Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Autism Awareness: Gender Bias In Psychology

*For Autism Awareness month I wanted to post a recent paper I submitted for my studies. I feel this is an important issue to bring up. I realize that this is not the typical blog post but I hope this short essay will bring some necessary discussions to light.

Gender Bias in Psychology

This essay will discuss what I think of the ongoing gender bias that continues to exist in psychological research and will include parts of my experience as a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. In the past I have struggled immensely to find the same respect and resources that I have found for my male son who also has Asperger’s Syndrome. It has only been in the last few years that multiple accounts of female Asperger’s syndrome have surfaced. Studies speculate that there are just as many female “Aspies” as male but there has not been nearly the amount of research on the female version of the syndrome. Thanks to Rudy Simone and a few other pioneering women who demanded that their voices be heard, leading experts like Tony Attwood are finally conducting research and writing books for the female audience.
I admire that psychology has tried, but failed, to deal with gender bias. At least it is an educational discipline that has acknowledged some if it’s shortcomings. Nauert (2006) cites social psychologist Hegarty who says he is optimistic about changes to gender bias in psychology because “psychological methods allowed us to bring this issue to light and to describe it” (para.7). While I do not feel 100% confident in the findings of psychology, especially from a female perspective, I do feel it change is necessary to the development of the discipline. Nauert (2006) also quotes Hegarty saying that, “About three quarters of these positioned men’s data first, and made women the second sex. But this effect was reversed when psychologists depicted data about parents” (para. 5).
In my own personal experience with psychologists, I have to fight hard to be heard apart from my gender yet when I talk about my son’s diagnosis, I am respected for my role and my authority as my child’s mother. This is completely frustrating and degrading. In the role of the mother, I am respected for my wisdom and intuition but I am questioned for the very same traits, simply because I am a woman and am speaking to matters pertaining to myself. I have been treated as being over dramatic when I have said something about myself when the same statement was acceptable when pertained to my son.
I regard my son as not solely male but a human that thinks and acts in a similar way to myself. In this regard, I hope that I can transcend gender in matters that involve our brains and see the differences in ourselves, not primarily as male and female, but simply from cultural conditioning or difference in temperament and taste. In my experience, my brain relates more to my male son than my female daughter, who also is an Aspie. This further complicates the role of gender and shows that the biases of psychology are not solely based on individuals and their needs. Psychological biases are also part of cultural or societal context.
Before I began my sociology studies, I thought of studying psychology. I had enough experience in my life to want to continue the research on a more equal standing, especially in regards to Asperger’s in each person, whether male or female. As I took note of varied accounts in the psychological field, I realized that my problem with psychology is that even though it is a study of the individual, it did not seem to treat each diagnosis as individual. I realized there are so many other factors involved, and so I wanted to study the world we created and then apply it to the individual as well as the whole.
I want psychology to succeed in awareness and neutrality. I will not feel confident in psychology until these two qualities show up as the norm instead of the rarity. But in my life, I depend on psychology to give me support, knowledge, aid and diagnosis. It has changed our lives for the better, while also creating injustice. For me it is a necessary discipline, despite gender biases. I have great hopes for the evolution of psychological studies and the reduction of ongoing gender bias.


Nauert, R. (2006). Male gender bias in psychological research continues. Psychology News.
Retrieved from

This is by Samantha and SO good for Aspergirls. I would highly recommend for any who wish to understand women and autism to listen while doing chores or watch during downtime:


My Little Warriors said...

Great essay!

nyssa said...

this was awesome. i experienced the gender bias too when I approached my doctor about maybe being on the spectrum. he dismissed it completely.

Called to Question said...

Spectacular writing, my love. :) You are so right about psychology and the limits of it. I too hope that it will evolve into what you stated. Your brilliant! No wonder you get such great marks. :)

M said...

This is why I don't even know where to start when it comes to getting diagnosed...most analysts are not receptive and do not listen and write me off as "dramatc", as you said. The only hope I have is that my dad is an engineer with Aspie traits and my sister is diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, learning disabilities, and also has Aspie traits. No boys in the family.

Sometimes I feel like the whole thing is so misunderstood and it's essentially only loner hypersmart teenage boys who are getting diagnosed... It is very obvious to me that there were signs since early childhood and nobody noticed then or cares now when I point out the parallels between other Aspie women and me and the fact that I hit every other diagnostic criteria except for the fact that I am an attractive women in my mid-20s.

Kmarie said...

Hi Rachel;
Yes I hear you except I'm late twenties. My therapist has been trying to help me find someone whose had experience in diagnosis and we can't find any in our part of Canada... Which is saying a lot. My son has his official papers and while I had to fight to get him tested it was worth it. It's tougher as a female. Have you read Aspergirls by Rudy Simone? It is excellent and may make you feel less alone. I have other book recommendations in my library link... Just click on authors name by any with AS in the title;)
It does feel isolating. I have way more to chat about if you'd like;)
Thanks for stopping by;)