On Wednesday I put a post up about ten things autism isn’t.
Today I shall add number eleven
Autism isn’t just a male thing
More and more women are being recognised as autistic now that we have stopped making assumptions based on sex. There are no Male or Female brains (Check out Gina Rippon’s new book The Gendered Brain – review here).
Autistic men, I love you too and many of you are affected by some of the things I’m going to mention, but today this is unashamedly about the autistic women.
We are still at a point where more boys get diagnosed than girls, but that gap is shrinking. Some experts have even said that they think it appears in equal numbers in both sexes, which means we still have a way to go and many losing out in understanding.
Autistic women have often been forced to mask due to the stereotype that women should be more caring, emotional and feminine. We are socially unacceptable if we don’t hug and loathe the effort of looking a certain way for the benefit of others.
One person’s ‘Assertive’ is another person’s ‘Bossy’, one person’s ‘Says it like it is/Doesn’t suffer fools/Forthright’ is another person’s ‘Rude’. The latter is more often applied to women who are direct and clear in their communication.
Those of us (both women and men) who have forced ourselves to learn the rules, to mask and hide our difficulties and differences, have had the additional problems of lack of support and understanding – both from ourselves and from others.
Damage is being done to autistic women now:-
- Every autistic girl who is going through puberty and learning to hate her body because of the changes that she cannot predict.
- Every autistic girl who is told that girls are soft and don’t like logic.
- Every autistic girl who is told that she should follow the rule that beauty and fitting-in are what she should be striving for.
- Every autistic girl who wants to follow the rules, even though the rules take her away from the comfort of her special interests.
- Every autistic woman who is in labour with midwives who don’t understand her panic at change and her need for no sensory stimulation (Autism, Labour and Birth).
- Every autistic woman who is sucked into a relationship with a man who has raised so many red flags indicating abuse, but that she struggles to leave because ‘relationships are supposed to be work’ and her self-worth has been battered by years of misunderstanding.
- Every autistic woman who fears the menopause and the hormonal changes to her sensory world and the taboo of what will come.
- Every autistic woman who has trusted someone she shouldn’t have, because she could not read their intentions and blames herself.
- Every autistic woman who has been bullied in the workplace for not being able to do the social side of it, despite being good at the work, because the social side is how you climb the ladder.
- Every autistic woman who has gone for diagnosis only to be told that she can’t be autistic because she doesn’t look the part.
- Every autistic woman who has put herself through the sensory onslaught of a school production because they want to support their child, despite the cost.
- Every autistic woman fighting for support for her autistic children and being dismissed as obsessive or cold or weird and having to battle even harder to be heard.
I salute you. I salute all of you. You have more strength than I could have imagined. You may not feel it – heck, I know I don’t – but it’s there.
I have met autistic artists and mathematicians and writers and academics and civil servants and stay-at-home-parents and musicians and on and on and on and every single one of you has such strength and fortitude.
Maybe that should have been a curtsy rather than a salute? Damnit, I’m doing both. I am in awe.