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Dear friends,

The listowner of Women With Aspergers wrote a couple of postings about the bullying she experienced in school as a "gifted" girl (reading) who was different, but she kept the talk  to non-sexualized experience during adolescence. This omits a large area of maiming, and is precisely what's left out of discussions of aspergers and to leave it out is probably one of the unacknowledged unexamined motives of not thinking about the fate of women with Aspergers and denying they are even there.

Looking out by Paula Rego

I wrote as follows:

The thread on bullying in school resonated with me.  I was never called "gifted" because in the school and neighborhoods I was brought up in such words were eschewed. I did test with a high IQ and "made" what was called the SPs in junior high. That meant (this is around 1958-59) I did 7th through 9th grade in 2 years.  I'm told years later this SP type class was replaced by 3 year enrichment programs. Much better for I was way too young to go to high school at age 13.

I also didn't experience bullying in school in the way described. My younger daughter did -- she has been diagnosed as Aspergers and is highly intelligent academically.  For my part I do think there is a spectrum with a different host of behaviors and responses and while I do badly against in-school bullies, I do strike out in some sharp hard way that stops it.

Where bullying affected me was _outside school_ and especially once I went into puberty. This is a painful area to discuss and I will try not to embarrass myself or others. Suffice to say I could not deal with male abrasiveness and found myself called foul names (tramp was the least of it) and was literally unable to cope with aggressive boys.  Girls were anything but sympathetic or understanding.

I retreated to anorexia -- a condition brought on by other factors. People are complicated webs.

Now some of these other factors were class. I was working class in background and in high school found that pushy middle class parents got their teenage children into honors and AP clases and I was not among them because I was not going to college. (I did eventually go and even went on many years later for a Ph.D in literature.) Ethnicity influenced what happened: conflicts between Italians, Jewish and Irish people I didn't understand in the least.

I know that this early teenagehood traumatic time maimed me for life. It set a pattern of retreat and I reacted in punitive (hating the self) ways, lost ambition and ended with low expectations.

Looking back I have to say a variety of factors shaped my life -- and some were from the more pernicious aspects of identity politics, values in American society (for competition and aggressive), the misogyny of the way teenage girls are treated and the glorification of abrasive heterosexual boys, but finally I think I could have overcome had I had the social knowhow and skills I so sorely lacked.

When I first came onto the list I suggested that there are many mroe Aspergers women than is realized by the research for the wrong things are looked for and in the case of women many of the things that ought to be looked for examined.  A great book for me that helped enormously when i was in my 40s was _Reviving Ophelia_ by Mary Pipher were I recognized myself and understood for the first time I was not alone. Rereading this recently I am convinced many of the girl types she described are people with Aspergers traits.

Sadly, I don't think we are going to get sympathetic research in this area for a long time to come as all women are disvalued by our strongly male hegemonic sexist culture.  But I think there is a crying need for this. I'd like to know how many more Aspergers women get raped than NTs; that sort of thing.


She replied ably but went off (I felt) on a tangent about lesbian sexual orientation as a girl and what that means generallly.  I wanted to keep the topics to how Aspergers puts women at a severe disadvantage in our cruelly sexualized world.  So I wrote again:

I've found the replies and commentary helpful and interesting.  To revert to SarahRose's first reply, the last pargraph: " I still tend to think of men as being a different species that coincidentally happens to be able to interbreed with ours, in much the same way that tigers and lions can interbreed but are two different species."

I have met lots of men who are gentle, sensitive, do not bully, and do not do well with bullying and there are women who are cold, mean, have skins like rhinoceroses, and bully very well.  These are not sexually linked traits necessarily. What I was getting it in my last comments is that in our culture these ugly and destructive traits are encouraged and encouraged especially in men. Traits like caring, altruism, sensitivity are discouraged, at least not admired, so the spectrum of male behaviors we come across are a product of social training as much as innate personal (individual) and biological (species-wide) characteristics. I strongly recommend Carol Gilligan's _In a Different Voice_ where she singles out a group of traits she says are associated with women and urges people to respect these and see them as equally valid with. She does sexually link traits like caring and altruism to women and competition and aggression to men, but even if she is right both sets of traits are in both genders and it's up to our societies what we want to believe in as a good norm and what not.

Here are some notes on the bookA paper by her:

I didn't bring up rape tangentially: I meant that partly it stems from encouraging bullying, aggression, hatred of women in men -- for it's more than bullying as in some forms it's akin to or is murder.  And rape is a central topic to understand when understanding how sexuality is experienced.

