I don’t know what to think of this news item. It seems that Jenny McCarthy, she of the autism-can-be-cured camp, is going to pose nude for the July-August edition of Playboy magazine and donate the proceeds of her photo session to autism. Stuart Duncan, over at Autism from a Father’s Point of View, reports that the money will go to McCarthy’s charity, Generation Rescue—a cool $2 million.
Now, some may furrow a brow at the fact that the money is going directly into McCarthy’s own charity. But that doesn’t bother me too much. That is, assuming that the charity is overseen by an independent board of trustees. Which it seems to be. (Get this, though. One of the board members is Don Imus’ wife. What a hoot!)
Others may furrow a brow at the fact that the money is going toward an organization that promotes the long-debunked theory that vaccines, particularly the ones containing thimerisol, are the cause of autism. McCarthy has hitched her wagon to the star of one Dr. Jerry Kartzinel, whose biomedical theories have not gained much traction within the medical or scientific community. He’s no Andrew Wakefield—the father of the vaccine conspiracy theory—but he’s pretty close. But again, I don’t mind that too much either. Mind you, I am leery of those who claim they can cure autism, but hey, knock yourself out trying!
No, my brow is furrowed because of the way this money is being raised. As parents of kids on the autism spectrum, the last thing we want is for our kids to be treated as objects. It’s why we avoid saying that our children are “autistics,” much the way people who can’t walk hate being called “cripples.” Terms like that reduce them to and define them by their disabilities, when there’s so much more to them than that. But here is Ms. McCarthy reducing herself into an object, a thing to be looked at and masturbated to. (Let’s be honest here. Who buys Playboy just to read the articles?)
There’s something really odd here. In the name of upholding and enhancing the dignity of kids on the spectrum, McCarthy is degrading herself. In the name of one kind of healing, she is feeding other sicknesses. She may be raising awareness, but she is choosing a pretty prurient way to do it—in a sense, prostituting herself “for the cause.” And that’s unfortunate.