Gendered Expectations and Asperger Syndrome

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for the longest time, but was always held back by anxieties in regards to openly discussing my disability. Reading Renee’s wonderful post on disability at Womanist Musings inspired me to take a stab at this particular part of my life and how it’s shaped my feminist views.

I’ll start off with this simple fact: I have Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, which usually manifests itself into a narrow range of interests, limited social abilities, and, most relevant to this post, difficulty expressing emotions, for me, empathy and sympathy are exteremely difficult to articulate. Asperger Syndrome/autism is typically more common among males than females, though some believe this may be due more to misdiagnosis and ignorance on female behavior than anything.

With that preamble over with, I must admit that females on the Austistic spectrum face unique challenges that our male counterparts do not deal with, owing to society’s expectations of women. Many times, I have been accused of being "insensitive" "rude" "cold" "heartless" "bitchy" and other unsavory adjectives, because I have difficulty displaying empathy, I dislike being hugged, and I am far from the "nurturing" type. I thought it was simply a part of the emotional baggage of having Asperger Syndrome, but upon questioning my male peers with Asperger Syndrome, I discovered this treatment was unique to me. Men with Asperger Syndrome told me that their behavior, while standoffish and socially awkward, was regarded as the norm for men when dealing with a difficult situation. But I, as a woman, was expected to emotionally plunge myself in with the people who were experiencing the situation, and offer myself as a beacon of comfort and sympathy.

My reaction to this is to want to bang my head against the desk and scream. My vagina does not mean that I am your soft pillow to cry against during your moments of anguish! This is probably applicable to neurotypical women as well, I’m sure many of you have felt this desire to tell someone the same. It appears that women have been handed the unfair expectation to be people’s shoulder to cry on. For me, this is simply unrealistic, I cannot properly read body language, facial expressions, or tell when people’s tone of voice is meant to reflect anger, sadness, or happiness. For me to be someone’s "rock" is to expect too much out of me, or any woman, either with or without an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Realizing how different I was being treated based on being female was the reason I began calling myself a feminist. People on the autistic spectrum often have to fight tooth-and-nail to be treated as respectable adults, and for the rare handful of us who are females with Asperger Syndrome or Autism, we have to work twice as hard to prove we are capable, grown people who can make our own decisions about our lives. There are many issues besides the sympathetic/comforting mother hen expectation which I would like to address some day, but for now, I hope that my post helps people realize that these unfair expectations women are supposed to shoulder are wrong on many levels, and should be reconsidered for the better of both women on the autistic spectrum and neurotypical women.

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97 Comments

  1. Lydia Encyclopedia
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I’ve noticed that too, upon entering the site and signing up. I wasn’t surprised though, many males with Aspergers that I’ve met have an extremely hostile attitude towards women, neurotypical or aspie, because of their failures in dating or their misconception that women like to be “mysterious”, which is maddening for any aspie. But I think it’s worth it to brave the MRA attitudes for the sake of discussing issues related to disability and women’s rights.

  2. Rebecca C
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for writing this! As a fellow feminist woman with Asperger’s, it means a lot to me that someone else on the spectrum is willing to “stick her neck out” and say “Yes, I’m living with Asperger Syndrome, and I’m a feminist as well”.
    While my feminist awakening predated my Asperger’s diagnosis, I couldn’t hear the diagnosis and not notice the same intersectionality of issues you mentioned above. Your paragraph on the relationship between your Asperger’s symptoms and people’s perceptions of you as “bitchy” or “arrogant” were articulate and completely relatable.
    So thanks again for relating the situation so articulately; better than my first feminist-Asperger’s impulse (a rant on Saint Jenny, the New McCartyhism, and whoever made her drink the Kool-Aid in the first place).

  3. ladybeethoven
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    I also couldn’t help but read this without automatically thinking of the famous “Caring for Your Introvert” article. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200303/rauch
    The author, Jonathan Rauch, briefly mentions the way that while introverts in general are oppressed by our extroverted society, introverted women have it particularly bad:
    “Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.”
    God, if I had a penny for every time someone called me “haughty” or “arrogant”…

  4. sly
    Posted April 2, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Sometimes I think people are trying to create a connection by showing that they can identify in some way with a perceived weakness/sickness/mental illness/etc. Perhaps sometimes they are merely trying to minimize your pain, but oftentimes they’re just trying to be more open & demonstrate understanding.

