By Rivka Solomon
For decades, my mom and I have been a dynamic duo using the arts to creatively fight for women’s rights. And now we are using the arts to fight for my life.
In the 60’s and 70’s, during the burgeoning Women’s Liberation Movement, my mother, Bobbi Ausubel, co-wrote America’s first feminist play, “How to Make a Woman.” After each performance, cutting-edge and ruckus consciousness-raising groups helped women and men grapple with just how much gender roles dictated their lives.
As a little girl, I could care less. I played with my toys under the adults’ chairs, impatiently waiting for my parents so we could finally go home. Such was the life of a child of early feminist leaders. Yet the women’s empowerment message sank in. As an adult, I published a collection of true tales of women’s bold deeds and brazen acts. Then, my mother and I jointly adapted my book for the stage, which resulted in over 1,000 events—theatrical productions and open mikes—where audiences shared their own real-life stories of courage.
But now my mom and I have a new focus: We are fighting for me to get my life back. And once again our work involves a cutting-edge women’s issue.
I have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), a devastating chronic neuroimmune disease that disables up to 2.5 million Americans and 17-20 million people worldwide—a majority of whom are women. The disease is so debilitating, it often leaves me too exhausted to do basic tasks like cooking. It leaves my brain so muddled and foggy, I often have to pause mid-sentence to remember what I’m talking about.
ME is commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a belittling name now rejected by patients and disease experts. There is no cure and no FDA-approved treatment for this disease in which 75 to 85 percent of patients are women. It receives little attention and barely any research funding.