I concluded my discussion last time by looking at the neanderthal theory of Aspergers. Now it's time for a couple more.
Men versus Women
There's no doubting this one. The majority of people diagnosed with aspergers are in fact male. Of course this doesn't rule out a huge undiagnosed population of female aspies. Aspergers presents quite differently in women and many aspergers traits in women are not diagnosed but simply accepted as "quirky".
Don't be fooled into thinking that this makes social life any easier for women with aspergers. While a female with aspergers is considerably more likely to find a partner than a male, they also seem much more likely to be taken advantage of and their relationships with others of their gender tend to be less successful than their male counterparts. Aspie men can often find other men who share their special interests but aspie women rarely meet other women who can communicate on this level.
It's not that either is any better or worse off. Both aspie males and females have difficulties but they occur in different areas. If anything, the fact that so many females with aspergers remain undiagnosed means that they aren't getting the kind of early intervention that males are getting.
There is a theory which refers to aspergers as "extreme male brain". I'm not a supporter of this theory because I feel that it's demeaning to women. It suggests (implicitly) that women with aspergers are somehow more male (butch?) than their female counterparts. The reasoning for this is that asperger women are "less emotional" and "less empathetic". They also tend to be more focussed on more "scientific" pursuits.
Leaving aside the offensive side of the theory, there is also the problem of flawed data. At the time the theory was proposed, it was presumed that people with aspergers were emotionless and could not have empathy simply because they failed to show the same responses that neurotypical subjects showed. It's only been recognised fairly recently that although the reactions are different, the feelings are the same. People with aspergers feel do emotions and they are empathetic - sometimes they're more empathetic than neurotypicals.
The theory also seems to be suggesting that men with aspergers are more "extreme-male" than neurotypical men. This again is problematic for me because most men with aspergers that I've talked to are actually more "feminine" than neurotypical men. They tend to be interested in the "softer" disciplines of "computing", "science fiction" and "poetry" than the beer-guzzling, sports playing, randy party animals that neurotypcial men are portrayed as.
The extreme male brain ideas have merit but the biggest problem I have with the theory is that it's too generic and it ignores the individuality of the aspie. I have no doubt that my previous few paragraphs ruffled some feathers amongst my readers. I'm sure that many people are thinking, "I'm not like that". That's great! That's the main flaw in the extreme male brain theory - and indeed in most aspergers theories. They attempt to use the aspergers label to describe "everyone" and mistakenly decide that the majority of respondants in a survey can be substituted for "everyone".
It's probably true that a lot of aspie men are less into sports than into science fiction, for example but I've met aspies who are into bodybuilding and football. Initially I struggled to see how they fit the criteria but over time I've begun to realise that the criteria doesn't take individuality into account. We're all different - and the world is better for our differences.
I'm sure that I've made a lot of errors in this post - my work is currently in overdrive and my last three working days have been in excess of 16 hours each. I didn't want a week to slip by without a post but I'm afraid it's been a bit of a rush job. Hopefully next week I'll be able to cover some of the things I missed.