Sunday, January 20, 2019

What people with autism can learn from Memes - Part 2: Male Behaviours

In my last post, I looked at some of the more "female" behaviours in memes and how they describe people on the autism spectrum in relationships.  This time I want to look at primarily male behaviours. Of course, these aren't really gender restricted behaviours and depending upon the type of relationship you're in, they could be either male or female.

This is a long post, so I'm jumping in without further preamble. If you want more background, refer to the previous post.

White Male Privilege

I could be mistaken but it feels like feminism is stronger online today than it ever was in the past. This is not a bad thing as women's rights still have a long way to go. Unfortunately not all men are the enemy but feminism can make men feel as if comments are directed specifically at them. This is especially true if you're a white male.

It triggers a lot of bad feelings but the worst thing you can possibly do is to try to put your two cents in and deny your "privilege" or say "not all men...."  There are three reasons for this,

  • There are privileges which are completely invisible to you but are not invisible to others. Everyone on the internet has privilege whether they realise it or not. Privilege over those who don't have access to the internet. To most people on the internet, that's an invisible privilege, that's the same with men. Just because our privilege is less visible to us, it doesn't mean that it's not there.
  • Making the point that "not all men ...." takes the issue off the problem and puts yourself at the centre of the spotlight. It's not obvious at first and it took me quite a while to understand but to put it in context, the world is now ready for people to say that not all Germans supported the Nazis (hence films like Schindler's List) but in the 1950s, the focus needed to be on the plight of the Jewish people. It will be a great day when the world is ready to understand that not all men oppress women but today is not that day.
  • This is simply not an argument that you can win -- or that you need to win. Unless you really are a bigot, nobody is blaming you personally. There are certainly people who are worked up about the issue and not all of their ideas are entirely feasible. If you can't contribute in a positive manner, then simply disengage. Not all fights are worth fighting.

Issues with white male privilege affect people with autism in particular because white males with autism are more often mistreated than their counterparts.

Often white male privilege either doesn't apply for people on the spectrum or if it does, it's greatly subdued. Additionally, people with autism are inclined to argue when inaccurate generalisations or untruthful statements are made.

If you find yourself in an argument about whether or not your white male privileges exist, then take steps to remove yourself from the argument immediately. There are no prizes for winning and even if you were to win the argument, chances are, you'd lose friends.

Being Scared of Women (for Legal Reasons)

It's one thing to be scared to talk to people, or to women in particular.  It's actually fairly common in individuals with autism who can easily get overloaded with the stress of conversation -- think "Raj" out of the Big Bang Theory. It's another thing entirely to be scared to of women in general for legal reasons.

If you're scared of women in general -- and if it's for legal reasons, it's assumed that either your ideas about women are antiquated or your behaviour towards them is problematic. 

There's no legitimate reason to be scared of women and legality if you treat them in the same way as you'd treat a man.  If you're ever in doubt about whether or not something that you're doing is the right thing, simply imagine that the person you're talking to is a tough male and talk/behave accordingly.

Individuals with autism can be at a higher risk for legal issues with women mainly because they often have "no filter"and say inappropriate things without realising what they've said. If you do make a mistake and say something inappropriate, apologise sincerely and try to learn from the experience. 

Humour in Poor Taste

Females like a good joke just as much as males but like anyone, they will quickly grow tired if they're always the butt of the joke. This is true of many jokes with specific gender, religious, racial or sexual stereotyping. They may seem funny but it only takes a couple to really annoy someone in the target group.

There are quite a lot of jokes and memes about which are truly offensive to women and which should not be used in mixed gender settings.  In fact -- these can be offensive even in male company so if you can find a way to eliminate these from your repertoire entirely, you'll become a better person.

"That's what she said" is probably one of the very worst examples of modern sexism. Those four words can sexualise any trivial day to day discussion and can be used anywhere. While it was used extensively in "The Office", people forget that it was used to show how "inappropriate" the boss was, not to make him into a comedy hero.

It's a particularly problematic phrase for people on the spectrum because it's quite common for people on the spectrum to quote others, particularly TV shows. It also makes it easy to "create jokes" on the fly, something that many people on the spectrum struggle with.

