Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Divergent, Gattaca, and limitations "for your own good"

Last night I participated in the #FilmDis chat about human gene editing and GATTACA. Which, even though it's been a while since I saw the film (I think the last time was in 2010), I have opinions about. It's a film about eugenics, and in a very real sense it's about eliminating disability in most people but creating a new genetically inferior (disabled) underclass that looks a lot like the old one, people who couldn't afford to have their kids genetically selected birth this underclass. So do people who leave their children's genes up to luck. (AKA, the protagonists parents, at least the first time.) But the only person we see in the movie (which is largely about disability discrimination) who we'd discriminate against today? He's got an acquired disability. It's not genetic. And he's the one who's genetically valid, selling his genetic identity and thereby allowing the protagonist to get in the door to his dream job.

And Divergent is a series I have opinions about. I loved what looked like neurodivergent representation in the first two books, except for the part where I knew what was coming: the Divergent are secretly neurotypical and everyone who really fits a faction has "genetic damage" making them neurodivergent. And sure, we build a city in the end where no one really believes in genetic purity vs. genetic damage, but all through the series we're shown the functional superiority of Divergent people: Tris, do your Divergent magic, think like the Erudite and tell us what they'll do! Tris, come in first in initiation and have it clearly be about your Divergence. Or ... your neurotypicality.

So it's probably not shocking that I want to connect them? They've both got genetic engineering and discrimination based on genetic makeup. And I do:

You see, the entire idea of factions in Divergent is about behaviorally conditioning people to behave in ways that takes their presumed "damage" to an extreme, in a way that's hopefully useful. This ... actually reminds me of Specialisterne? More on that later, maybe. They think it's the kindest thing to do, giving people a way to be useful while using their supposed strengths (that are secretly still defects.) It's still limiting people based on an idea of what their potential is, for what is supposed to be their own good.

And several times in Gattaca, we see Anton attempt to dissuade Vincent from his goals, in the name of "protecting" his "invalid" older brother. He should take the jobs that "invalids" can get, not try to go to space as he's always wanted. He should leave the company he works for. He should accept that his genetics really do make him inferior and work from there, for his own good (for his own safety.) And maybe it would be safer. (Isn't it usually safer, at least in some ways, to stick to the paths laid out for you as acceptable?) But this sort of limiting people for their own "good" and to keep them "safe" exists in the real world, for disabled people. And guess what? It's not actually safe!

So in both Divergent and Gattaca, we have people limiting others (or trying to) in the name of their own good. Adults who only want the best for us, hurting us because of what they do not know. (My fear is not of water, and now I remember Vincent and Anton competing in the water. He didn't save anything to get back.)


  1. Yes. Paternalism ostensibly comes from a loving place. From a place that seeks to protect us from: our difference; ourselves; society; barriers. But what it does is erect other barriers, or anticipatory barriers, in the name of making us safe. I think really it's just what the "carers" need to feel safe themselves. And honestly, in all three cases (that is, GATTACA, Divergent, and real life) it springs from a desire to control others in a way that puts them into the box of people that you don't have to worry about, expend effort on, care about.

    I am not saying our parents don't care about us when they try to protect us. I'm saying that laying out an expected path for us to take -- deciding what our potential is -- is easier. It's easier, emotionally and logistically and financially, than taking the time and work to support each individual child/person in the way that is best for them.

    (I haven't seen the Divergent movie(s), but I've read the books, and I liked and disliked them in equal measures, for many of the reasons you cite. One disability thing that I noticed about both Divergent and GATTACA was that mental illness is rampant and not treated or really even acknowledged, especially the mental illness that is exacerbated (I won't say caused) by the systems in place to keep people in their expected roles.)

    1. Oh goodness do I ever have thoughts about the Divergent series. As in, I have an 8k word documented and cited rant about their representation of Divergent people and the rug-pull. I've not seen the movies either TBH, "both films" was an Alyssa-is-tired-ism.

      Laying out an expected path is pretty easy, getting someone to actually follow it takes effort. (Apparently not as much as dealing with them taking their own path because otherwise resistance would be lower when we do that?)

      And yeah acknowledgement of mental stuff: I mean what happened to Al? And it's said that disability is common among the factionless, WHY MIGHT THAT BE.

  2. "This ... actually reminds me of Specialisterne? More on that later, maybe."

    I'd like to hear what you think about them. I've been working with them for about three years now, and it would be interesting to get an outsider's perspective.

    1. The gist of it is "Ok, here's a thing trying to do good based on ideas of what autistic people are good at that look a bit stereotyped to me (techy!) and pushing the relevant presumed autistic traits to become employment."

      Which is a heck of an improvement on the sheltered workshop model since I'm under the impression that *real, actual paychecks* are part of the idea, and super useful for people who really do have the assumed strengths and interest in building a job around them. AND which is part of the pattern of assuming what jobs we can/should be doing.

  3. Oh, yes, the realness of the paychecks is very much an actual thing. I'm currently making $15/hr after Specialisterne takes their cut. Would you mind if I brought this up with my NT colleagues? The paycheck thing can be a bit of a blind spot for them.


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