  5. Posted April 2, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which is on the autistic spectrum and is sort of similar to Asperger’s. I just want to say that even though it’s called “disorder”, I don’t like being referred to as having a “disease” or “illness”. Having NLD or Asperger’s actually makes you BETTER at certain things, for example, I taught myself to read and could read adult novels in the first grade. I really believe that my brain just works differently, and there is nothing wrong with that. I struggle a lot with some things, but really, who doesn’t? My things might just be a little different from other people’s. Viva la neurodiversity!

  6. Posted April 2, 2009 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    That’s cool– although some of us actually do identify as asexual (as our orientation). But that shouldn’t be foisted on people any more than heterosexuality should. In a poll I saw of autistic women on Wrongplanet, a huge percentage of the women surveyed said they felt asexual either all or most of the time. So yeah, I don’t want to desexualize autistic folks, but some of us really don’t experience sexual attraction. (There are neurotypical asexual people too– check out http://www.asexuality.org if you’re interested.)

  7. Zailyn
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    This happens with other things, too! I stutter, and somehow every time I tell someone this online, they go “oh, I know what that’s like, I stumble over words sometimes!” Uh, no, no, you really don’t. There is a reason I have a diagnosable speech disorder and you don’t.
    I’ve even started getting this offline after doing a speech therapy last summer which has massively improved my symptoms. I keep meaning to make an mp3 file from some of the recordings of me earlier on just so I can show people what I actually sounded like before it the next time I get one of those comments. I mean, I understand that people want to be empathetic, but really, there is a point where that becomes insulting.

  8. Zailyn
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Oh, this is interesting. I’m a woman looking into diagnosis for an ASD, so this speaks to me quite a bit. I’ve been lucky, in that I’ve managed to teach myself how to pass fairly well, and I suspect I’m in an environment where social awkwardness is more accepted among both genders so I didn’t get many of those comments. I do still remember the horror of having my flatmate start crying, being completely confused as to what to do or how to react, trying to hug her because it was the only thing I could think of although I really dislike touch and then nearly going out of my mind because it felt so awful.
    How gender plays out wrt the autistic spectrum is fascinating, both in terms of these kinds of things and in terms of preconceptions (I lean more and more towards the idea that women on the higher-functioning end of the spectrum are underdiagnosed because the diagnostic criteria is biased towards men, for instance.)

  9. Posted April 3, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I have learning disabilities that are similar to AS. In fact, my current psychiatrist said that I may have AS, though the test for it would cost $800, and the benefits of a diagnosis would be limited at my age (I am 39 now, was 38 at the time). I am a man so my traits of social awkwardness, and sometimes ineptness, may be easier for me to live with than they are for a woman but they are still very difficult at times.
    I do have sometimes have a problem with unwritten social rules. I found it ironic, at first, that this post was linked to Renee’s blog because these very disability symptoms caused me to have a fallout with her. I can admit that I was wrong and can see why now after the fact but didn’t perceive that what I said was wrong at the time. After all, I wasn’t attacking her family as she made it out to be, I was expressing concern for what I perceived was her mistreatment of them. And I spurred on by what I saw as her mistreatment of Sandalstraps (a botched attempt at empathy to be sure, since Sandalstraps). Still, as I said I now know I was wrong and would have apologized to Renee had she given me a chance.
    Instead she decided to call me hateful names while banning me from her blog, so that I couldn’t defend myself in a forum where most of her readers would see it. By doing this she reminded me quite a bit of the bullies I grew up with. Though I mostly tried to ignore her since writing my response to her on my blog back in September, I occasionally would see her name come up and relive the anger and hurt that she caused me. This was especially true when she spoke as an advocate for the disabled, such as when she criticized”>https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=36369569&postID=1282383526961948808&isPopup=true>criticized Becky C. for jokingly using the word “retarded.” This seemed doubly ironic since Becky has always seemed like one of the kindest and compassionate people I could ever hope to know, while Renee showed no tolerance or mercy for my disability-influenced behavior.
    But now that I have learned about Renee’s illnesses/disabilities I feel sorry and wish I could reconcile with her. I am afraid, though that if I try to post on her blog again or even try to e-mail her that she will unleash a new torrent of bile. But now at least I understand her rage. She always said it was because of being a black woman, but I’ve known black women who have grown up in times and places where they were likely to experience much more discrimination than she ever has in late 20th/early 21st century Canada, and don’t or didn’t have her hair-trigger temper. But the pain, the feeling of helplessness, the inability to do things most people take for granted, I can understand how that would cause someone to lash out. So Renee, if you read this and you want to bury the hatchet, please let me know.
    Oh and Lydia, excellent post! Sorry for the long digression, but I felt that I needed to say everything that I said.

