Duvet woman versus action man: the gendered aetiology of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome according to English newspapers

Rebecca Murray, Katy Day, Jane Tobbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Media portrayals of conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) demand exploration as the media is a potent source of information and meaning, and as such has the potential to inform public and professional understandings. To date, there is little systematic exploration of print media representations of CFS/ME. In this study, we address that gap by exploring the voices of CFS/ME sufferers in the English print media (1998–2015) from a constructionist feminist perspective. We found that portrayals of CFS/ME differ meaningfully, depending on gender. The psychological and emotional tended to be foregrounded where women were concerned and the scepticism surrounding CFS/ME as a “non disease” was much more evident. On some occasions this was dealt with directly, whilst on others it was “leaked in” or hinted at. This serves to delegitimise the illness in women. In contrast, the physical was usually foregrounded in the case of men suffering from the condition and their experiences were accredited greater legitimacy. We problematise these representations and discuss the potential impact upon public and professional sympathy, treatment options and long-standing, gendered constructions of illness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-905
Number of pages16
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Issue number6
Early online date15 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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