The Particular Tragedy of Autistic Girls

What Women Really Think
Dec. 7 2012 10:34 AM

Emily Bazelon's Excellent TED Talk on Girls and Autism Made Me Cry

Our own Emily Bazelon gave a TED talk last week on girls and autism that made me cry. Boys with high functioning autism, she explained, can generally get a toehold into boy-land. They can find playmates who are fixated on a particular video game or train schedule. But a girl with autism just can't find a way to fit in, as she wrote about earlier in this New York Times Magazine story. Girls are expected to be empathetic. They are expected to understand how other people think and feel. A girl with an “empathy deficit” who can’t even make eye contact has a tragically hard time finding her place. So Emily introduces us to Caitlin, who holds a party in the lunchroom and nobody comes. 

We can help these girls in the usual way, by being ourselves empathetic. But here’s the problem. We, as a culture, are experiencing an “empathy deficit,” as Emily explains in her new book out soon, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy.

Advertisement

Studies on bullying which Emily cites show that girls who bully online are much more likely to convince themselves that the person they are bullying deserves it. In other words, they create in themselves an empathy deficit, something that can happen more easily when you can post insults to your Facebook page instead of looking someone in the eye. 

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

U.S. Begins Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

How in the World Did Turkey Just Get 46 Hostages Back From ISIS?

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.