Johanna Hedva: Sick Woman Theory
aka: My Body Is a Prison of Pain so I Want to Leave It Like a Mystic But I Also Love It & Want it to Matter Politically
For my Master’s course in Gender & Cultural Studies, the module I am studying (and loving) this term is Gender, Affect & the Body. It looks at various topics and theories involving what affect is, what it means within a discourse on gender, and why the body is in need of more attention when theorising and reflecting on our current world.
Within the course, we are focusing on the affective notion of vulnerable and emotional writing. Contrary to usual academic texts, many of the texts involve subjective feelings and emotions of writers/academics. The feature of feelings and emotive writing acts as a revolution against the norm of ‘objective’ and disembodied bodies of work. The work that has most caught my attention is Johanna Hedva’s Sick Woman Theory.
Hedva, a genderfluid person who chronic illness has ‘come to’ (their words), intricately and beautifully puts into words what every person living with chronic illness, pain or trauma (especially those who are political/ activists) has needed to hear their whole lives. They lay out the need for SWT as an act of destroying all oppressive structures of society, and they push for a centring of all ‘Sick Women’ in all of our spaces (both physical and ideological). They identify that the notion of ‘getting well’ and the binary of the ‘sick’ and the ‘well’ only functions to uphold violent, oppressive structures that make anyone out of the norm dispensable. They advocate, instead of healing, the idea of ‘coping’ and surviving through vulnerability and hardship. They aim for a constant community of care and support, not just for those seen as ‘sick’, but for everyone in their vulnerable bodies.
No matter who you are: whether you have a chronic condition or not, whether you have experienced trauma or not, whether you are affected by oppressive structures or you believe you are not - partake in Hedva’s piece. It is available both in written essay form (available here: http://www.maskmagazine.com/not-again/struggle/sick-woman-theory) or can be watched as a live stream of the lecture they held on it, found below…
If you have the energy and time to watch and learn from this incredible mind, please take the opportunity.