ENGL 384 Take Home Final – Chy’Nia Johnson

Chy’Nia Johnson

ENGL 384: Disability and Literature

Dr. Chris Foss

7 December 2021

Word count: 1003

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. Chy’Nia Johnson

Option Two: a thesis-driven argument relevant to disability studies that engages substantially with one or two of the theoretical pieces from the final autism unit


Imbalance of Racial Representation in Autism Studies

In the final section of ENGL 384, we discussed the topic of Autism. A variety of readings were assigned, each showing different perspectives in their view of autism. There were a couple of theoretical pieces that caught my attention and made me think about the topic of autism a little harder. These two pieces were about race and autism. The first piece called “Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exists… We Matter” by Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu talks about how autism and the research behind the disability is lacking a more racial background within its testing. She also talks about how there is a representation absence of autistics of color in both literature and the media. Along with Giwa’s preface, I also found interest in E. Ashkenazy’s theoretical piece “Foreword: On Autism and Race”. She also explains the microaggressions on people of color as well as the adaptations that autistics of color must face every day of their lives. As I further my readings, I came to the thought that there should be more people of color in autism research and more racial autism representation in the media.

Autism research has been going on for many decades and with the more advanced technologies, one would think that the research would expand more than it has. That is entirely incorrect. The research that is used now and is the same research that was used about 30 years ago. Most testing was completed on one race and gender, white males. With such a strong, one-sided type of research for so long, most diagnoses are not completely accurate. Researchers and scientists are not taking into consideration the different ways that autism is affected by certain racial backgrounds. In certain communities within racial backgrounds other than white, some autistics of color have a hard time with getting proper diagnoses and help, (Ashkenazy). If additional research of autism with autistics of color would help improve statistical research that is among the current group of autistics of color. Current autistic colors research is more based on the white male information that was early studied. So, the current research could be erroneous in that there could be more certain aspects of autism that are different in autistics of color. As mentioned in Giwa’s piece she says, “According to popular opinion, autistic people didn’t/don’t look like me. People didn’t/don’t sound like me. Autism = (white, male-presenting) toddler wearing a Thomas the train T-shirt; autism = (white, male-presenting) quirky teen gamer; autism = (white, male-presenting) geeky computer programmer; autism = (white, male-presenting) adult rocking and staring off into space… A ready scapegoat for all of their caregiver’s life disappointments; autism = Temple Grandin, puzzle pieces, ABA therapy, and Autism Speaks” (Giwa, xv). With this description, a person with little to no knowledge would only think that white, male-presenting people would only be the ones that can have autism, which is entirely false. Autism is in every gender and in every race and I think that having this issue resolved would change more minds on the racial representation of autism.

While autism research and reported studies are mainly based around white males, a similar thing is happening with the media. Back in the 1980s, when the beginning of extensive testing and research started on autism, the way that the media was informing the public about the growth and awareness of this disability was through articles, books, and particularly movies. The first movie that came out that was showing/bringing awareness to the autism spectrum was Rain Man (1988). The movie portrays a man that learns about his estranged brother, who has autism and savant syndrome. The man then learns more about his brother as they travel across the country in a car. This movie has the main portrayal of the main character being an autistic white male. As more movies came out as the years rolled on, they also followed a similar pattern. Most main characters with autism were either white or male or both. This portrayal in the media shows a lack of racial representation. With the lack of racial representation in the media that is shown today, autistics of color do not have their own race or face being related back on the big screen. E. Ashkenazy mentions in her piece, “Though many autistic people of color live in loving supporting homes, despite having the support of their families, they do not always have the support and understanding of their communities. How can we positively target different ethnic groups and cultures with powerful information that shapes how autism is both viewed and approached? (Ashkenazy, xxxiii). I interpreted this as that most autistics of color do not have their race being represented as often or even at all in the media. Yes, there are some representations of autistics of color in articles that are being written by autistics of color, however, there are not many, if any, movies, or TV shows that portray a person of color that is autistic. If there was more representation of autistics of color in the media, then the problem that was previously mentioned by Ashkenazy would not be present.

The topic that I choose is a very touchy and controversial topic to certain individuals because some people do not notice the issue whereas this issue surrounds the life of others. This was mentioned in both Giwa and Ashkenazy’s pieces. They both mentioned that non-autistic, non-people of color say, ‘oh well autism is autism’ or ‘why should race be brought up in this issue?’ For the individuals that these two writers were discussing, this situation is very important to autistics of color. Having racial-based research and having racial representation of autistics of color in the media could have a significant impact on how an individual with autism and part of the persons of color community. Therefore, there should be more research that has a person of color in the description of the research and there should be more people of color in movies and TV shows that are surrounded by autism.


Works Cited

Ashkenazy, E. Foreword: On Autism and Race. All the Weight of Our Dreams. (2016). Accessed 6 December 2021.

Giwa-Onaiwu, Morénike. Preface: Autistics of Color: We Exist… We Matter. All the Weight of Our Dreams. (2016). Accessed 6 December 2021.

