“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.