I would walk 500 miles

[Content Note: filicide, abusive therapies, walk in my shoes]

Recently, Michelle Sutton published an article in The Huffington Post that points out that parents, the media and “awareness!” organisations (scare quotes intentional) tend to say overwhelmingly negative things about raising autistic children, and, of course, someone decided to comment on her article saying ‘walk in my shoes’.

This shoes comment comes up so often. Neurodivergent K has addressed it before, and her post will probably be far more eloquent than my take on it, but here’s my take anyway.

Walk in my shoes appears to have become some sort of excuse that allows people to behave appallingly. Walk in their shoes excuses the murderers of autistic children. Walk in our shoes excuses parents from being accountable for subjecting their children to unethical, unnecessary and abusive ‘therapies’.

Except, it really doesn’t.

Everyone has shoes that they walk in. Some people do face incredible challenges in their lives, but that does not give them an excuse to infringe on the rights of others. It is never okay to use your shoes as an excuse for murder. It is never okay to use your shoes as an excuse for writing about your child’s incredibly private moments for all the world to see. It is never okay to use your shoes to say nasty things about autistic people, and particularly your autistic children.

I’m not claiming to be perfect. I try my best to not offend anyone, but sometimes I do so inadvertently. When someone points this out to me, I do not attempt to make an excuse for being offensive, I thank the person and ensure that I do not do the same offensive thing again. I would never, ever consider trying to justify my offensive behaviour because there is no justification for that. My shoes have varied over the years. Sometimes, they have been comfortable and sometimes they haven’t. But, my shoes will never ever be the reason that I think that murder is justifiable. My shoes will never ever be the reason that I think that disrespecting my child’s right to privacy is justifiable. Nor will my shoes ever be used to justify infringing on the rights of others.

This is not about judgement – or maybe it is? I think everyone can be allowed to do what they want without being judged – unless (and this is an important unless) they do something that hurts someone else, or infringes on the rights of another person.

My final note on shoes: We all have shoes but you don’t get to hold yours up to excuse your behaviour when you’re hurting someone else.