My feeling is the same associated with sexual experiences keeps women from talking about them and that would be even more likely with Aspergers women, and yet here is an area where she (taking the group as personified) would be likely to be very hurt.

Often the adult aspergers person is talked about as needing help for a job -- that might be primary and first and foremost in our society and statistics are thrown around (how accurate it's hard to tell) that 90% of adult apsergers people are unemployed/underemployed. For women there is an equal area of experience where they are maimed: the sexual one and this is not brought out because it's insisted repeated how most Aspergers people are men so we need only work for and think about men.

This reminds me of how for decades it was said heart attacks afflict men late in life and not women, or how research for many areas of life take men as the norm and forget women.

As for non-sexual or asexual bullying (which is different I think) I agree that part of its source is the those who bully recognize this person is different and they can get away with it. They need only try a little and when they see the person is relatively helpless (lacks self-advocacy), it leaves them gleeful and cruel. It may be some people doing this feel uncomfortable with the person, but the leader is not that way. I would say probably leaders in such gang attacks (of whatever stripe) are themselves sick people, but their sickness is not one our society punishes unless they make the mistake of doing it in the wrong environment or against a powerful person.

The supreme court in a decision a couple of decades ago refused to protect males from harassment in the workplace. It was not phrased like this but this is what it came down to. Men are generally ashamed to admit when they cannot cope with harassment is an important part of why the supreme court could easily get away with this.

Sexual orientation would be another aspect of someone's personality which would increase our problems with having Aspergers traits in a society which is socially intolerant, does not value compassion and certainly not difference for real.

This links to the topic's we've been discussing on the comments (one two, three, four) to my blog on Sarah's Key, The Names of Love and The Hedgehog.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
I'm referring back to dialogue or thread in Digest 3860, Oct 1st ow Women with Aspergers. I want to support the person who said her experience of sexuality has been shaped by Aspergers. Interpersonal relationships depend on our perceptions of one another, our values and norms interacting with those we imbibe from society. They must then necessarily be affected by someone with Aspergers traits, temperament, and the values we develop to survive.

My experience with sex has generally been bad. Yes I met a couple of men, one of whom I'm married to for now nearly 43 years, who I had good relationships with. But both were not typical macho males at all. My husband has the kind of values we talk of here which go with Aspergers traits for some: anti-aggression for example.

I wrote a blog on this shortly after joining our list and described my experiences as instances of bullying. I suggest that one reason it's so important to acknowledge far more women are Aspergers than studies show and to differentiate how we experience life and how we can cope is precisely the centrality of gender to our society. Gender gets in all the experiences we have as woman beyond the specifics of what happens in bed.

Oct. 3rd, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
Someone responded:

"I think this is an important topic. For me, looking back on myself and my behaviour over the years, understanding about my aspie side has helped me make sense of a lot of my life and relationships. It explains why I have been so vulnerable and taken advantage of, why I kept repeating the same patterns, and why I always felt so different to others, and couldn't quite grasp why I didn't fit in, however hard I tried. I think it is fundamental to why I was like I was, and why I was so bewildered by myself, and therefore why my relationships were a mess..because I was a mess, frankly.

In response, yes, that's it for me too, especially where you write:

"It explains why I have been so vulnerable and taken advantage of, why I kept repeating the same patterns ..."

No matter what I did (went to psychiatrist and discussed it, social worker and talked about options one could follow, tried girlfriends, even my mother - the last the worst reaction I ever had), each time I would react the same inadequate indecisive "soft" way. I wouldn't call myself a "mess" but I did chose a counterproductive path: I went into retreat, would not go out with guys, became anorexic.

Sex is central to our lives, especially because we are women -- or most of us who speak on this list. If you think of typical famous male phrases, you get why: Byron said some lines (I can't remember these things by heart) about how men are interested in all sorts of things, women "just love and home." Nonsense, and reinforcing all the stereotypes and limitations of women in society, but a belief lots of men flatter themselves with.

Translated it means she's "the sex" (18th century phrase) and in advertisements, movies, TV shows women are seen as primarily sexual, in sexual roles. If they write a great book, become a politician, the way they are seen first is: how do they look, their dress is discussed.

Since the society encourages macho males, encourages aggression in this area, it's one whenever serious studies of women with Aspergers begins (that's nowhere as yet) it must begin here.

I distrust how Temple Grandin presents herself with a masculine like name and downplays her gender. Why? She's posing in order to fit the paradigm of maleness to get ahead and sell and be successful. It works, but it leaves her sisters out - and I daresay an area of experience she has had to close herself off from.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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