white male aspie elitism, surprise! gay!/trans! autistics!, and peak baron-cohen

see my first post here!

see dani’s response here!

this is a “response” to dani’s response.

note to dani: if we don’t start ordinally numbering these soon, shit’s gonna get rough. also like almost this entire post is me being me, aka tangential, so like…please keep talking about the autistic dating guides, if that’s what you’re still on, because there’s so much more to still pull out of those. it’s just not what my brain is doing right now, ya know? i love this back-and-forth format, because it allows me to like, blah blah blah in my own random rants, and then you can blah blah blah in your own random rants, and they’re related, but we don’t have to go in straight lines. you know how i feel about lines. and straight things, for that matter.


while i agree with you that there’s nothing specifically “aspie” about the kinds of normalizing instructions that those dating books contain, i do think it’s important to talk about all the ways in which the “white, straight, aspie dude” identity they’re tapping into makes use of aspects of “neurodiversity” rhetoric in really gross, misogynistic, elitist ways. there’s a number of useful connections to be drawn between the pop cultural aspects of “white male aspie identity,” the emphasis on “genetic,” “hereditary” autism within  aspie neurodiversity rhetoric, and retroactive diagnosis fad frenzies (which are almost always entirely made up of famous affluent white male “geniuses”) etc. [there’s an entire part of this rant having to do with ‘genetics’-obsessed ‘neurodiversity advocates’ that i’m not writing out right now, because it’s a bit too tangential for today]

i’m specifically referring to that vein of not-really-disability-history that goes around shouting “hey, it doesn’t matter that you think we’re socially awkward, because socially awkward nerds like RUN THE WORLD and all the best people in history were actually like us, not like you boring people! YOU’D ALL FAIL WITHOUT US HERE TO BE SMART AND DO THE SMART THINGS FOR YOU.” these same dudes then tend to also want to appropriate the history of “eugenics” and describe  themselves a persecuted population, or a population that needs to “get human rights finally!” despite the fact that up until about…fifty or so years ago, most affluent white dudes with “aspergers” style diagnoses would not have been considered “defective” or “disabled” or “crazy” at all. really, it’s via the process of “retroactively diagnosing” famous iconoclasts/innovators from white western history that the aspie dude even manages to establish himself as a member of a “select” or “atypical” or “misunderstood/unappreciated” historical population! without their own selective list of “unusual” famous historical figures to identify with, they’d have to fucking admit that their historical counterparts were mostly normative, privileged white dudes fucking other people over like all the rest of their bros.

and that whole “WE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAD ALL THE IMPORTANT IDEAS/INNOVATIONS” spiel that these dudes get into is TOTALLY part of their particular attitude towards women, where they’re like “it doesn’t matter how gross or awkward you think we are, you just don’t appreciate our brilliance and importance, so if you don’t love us, you’re being privileged and discriminatory!” (note the number of parallels between this attitude and dudes who feel the need to play “devil’s advocate,” in every discussion: no matter how upsetting it is to other people, and no matter how many times people tell them that what they’re doing is unnecessary, such dudes are convinced that no conversation can really have practical or intellectual value unless they’ve “fact-checked” it and “challenged” it by being an uninformed, entitled asshole).

the irony, of course, of a bunch of nerdy white dudes telling other people (especially women) that 1. all of history was actually them and 2. normal stupid (especially female) people need them even if they hate them, because they do all the important things, and THEN ALSO  being like “BUT WHEN YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT HOW I BEHAVE, OR TURN ME DOWN, OR DENY ME LITERALLY ANYTHING, YOU’RE DISCRIMINATING AGAINST ME AND MY HISTORICALLY OPPRESSED IDENTITY” is….well, that shit is fucking rich.


so like, to reiterate what you (dani) said, like…autistic people are, as a group, exceptionally likely to be gay/queer or trans. (NOTE: straight autistics, now would be not the time to respond/comment being like “there are straight autistics too! things are hard for us too!” because, breaking news: we know. we like really, really already know.)

a very common thing in see goes as follows:  an adult (often a parent, but sometimes an autistic adult) discovers one or more of the scientific studies on the correlations between autisticness and either queerness or trans/non-binary gender identities. they are like “oh my gawsh, we need to talk about this correlation! what do you all think! whoa!” at this point, the actually queer/trans autistic people sit and roll their eyes together, because this is only news if you don’t already know lots of queer/trans autistic people.

