Tag Archives: faith

healthism and femininity

[cw: Christianity comparison in post; sexually-toned “reparative therapy”-toned psychiatric abuse, misogyny, and anti-sex worker sentiment at link]

Anyway this is the kind of thing I’m talking about when I say the concept of “health” has been used to abuse and control people.

And I should be able to drop a sentence like that and leave it, without anticipating someone seeing it and coming back to me with “It’s good to be healthy though.  Don’t shame people for trying to get healthy.”  Of course it’s convenient to be healthy.  But I should get to be able to say “be wary of how people deploy the concept of ‘good for your health'” without getting inane responses, the same way I should be able to say “be wary of how people deploy the concept of ‘it’s God’s will'” without someone replying, “But some things ARE God’s will and it’s important to follow it.”  I mean, I expect even very sheltered Christians to get the idea that some Chritianities are worse than others and do lead people astray, but I swear I don’t know how to get through to some people about healthism, not when it’s as ingrained in my culture as it is, I dare say more than Christianity is.  Critiquing healthism is incomprehensible blasphemy.  I might as well tell someone “I want to be sick and always getting sicker.”  It’s…  I don’t know.  I worry.  I worry about the pervasiveness of a faith that strong.

Here are some quotes for those of you who didn’t click the link.

A quote from user lesbian-lily in the linked comment chain:

I’m too tired to find sources and images and whatever, but this is literally how they used to assess women’s mental health and still is a lot of the time. If women wore baggy clothes, didn’t wear make up, didn’t have perfect hair or rejected femininity in any way it was used as a sign of their mental health, a sign that they were crazy and needed fixing. Women wouldn’t be able to free themselves from institutions until they began to conform to femininity. Associating self care with femininity is kinda really fucked up considering we used to get sectioned purely for not being feminine enough.

A quote from Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful cultural practices in the west screenshot’d by user nineteencigarettes:

Pertschuck’s big worry is that, “The woman who feels unable to meet the demands of a female identity and who grooms and dresses accordingly is indeed likely to be viewed as asexual by those around her” (1985, p.221).  The woman may desire precisely such freedom from men’s gaze but Pertschuck will not allow it.  He sees the solution for such women who refuse to service male sexuality as “appearance training.”

What’s got me hecked up is that I can’t even be properly horrified at just the passages themselves, because I’m also thinking…

I’m imagining that someone would tell me the use of the word “asexual” here has nothing to do with the modern usage by the ace community, not even a little bit.  Which makes about as much sense to me as saying that there’s no anti-butch sentiment in trying to “help” an unfeminine woman engage in more feminine beauty rituals, as long as the reason for that “help” isn’t paired with suspicion that she’s attracted to women.  Or as much sense as saying that this “appearance training” to make her sexier (to men) has nothing to do with heteronormativity.  Just misogyny.  Just misogyny alone.  Because those two systems don’t overlap like that and aren’t enmeshed in each other or anything.

I’m so hecked up by the homophobia of saying homophobia doesn’t care about making women attractive to/attracted to/”sexually available” to men.  It’s just so patently false, so black is white and red is blue, it springs up in my brain now when I read about this stuff.  God, I want to fight someone.  But this is down the rabbit hole deep.


Anyway if you’re going to use phrases like “the barbaric vestiges of their faith” then regardless of context, that’s going to increase how much racism I expect from you.

“Believing in”

Been thinking a little bit about the concept of “belief” lately.  Loosely related, I thought this post was interesting.  Here are some excerpts to entice you to read it (bolding mine):

We [Jewish people] face the now-universal injunction for those who consider themselves “religious” (there has never been such a thing on the face of this Earth before Christianity; Christianity is the first and the last ‘religion’) of “but do I really believe in G-d?” This injunction, this “test of faith” is part and parcel to a Christian mode of subjectivity which has made the (simultaneous) production of, and disavowal of doubt–the challenge of “true faith” versus “hypocrisy”, “heresy”, and “unbelief” which together form the Christian problematic–an integral part of religious experience.

