I’ve just read yet another post stating that women with Autism have it easier than men with Autism because they are better at ‘masking’ their behaviors.
This is a gross over statement.
Not all women with Autism are brilliant at ‘mimicking’ others.
Not all women with Autism engage in ‘masking’ behaviors.
The continued, unquestioning, promotion and legitimization of the notion that all women with Autism willingly comply with such stereotypical codes of behavior does us no favors at all.
If anything, one could argue that such ideas do little more than create another rod for our backs as they are fast being employed as yet another diagnostic benchmark to determine whether or not a woman has Autism.
The problem with these ideas is that they avoid or sidestep the simple truth that women were not allowed to express feelings of difference in any positive, meaningful way, prior to the understanding that women could experience High Functioning Autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) right along side men.
In other words, prior to the discovery that women could have High Functioning Autism, Autistic women had to ‘pretend to be normal’ or else risk being labelled with some catastrophic mental health disorder and possibly locked away.
Given the same choices today, pretend to be normal or be prepared to be locked away, most women would choose to pretend.
However, the need to pretend no longer exists and it no longer exists because psychology has finally caught up with our current day reality, and in our current day reality the need to pretend no longer exists because we’re no longer going to be locked up simply for being female and different.
It’s a horribly circular argument, but the point is that in the past women with Autism may have had a perfectly logical rationale for pretending to be normal.
Today that same rationale no longer applies.
Many of us don’t feel the desire to ‘mask’ or ‘conceal’ our behaviors.
Some of us have rarely, if ever, intentionally ‘masked’ our opinions or feelings simply for the sake of wanting to appear as though we ‘fit in’.
It is true that sometimes I will choose to remain silent on a topic, but that’s about as close as I get to engaging with, what some might call, ‘masking behavior’.
The strange thing is, that whenever I deliberately choose to remain silent, I’m not doing so to fit in.
I’m usually doing so out of respect for other people’s feelings.
For example, if person A is talking about a topic that I recognize they have a strong emotional connection too, then even if I do not agree with, or fully understand their point of view, I will choose not to say, as I would if we were discussing a topic to which they had no emotional bond, ‘I don’t agree with you.’ Or ‘you are wrong’.
I may still be thinking it, but I will not express it , as to do so would be to challenge, not just their logic, but also their emotional responses to the topic.
I, like most people, do not like having my emotional responses to things challenged.
Given that I know that it hurts, I choose in-turn, not to hurt another by engaging in an action that I know hurts me.
This to my mind, does not provide evidence that I am engaging in ‘masking’ behavior.
To me it indicates that I have the ability to show empathy, respect and compassion for another person.
The fact that I am not so ‘mind blind’ that I’m unable to consider another person’s feelings, regardless of whether or not I share their opinions, does not mean that I am engaging in ‘masking behavior’.
To me, the act of showing compassion is not, in and of itself, ‘masking behavior’.
It’s human behavior.
And to be perfectly frank, the ability to show compassion does not make it any easier for me to understand why people choose to cling to faulty logic in times of need.
Nor does it explain to me the reasons why people become so tied up in their emotions that they fail to follow clear and logical thought process during the very times that they most need to.
So in reality, I’m still just as confused by people’s lack of logic, or their inability to apply logic when it’s most needed, as males with Autism are.
The only potential difference that gender may make in this circumstance is that, as a female, I am sensitive to the prospect of causing emotional harm to others.
This is because I know exactly what it feels like to be on the receiving end of anothers thoughtless ‘emotional harm’.
So too, do the thousands of women who’ve endured the ‘emotional harm’ that the denial of the truth that women, as well as men, experience Autism, has caused them.
Is life any easier for women with Autism than it is for men?
No, it’s not easier but it is getting better.
It’s getting better because we no longer have to pretend to be anyone or anything other than who and how, we are.