11/21/2016 4 Comments
A school field trip was canceled earlier this year after several eighth-grade girls expressed discomfort about having to share a hotel room with an autistic, 13-year-old classmate.
Out came the pitchforks! These girls are a bunch of hateful ableists! How dare they say they don't want to share a hotel room with someone who makes them uncomfortable -- and who might spit, scratch, have a meltdown, or become violent?
First of all -- get the facts straight before you get your panties all up in a bunch, people. Here's a piece of advice that you might find helpful in life: most of the time, when something seems too outrageous to be true, it's probably because you're only getting (a very biased) half of the story.
The popular narrative is, "The girls were hateful and mean! The poor sweet autistic girl was excluded from the trip!" As Haaretz reported in Holocaust Trip Canceled After Classmates Refuse to Room With Autistic Teen:
Carducci junior high school in Legnano – a small town in the greater Milan area – decided to take its eighth-graders to Mauthausen in order to educate them about the Holocaust. The trip was supposed to begin last Monday. Preparations turned sour, however, when some of the pupils reportedly began complaining on WhatsApp about the presence of an autistic classmate: no one wanted to share a hotel room with her, apparently.
Here's the thing, though: the school did not "exclude" the girl from the trip. In response to complaints from her classmates, they made a reasonable accommodation for the autistic student: the school had requested that she sleep in a separate room with a support teacher rather than with a classmate.
Makes sense, right? 13-year-olds shouldn't have to be responsible for handling emergencies and meltdowns. They're young girls, not special ed teachers.
Not to mention -- as young women with bodily autonomy, they have the right to say, "I'm not comfortable with this sleeping arrangement." And they don't owe anyone an explanation. All they should have to say is, "No."
After all -- isn't that what feminism is about? Making sure women feel safe in their bodies? Making sure people aren't forced into unwanted physical contact with others? Empowering women to take control over their bodies?
I mean, hell! How many viral articles have you seen over the last few months, preaching that you should never force your three-year-old to hug or kiss her relatives, because it teaches her consent doesn't matter?
But... oh. I guess that's only true when we're talking about saying "no" to white, privileged, cis-men.
If they person you're concerned about has less privilege than you -- perhaps because of a disability -- then your only option is to shut up, be polite, and sleep in a room (or even a bed) with someone you're not comfortable with.
Again, it really doesn't matter if the reason for their discomfort is because the autistic student spits or touches or makes unwanted comments about their bodies. If it's no longer politically correct to "force" children to hug their grandparents... how is it okay to force adolescents to sleep with a student who makes them uncomfortable?
(For what it's worth, lawyer Paola Marreddu said that the girls "had wrongly assumed they would be responsible for taking care of her in the event she had an emergency. Once they were told an adult would be responsible if the girl needed special assistance, all their concerns disappeared.")
The takeaways here:
1. Stop making a fuss about "injustices" when you haven't read the full story.
2. Stop teaching young girls that they don't get to choose who they sleep with or what happens to their bodies. Consent matters, no matter how much privilege you have.
3. This entire drama could have been avoided if the autistic student's parents weren't so freaking hypersensitive. It's totally gross of them to try to impose on a bunch of 13-year-old girls' bodily autonomy.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!I