Surrounding Bodies

I’ve had a stomach bug for several days. I was not, apparently, (and unlike the character in The Devil Wears Prada) one stomach bug away from my ideal weight. At least if my jeans are any indication. Sigh. Or not. I’d have to have an ideal weight, in the first place, and I suspect that “less” is not, according to either the Fashion-Industrial-Self-hatred-Industrial-Complex or the Medical-Pharmaceutical-Industrial-Self-loathing-Complex, adequately specific, or sufficiently severe. I’d sigh, but no one who reads this blog would believe any expression of regret from me. I hope not, anyway.

This is not new or news, but WTF sort of universe raises any portion of the 51% of its humans to greet a stomach bug with, anywhere in their minds, some level of rejoicing for the inevitable-but-inevitably-temporary weight loss it might involve?

Because the week wasn’t fun enough, I also had a mammogram yesterday. Way more info than my male readers want, I suspect. I also suspect that if any arm of the Medical industry was trying to get them to go have their balls squished to the point of bruising between two heavy plates and irradiated yearly in the interest of keeping themselves from dying from a cancer that has absolutely dominated cancer research funding for decades without any serious improvements in outcome, there’d be a very different sort of public discourse on the subject. Starting with very noisy questions about where all that money had gone and moving quickly on to why no one has come up with a less repulsive diagnostic tool. And I don’t even know that I entirely believe in yearly mammograms (I tend to be a little skeptical of the sorts of regular diagnostic tests that involve radiation and evolve into whole heavy-income-generating specialties, not that I’m convinced the tests are worthless, either. My personal compromise is to do the mammo-thing every other year or whenever my GP growls enough.) But, really, why aren’t there simpler tests? That don’t hurt or involve strangers putting their hands on me?

It’s funny how much of Western medicine involves submission on the part of the patient to behaviors that amount to violence on the part of doctors and nurses. I don’t mean things like surgeries (especially the necessary sorts–big fan of having people fix my busted stuff, me), but the routine jabbings, drubbings, irradiations, exposures, and bloodlettings we’re taught to consent to, even ask for. Some of it makes sense, of course. In my February-is-the-month-of-confrontations-with-aging campaign, I’m having my annual melanoma-check next week. This one I’m fine with. I did a lot of baking-in-the-sun and my father died of melanoma, so my dermatologist is more than welcome to look my derma over, all over. I don’t expect to enjoy it, but I’ll certainly feel better about this or that mole having been looked at by someone who knows what to look for. Still, we’ve all been flopped about–often painfully–by x-ray techs who mistake us for sides of smelly beef, and subjected to imcompetent phlebotomists who seem to think it’s okay to take more than one stick to find a vein, or had doctors who never look us in the eye and are all-too-obviously trying to jam as many paying patients into their days as their egos and incomes require.

Sometimes it seems like the system is so broken-at-the-core–that the approach is so autonomically violent/invasive/insensitive that it’s no wonder we have come to see some bodies as Enemy and every condition as a war to be fought. So little inherent kindness in the processes, so  much corporatization of the processes, and so little time and communication expended, even though study after study indicate the medical efficacy of both. No wonder pharmaceutical research systematically avoids the pursuit of critical drugs like painkillers and antibiotics because their potential profit margins aren’t high enough while pushing the hell out of drugs of questionable value like statins precisely because they can manipulate the medical profession into believing in them and make buckets (sometimes I think they put something in the water fountains at med schools that makes them all believe statins are some sort of fairy dust).

All of which is a not-atypical digression from what I wanted to post about today was this:

which is a nice bit of young-person-standing-the-heck-up-for-her-and-her-body. And which got me to thinking about how, even with the advent of actual plus-sized models (though the fact that that size range starts at…wait for it…an 8 is weird and icky–though it’s kind of nice to think that there’s a branch of modeling where more than one size is considered acceptable–I think they do go up to 22/24, so there’s quite a range), we are still defining “pretty” in rather limited ways–curves, yes, but only smooth curves with relatively flat bellies and no obvious cellulite. I suppose there are actually a few fat women out there with bodies naturally like that, but something moves me to be as skeptical of the natural-ness of most of the plus-size models’ bodies (across the range). We’ll pass over in silence the amount of “shape-wear” (I’ve always been amused by the weird honesty of the trade name “Spanks…”) involved. So fine–yet another impossible standard, even in women who are supposedly my size. Which makes Grimalkin’s self-empowerment via bikini (and a rather cute one, at that) even nicer to see.

On a side note, for those of you who do read the blog and are not familiar with the use of “cis,” wiki defines it thusly:

Cisgender and cissexual (often abbreviated to simply cis) describe related types of gender identity where an individual’s experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.[1] Sociologists Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook define cisgender as a label for “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity” as a complement to transgender.[2]

If this makes you grumpy because you don’t think we need a word for that, take a sec, maybe, to think of your grumpiness maybe coming from a position of privilege. Or just shrug and get over it. This discussion is here to stay whether you like it, or not. Like race, and feminism.




3 thoughts on “Surrounding Bodies

  1. You know…weird thing. I’ve had mammograms, pelvic exams, rectal exams, an up-and-down from-both-ends digestive scoping, transvaginal ultrasounds, endless blood donations, platelet pheresis, a tonsilectomy, a turbinectomy, wisdom tooth removal, a very large needle in my eardrum (okay, yeah, that one sucked), a treadmill-plus-heart-monitor test (electrodes on breasts), and an onscreen ringside view of my sterilization procedure (first time I’d seen the inside of the uterus in real light–it was actually kind of beautiful.) But, with rare exceptions from what I’d call nasty individuals, I haven’t experienced these as violent invasions. In general, the individuals doing all the fun stuff have been as kind and respectful as possible, allowing for the fact that they were putting stuff into or onto my stuff. They’ve treated me like a human being, and, probably not coincidentally, the procedures haven’t been what I’d call really painful. They haven’t been a different kind of rape.

