Autism is a Woman-Thing

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.

You can read more about my version of Autistic Womanhood here

23 thoughts on “Autism is a Woman-Thing

  1. The changes that came with puberty were awful, and brought about life-long issues which I am still trying to overcome. When an immature boy grabs and squeezes your developing breasts or your body becomes a target for dirty old men, you somehow think it’s your fault. My solution (which wasn’t really a solution) was to gain weight as a way to repel unwanted attention from males. But now that perimenopause has hit, it is not ideal physically. Being fat will not protect me. I have to do that on my own, in my own way. Warn once, teach the offending male a lesson if he won’t listen to the warning. I don’t believe in giving second warnings. And I am so over living in fear. I have just as much right to walk around as a male does, and if I need to scream and yell to get my point across, I will. Because, regardless of my autism, I am woman, hear me roar! Sorry, I really needed to say that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m very glad you did! ROAR! It is your body and no one has a right to it. You are perfectly within your rights to scream and shout if someone crosses your boundaries, and I hate that we are taught politeness and not to make a fuss when someone assaults us. I’m so sorry for your experience, thank you for sharing it, you are not alone in your frustrations 💐

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In my own experience, the hardest thing about being a woman is not the transition from a girl to a woman, nor is it the peri-menopause, but rather the weird attitude which pervaded society about these aspects of woman-hood. I grew up in a very conservative time and place, where everything was cloaked in secrecy and natural functions of the female body were considered to be revolting and repulsive. On the other hand, it seemed as if the ability to have children was the single most important and happiest aspect of being a woman; the arrival of babies were universally celebrated, so why revile the biology which makes this possible? As a child with a fascination for all things biological and a very observant nature, I found it hard to reconcile these strange, conflicting attitudes. Maybe that is why many women of all ages (and all neurotypes) are so at odds with their bodies.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There are many social conventions that are really completely arbitrary when you look at them too closely. I completely agree, but even in childbirth you are supposed to keep all the biological aspect of it a secret, and people are still squeamish about breastfeeding. In some ways birth is treated as not really about the mother and her problems.

      There is a lot of mental gymnastics involved in the illogical patterns of social communication. Thank you for a thought provoking comment

      Like

  3. Thank you! My daughter, now a young woman, was diagnosed as autistic at three (I knew before she was one). I struggle to understand and support her. She is a delight, and a mystery to me most times. Your articles hit home, and help me to be the Mom she needs instead of the one I’m often inclined to be.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I thought at first: ‘Oh no! Not another female lib thing,’ but this article was so compelling. I admit I had never imagined that autism could be so different to a woman than to a man (silly me) but now I feel I have taken a huge step forward in understanding. Women deserve all the care and consideration that men can muster. Personally, I am more drawn to women as friends than men, and one especially dear friend, the mother of an autistic girl, has been the most encouraging person to me in trying to come to terms with autism myself and my attempts to help my autistic friend, young Gaga (his mother does not want me to use his real name). We intend our families get together with the better weather over food laden tables, which will help me learn more from a different perspective because of her daughters experiences.
    Thank you for your article, and thanks for the heartfelt comments.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you! I am sure there are myriad ways that autism affects men differently that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to consider! I love to hear others’ experiences, it is all a part of the marvellous tapestry that makes up humanity. We’re all more rounded by listening to others. Thanks again 💐

      Liked by 2 people

  5. From another autistic woman, thank you. I think you put out a thorough list. My daughter, who is in her early 20’s, is autistic, also. She noted that people ignored her when she didn’t put on makeup and do her hair special. She said that has really messed up her emotional health. My heart breaks for her because that is how our society is. She wants to have social relationships so she goes through the hair and makeup thing but she resents it; whereas, I don’t care what other people think so I have far less pressure on me.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I remember the excitement when I learnt the rules of how to do hair and makeup in my 20s, and then the crushing realisation that to fit in with people who cared about that stuff I would have to waste hours of my life on doing something I couldn’t care less about. The older I get the more ridiculous so many of the rules seem. I do think the rules today for young women about how they should appear are horribly rigid and wrong. It’s frustrating to feel you have no choice but to be drawn in in order to feel listened to.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Ahh I hope your daughter will one day embrace the beauty she has without make up or hair styles. It took me years to love myself without make up but it’s so liberating! I’ve cut my hair off too and can’t believe the hours I used to waste styling long hair to suit others. The beauty we each have inside is worth more than gold.

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  6. Once more you go right to the point. All my life I’ve been considered, weird, eccentric, a duck out of water and worse. I’ve done the rounds of those relationships where I didn’t see it coming. I’ve been told by my French psychiatrist that I cannot be on the spectrum as I don’t show any classic signs ( the usual list of male signs and symptoms) and also that autism is VERY rare in girls anyway – just take the pills and you’ll be fine. Benzodiazepines for anxiety and antidepressants for anxiety and “social phobia” but the doses were so high for me that they knocked me out and I cut the antidepressants and reduced the benzo to a dose the doctor doesn’t even think has a clinical value. But my old psychologist in Wales said he was sure I was “Aspergers” way back in 1996. There are a number of autistic boys in my family so why wouldn’t there be any girls?
    On a positive note, being in France and only a year and a bit from 60, I’ve become invisible so the pressure is off to conform. I can get away with not doing the make-up and can dress how I like. It’s easier now. I did, however, love the punk era – all that fun coloured hair and any make-up that I fancied fitted my person

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ah, the mythical “female autistic” situation. It’s such a shame when those who should know more, don’t. There is great freedom in ageing. I’m definitely getting more and more comfortable in my own skin as the years go by.

      Thank you 💐

      Liked by 2 people

  7. oops – got cut off in my prime there – I wanted to say “my personality. Just consider that it was just a burst of enthusiasm that caused me to hit “post” before I’d finished my sentence. Thanks for a great article. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

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