUSblog link at the top of this post.

Does the “separate sovereigns” exception really make it possible for the President to pardon people for state crimes?

No. But it does make possible a result with nearly-identical consequences, in a handful of specific cases.

For example, suppose that Mr. Gamble had been tried by the federal government first – but the President stepped in to pardon him. Under our current system, Alabama can still try him for the same crime.

Without the separate sovereigns exception, however, Alabama would not be able to try Mr. Gamble for being a felon in possession of a firearm once the President had pardoned him, because the Fifth Amendment’s bar to double jeopardy would prevent it. The federal charges and the pardon would be the end of it (assuming Mr. Gamble had not committed some other crime).

That sounds pretty ominous if you’re not keen on our current President pardoning anyone. But here’s the number-one reason it’s unlikely to occur except in a minute handful of cases:

When people face multiple charges from the same single act, in most cases, double jeopardy doesn’t even apply in the first place.

The relevant test comes from Blockburger v. United States, and it states (I’m paraphrasing) that it’s not double jeopardy to face two charges for the same act, as long as each charge contains at least one element the other does not.

This can be confusing in the abstract, so here’s an example.

Suppose that a completely hypothetical defendant named Maul Panafort is accused of committing tax fraud – basically, of hiding millions of dollars so that he didn’t have to pay either the IRS or his home state of Michissippi any taxes on that money.

Now, it’s pretty tough to lie on your federal tax return without lying on your state tax return, or vice versa. State tax returns use information like your adjusted gross income, calculated on your federal return. When those numbers don’t match up, folks get suspicious.

Wanting to evade suspicion, Maul Panafort naturally used the same fake numbers on his state tax return as he did on his federal tax return. But both the state and the feds found out, and now they both want to charge him with criminal tax fraud.

It’s not double jeopardy if they do. Take a look at the charges:

  • Federal: “you lied on your federal tax return.”
  • State: “you lied on your state tax return.”

Both charges include “you lied” and “on your tax return.” But the federal charge includes the “federal” element, which the state charge does not. The state charge includes the “state” element, which the federal charge does not.

Even if Mr. Panafort receives a Presidential pardon for federal tax fraud, the state can still prosecute him for state tax fraud. It’s not double jeopardy, because each charge contains an element not contained in the other.

The overwhelming majority of cases that both the state and federal governments can prosecute will fall into this category. There’s a reason it’s taken several years for SCOTUS to receive a petition in a case that cleanly addresses the separate sovereigns doctrine (and why Mr. Gamble’s attorneys went to great pains in that petition to stress that this was a “clean case”).

Will cases exist in which a Presidential pardon could bar state prosecution, if the separate sovereigns doctrine is overturned? Yes. It would have saved Mr. Gamble, for instance. But these cases are likely to be so few and far between as to be highly unusual – and I predict that anyone the current President wishes to pardon is likely to face non-double-jeopardy state charges anyway.

Are the conservatives really going to overturn the separate sovereigns exception?

My prediction: If the Court overturns the separate sovereigns exception, the vote will not be along political lines.

The strongest support for that position appears in the last case in which the Court considered the “separate sovereigns” question, Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle. There, the Court looked at whether Puerto Rico had sovereignty separate from the U.S. federal government (the Court’s answer: no).

Justice Ginsburg wrote a concurring opinion in which she pointed out that sooner or later, the Court needed to address the question of double jeopardy as it related to being prosecuted by both the state and federal governments – and she signaled that the exception may be overdue for retirement. Justice Thomas joined that opinion.

The Court may or may not overturn the exception, but there is no reason, currently, to think it would do so along conventionally-accepted political lines.

In fact, the separate sovereigns exception is fascinating precisely because it is so hard to come to a conclusion on based on traditional political leanings: its existence supports a certain type of bounded federalism that conservatives and libertarians traditionally support, but at the cost of increased police intervention in individuals’ lives and a counterintuitive reading of the Fifth Amendment, which they traditionally eschew.

Is there a good reason to support (or to oppose) getting rid of the separate sovereigns exception?

Off the top of my head, the biggest to support getting rid of it is fewer prosecutions: you’d be prosecuted in state or federal court, but not both. It’d also make the prohibition against double jeopardy clearer to ordinary folks, although it’s not going to make it exactly clear.

Reasons to support keeping it include that it’s a 150+ year old component of our federalist system, one that arguably supports the concept that the states really do have powers the federal government does not within their own borders. There’s a chance that ending it would have unforeseen consequences for the balance of power between the states and the federal government, which may not tilt in the favor of individual liberty.

It’s not an easy question, either way. But I do look forward to seeing which justices have what things to say about it after oral arguments.


I no longer practice law and this post isn’t legal advice, but feel free to share a coffee with me anyway.

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