  10. Posted April 3, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Oops didn’t know the links wouldn’t work here. Well, it seems that I had some sloppy HTML that I didn’t notice in the preview, so the one URL is showing. The other one is http://funktardtroll.blogspot.com/2008/09/never-trust-communist.html

  11. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry to hear about your disability, but your words attacking her parenting were inexcusable. I’m not sure how you claim your disability could account for the assumptions you made about her style of parenting and the way you attacked her based on this assumption. Bad logic and offensive behavior is bad logic and offensive behavior, and you can’t expect someone who’s attacked in such a personal and public way to respond.

  12. who ate my avocado
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    Well, at my school the socially awkward girls generally got raped and labeled as sluts afterward. That’s something that doesn’t happen in public as often as just getting beaten up, and unless you’re actually friends with those girls you’d probably never know what happened.
    But thanks for playing Displaying Your Privilege 101.

  13. who ate my avocado
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    And I think that most people just learn how to act out the script and “pass” as a person who really fits their gender category.
    This needs to go on a plaque and be put in the Feminist Museum of Awesome Things People Have Said.

  14. zaph
    Posted April 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I wanted to comment about your experience at the wrong planet forum and the reason for there being so many sexist comments. Now I have aspergers, and being a male you are right in stating the fact that my behaviour isn’t seen as that ab-normal and it is easier being guy. However when it comes to sexual relationships that isn’t true.
    Men approach women, not other way round. I can’t read body language, I find very difficult to gage what other people are thinking. Frankly I fake alot of my interactions with other people, I know the rules, and how I’m suppose to respond in a given situation. When it comes to dealing with women there don’t appear to be any rules to follow.
    For example, when should a man approach a women. Should he be honest in his initial approach? Now it seems obvious to me that the only reason you would approach a complete stranger is because you like the way they look. You have no other data. Yet to state this truth is considered rude. Okay, so you should get to know the women first, find out if you are compatible. Like the same films, doing the same things, want to spend time with each other. That seems like a reasonable rule.
    Yet I have been told by women that this is a no-no, it is seen as exploiting a friendship. The guy was always after something else. In this case there appears to be no rule, no correct way to behave. It is this like of rules, about how to approach, what can and cannot be said, how fast to progress a relationship; which makes this very difficult for aspergers guys.

  15. katemoore
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but that’s utter bullshit.
    Women are the ones who, the script goes, get approached. That’s all well and fine, but what about the ones who don’t?
    And when you have no idea how to talk to people, when every attempt you make to befriend people ends in failure, and when you’re in tears all the goddamn time, people don’t.
    Tonight the basketball team in my town reached the NCAA finals. There are parties all over town. No matter how much I want to do something tonight, I am in my room alone.

  16. Meadester
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I admitted I was wrong, not sure what more I could do. I know my disability is no exceuse but lots of people cross lines when in the heat of verbal comment. Renee herself admitted to doing that:
    http://www.womanist-musings.com/2008/11/mra-apology.html
    Being human sometimes I do the wrong thing. Having a disability that makes it hard to perceive social boundaries may lead me to do the wrong thing more than others. I don’t know why that makes me unworthy of forgiveness, though.
    PS the 1st “link” in my1st post may be too garbled to follow. so here it is again:
    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=36369569&postID=1282383526961948808&isPopup=true

  17. Meadester
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    It does seem to me from my observations of WrongPlanet.net (where I post as archdude – http://www.wrongplanet.net/forums-profile-viewprofile-u-15369.html) that in general women on the Autistic Spectrum have an easier time finding relationships and sexual partners than men. Not that I don’t sympathize with those women (ASD or otherwise) who do want sexual/romantic relations but can’t find them because of not fitting society’s mold of “what a woman should be.” I think people of both sexes and all orientations need to challenge societal expectations of what dating and sexual relationships “should” be.

  18. Chip Bell
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of the time some one bought their new baby to work and my sister didn’t want to hold it. Unbelievable the bull shit she had to put up with for not having the expected “mother instinct” Some how some way we have to get this garbage out of our society.

  19. kisekileia
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    They definitely react that way to ADHD. I really can’t stand it when people are all “Oh, I procrastinate all the time, too.” Uh, no. Not like me.