Chy’Nia Johnson Major Project


Word Count: 503 (TW: Full Nudity)

For my project, I chose to create a piece of artwork that shows four disabled persons and their bodies to talk about the subject of Sex and Disability. Each body is in a different color to talk about in an easier manner for this write up. I will start with the Red. Red is a feminine body that is displayed in lingerie and is sitting “provocatively” in their wheelchair (their legs are spread apart further than normal). Yellow is a feminine body this is displayed wearing only underwear with their breasts visible but also slightly covered. Yellow is also a person that uses a colostomy bag (the lighter color blob located in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, left for the viewer). Green is a feminine body that is standing and wearing lingerie and is an amputee (amputated right arm, visible from our left side). Blue is a feminine body but could also be a nonbinary body, the display is of their backside and also with a view of their prosthetic leg.

I wanted to try to express further knowledge on Sex and Disability with these paintings. In the introduction of Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow’s Sex and Disability, there is a section called Lives and this introduces the three chapters that will be talking on the analysis of the writers’ experience with sex and disability as well as the ableist viewpoint of sex and disability. The specific sentence from the introduction that my project was produced on is, “If there’s disability, according to ableist logic, then there can’t be sex (hence, the “tragedy” of a “beautiful woman in a wheelchair”); and conversely, if there’s sex (a casual encounter initiated in a park), then presumably there is not the insertion or removal of a pair of hearing aids…,” (McRuer and Mollow). I interpreted this sentence as from the ableist viewpoint and then came up with my counter argument. The ableist way, which is something I have heard more times than enough is “You’re too beautiful to be in a wheelchair” or one that I and Anna, one of the writers, have heard personally “You’re don’t look disabled so why would you park in this designated spot?” I oppose this way of thinking and think it is very belittling and deprecating of the person being attacked.

My counter argument was to show that you can be pretty or sexy and disabled. Each person in each piece is expressing their sexuality and sexual desires along with their disability. Each persona that was created in my artwork would, in my views and opinions, be able to have sexual desires and sexy time with people if they wanted to. The ableist way to say it would be Sexy or Disabled however the way I’m portraying it is Sexy and Disabled. I purposefully chose visible disabilities as a way to show my vision but it is known that you can also have invisible disabilities and be/feel sexy or beautiful or whatever adjective you would want to use.


Citations:

Mollow, Anna, McRuer, Robert. “Introduction.” Sex and Disability. dis/lit fall 2021, http://dislitfall21.chris-foss.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Mollow-and-McRuer.pdf. Accessed 2021.

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.”Chy’Nia Johnson

Chy’Nia Johnson Class Summary for 9/7/21

Word count: 740

On September 7th, Dr. Foss began our class session with one of his classic witty jokes, this one about Labor Day (I love these jokes, by the way). After his joke, we started class in a large class discussion about the conclusion of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the author’s portrayal of disability, and some thoughts and comments were spoken about the progression of both characters, Victor Frankenstein and the Creation. Through the analysis of the large group, it was noticed that there were mixed reviews on the progression of both characters, there was more progression in the Creation because of the development of the Creation throughout the book; having turned into a character that readers could fully sympathize with, identify as, or disagree with and Victor having his sort of progression with being more persistent with finding the Creation after the death of Elizabeth and showing more obvious signs of a form of disability according to the book.

The floor was opened to comments about Victor and the Creation’s progressions, and it was recognized that Victor had progressed to a more neurotic and frantic personality as he was trying to hunt down and find the Creation. This was a change to his personality as at the beginning of the book he was more indulged in creating something that was out of the ordinary. Once the Creation was created, he seemed like he was crazed and dealing with a mental disability, he fell ill and feverish and was taking medicine to help with this “fever”. It was depicted in our discussion that Victor was suffering from sociopathy and psychopathy and showed narcissistic values. When Victor received his threat from the Creation about his wedding night, he thought that the Creation was going to attack him. He neglected the fact that Elizabeth would also be there with him, meaning that he was only thinking about himself in that situation.

The other side is the progression or development of the Creation. Throughout the book, we saw a huge development of the Creation, from being created and learning the aspects of life to becoming a lonely murderer that wanted revenge. The Creation showed signs that he was susceptible to being loving and affectionate, this was shown when he would clear the pathway from the house of the blind man and his children and get them wood for their fireplace. The Creation is also shown as an extreme caricature or representation of disability. He just wanted to be accepted in the communities that he went through, but the people or society saw him as ugly or a freak or a monster because of his appearance. Even Victor saw him as a horror and did not want to help him when in need. This can be portrayed in the disabled community, especially those with physical disabilities. They want to be treated the same way able-bodied people are treated but society does not accept them that way. Society creates a stigma that creates a barrier to block disabled people from being accepted. This also compares to the other story that we had read for the day called The Birthday of the Infanta. The dwarf, in the story, was treated terribly in a sense but he was oblivious to this until the end of the story. With these comparisons, readers can empathize with the Creation because they would feel bad for the way he is being treated. The Creation developed into a murderer only because he was hurt over the fact that he was not accepted, and that Victor would not help him be able to not be lonely in his life. I suspect that he did not want to murder those people, but he wanted to make sure that Victor suffered the same way he was suffering.

To wrap up this summary, the class had some mixed answers and comments to the progression of both Victor Frankenstein and the Creation, because both have pros and cons and complexity to their progressive ways. It all depends on which aspect is picked up when the reader is reading. They could empathize with the Creation at one point in the book and disagree with his development and how this is displaying the representation of the disabled community, whereas you could disagree with Victor at the beginning and then understand his representation in the disabled community. The complexity of the two characters shows the similarities and differences in the disabled community.