Sunday, April 24, 2011

CFS and Sexism

It's time to shine a spotlight on the sexism and
mysogyny behind the horrible treatment of
America's one million discarded ME/CFS patients.

Just as homophobia obstructed tackling AIDS in the Reagan years, contempt for the female majorities that cropped up among patient groups damned ME/CFS research to derisory treatment from
the earliest days. (The U.S. story from 1984 can
be found in Hillary Johnson's fine investigative history, Osler's Web.)

Notably, sexism made it easy to stamp out Elaine
de Freita's work that showed a retrovirus
connection to ME/CFS in 1991 – helping CDC to
slam the door shut on such a connection for another 20 years.

And in a mysogynyst coup de grace, US AIDS czar
Anthony Fauci finally removed ME/CFS from study
as a real disease by relegating the tiny bits of
US government research being done to the
Department of Research on Women's Health.
Notwithstanding the several hundred thousand US
men who have seen their lives and careers
destroyed by the disease. And there ME/CFS will
stay, condescended to but not funded, neatly
catalogued between one study on doing research on
pregnant woman and another on uniquely female bladder problems. And so on.

I'm writing this now because new research is out
proving the worth of putting the spotlight on
sexism and mysogyny in public life
. Previously,
the common wisdom among political consultants has
been that women political candidates should just
shrug off such treatment, whether it was
newspapers and TV news diagnosing Hillary
Clinton's hair does and shoes, or rougher stuff
like calling the lady distinctly un-ladylike
names. But Women's Campaign Fund (WCF)
Foundation, Women's Media Center and Political
Parity commissioned a study by Lake Research
Partners which shows that when sexist attitudes
are addressed as such women regain votes
. (This
was proved in practice during Democrat Krystal
Ball's congressional campaign in Virginia in
2010, though her uptick still wasn't enough to
overcome the hugely Republican base in the district.)

No one can guarantee that spotlighting the
history of sexism and mysogyny in ME/CFS would
translate the Lake Research Partners work into
more funding and less prejudicial government
treatment of ME/CFS. But guaranteed or not, it's
time to drag them out of the closet.

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