  20. kisekileia
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I did not see his comments to Renee, but autism spectrum disorders and related conditions can seriously impair people’s ability to figure out how to express themselves in a way that is not offensive to people. While I value feminism’s insistence that people address each other respectfully, I am concerned that condemning people for using the wrong words or making misplaced comments can become a form of structural violence against people on the autism spectrum. There needs to be a balance between not condoning people hurting each other and realizing that sometimes people who say hurtful things don’t intend to be hurtful.

  21. kisekileia
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Part of that, I think, is because people with Asperger’s tend to fit best in geek culture, which tends to be mostly male. In a situation where men outnumber women, women tend to have an easier time finding partners than men.

  22. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m familiar with the social impact of Autism and AS, and actually have a couple of relatives on the spectrum. I agree that they often have trouble expressing themselves in a way that’s conventional and not offensive. But it’s hard to justify his comments in this case. The topic itself (personally attacking someone’s parenting style, personal relationships, and family setup in retaliation for a comment they made to another commenter) is out of line. Here’s his comment:
    Renee, you condemn parents for spanking but I am willing to bet that your treatment of your children amounts emotional abuse more damaging than the so-called physical abuse of the average spanking parent. After all your children are boys, males, future men and clearly males can do no right, never deserve praise or kind words for anything. Your partner may get off on that sort of treatment, but your boys did not choose to be born to a man-hating mother. Of course, maybe you make exceptions for your own children. One can hope.
    I find it hard to believe that he had no idea that was going to be offensive. In fact, it seems to me that his words were intentionally chosen to be as hurtful as possible.

  23. kisekileia
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really feel that I’m in a strong position to speak to that because I didn’t see the context and don’t know what was going through his head. However, it is entirely possible for a person on the autism spectrum to say something like that with their mind focused only on the issue and the intensity of their view on it, without ever really understanding the effect that their words will have on the person they’re addressing. What is “obvious” varies a lot depending on one’s neurology.

  24. Posted April 6, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    As I said I Rachel, I admit I was wrong. I was angry and wanted to express my anger. I was angry that Renee seemed so dismissive of the feelings of men (and to a lesser extent of white people) even those who tried to befriend her. I overreacted as many people do, whether on the Autistic Spectrum or neurotypical. Maybe people like me (those of us who have social perceptual problems whether officially diagnosed with AS or not) go further over the line than so-called normal people do. But if you want to hate me or hold a grudge against me feel free, I’m an adult and I can take it.
    Kisekileia, I hope I’m not out of line saying I feel much love toward you for defending me. I can understand disdain for hugging – I feel uncomfortable hugging or being touched by people I’m not really close to. But, I would like give you a big hug if it was OK. No one who really knows you could think you were cold and heartless.

  25. Rachel_in_WY
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    My pointing out that your comment was out of line does not amount to hating you or holding a grudge against you. It’s perfectly valid for a person to take on the comments or claims of another commenter without attacking them personally, as you did to Renee. This is the distinction between respectful arguments and ad hominems, and I am not attacking you personally, but only your words. Does that distinction make sense?

  26. Meadester
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Yes what you say does make sense. I guess I overreacted again when I accused you of hating me. It does seem, though, that like Renee, you seem to think that there is nothing I can do to earn forgiveness.

  27. The_Unemotional_One
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Don’t I know it? I don’t really have the “maternal instincts”, either. Yeah, I am PROBABLY, in all likely hood, a young woman with Aspergers, as my psychiatrist suspected it, though I never went through with the testing (as I didn’t want to confront that at the time).
    Yeah, I remember one time, my cousin left his baby with me, even though I made it clear to my mom (she had agree to babysit him earlier, not me) that I DIDN’T want to baby-sit, but I otherwise do love my nephew, but because I didn’t know how to deal with babies (still don’t…), I grew quite anxious, especially when the baby started crying. I was running around with the boy screaming in my arms (not in the literal sense), panicking, I couldn’t put him down (there was no special area for him) looking for SOMEONE, ANYONE, to take the baby from me, and even though it had only been about five minutes, it was those five minutes that the poor baby was probably in the most danger, because I wasn’t holding him right, and I WASN’T calm, much to my father’s dismay.
    Even though Dad was justified in being dismayed (he was coming there to pick up my brother or sister, NOT to watch me run around like a chicken with its head cut off, and with a crying baby in my arms; I must have looked like I had no sense in my head), he criticized me for “not being maternal enough” and that I should have known how to hold a baby.
    This scares me. If I behaved like this around a crying baby when I was only left alone with him for five minutes, then I REALLY don’t want to see what my “maternal instincts” would do to my REAL hypothetical baby if I ever have one. And my dad EXPECTS me to have one, which is something that I am now resolved not to do, because I’m afraid that if I ever had a baby, I’d unintentionally hurt it, or worse, all because I don’t seem to have instincts.
    It’s hard, and I get anxious around children, and especially babies. (Unless I’m playing with a child; I don’t seem to know how to handle a baby, especially when it cries)

