Open letter to The Mighty

21/12/2016: It has come to my attention that many people are finding this post because they are googling “meltdown bingo”. If you arrived here after doing that, I beg you to consider why you think making a game out of a truly distressing experience is somehow fun. I would also like to advise you that you will not find a meltdown bingo card in this post, so if that was your goal, go elsewhere.

[CN: ableism]

Dear the Mighty

I’ve always referred to you as The Mighty (Awful) because that is exactly what you are: Mighty awful.

Today, however, is the final straw.

You have published articles written by autistic people which talk about ableism, and how that effects our lives on a daily basis, and then you go do this? [edited: article has been removed]

You think meltdowns are funny? Do you laugh at other distressing situations, or is it only when autistic children are involved?

From the article:

“As all special needs parents know, the holiday season brings a significant amount of schedule and routine changes.”

Guess what parents of autistic children: You don’t actually have to participate in every single holiday season event. You can opt out of them to reduce the amount of overwhelm your child experiences. You won’t miss out on anything! Read this to find out how you can do that.

From the article:

“With two (and probably three) autistic people in our family, myself included, we try to maintain a sense of humor and perspective with the many challenges we face, and this was a product of that.”

You can maintain a sense of humour without publicly shaming your child. You can keep these in-family jokes in-family.

I notice that the creator of this post has played the “I am autistic” card. Guess what? That doesn’t exempt you from criticism from other autistic people: you may share our neurology, but you do not share our culture. You may think that this openly talks about your challenges. It doesn’t. It talks about your son’s challenges. It denies him the right to dignity and privacy. It uses him as an object in your story. You want to share your challenges as an autistic person? Then, share those challenges. Don’t share your son’s.

From “why we created The Mighty“:

“Could we build a media company that actually helps people?”

How do you think sharing this article helps people? It perpetuates the stigma we, as autistic people, experience on a daily basis. How is that helpful?

I thought that when I created the Autism Parent Bingo card I was being too harsh. I now realise that I wasn’t harsh enough.

The Mighty, you disgust me. You disgust me with your ableism. You disgust me with the way in which you think that it’s ok to mock autistic children. Your readers disgust me with their attitudes too.

You think that sharing these click bait articles is good for business? You think that perpetuating stigma is great for debate? Your actions have real consequences on the lives of real people.

Do better!

Yours in absolute disgust,

Un-Boxed Brain

Feel free to co-sign this.


Updates:

  1. The Mighty removed the Meltdown Bingo card. I previously linked to a PDF version of the page for people who wanted to see what I was talking about, but I have realised that people are using the PDF to “play” bingo. If you came here with that intention, please leave quietly and do not return until you can fully comprehend how awful you are.
  2. While I appreciate that they did remove the article, the comments in my letter still stand given that they even considered publishing it.
  3. The Mighty also offered this apology, and requested feedback. I have emailed them despite my misgivings that they truly want to change which are based on the founder’s response to this letter.
  4. Following the apology and the request for feedback, Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project suggested tweeting using the hashtag #CrippingTheMighty.
  5. If you’re reading this, and you’re tired of the way in which The Mighty perpetuates the stigma that autistic people face, please consider signing this petition.

This is not the first time that The Mighty has been negatively reviewed by people within the disability community. Please refer to these posts:

Because of the above three posts, I have never considered submitting anything to The Mighty, so this letter, despite accusations, was never about any retaliation for having my writing rejected by The Mighty.

Other bloggers have also written about this particular situation, so if you would like to read more, please refer to:

If I have neglected to include any posts, please let me know in the comments, and I will add them.

32 thoughts on “Open letter to The Mighty”

  1. They won’t do better, that’s the issue. They don’t see the problem. Which leads me to the only possible conclusion: that they don’t give a damn about “helping people” who aren’t already in a position where they don’t require help.

    1. I fully agree that they won’t do better.

      They could, but they choose not to. Again and again and again, they choose to contribute to the bullshit that makes our lives more difficult.

      Of course, they don’t care about “helping people” unless those “people” are the same martyr parents as themselves, but I thought I would take the opportunity to remind them that that is what they said because words mean things.

  2. Co-signed. The Mighty has a sprinkling of posts that are good – but the balance perpetuate ableist views and negative stigma. I have thus made it a point to not share any of their articles for quite some time.

  3. Hello. I’m Mike Porath, founder of The Mighty. We’re going to make mistakes and do our best to correct them, but please know that our purpose is to help shed light on different perspectives and insights from many different voices on disabilities, diseases and illnesses. We aim to promote stories from people who are honest, respectful and constructive in their approaches. Autism is a particularly tough subject to cover because it truly is a vast spectrum. We are well aware that stories by people with autism are underrepresented in the community and we’re doing our best to publish and promote more of them. I know that won’t satisfy everyone, but we truly are trying to get better every day.

