Say goodbye to “uppity women,” just take some antenatal medicines

By Cobus Fourie

It is not often that I receive an email addressed to all human rights campaigners that concerns a medical development that infringes on some very basic human rights; but nonetheless there it was on Friday.

Normally the bad news is a matter of social or religious conservatism, hateful propaganda, pseudoscience, hatred, intolerance, violence, corrective rape, murder, persecution, and legal inequity – which can be far-reaching. This time it came from an unexpected corner. Normally we receive information on the latest psychological charlatanry. Now we see seemingly eugenic medical studies returning. The notorious Dr Mengele would have been proud of some of the little industrious “researchers” out there.

The ruckus involves research, which mainstream media labelled The Anti-Lesbian Drug. And rightly so, the implications of just the basis of such “treatment” and “research” by itself have the ability to be earth-shatteringly Nazi-esque.

In this case a synthetic corticosteroid, dexamethasone, is given to expectant mothers to supposedly “prevent homosexuality and uppity women” where the female foetus has congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). The congenital disorder, (CAH), causes an overproduction of androgens in utero, which may lead to ambiguous genitalia in female infants and a degree of intersexuality, and apparently a rejection of 1950s traditional gender roles. Researchers contend that they only wish to treat congenital abnormalities but the real ethical dilemma with the use of dexamethasone is claims that it can prevent homosexuality/bisexuality or uppity women.

The premise of the research into antenatal cures for homosexuality: the folly that only heterosexuality is normal, making this the most obscene heterosexist expression ever. Here it is all about sexual/gender role stereotyping – thus conformity within rigid standards and a crude attempt at defining “normal”.

Unfortunately, the Frankenstein-like medical research isn’t limited to pharmaceuticals, some extremely nauseating “surgeries” and other “therapies” also occurs as reported by Newsweek.

Sharon Begley, Newsweek’s science editor, elaborates on more unconscionable and nefarious “treatments” in The Anti-Lesbian Drug:

… [T]he doctors touch the girl’s “surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a ‘vibratory device,’ and the girl is asked to report to [the doctor] how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina.”

While Hanna Rosin at Slate argued that the practice is a reasonable attempt “to answer a legitimate scientific question,” others have gone ballistic, calling the surgery “a form of female genital mutilation” and warning that the annual vibrator sessions could “cause lasting psychological damage.”

Both cases—cutting a clitoris surgically, feminizing a brain through hormone treatments—reflect an almost desperate attempt by some doctors and scientists to keep their patients from straying from gender norms.

It just begs asking, since when is being gay or uppity abnormal? The American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organisation do not see it as abnormal. Here the real dilemma comes to the fore: what is normal exactly and what causes the bigotry that drives such “interventions”?



2 thoughts on “Say goodbye to “uppity women,” just take some antenatal medicines”

  1. Great piece, Cobus. The annual vibrator treatment seems tantamount to sexual abuse, and how any parent could willingly allow their child to undergo such a horrifying practice is beyond my comprehension.


  2. Thanks Michelle, much appreciated. The story bowled me over while the full articles and research material made me physically sick. For the life of me, I do not know if it is parents or seriously deluded medical professionals that drive this.


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