  28. Meadester
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Oops! Kisekileia, I confused you with Lydia Encyclopedia. Sorry about that. Hopefully, you can tell the relevant parts of my post from the irrelevant ones based on that. If not, let me know and I will do my best to clear any confusion.

  29. Qwerty
    Posted April 12, 2009 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Yes, It is quite privileged of me to object to someone saying that awkward boys get through life without difficulty, when that isn’t true in my experience.
    In my experience, awkward girls were just left alone to be loners, aside from the occasional nasty comment. Boys, on the other hand, were a freak circus and boxing fodder.
    Imy sf awkward girls were labeled sluts at my school, wouldn’t I have heard about it?

  30. Qwerty
    Posted April 12, 2009 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    damn it, this was supposed to be a reply to ‘who ate my avocado’

  31. Phil
    Posted April 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    I have AS, too, and let me tell you, it does NOT help men!
    I refused to conform to the ‘tough guy’ image that my peers tried to impose on me, and as a result, I was bullied mercilessly. All throughout the third and fourth grades, I was beaten up by other kids on a daily basis (oh yeah, being called a ‘cold bitch’ is sooooo much worse than that). I didn’t dare tell the teachers, because if I did, the bullying would’ve gotten worse. I come from a very touchy-feely family that never respected my boundaries, so I never fit in anywhere, really. I may be handsome, but I’ve never had a girlfriend because I didn’t have the social prowess to read women (and yes, men DO need both). This caused me terrible emotional anguish.
    Really, I’m quite sick of hearing how easy men have it. Until you have lived as a man for at least a year, as Norah Vincent did, you have no right to complain about so-called ‘male privilege’.

  32. Rebecca_J
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    I have ADHD (inattentive type) as well, as I recently discovered. I’m also discovering just how hard it is to talk about or tell anyone about. I’m terrified of having to defend why or whether I have it. Most people, as you say, aren’t even aware that there other types of ADHD or that girls get it. It’s caused a lot of problems for me socially, since obviously it’s hard to hold a conversation when you can’t concentrate on what’s being said, or process the information fast enough. I remember the day when my close friend told me everyone at college thought I was a snob; that was pretty crushing. I wonder if a guy would be seen as a “snob” or just perhaps as shy.

  33. Rebecca C
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Phil!
    I’m sorry if I’m reading your reply wrong, but this reads in many ways like a strawperson defense. Like I said, maybe I’m reading you wrong, but it seems like you’re creating issues that aren’t stated in the text of the entry.
    First, you seem to suggest Lydia writes that men with Asperger Syndrome are or were less bullied than women with Asperger Syndrome. She wrote nothing about the bullying of boys or men, stating only that women on the Autism Spectrum are verbally bullied for not acting like “normal” women and engaging emotionally with others when “society” deems it appropriate. She also states that men she knows with Asperger Syndrome (all presumably cissexual males) don’t report the same response to similar behavior. Therefore, in her experience, emotional distance of men is more socially acceptable than emotional distance of women and, more specifically, of her.
    Second, you bring up your experience being bullied, as though physical blows and direct name-calling are automatically more damaging than prolonged and repeated social stereotyping and exclusion. However, it’s proven fact that feminine bullying is different from masculine bullying. There’s less physical confrontation, but the results are equally damaging.
    For example, rather than throwing punches or body-checking the bullied individual into a wall, a female bully will take steps to socially alienate the girl being bullied. Cutting remarks to other girls meant to damage the bullied girl’s reputation, backhanded compliments, and in-jokes which exclude the girl being bullied are common. If you’ve seen “Hairspray” (2008) or “Mean Girls”, you’ve seen this sort of bully in Amber Von Tussle and Regina King. The TV movie “Odd Girl Out” is another example, where the bullying damages the victim enough for her to inflict life-threatening self harm. To stereotype, girls’ bullying is indirect and social, while boys’ bullying is direct and physical. Both are damaging long-term as well as immediately, but because boys’ bullying is more obvious, it’s easier to counteract.
    Also, since most AS women are as bad as most AS men at picking up on social cues, an AS girl might not realize she’s being bullied until after she’s gone home for the night, or possibly after the antagonist has stopped bullying her and instead begun targeting someone else. This adds embarrassment and frustration on top of the emotional anguish caused by the original act of bullying.
    Third, it seems you misunderstand “male privilege”. It doesn’t mean that men have less responsibilities or social constraints than women, but rather that the male experience, including responsiblities and constraints, are seen as the norm, or “default”. Therefore, the average male experience is seen as the yardstick of the “typical”, even as the individual male experience deviates.
    Again, I’m sorry if I misunderstood your reply, but you seemed to read something in Lydia’s original post which I did not read at all, and I was trying to address the female-Asperger’s position on the issues you brought up.