and, to be clear, at one point the other day, dani and i were talking about this stuff, and paused for a moment to see if we could think of autistic adults that we knew personally who were cis and straight. we limited it to people we know freals because we weren’t big on going around guessing the identities of strangers? anyways. it was a long pause. long. very, very long. it’s actually a still ongoing pause. that’s how gay and trans our autistic friends are. i might not have the most representative autistic friend group of all time, given that like…portland, or plus smith fucking college equals rainbow/LGBTQ explosion? but like, dani lives in the midwest and married a straight dude, so she totally counts.

i have a joke about the queer/trans identity-autism connection. it goes like this: “breaking! scientific! news!: people whose experiences/needs don’t conform to normative societal expectations ARE AT GREATER RISK of having experiences/needs that don’t conform to normative societal expectations.”

in other, quite timely, autism-and-gender news, repeat offender simon baron-cohen has just out-simon-baron-cohen’d himself.

if you go back to my very first “autism science comedy hour” post, and look at the last theory i made fun of (crespi and badcock. yes, badcock. and yes, jess had to point the name out to me before i even realized it was funny), you’ll see like…the worst fucking sexist autism theory/diagram of. all. time. it’s that whole “autism and psychosis as diametric gendered opposites in the brain” bullshit parade. i’m not going to talk about all the reasons why the theory is bullshit, because there are so many, but here’s a short overview: 1. history of autism and psychosis/schizophrenia research says FAIL. 2. people! actually! have! both! all the time! 3. LITERALLY DRENCHED IN SEXISM. DRENCHED. DRIPPING SEXISM. 4. the science is also terrible, and embarassingly outdated, but that’s pretty beside the point.

so like, obviously simon baron-cohen encountered this theory, and was like “this theory is so sexist, i must do research to support it!” because less than ten days ago, his lab published an article claiming to support correlations, within an autistic sample group, between–wait for it–being female, scoring high on the “EQ” or “empathizing quotient,” and experiencing psychosis. so, to be clear, this research is all saying that  if you’re a lady who is very lady-feelings according to baron-cohen’s own scale of “person-feelings-mostly-ladies-have,” you’re more likely to have been diagnosed with some kind of psychosis. Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 9.32.40 PM caption: a screenshot of the top of the first page of baron-cohen’s article, which is titled “Testing the ‘Extreme Female Brain’ Theory of Psychosis in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder with or without Co-Morbid Psychosis,” and was published in PLoS ONE a little over a week ago. (the asshole in me is laughing because like, of course this is in PLoS ONE).  

so yeah. just…you know…that is something that actually happened. this month.

that’s all for now.



6 thoughts on “white male aspie elitism, surprise! gay!/trans! autistics!, and peak baron-cohen

  1. PLoS ONE is supposed to be properly peer reviewed, or at least that’s what the editors said at some conference here in SF when I was still in academia at least 5 years ago. That seems pretty hasty to get decent peer review… are there shenanigans about their peer review that are off my radar now that I am a Maker and not a scientist, or is it just that nobody wants to reject Baron-Cohen’s papers? On the other hand, it seemed that half the papers we discussed in graduate biology seminars on various subfields had major flaws in design or analysis. But this paper has such a low-quality hypothesis that it’s basically “tooth fairy science.”

    I think Harriet Hall, MD may have invented that term–basically, the first step in science is to make sure your hypothesis involves things that actually exist instead of collecting data about something imaginary.

    And what is this about brain sexism anyhow? I grew up listening to women fighting for the right to be treated as equals because we can be more than the stereotypes, but I keep seeing research that emphasizes the differences (even if you just have slightly different means that overlap, not a bimodal distribution). And generally not in a flattering way, either. Either “women’s brains can’t do science” or “women are really meant to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen” and now “women have too many feels and it makes them crazy.”

    • I forgot to mention the cool thing about Bayesian statistics–the prior probability of a given hypothesis is a major factor. Basically the math version of “garbage in, garbage out.”

  2. Pingback: dating guides for straight aspie dudes: no country for rational ladybrains | Autistic Academic

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