From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks, Understanding Autism And Gender

Nov 7, 2014

A new book examining the role that gender plays in our understanding of autism.


Much of what we know about autism is publicly disputed, from the definition of autism itself to the reasons behind the increase in diagnoses. 

Rhetoric scholar Jordynn Jack argues that because there is no clear-cut biological marker for autism, our understanding of it is shaped by narratives in the media and among medical, scholarly and autistic communities. 

In her new book Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks (UI Press/2014) Jack looks at how gender influences popular discussion and understanding of autism’s causes and effects. She looks at gendered theories about autism’s cause like the “refrigerator mother” theory which blames emotionally distant mothers for autism, and the “extreme male brain,” theory which links autism to ways of thinking found in male computer geeks. 

Host Frank Stasio talks to Jack, professor of English and comparative literature at UNC-Chapel Hill.