It is significant that seldom in Jewish history have we drawn lines around the ‘community of believers’ in contradistinction to the apostates and the heretics. If anything, we only ever condemned those who refuse the work, a term in Hebrew (avodah) which has nothing to do with our capitalist understanding of labor but instead refers to the act of bringing about that which underlies and redeems the world, of performing mitzvot (commandments), of tzedek, tzedek tirdof (“Justice, justice you shall pursue,” Deut. 16:20). As our sages said, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either” (Rabbi Tarfun, Pirkei Avot 2:16).

Corruption in the Holy Places

[ cw for suicide and medical abuse ]

No one really knows how much of the medical literature is ghostwritten, but a hint emerged in a 2003 study in the British Journal of Psychiatry (BJP).  A lawsuit brought against Pfizer in 1999 had turned up documents produced by a medical communications company called Current Medical Directions, which was responsible for a publication strategy for Pfizer’s antidepressant Zoloft.  These documents listed all the Zoloft studies that Current Medical Directions was preparing for publication in 1999. The authors of the BJP article, David Healy and Dinah Cattel, decided to track down the articles on Zoloft that Current Medical Directions had been working on in 1999 and see what had happened to them.  They picked three years (1998, 1999, and 2000) and searched the medical literature for articles published on Zoloft during that time.  They found that the agency-prepared articles outnumbered the articles written in the traditional way, were published in more prestigious journals, and had citation rates over five times that of traditionally authored articles.  The ghosted articles also painted a much happier profile of Zoloft than did the traditionally authored articles.  For example, the articles prepared by Current Medical Directions on pediatric psychopharmacology failed to mention five of the six children taking Zoloft who took action toward committing suicide.

Metzl, Jonathan M., and Anna Kirkland, eds. Against health: How health became the new morality. NYU Press, 2010. (p. 99-100)

In layman’s terms: companies are commissioning ghostwritten articles about their drugs and getting them published in medical journals.  Or in other words, they’re advertising in places where there’s not supposed to be advertising, specifically in order to deceive people about the content’s origins.

While I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I worry that people are too quick to forget about things like this when they associate cultural prestige with credibility.

What exactly is “faith in humanity”?

Because I’m pretty sure I don’t have it.

And that’s not to say that I’m a pessimist who thinks no good is possible and everything is doomed — that would be defining the potential of humanity according to a status-oriented model of morality, which is a framework I don’t use.  So, no, I’m not that cynical, but I do have a lot of confusion and skepticism around this term and how it’s employed.

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Why I Dislike the Term “People of Faith”

The context in which I first encountered this phrase was a 101-level Anthropology class, during a unit of the curriculum that focused on faith and religion.  I was not looking forward to that part of the course.  What springs to mind as soon as I say that, of course, is the presumption that any hesitance to hear an anthropology professor lecture on religion must no doubt stem from an unwillingness to see theology being examined under the lens of dispassionate logic and no, actually.  I do that all the time.  But now’s not the time get into that.

In an anthropology course, you’re not actually supposed to debate the merits of any given religion or evaluate it on a qualitative level in any way.  You’re just supposed to look at it as some abstract Thing and take notes about its role in culture.  The professor stressed to the class that, for anthropologists, it’s beside the point whether any given religion is “true” or not, and those issues are not what anthropology is meant to look at.  Fair enough.  Doesn’t make it less awkward, though.

Anyway, in her lectures, the professor referred to the category of people under study here as “people of faith”*, a term that earned my animosity at once.  Implicitly, this does not include atheists who consider themselves nonreligious, or so we were meant to infer.  Certainly a term for such a grouping could be useful.  But since I’m a theist who doesn’t really identify with the moniker on a gut-reaction kind of level (and as one who considers the merits of “faith” as a virtue dubious at best), I’ve put some further thought into this model’s failings.

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