    1. That’s somewhat of a complete nonpology.

      You say that your purpose is to help shed light on different perspectives and insights from many voices on disability, but your posts are overwhelmingly written by parents of disabled children; not disabled people themselves. Parent voices already have a large platform; they do not need an additional platform.

      You say that autism is a vast spectrum, so why do you not cover that vast spectrum. Why don’t you publish posts such as this one – http://timetolisten.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/here-try-on-some-of-my-shoes.html ? It is written by an autistic person, but is it not palatable enough for your readers because it makes them feel too uncomfortable about the harm that their ableist attitudes create?

    2. Mike, I’m going to have to call bullshit.

      In April this year one of your editors contacted me and asked to reprint an article I wrote, but then tried to edit out some really important stuff. Among other things, they would not include this sentence: “Decisions about treatment, accommodations and supports should be made by the person themselves without being pressured by others simply for the purpose of conforming to societies expectations of normality” because it was too controversial for your readers. They did not believe that they could present this sentence as fact. {http://michellesuttonwrites.com/2015/12/21/neurodiversity-vs-the-mighty/}

      So, I do not believe that your publication is helping disabled people. I do not even believe it is particularly trying to.

      If your idea of the “many different voices” is those of parents and the disabled people who are prepared to let you use their words the way you find acceptable, then you are hurting, not helping.

      If you don’t have the stomach to deal with the “tough subject” of autism by giving preference to the voices of people who are actually autistic, I suggest you step out of the way and let us advocate for ourselves.

    3. I’m curious about your comment:

      “Autism is a particularly tough subject to cover because it truly is a vast spectrum.”

      I am not sure that I understand what you mean. The dignity of disabled people is not a negotiation based on how much support they do or do not need. That seems be what you’re implying here? Correct me if I’m wrong but no matter what my needs are as a disabled/autistic person I deserve the same respect as anyone else.

      If your aim is to promote stories that are respectful, you’re really doing it wrong. Or you are lying. The Meltdown Bingo is just ONE article, but it’s a pattern that many have noticed for a long time in the things that you publish. They are NOT respectful to disabled people, not by a long shot.

    4. Oh look, my bullshit meter exploded. You owe me a new one. I’ll put it on your invoice. You’ve run up quite a tab.

      You are publishing things that actively dehumanize us. That isn’t the “other side of an equal coin”. Telling “both sides” is not always responsible. Mocking children is not acceptable. Dehumanization is not acceptable.

      You aren’t even TRYING. You came on here with person first language when Unboxed Brain is outspoken about identity first language.

      Stories *respecting* Autistic people are completely missing from the equation. You are part of the problem. Hiding behind “all sides” is ableist cowardice. It promotes hate against us. You, individually, have chosen to publish things that promote hate against us. You, personally. This leads me to the logical conclusion that you, personally, don’t see us as people but as objects to yank in more page views.

      That’s objectification. That makes you a bad person (*gasp* JUDGEMENT. You won’t acknowledge I have shoes, so I’ve earned the right.) You are not an ally. You are more of the same bullshit.

  4. To be clear, I am sorry that we published the story that prompted your blog post. Thanks for letting your readers know that we removed that story. Our editor will be addressing the issue in another post on our site.

    I do think there is value in a platform that shares stories from all members of the autism community including people with autism and parents of people with autism. It gives people with different points of view the opportunity to learn from each other. As our site has grown over the last year, more people with autism are sharing their stories with us and we’re publishing far more of them. Just to give you a couple examples, Lamar Hardwick and Kerry Magro have had nearly 50 stories combined published on our site:

    http://themighty.com/author/lamar-hardwick/

    http://themighty.com/author/kerry-magro/

    I’m not trying to deflect your criticism. We can do better and we will. I hope over time that you’ll give us the opportunity to live up to it.

    1. When “multiple points of view” means “free to degrade, insult, malign and other” the group you are supposed to be “supporting” you are no better than any other troll. We autistics already have too many toxic trolls to deal with, thanks.

    2. Mike Porath, this excuse is getting old. You post offensive, abusive, hurtful things knowing that will cause hurt, you wait for all the likes and the stats to go up, you check the comments of the martyr parents, then when you decide that the post is “popular” enough, you decide to take it down “in consideration”.

      Not buying. Once is a mistake, twice is malice, more than that is a pattern. You pattern has been identified.

    3. Oh you publish from tools of the oppressor, thaaats nice.

      And still with the disrespectful person first language.

      “I hate my autistic kid” is not an acceptable view to present as legitimate. Everyone has been listening to paaaaaaaarents since before I was born (and I’m old). gosh so edgy, publishing shit indistinguishable from that published by literal attempted murderers.

      You show NO indication of even pretending to think about considering being better.

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