Autism and Gender

From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks

About

A photograph of the book cover for Autism and Gender. The cover features a pile of colorful toys, with one blue car that is slightly separated from the pile of toys.

A photograph of the book cover for Autism and Gender. The cover features a pile of colorful toys, with one blue car that is slightly separated from the pile of toys.

The first ever study of how conceptions of gender influence debates about autism.

Winner of the 2015 Rhetoric Society of America Book Award.

The reasons behind the increase in autism diagnoses have become hotly contested in the media as well as within the medical, scholarly, and autistic communities. In Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks, Jordynn Jack focuses on the ways gender influences popular discussion and understanding of autism’s causes and effects. She identifies gendered theories like the “refrigerator mother” theory, for example, which blames emotionally distant mothers for autism, and the “extreme male brain” theory, which links autism to the modes of systematic thinking found in male computer geeks.

Jack’s analysis reveals how people employ highly gendered theories to craft rhetorical narratives around stock characters–fix-it dads, heroic mother warriors rescuing children from autism–that advocate for ends beyond the story itself while also allowing the storyteller to gain authority, understand the disorder, and take part in debates.

The first book to look at how gender informs popular discussion about autism, Autism and Gender also offers new insights into the ways rhetorical inquiry can and does contribute to conversations about gender and disability.

Autism and Gender is the book I was waiting for someone to write, and Jordynn Jack’s insightful treatment of this timely, complex topic is a joy to read. Among its many strengths are its beautiful, well organized, easy-to-read prose, its breadth of coverage of the topic, and its careful, judicious tone.”–Anna Kirkland, author of Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood

Buy from the University of Illinois Press or Amazon.com.