*For Autism Awareness month I wanted to post a recent paper I submitted for my studies. I feel this is an important issue to bring up. I realize that this is not the typical blog post but I hope this short essay will bring some necessary discussions to light.
Gender Bias in Psychology
This essay will discuss what I think of the ongoing gender bias that continues to exist in psychological research and will include parts of my experience as a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. In the past I have struggled immensely to find the same respect and resources that I have found for my male son who also has Asperger’s Syndrome. It has only been in the last few years that multiple accounts of female Asperger’s syndrome have surfaced. Studies speculate that there are just as many female “Aspies” as male but there has not been nearly the amount of research on the female version of the syndrome. Thanks to Rudy Simone and a few other pioneering women who demanded that their voices be heard, leading experts like Tony Attwood are finally conducting research and writing books for the female audience.
I admire that psychology has tried, but failed, to deal with gender bias. At least it is an educational discipline that has acknowledged some if it’s shortcomings. Nauert (2006) cites social psychologist Hegarty who says he is optimistic about changes to gender bias in psychology because “psychological methods allowed us to bring this issue to light and to describe it” (para.7). While I do not feel 100% confident in the findings of psychology, especially from a female perspective, I do feel it change is necessary to the development of the discipline. Nauert (2006) also quotes Hegarty saying that, “About three quarters of these positioned men’s data first, and made women the second sex. But this effect was reversed when psychologists depicted data about parents” (para. 5).
In my own personal experience with psychologists, I have to fight hard to be heard apart from my gender yet when I talk about my son’s diagnosis, I am respected for my role and my authority as my child’s mother. This is completely frustrating and degrading. In the role of the mother, I am respected for my wisdom and intuition but I am questioned for the very same traits, simply because I am a woman and am speaking to matters pertaining to myself. I have been treated as being over dramatic when I have said something about myself when the same statement was acceptable when pertained to my son.
I regard my son as not solely male but a human that thinks and acts in a similar way to myself. In this regard, I hope that I can transcend gender in matters that involve our brains and see the differences in ourselves, not primarily as male and female, but simply from cultural conditioning or difference in temperament and taste. In my experience, my brain relates more to my male son than my female daughter, who also is an Aspie. This further complicates the role of gender and shows that the biases of psychology are not solely based on individuals and their needs. Psychological biases are also part of cultural or societal context.
Before I began my sociology studies, I thought of studying psychology. I had enough experience in my life to want to continue the research on a more equal standing, especially in regards to Asperger’s in each person, whether male or female. As I took note of varied accounts in the psychological field, I realized that my problem with psychology is that even though it is a study of the individual, it did not seem to treat each diagnosis as individual. I realized there are so many other factors involved, and so I wanted to study the world we created and then apply it to the individual as well as the whole.
I want psychology to succeed in awareness and neutrality. I will not feel confident in psychology until these two qualities show up as the norm instead of the rarity. But in my life, I depend on psychology to give me support, knowledge, aid and diagnosis. It has changed our lives for the better, while also creating injustice. For me it is a necessary discipline, despite gender biases. I have great hopes for the evolution of psychological studies and the reduction of ongoing gender bias.
Nauert, R. (2006). Male gender bias in psychological research continues. Psychology News.Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2006/12/29/male-gender-bias-in-psychology-research-continues/513.html