  34. Rebecca C
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Oops. “Hairspray” (2008) was meant to be “Hairspray” (2007). I’d forgotten which year the movie was released when I typed my above comment.

  35. Clix
    Posted April 18, 2009 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on finding something that helped! :)

  36. kisekileia
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Both men and women with Asperger’s syndrome take a great deal of abuse because of it. However, male and female Aspies tend to take abuse for different things. Male Aspies, I suspect, are more likely to be abused for physical awkwardness and general lack of physical and social dominance, while women with Asperger’s are more likely to be abused for inability to follow the social rules women are expected to follow. People with Asperger’s are noncomformists by nature, and society punishes nonconformity regardless of gender.

  37. kisekileia
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    Aww, thank you. :D

  38. kisekileia
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Thank you for explaining this. It is very helpful for people with Asperger’s to read clear, logical explanations of social behaviour, so that we can consciously learn the social skills we cannot learn instinctively. Also, many people with Asperger’s have experienced so much bullying that we are instantly on our guard whenever someone says something negative about us, so it is very helpful to us if you let us know when your criticism was directed just at specific actions, not at us as people.

  39. Kat
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    word. I have ADHD too (and dysgraphia and other LDs).
    I can’t stand it when people are like, “omg I must have ADD/ADHD too… I couldn’t pay attention this one time…” or “well I don’t really believe ADD/ADHD is real because everyone has trouble concentrating on stuff at times…” OMG WTF? I need my meds to function and my laptop (for my dysgraphia) to take notes that I can actually read later.

  40. Permella89
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Lydia,
    I greatly enjoyed your article. I have Tourette’s syndrome which is in right in the Autism/Asperger/ADD/ADHD spectrum. So of course, every day I deal with people making fun of what is actually extremely irritating and quite painful. Tourette Syndrome runs in my family and I experience moderate to severe symptoms including copralalia and echolalia (so yes, I curse and repeat noises and words) and have physical tics as well. In addition, I feel very awkward in situations where I have to touch people i.e. my job. I work in retail and am often put in a situation where I have to do bra fittings. I cannot do it, I simply cannot, I get so overwhlemed and freaked out, I just can’t touch people in that way. I can touch friends and family normally, but for some reason, knowing when it is appropriate to touch people in a social situation and how give me extreme anxeity. For refusing to do bra fittings I am constantly sneered at for being “lazy” or just being “stuck up”. As a woman I am just expected to be able to be touchy and feely and be ok with touching another womans’ breast. I also get labeled quite frequently as a bitch, or heatless by many of the men I have dated, for not wanting to cuddle very much, or constantly be touching, and not wanting to kiss in public. I also have dated several men who date me just to say they’v dated somone with TS. SUPER irritating. Even worse: the man who thinks its funny or feels he’s doing me a favor. Sorry my post is all over the place.

  41. PaperPro
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I like the point you make. I am not sure I understand why others feel there needs to be a competition between which gender suffers more when it seems that prescribed gender roles are what’s commonly toxic.

  42. MoodyStarr
    Posted April 25, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    My cousin has had TS since she was 5. She is 23 now, so she has basically grown accustomed to the reactions she gets in public, but I haven’t. I get pretty annoyed when I see people staring. Her symptoms are less severe now, but at her most difficult times she would shout profanities, hit herself, and make other noises. I get it, her behavior is unusual, but I feel like adults should know better than to outwardly gawk at a person with a visible disability.

