As more is understood about autism and women, so we can pick out more and more cases of women in history who are likely to have been aspies. And in my mind, this is fabulous. Sharing the knowledge so that more and more people can be aware that autism does not always equal Rainman, or Sheldon Cooper, or any other stereotypical male autist that society has been conditioned to recognise.
Society needs to understand that a diagnosis of autism, or even speculation of historical figures, is not a doom ladened knell of despair, is not a negative reflection on someone's work, is not a reason to think less of someone, is not a label (RAAAARGH! It's NOT a label, it's a DIAGNOSIS!
But this is largely how society sees us. So many people have it so, so wrong, and this is distressing for me.
I saw the Guardian article on Facebook, the comments beneath the article were more depressing that I can convey. They were predictable, but still shocking that some apparently intelligent people have such a low opinion of those of us with autism:
(Comments have been slightly changed, but the tone and intent are the same)
Emily Brontë can't have Asperger's because her writing is so good.
Denigrating genius as psychiatric trash. (I reported this comment - assuming that FB cares, that is - this comment was particularly disgusting).
Her understanding of society and humans means she cannot possibly be an aspie.
Ditto emotional depth (something no autistic has apparently).
Why oh why do,we have to label everyone nowadays? (Again, enough with bloody labels!).
I could fill pages with these types of comments, these horrible, ignorant, disablist, offensive comments, but I won't, because life's too short to focus on the tosh spouted by people offended that a beloved author ticked some of the boxes for autism.
However, it is obvious that society is under the wrong impression. Sure some autistic people may appear to lack in empathy, but equally some have too much. We still have emotional depth, and plenty of autistic people make huge successes of themselves supporting others, advocating for their fellow autistics, so somewhere along the line, society has got it wrong, or they are guilty of assuming that everyone with autism is exactly the same.
Rookie mistake, because:
If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism.
Autistic people are a part of society, one could argue that society has been shaped in some part by autism, many of the greatest scientific discoveries were made by people likely to have been autistic.
When it comes to knowledge about autism, the very best people to learn from aren't always the qualified experts, you know, the ones that tell us about lack of empathy and male brains, it's most often the autistic people themselves who are able to give accurate, thoughtful accounts of life on the spectrum. Talks, books, blogs and more that prove our capabilities over and over again.
I think it is so important that we continue to take retrospective looks at history's great and notable people. As humans, we need to do this to further our understanding of ourselves and our peers. As autistic people, it is essential to be able to look in the history books and see that our community are representatives of the great and the good, in fact in many areas, those with autism are over-represented, thinking of the fields of IT, science and possibly the arts and music.
Society has a habit of trampling down those they feel threatened by.
But autism isn't going anywhere, and it's about time society faced up to the fact that we can and will be amazing.
Autistic children and adults are far more likely to be bullied and have low self esteem, we owe it to ourselves to see role models from the past and the present so we can all see that, no matter what society tells us, we are valued members of the human race.
Let autism be recognised and accepted wherever it is.
Emily Brontë may or may not be autistic, we'll never know for sure, but I for one would be thrilled to be a part of the same aspie community as such a talented, insightful, creative author.