Rampenthal, Analysis 2: Misogyny

“He was a misogynist – a feature not uncommon in persons with Asperger’s syndrome (e.g. Wittgenstein, Spinoza).” –  Michael Fitzgerald

Out of everything we read this week, it was this one little sentence that stayed with me the most. Sure, Herman Melville’s novella “Bartleby, the Scrivener” was an entertaining read full of notable quotes. But Fitzgerald’s comment about misogyny being common among people with Asperger’s made me stop. Was he saying that misogyny is some type of symptom of Asperger’s? Hatred can’t be a symptom of a disorder, right?

First off, if you don’t know what misogyny is – simply put, it’s the hatred of women. Or as dictionary.com says: it’s the “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women.” I fully believe that misogyny, racism, ageism, and all other hateful things, are 100% learned. I don’t think someone is born hating millions of people. That’s just absurd. So why would misogyny supposedly be common in people born with Asperger’s syndrome?

I did some digging into misogyny and Asperger’s syndrome and immediately found loads of articles on Elliot Rodger. As you may remember, in 2014 Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old man, murdered six people and injured fourteen more near the University of California. Rodger posted a Youtube video and wrote a manifesto expressing his hatred for women. Shortly after the events countless “news” sites wrote that Rodger was autistic. They claimed that he had Asperger’s – which led to a lot of backlash from the ASD community. Why? Because while Rodger’s mother said he had Asperger’s, he wasn’t actually ever diagnosed with it. And since the event, many have chimed in stating that he didn’t. Including Dr. David Gustaf Thompson, who wrote:

“…his problem wasn’t Asperger’s, bipolar, clinical depression or any other sort of brain disorder. His psychopathic episode, the ‘day of retribution’ as he called it, in which he killed six innocent people with plans to ‘slay’ many more, was driven by a less elusive problem. Because of the intimate, confessional videos he posted online, and the 137-page autobiographical ‘manifesto’ he left for public viewing, Rodger provided a valuable opportunity to more deeply understand the forces that lead to such a tragedy.”

Dr. Thompson, an expert in his field, believes that Rodger’s actions and behaviors were the result of bad parenting. Not autism. Other professionals in the field agree. So why did so many news sources claim he had Asperger’s? And why did so many people believe them?

I admit, I couldn’t find a clear answer. But from what I read online, a lot of people are asking if people with Asperger’s are also misogynists. This site gave a pretty good answer, it and others like it, say that autism is frequently used as an excuse for bad behavior, even when the behavior isn’t a result of autism. Linked on that page is this blog post, and one quote that immediately struck me was, “Abusers who are also autistic exist; I dated one.  And I maintain that the problem was never his autism.  The problem was his abuse.”  This and everything else I read leads me to believe that misogyny isn’t necessarily common in people with autism (like Fitzgerald said), but that there happen to be people with autism who are misogynistic and have their autism used as an excuse for that behavior.


Somewhat unrelated side note: Another thought I had was that the idea that people with mental disorders are bad people or are criminals may have something to do with these individuals once being placed in prisons. While that occurred ages ago, that type of ignorance tends to stick around throughout the decades. Also, a link I didn’t use, but found interesting was this one from the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. It could be useful to someone in the future. I did find it interesting that supposedly 63% of arson cases were committed by people with hfASD diagnoses.

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3 thoughts on “Rampenthal, Analysis 2: Misogyny

  1. Tim

    Playing around with that idea for just a moment, what about females with Asperger’s Syndrome? Do they therefore hate women too, or are they misandrists?

    But anyway, just yesterday on a news article someone in the comments had written that people with Asperger’s Syndrome are violent, citing a particular case of a man battering a young girl to death. She urged other readers to check it out online. So I did. The policeman in charge stated that whilst the defence had initially claimed the murderer had AS, there was no evidence he’d ever been diagnosed, and later when the guy tried to appeal the sentence the judge rejected his appeal, noting that there had never been any evidence that he’d been suffering from a mental disorder. The myths that people perpetrate about A.S. are sometimes quite ridiculous.
    e.g.:
    He has A.S. therefore he must be retarded.
    He has A.S. therefore he must be a genius.
    He has A.S therefore he must be violent, aggressive and dangerous.
    He has A.S. therefore he must be sociopathic.
    He has A.S. therefore when you speak to him you have to speak very loudly and slowly.