  43. TokyoKarin
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    I have AS (mildly, I was told) but yeah, I get where you’re coming from. Thanks for saying this it really means a lot ^ . ^ (good luck out there).

  44. Rebecca C
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Good points, and thank you! Your comment was a great response to my “but girls are bullied like ‘this’, not like ‘that’” essay… I hesitate to call it a rant, but it does come close.
    I was responding to what I percieved as Phil’s misreadings of the original post, and perhaps I should have saved the text on my computer for a few days and reread it before posting. I never meant to imply that the bullying AS men and boys receive is less damaging to them than the bullying AS girls and women receive, but simply to point out that girl-on-girl bullying is generally harder to spot. As such, it’s not as easily detected by (mostly NT) parents, educators, and other adult guardians and advocates, let alone processed on-the-spot by AS women and girls themselves. It’s harder to stop because the signs aren’t as immediately obvious.
    In retrospect, it would have been more accurate for me to say “*a* female-Asperger’s position” rather than “the female-Asperger’s position”, since I am just one of many women on the Autism Spectrum and an authority on no other women but myself. I shouldn’t have put forth the perception that I meant to speak for all AS women.

  45. Quinc
    Posted May 15, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Certainly, qualities like caring and nurturing, and many other ‘feminine’ qualities are good things to have, just as there are ‘masculine’ qualities (courage, rationality) that are good, just as there are negative qualities for each, (irrationality, violence) but they’re division into feminine and masculine groupings are really kind of arbitrary.
    Women are expected to be more socially able. So often it is taken for granted when they do have the right qualities, and then it is a horrible thing when they lack it. Men also have the same problem, though with a nearly opposite set of qualities.
    People should learn to accept people for who they are, and not reject people just because they didn’t act the way they expected them to act. That would be a quality ideal regardless of gender.

  46. tkeli4
    Posted May 23, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your comments! I have just been diagnosed with the condition, I’m 33. I have spent my entire life hiding my natural traits in order to “fit in” with society. I went to a therapist because people kept telling me that I was depressed. I was angry and exhausted. The therapist knew almost immediately what I had. It helped that he specializes in autistic disorders. Even he said it is rare for women, of course I had a temper tantrum and argued with him. I won! I have been angry and exhausted for years because I constantly have to “fit in” with the world. Can’t they learn to fit in with us for a change? Do I always have to explain why I have a cold stare when someone is trying to cry on my shoulder? It’s not that I don’t care, I just show it differently. I would prefer to talk it out. I can reason with anyone in a calm logical fashion. I don’t criticize them for that. I know that I see things a different way. I am not caught up in others. I have been reading a lot about my condition online and I am shocked at what I have been reading. There is one site that had several men and women with AS that seemed almost proud of having AS because it gave them an excuse to act angry at the world and proud that they are psychotic. What??? I have never wanted to hurt anyone in any way. I don’t hate others. People find me strange, but I find them strange. I think it is an even exchange. I care about others; I just make sure they know that I am not the one to seek to get comfort. They don’t hate me for it.
    I am never going to apologize to anyone for the way I act. I have spent my entire life modifying my behavior. To those out there that feel ashamed for not having a network of 1,000 friends. So what! You are a perfect version of who you are supposed to be. Stop being sorry and except that you are different, it truly is a good thing.
    Now for all the men out there with AS, Yes, sure women are the ones that are “approached”, but don’t you think that having AS would make women with AS act somewhat awkward and possibly cause men to lose interest pretty quickly? Hmmm? Well, it does. It doesn’t help to be approached and then not know how to “act” to keep the man interested. Women also have to know how to “read” men and figure out what their intentions are. I do believe that AS causes impairment in that ability in both men and women.
    There is not enough known out there for those of us suffering with AS. We need to stop beating each other up and trying to figure out who is worse off. Sure you are angry, guys. We are all angry. It’s hard to go through life being told you are flawed and constantly have your behavior criticized.
    Women with AS are just as justified for being angry for the way we are treated. Emotional abuse is still abuse. It is still damaging and life altering. I think I would have preferred someone to openly beat me up occasionally than to act like my friend for years just to find out that they are spreading malicious lies behind your back to all the females in their social network. It’s always hard to find out you were lied to and used for years because you just didn’t know any better.
    I choose to stop being angry. I choose to not apologize for who I am. I love who I am. I make more sense to me than the rest of the world does. :)

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