Don't give into temptation. If you can't say something nice and not offend people, then it's best not to say anything at all. 

Entitlement and Ownership

It's often said that "there's someone for everyone" or that "everyone has a soulmate somewhere".  That might be true but it's equally important to remember that "nobody owns anyone".

Slavery is (mostly) gone from western society and people stay together because it's mutually beneficial, not because they're owned. 

This means that you have to be the best that you can be -- and hope that your partner will be their best too. It won't always work out. Some relationships are just not meant to be.

There are a couple of particularly problematic behaviours I wanted to talk about in this area;

  • Making unwarranted assumptions and status changes. (Just Friends)
  • Treating relationships like transactions.

Just Friends

If you ask a girl out and she agrees but says "just as friends", then it means "as friends".  That doesn't change after a good night out. It only changes when both partners agree that it has changed.

It's okay to ask if "we're still just friends and whether there's any possibility of anything more".  It's okay to ask every now and then (if things are going well, perhaps every couple of months). It's not okay to keep harping on about it.

It's not okay to ask this question every time you go out together and it's certainly not okay to assume that things have suddenly changed - especially not if your friend has had too much to drink.

Men on the autism spectrum tend to get sucked in to the whole "just friends" thing more than the average guy. This is because they're often poor communicators and are willing to "wait out" a relationship in the hope of being noticed.

It's great to have friends, regardless of their gender but as a general rule, if you wouldn't treat a "guy friend" the same as the "girl friend" then you need to be asking yourself if you have an ulterior motive.

It's also important to remember that as a person in the friendship, it's okay for you to say "no".  If you think that you're being asked to do something that exceeds the limits of what a friendship should be, you should feel like you can say no.

A good friend will respect your decision.

Treating Relationships like Transactions 

The idea that behaviour X should entitled you to result Y is problematic. This is like buying someone. It's like slavery - or at the very least, an exchange, not a relationship.

Taking someone out for dinner does not entitle you to molest them, touch them or talk "trashy" to them. Successful relationships are built on mutual respect. 

If you're taking someone out to dinner, you're doing it "as a gift", to show how much you respect them. like them or appreciate them. It's an act of faith that during the dinner they will spend the time with you and get to know you better. That's all you can expect.

The same goes for presents, jewellery, chocolates etc. It doesn't mean that the other person has to give anything back. If you're going out "just as friends" and you decide to give the other person a gift, then that's your choice, not theirs.

People on the spectrum are often sticklers for rules but the rules of gifts and relationships are often not well explained. If you're the parent of a teenager on the spectrum, it's worth taking the time to make sure that the concept of "gifting" is fully understood. 

If you feel like your charity is being abused, then don't make an issue of it during the outing. Just make it very clear before you go out next time, that your friend will be expected to pay her own way. If she cancels, you'll have reasonable grounds to suspect that you were being "used".

The Problems of "nice guys" and "neckbeards"

Growing up, we're often told that "nice guys finish last" or that girls like "bad boys". These are two horrible stereotypes which are just as bad as the stereotypes that women have to cope with.

I've already talked about a lot of the things that define the so-called "nice guy" in discussions about "the FriendZone" and the idea that "gifts" are transactions which should be paid for with actions. 

There's a bit more to this idea;

There's a disturbing idea that the definition of "nice guys" are "neckbeards". Nothing could be further from the truth. While many of the characteristics of neckbeards (Fedoras, My Little Pony obsessions, optional beard etc) are fairly harmless, some are downright toxic;

  • Using honorifics (madam / m'lady) is often considered offensive to women. They have names - use them instead. Women are people and if they're a stranger, they're certainly not "your lady". 
  • They often have stalker-like behaviour and are focused on "getting" rather than "dating" women.
  • They are usually quite self-obsessed/egotistical about the way they dress, their hat and attitudes.
  • They can be quite negative about women, how women dress and act - and what a woman's role in society is. "Neckbeards" often support the 1950's ideas of what women should be. 
  • They become angered easily, particularly when it comes to dating and rejection. 