    And so on…

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  2. ashleighnfowler

    Like you, I believe that hate is a learned behavior. Therefore, I too was shocked when I read that misogyny is a feature that is commonplace among people with Asperger’s. I wanted to connect our readings, so I decided to see if any other authors with Asperger’s were also well-known misogynists. Before I started to do research, I looked at the list of authors that Brown mentions in her text. Looking at the names, I thought to myself, “all of these authors, the ones that I recognize, are all from periods when misogyny has been rampant.” For example, the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson are definitely misogynistic in nature. Denmark in the 1800s was a patriarchy and with the patriarchy comes misogyny. Sadly, misogyny was just something that was accepted by society.

    Keeping that in mind, I delved into research. Brown mentioned that William Butler Yeats may have also had Asperger’s, so I decided to look into that. I decided to do research on William Butler Yeats, not only because I love his poem, “The Second Coming”, but also because I know that he lived in a time where feminism (women won the right to vote in the U.K) was strongly advocated.

    According to Professor Michael Fitzgerald of Trinity University, Yeats has the similar traits of someone with Asperger’s. Yeats had numerous problems in school (including having difficulties read and writing), he had trouble with one-on-one relationships but he did well in front of a crowd. Yeats also is known to have lacked empathy and he even said that he had, “no instinct for the personal”. (“Yeats may have been autistic, says psychiatrist”). From these characteristics, Yeats may have been on the autism spectrum but does that mean that he was a misogynist? From doing research, I found that Yeats had an interesting relationship with a woman named Maud Gonne. According to the New York Times, Gonne was a, “beautiful, brainy feminist Irish revolutionary and object of Yeats’s infatuation across five decades” (“Yeats Meets the Digital Age, Full of Passionate Intensity”). Not only did Yeats have a long lasting relationship with someone who history deems as a feminist, but he also spoke out about societal issues. According to the same New York Times article, while Yeats was a member of the Irish Senate, he spoke out against a law that wanted to ban divorce. From those two little specks of information, I don’t think this man is a misogynist.

    Yeats wrote a poem called “A Prayer for my Daughter”. In one of the stanzas, Yeats wrote,
    An intellectual hatred is the worst,
    So let her think opinions are accursed.

    Some may say that this is a misogynist quote but I think that this quote is from a man who is a concerned father, who knows what society is like. Yeats knew that society hated intelligent and opinionated women, and he didn’t want his daughter to be hated.

    Personally, I don’t think that Yeats hated women. Why would anyone want to marry a well-known Irish Revolutionary/ Feminist if they hated women? Perhaps misogyny is a feature that is trait found commonly in people with Asperger’s, but Yeats (who is suspected of having Asperger’s) isn’t a women hater.

    Citations

    Dwyer, Jim. “Yeats Meets the Digital Age, Full of Passionate Intensity.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 July 2008. Web. 18 Sept. 2016..

    Han, Hakseon. “Women and Feminism in Yeats’s Poems.” The Yeats Journal of Korea. The Yeats Journal of Korea, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016. http://yeatsjournal.or.kr/index.php?document_srl=9057&mid=Issue

    McKittrick, David. “Yeats may have been autistic, says psychiatrist.” The Independent. The Independent, 9 Jan. 2004. Web. 18 Sept. 2016..

    Yeats, William Butler. “ A Prayer for my Daughter.”

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  3. kiesselt

    I think your analysis demonstrates fully how dangerous stereotypes can be. As we discussed in class, people look at others who are neurodivergent and believe them to be without any negative behaviors that neurotypicals would also have. In the case of misogyny, most people would not think to include someone with autism or down syndrome to be characteristic of such a hateful ideal. The stereotype is that they are all compassionate individuals who happened to be born differently and can do no wrong. On the same token, because of someone like Elliot Rodger, those who don’t know any better deduce large generalizations that portray people with ASD as being misogynists and that it is a symptom from the disorder. I think the important thing to take away is that just like there are neurotypicals who are and are not misogynists (or any other problems such as alcoholism, racism, etc.) there are also neurodivergents who are and are not misogynists (alcoholics, racists, etc.).

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