Being autistic can be difficult. I think being an autistic woman comes with particular challenges. The main reason is that societies expectations are different for women than they are for men. Despite big, positive changes in how gender is viewed there’s still a long way to go. Unfortunately we still live in a world where there are ‘girl colours’ and ‘boy colours’, where little girls are given dolls and princess dresses, and little boys encouraged to play with train sets, nerf guns and tools. My son is in the minority in his ballet class, and girls are fewer in their local children’s football teams.
This expectations goes beyond the hobbies we should partake in, and the clothing we should wear. Women are expected to have good social skills, when a man is different socially he can be seen as a beloved eccentric. When a woman is different at best she will be the subject of gossip at worst she can end up being bullied and ostracised. So for an autistic woman struggling to understand how she is expected to behave the consequences can be very upsetting.
Women are commended for being patient, caring, gentle and diplomatic. Consider what it means to be behaving like ‘a lady’. As an autistic woman these qualities are not my strong suit. I am dominant, honest, loud and quick to act. All qualities which I believe would be more easily tolerated, admired even, if I were a man.
I’ve been bullied, laughed about and excluded for my lack of social skills, which as a women is potentially a greater cause of distress than it might have been for a man. I care, deeply about fitting in, because I’ve been taught as a woman that fitting in, being socially accepted is a measure of success.
Typically when men get together the conversation revolves around a hobby or interest, be that music, sport, or comic books. When women gather they often discuss social dynamics (who did what, who said what) or family, as an autistic woman these conversations are a minefield. It’s not as simple as being honest about the situation being discussed, because saying the wrong thing can land you in hot water, or lead to you becoming the subject of gossip. No, what’s actually happening is a game, to which we haven’t been told the rules but we’re expected to play perfectly or in all likelihood another invite to that social group won’t be forthcoming.
It’s no wonder that I spent so much time and energy trying really hard to ‘get it right’. Trying to find the secret rules to the social games that I kept playing and losing. Shedding bitter tears as another hurtful attitude left me feeling rejected and less than.
I have hope that things are changing, that one day ,as the world become more and more accepting of difference, being honest about being an autistic woman will lead to acceptance and compassion. That people will look beyond our differences and see our strengths and appreciate us for them. I look forward to a time when if I get it wrong I’m able to move forward more equipped for future experiences, rather than left with my self esteem shattered unable to see the best in myself.
Because I am an autistic woman and I am proud of who I am.
You are a fab women what ever set of genetics you were given! I think getting things right is always tricky and I think you are doing a fab job negotiating yourself around something that is still new to you, despite it always being there. I think different thinkers are really needed in this world and hard as it is I think that is something to celebrate xxx
Thanks Ali, what a lovely comment you’ve made me smile.
Strong, dominant women who don’t bother with social politics are the kind of women I always quietly look up to. If we were to meet I would admire I am certain. Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are, I promise you there will be people in your life that look up to you.
You’ve come such a long way in the last year. Be very proud. Autism has it’s challenges, be proud of how well you are managing them, how well you manage the ‘game’. It is a game, a lot of social interaction is based on time worn gender politics, narrow ideals with a background in outdated tradition. Your attributes are great, why aren’t more people as straight forward?!
Everyone struggles Ella, social interaction is a minefield for so many people, often the people who are excluding and hurtful are the ones with the most insecurities. Don’t let them shatter you. X
Thanks Gemma, it’s true that thus stuff isn’t only hard for autistic women. Playing the social game is hard for everyone.
Thanks Gemma, although I understand you were mainly addressing women. I hope this will help me be more understanding towards my grandson ‘who is often ostracised’ without nagging him.
Hi Pat, I’m Ella, thanks for your comment and I’m very glad my post will be helpful for you to better understand your Grandson.
I’m just like you, loud and confrontational. I talk and act without thinking first. Only I’m all about standing out, not fitting in. I’m a total culture nerd. Despite my young age, I’m old-fashioned when it comes to music and movies. I love old Western movies, and Kurosawa films. And I’m an artist, so having Asperger’s Syndrome hopefully won’t be so hard in my future career.
It’s awesome that you feel comfortable being exactly who you are. In the words of a cheesy American “You go girl!”
Thank you. I mean, I do beat myself up occasionally for making a dumb mistake, but I try to move past it.