I have been reading up quite a bit on Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain, and Depression lately.
Guess what surprised me most in these readings?
Even me – even feminism-for-bedside-reading-gender-lit-for-pleasure-reading me – did not expect to find feminism’s long pointy nose poking into, of all places, Chronic Illness and Depression!
Apparently, not too long ago, women complaining of chronic pain, invisible chronic illness and clinical depression were told to grow up, get a life, and stop imagining/faking it. Also apparently, the ‘hysteria’ rhetoric and our beloved Freud had a lot to do with this. Whether fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and their sisters are real, has been a long-winded debate.
It so happens that women are more likely to ‘complain’ of chronic pain, chronic illness or depression than men.
The Freud-ish clan held that this is because women are weak – physically, emotionally, intellectually, morally, magically. That they either fake it, or imagine it because they crave attention and to avoid all their womanly household duties. So, the all strong feminist women of a foregone era fought this, mocked them, and made them shut up and keep their stupid theories to themselves.
Some sociologists believe that the higher incidence of chronic illness & depression among women is purely/mostly sociological. Women are oppressed more, they experience more stress & barely any avenues of stress release, and you can’t blame them for falling mysteriously sick more. Also, men just don’t admit to experiencing pain – physical or emotional – because it is not ‘masculine’ to admit to ‘weakness’. Well, yeah, makes sense, and feminists smile and nod along to this explanation.
Then there are a few biology folks who think this might be because women are biologically, genetically, mysteriously more prone to such things – blame hormones, neural wiring, and such like. Well, who knows?
Now, the feminists would have none of this “biologically inclined” stuff. They hate to even listen to this angle because it only validates the age-old belief that women are inherently weaker than men – intrinsically, biologically, neurologically, by the design of God. Obviously, patriarchy would jump at this to justify all prejudices and injustice against women. Fine.. that makes sense too.
But, what if? What if, for a minute and with a heavy heart, we assume that the biologists are correct, and that women are more prone to certain ailments? Just a big bold IF.
So freaking what if biology makes women different from men in some painful ways?
Nobody does, and nobody needs to, give a damn about the Freud-ish lunatics – one stays away from their toxic selves, and if possible, throws a heavy paper-weight on their balding heads. Been there, unfortunately not done that – yet.
The sociologists and their friends – they can yap away all they want, and their wonderful theories would do zilch for my pain. By the way, the latest addition to their list of theories is : “You IT-type new-gen kids.. Bad lifestyle.. Very bad! You sit in front of computers all day, and bug us with your pains!”. Truth be told, their theories make one feel slightly guilty, slightly ‘morally’ weak, slightly more depressed, until one finally realizes that whether or not they are right, they are no help!
Personally, I’d jump at the chance of anyone taking chronic pain as a ‘women’s issue’ and researching it from a ‘women-specific’ angle! How delightful it would be to finally see some action on that front – action not involving opiates and friends, and tri-cyclic antidepressants and friends. Even, if at the end, it turns out not to be a ‘women’s issue’, which it most probably would!
Aren’t “feminists” simply hurting women more by refusing to look at this angle?
Plus, is illness a ‘weakness’?
Anybody with chronic illness knows that it doesn’t make them ‘weak’. If anything, it makes them emotionally stronger – at least, most of them.
People with chronic illness or clinical depression simply need specially tailored lifestyles and flexible work opportunities to be as productive and as happy as the ‘healthy’. Along with medical help, of course.
If the ability and art of coping with daily difficulties and making the maximum of life isn’t strength, I don’t know what is.
Chronic illness and Depression are just examples of the “Turning Away” that some mainstream feminists tend to do. There would be many more which come under this “social vs biological” debate. The concept of ‘feminine behavior’ being another big sore point.
The argument being “Keep it simple and clean – we are in the middle of war.. Murky waters aren’t good battlefields!”
But hey, turning away from some bitter truths doesn’t make them go away, does it?