"Neckbeards" pose a particular danger to people on the autism spectrum because they usurp the idea of what a "nice guy" should be. Young men on the spectrum tend to lean more towards "nerdy" than "jock" and thus find it easier to identify with the "neckbeard" way of life. 

As a result, boys on the autism spectrum who want to become good men often follow the wrong example. 

To be a truly good guy, you need to change your outlook on life. You need to realise that while you're a central character in your own life, it's not always about you. Being patient, tolerant and kind without seeking any reward is what makes you a nice guy. 

If you like a girl, ask her out. If she says no, it's okay to be upset but it's not okay to stalk her, to call her out for her choices, to bully or to otherwise antagonise her. No means no. Move on.

It's also important to remember that you will never be perfect. You will never be finished. You need to constantly self-improve. Work on improving your own happiness and others will be attracted to you.

Finally, don't set your sights too high. You don't need a supermodel. It's what's inside that counts. 

Persistence and Anger

Leading on from the whole "nice guys" and "neckbeards" thing is persistence and anger. The persistence comes from stalking their choice of woman, regardless of her lack of interest, marital status or repeated requests for the behaviour to stop.

Sometimes the stalking carries on for a decade or more -- It's clearly not acceptable. 

The other issue is anger. Rejection hurts but there's no sense in lashing out. This just makes you a target for bullying and reduces your ability to connect socially with others. If you lose your temper over rejection online (or even offline), there's a pretty good chance that it will be recorded and that potential dates will see it and steer clear.

You can't be angry at someone for exercising their free choice and being openly abusive to people in a community or workplace is essentially "burning bridges".  Word will quickly get around that you're not a nice person to associate with. 

So, there you have it, a chunk of wisdom on male behaviour inspired by memes. Hopefully we can all try to be better people. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

What people with autism can learn from Memes - Part 1: Female Behaviours

The internet is full of amusing sites like Ebaum's World and Cheezeburger where memes rule and people surface almost any content on the internet in the most disturbing ways.  Just as the culture of the internet flows through the comments on more serious sites like Reddit, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, it flows through the meme sites too -- only with far less censorship.

Don't get me wrong, many of these posts are terribly funny but most are not politically correct and some seem to showcase the darker side of human nature. 

One thing that I have noticed is that there are a lot of "cringeworthy" posts which show some very disturbing trends towards dating -- on both the male and female sides.

Why is this an autism problem?

While the behaviours I want to discuss are not in any way restricted to autism, some of the memes and comments seem to echo sentiments I've heard all too frequently in the autism and Asperger's communities.

People with autism often spend a disproportionate amount of time online compared to their neurotypical peers who spend at least equal time "in the real world".

As a result, people with autism often adopt the ideas and behaviours of online communities without the corrections that real life can apply. 

There's also a few traits of autism that can increase the likelihood of problematic behaviour.

Problem Behaviours common in Females 

This is the first of two posts and given the large preamble, I felt that it was appropriate to cover "female" issues here (as there seem to be fewer of them).  Note that while these issues are undoubtedly more common in females, they aren't actually gender-based and the "female role" can easily be attributed to anyone, especially in relationships which are not heterosexual. I'll be using terms like "guys and girls" but of course, it really depends on the individuals in the relationship.

Not Defining the Relationship (DTR)

Sometimes females leave a relationship in an ambiguous state. This is evident in "FriendZone" memes where guys are in a relationship where they clearly have ambitions above friendship but the girls in the relationship do not. This creates awkward scenarios where guys go above and beyond the call of duty for these girls in the hope of "ingratiating themselves into a relationship".

There's quite a few male problems here, including "treating relationships like transactions", making unwarranted assumptions and a false sense of entitlement, all of  which I'll go into in my next post. Right now, I just want to cover the "female" issues.

Not DTR-ing, is especially a problem with people on the spectrum because they're often unaware of the non-verbal signals that they are sending out and the signals that others may be giving them. Often younger people on the spectrum don't get double entendres or puns because they're not thinking outside the lines of a direct one-to-one conversation.

If you say that you don't want a relationship but give off the wrong signals or smile at suggestive speech, prospective partners may think that you've changed your mind.

