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Finn Gardiner @phineasfrogg
, 12 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
Since Simon Baron-Cohen seems to have suddenly discovered autistic people’s voices, I want to make a few comments about how damaging his systemising/empathising construct is, from an intersectional point of view.
To sum it up, Simon Baron-Cohen has hypothesised that people have 2 general strengths, empathising (connecting w/people) and systemising (connecting w/objects and seeing how they work).

NTs are supposed to be better at the former, while autistic people are better at the later.
While he claims this is neutral and says that both autistic and non-autistic people have strengths, the implications are actually really dangerous for a number of reasons.

Baron-Cohen sees empathy as a core human trait. Since autistic people are supposedly deficient…
…in this trait, we are deficient in our very humanity.

Furthermore, the idea of ‘reduced empathy’ in autistic people is even more dangerous when combined with other forms of marginalisation.
For example, black people in western countries are often cast as emotionally insensitive, violent brutes. If you’re #AutisticWhileBlack, your ability to empathise can be attacked on two fronts.
The continual denial of our humanity makes it easier for people to show little regard for our lives or wellbeing.

This kind of thinking, when taken to its extreme, results in people’s lives being taken.
Of course, the dehumanisation of black and autistic people occurs on a continuum; not everyone who has internalised some or all of these toxic ideas will kill us.

That doesn’t stop Baron-Cohen’s message from being dangerous.
I’ve talked about my horror story with a neuropsychologist at @BIDMChealth before. Part of my problem with him was that he said I had ‘reduced empathy’ in my report.

Clearly he didn’t see exactly why that would be really fucking dangerous to say about a black man.
He based that conclusion on Simon Baron-Cohen’s research. But think about it.

Isn’t the idea that black people are less empathic - and therefore less human, according to this line of thinking - what leads to many of us dying at the hands of racists?
Of course, these implications aren’t limited to black people in western countries; they can also be applied to other groups who are frequently dehumanised, like people from indigenous cultures, Roma, Latino/a/x people and Middle Easterners.
The ‘extreme male brain’ aspect of the empathising/systemising hypothesis can also be used in myriad misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic ways.
Classism and xenophobia can also interact with this hypothesis, since poor people and immigrants also experience dehumanisation and are thought to have less significant emotional responses.
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