Penny

Being an autistic woman is a rarely talked about intersection. There is a lot of unrealistic and problematic but in a way fairly positive media representation of autistic men as geniuses, but very little media representation of autistic women. The autistic man stereotype is someone who is socially awkward but really good at something, I’m not going to claim this is great (but that’s another topic), but the result is people know to look for talents in socially awkward men. A socially awkward woman is just seen as a total failure of a human being. As a woman, I am expected to be a certain feminine type of people-person, and when I fail to meet that expectation, I am perceived as failing at everything. In some parts of my life where nerds and misfits are better accepted, my talents are recognised, so I know they exist, my big problem is in the workplace. I could not get a promotion in many years in my old job because my social awkwardness meant I was perceived as stupid. When I tried to ask for more challenging opportunities, people said they didn’t want to “set me up for a fall” by giving me something too difficult, despite it being something I knew I could do. I have never seen someone worry not setting up a man for a fall by giving him work he could clearly do.

I left that job, because I could see it wasn’t just me. None of the socially awkward women ever got promoted. When they overheard me saying that at a conference, rather than considering the real problem they need to address, they put in a formal complaint to my new employer. Even leaving wasn’t enough to stop them wanting to ruin my career for the crime of being an autistic woman.