Asperger's and gender: who adapts?

I mentioned that I've recently read:
Both books are about people with Asperger's and how they relate to their partners, but their respective messages are strikingly different.

In 22 Things, Rudy Simone is saying (my summary): "We are women with Asperger's. We have sensory issues, social issues, anxiety, and we're prone to meltdowns. Here's how you can support us and compensate for our shortcomings. Our condition is to be embraced, not challenged. If you don't accept us unconditionally, we will burn bridges with you, and never look back."

In The Journal of Best Practices, David Finch is saying (my summary): "I'm married to the most amazing neurotypical woman ever. When I was diagnosed with Asperger's, it explained why our relationship had deteriorated so badly. In the two years that followed, I've done all the things I describe in this book to improve myself as a father and husband. It remains a permanent challenge, but I've learned to cope with my condition, and have become a better partner in the process."

In 22 Things, Rudy Simone takes it for granted that the aspergirl's partner will adapt. But in The Journal of Best Practices, it is the man with Asperger's who takes on the entire burden of coping with his condition, so that he could be worthy of his amazing neurotypical partner, who is perfect as-is.

Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm.

Imagine how a book like David Finch's would come across if it was instead written by a woman with Asperger's who keeps talking about how amazing her neurotypical husband is, and how she's been bending over backwards for the past two years, obsessively trying to cope with her condition, so that she could fill the stereotypical role of being a good wife and a good mother for their children. And now she can finally kinda do it, yay!

Now imagine how a book like Rudy Simone's would come across if it was instead written by a man with Asperger's who argues matter-of-factly that the traits of "asperguys" are different - as opposed to bad - and should be accepted at face value. He provides useful tips on how a woman who wants to be with an asperguy can support him and compensate for his shortcomings. His aspergerness is to be cherished and embraced. If a woman doesn't, she can fully expect him to burn bridges with her, and never look back.

Sadly, both books exaggerate in a way that's eerily consistent with the gender biases of our era.

A proper balance is of course in the middle. An aspergirl ought to work on her coping strategies, and can achieve significant improvement, just like David Finch in Best Practices. But she does need to be supported and understood. On the other hand, a guy with Asperger's should not assume that he's worth less, and that the entire burden of adapting ought to be on him. He does need to adapt, but he also needs support and understanding.


D Marcotte said…
Thanks for your insight - I agree with your idea that both books are to focused on gender stereotypes. I have a teenaged daughter on the spectrum and am not looking forward to the whole dating issue with her. I guess we will wait and see what happens.

By the way I want to invite you to check out my 51 Day Challenge - I am going to publish links to autism focused organizations and blogs for 51 days starting May 1- Here is a link to my Facebook with the details - I hope you will take a look and if you like what you see, spread the word to your readers.

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