Tender Theory

Los Angeles had been a place for an emergence of thinking about the relationship of illness to capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, so it was a good thing that I was there. Johanna Hedva had given a talk about something called Sick Woman Theory not too long before I came to LA. In an October, 2015, interview, Hedva described Sick Woman Theory as:

a project trying to redefine "sickness" and its perceived binary opposite "wellness." Our concept of being sick comes from capitalism: A sick body is one that cannot work, cannot participate in society in terms of the capitalist notions of labor, value, and product. To "get better" is to be able to go back to work--but what if that condition is never true? What if working is what is making us sick? In SWT, I start from Judith Butler's new premise that the definition of a body is its vulnerability and reliance on infrastructures of support. In other words, to require care, to be sick, to be vulnerable, is not an aberration, but the norm. To be "well" is the oddity."

There was this feeling that a collective project of important thinking was coming together—by that force that feels like beneficial accident but is actually always the force of history—about the sick, pained, feminized body in current conditions—that body (our bodies) so often made sick by those current conditions.

Read the full article on the Poetry Foundation website.