It's very important that the female emphasises that the relationship is "Just Friends". It's also important to drop gentle reminders that nothing has changed (and sometimes, that nothing ever will change). It's also important to not intentionally string people along with the possibility of the relationship developing into something more.

In real life, this means that when a guy invites you out, you might need to remind him, "just as friends, right?".  Hopefully this will prevent any awkwardness during the outing. 

Taking people for a ride

There are a lot of girls out there who brag about what they "got" from various male "friends". Gifts range from concert tickets, to special meals, jewellery, holidays and expensive gifts. This is essentially cat-fishing and it's by no means a purely female trait.

We all have to be wary of cat-fishing-style behaviour in prospective partners and possibly in ourselves as it's a slippery slope from accepting gifts to soliciting them.

Intentionally taking men for a ride is not an autism trait. It's something that requires the ability to manipulate people which many people with autism lack. Unintentionally, it's certainly common as it can happen when you fail to read your partner's unspoken intentions.

If a guy is giving you expensive gifts and you're not reciprocating, or if he's constantly paying for your meals, it's probable that he thinks that the relationship is stronger than you do.  You might need  to ask them to "dial it back a little".  

If nothing else, then at least make sure that you DTR (define the relationship) because many people will eventually get tired of waiting and may push for more intimate contact. 

Attention-Seeking Behaviour

Attention seeking behaviour is very common on the internet and particularly on social media platforms such as Facebook. 

It's not always a female behaviour but it's certainly more common in females. You can easily identify a person with ASB by looking through their posts over the past year or so. If the vast majority of them are about various issues (not the same issue over and over again), in which everything possible seems to have a negative connotation they're most likely attention seeking. This is especially true if the person appears to be arguing with well-wishers and optimists in order to make their case seem more bleak. 

Unfortunately, it's difficult to tell the difference between ASB and deep depression, so you can't simply ignore friends with ASB as it could mean life or death. That said, if someone is clearly displaying attention seeking behaviour and has been acknowledged in a positive way by others, you can usually let things be. 

Attention seeking behaviour is an autism trait because quite often people on the spectrum don't fit into social groups and are "starved for attention". Often the only way that they can engage people is online and sometimes people feel that the best way to get that engagement is to constantly cry out for help. 

There's another form of attention seeking behaviour which usually isn't related to depression at all. IT's when people post about how ugly/fat they are (and they clearly aren't) or when they constantly post items with the aim of "fishing for complements". 

The problem with both forms of attention seeking behaviour is that the people posting them often eventually end up believing their own lies. A person who constantly posts about the glass being half full will eventually find it difficult to recognise positive events when they occur.  Additionally, these sort of posts tire out support groups and set people up for the "cry wolf" effect where the supporters grow so tired of reacting to these posts that they fail to respond when they're needed most. 

If you find yourself constantly posting negative things, then seek help offline. Online friends are great but there are limits to what they can do and you most likely need a more direct force for positive change in your life. 


General neediness is both a male and a female trait. Needy individuals constantly lament the lack of a partner and usually post overly descriptive information with emphasis on the physical aspects of relationships. Often the standards of needy people are quite high and they'll settle for nothing less than a supermodel or a person who they have selected who is already in a relationship or out of their reach. 

Posts about neediness obsess on getting hold of an individual, getting them to like you or keeping them away from others.  Neediness itself often leads to unsafe practices, it drives others away and it's frequently the main reason for any breakups that occur.

Neediness often goes hand in hand with Bi-polar disorder meaning that needy people can follow patterns where they destroy their own relationships with fear, paranoia and insecurity. 

Neediness is a higher risk issue in individuals with autism because it's possible for other people to become the special interest. 

It's not okay to be super-needy, to stalk others or to obsess on individuals, particularly if they're out of your reach or not interested in you. If you find yourself doing this, you need to talk to someone offline and get some help before it becomes a real-life problem. 

Next Time

In my next post, I want to cover the problems that are more common with males including; anti-female behaviour, entitlement and ownership, treating relationships like transactions and the problems of "nice guys", persistence and anger.