    I realize that that’s a state of luck (not-especially-sensitive parts) and privilege (white, middle-class, cisgendered) that too many people are never granted. But for me these experiences highlight the point that how people do it is really key. For me, the transvaginal ultrasound wand and the mammography machine (and the memorable occasion for the question, “can you fetch me the BIG plates, Loretta?”) are neither here nor there when it comes to violation, invasion, or violence; they’re neutral. When there’s violation and violence and invasion, they come from the person doing it–not from the machines or the procedures (the routine ones, at least. I haven’t been cut open while awake, so I don’t know about that one.) The people at the machines have a choice about whether to be violent. And I’ve been kind of awed at how often the people I’ve drawn have made the right choices, and the kind ones.

    • fatmatters says:

      I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced any of my procedures as any kind of rape (though any time anyone’s been poking through my reproductive organs has been with my consent and I’ve largely been lucky there–I rather imagine that a forced transvaginal probe would be a different experience). The knee replacements were, inherently violent, but they were, again, consensual (desperately so). The problem there was that my doc was a jerk. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel awful about disrobing for doctors, even a deeply trusted family doctor early on, or vaguely violated by needles in the rear (that may have something to do with Army nurses in my youth…) or other exposures, even when the professionals involved were about as warm and kind as they could be. It may be a personality thing, it could have to do with a combo of my way-too-tender natural sensibilities and the emotional violence of my family, or some personal quirk. Lord knows it’s not ever been a fear of parading around naked, period–especially where water was involved. And, with three notable exceptions, the phlebotomists I’ve encountered have been mostly careful and aware of what they were doing (Army-Nurse-of-Doom #2, Mr. 7-sticks-for-one-panel, and She-Who-Blithely-Went-Right-Through-My-Vein being the Terrible Trio). I like giving blood–in fact got terribly excited recently to find out that I am negative for some almost-everyone-has-it virus that means my blood can go to pediatric use and have committed to every 8 weeks just so I can help keep A. I. DuPont stocked with nice B+. I’m pretty sure that many people don’t have the heeby-jeebies I do around a lot of that stuff, but equally sure that many do, and that not every practice is careful about the human stuff (I’d love a chance to discuss technique with the doc who pulled the drain on my right knee–in a screaming “WTF” at her kind of way…and then there was the nurse who removed the staples both times…not to mention that my doc used staples in the first place–they have their valid uses, but they’re not “best practice” for knees, I don’t think). These are all specific gripes, and in the case of my Ortho (not a group noted for its sensitivity in the first place, though the better ones, I think, do care about artisanship), it was my fault for not switching after the first one. White Coat Syndrome is a complicated thing sometimes. i did gather myself recently to change mammography practices because the supposedly super-woman-friendly one I’d been using for years tended toward ham-handed techs, not always having large enough gowns, long waits (while I listened to the doc who was reading my films discuss the weekend’s UD football game while I froze in the little paper half-gown–he WAS just a single ass, not a systemic issue), and waaaaay too much condescending chintz. The new outfit was fast, cool-handed, and has nice, big, heavy gowns. But I’m still bruised and still convinced that the technique would improve very rapidly if testicles were involved in the squishing. I think it’s altogether way to perfect that it was a “Loretta” who was asked to fetch your big plates. There’s a feminist country song in there somewhere. I respect the heck out of most doctors and the great majority of nurses–who are just about as overworked and undervalued as teachers, though not quite (and there are quite a few in the ED at Christiana I’d love to have words with, though also quite a few to whom I am very grateful, and some of that’s also the problem with being in a Level I Trauma Center for anything that isn’t a Level 1 issue–they’re adrenaline junkies by nature and really aren’t geared to give a rat’s ass if your LOL-mother with the non-displaced broken rib is freezing. And one learns to take the aforementioned mother in to the non-level 1 Catholic hospital ED instead after a while). I just think the “Let’s plug you in/wire you up/stick you with electrified needles/cut you open approach is more complicated in what it teaches us about our bodies than we tend to acknowledge. A lot of which I got to thinking about when my 3-year old grandson had a state-mandated bloodtest (because of where his home was built–there’s a thought to chill you) and his parents took him to a regular lab and what an awful, insensitive, mean (but perfectly by-the-book) experience he had as opposed to when he had the next one and they went to A. I. and the whole thing was considerate, uber-competent, super-respectful, and topped off by a happy visit to the nice playground in the parking lot. He didn’t learn good things about his rights in the first one. The second one was a very different set of lessons–all good, and all the best of what Western institutions are capable of.

      I will admit to loving all this medical stuff (I looked up “turbinectomy,” btw. Hell of a name for it, if weirdly honest.) But I have to scoot now and get ready for my midnight-6 Code Purple shift. I admit freely that I feel a little badass about still being able to do an all-nighter–though badass is an odd term for what is really an exquisitely liminal/sacred sort of space–keeping watch over a group of homeless folks who need shelter on killingly cold nights. Probably the best thing local churches do, this. Anyway, I ramble.

  2. P.S. But I still have no plans to ever take statins.

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