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Johanna Hedva: Sick Woman Theory

This article, quoted in part here, is for all those women who have ‘invisible disabilities’ who is surviving with chronigue pain and illnesses. We feel what she wrote here will resonate with many sisters. Thank you Johanna Hedva and Mask magazine

You can read the rest of the article at the Mask Magazine website

With all of these visitors, I started writing Sick Woman Theory as a way to survive in a reality that I find unbearable, and as a way to bear witness to a self that does not feel like it can possibly be “mine.”

The early instigation for the project of “Sick Woman Theory,” and how it inherited its name, came from a few sources. One was in response to Audrey Wollen’s “Sad Girl Theory,” which proposes a way of redefining historically feminized pathologies into modes of political protest for girls: I was mainly concerned with the question of what happens to the sad girl when, if, she grows up. Another was incited by reading Kate Zambreno’s fantastic Heroines, and feeling an itch to fuck with the concept of “heroism” at all, and so I wanted to propose a figure with traditionally anti-heroic qualities – namely illness, idleness, and inaction – as capable of being the symbol of a grand Theory. Another was from the 1973 feminist book Complaints and Disorders, which differentiates between the “sick woman” of the white upper class, and the “sickening women” of the non-white working class.

Sick Woman Theory is for those who are faced with their vulnerability and unbearable fragility, every day, and so have to fight for their experience to be not only honored, but first made visible. For those who, in Audre Lorde’s words, were never meant to survive: because this world was built against their survival. It’s for my fellow spoonies. You know who you are, even if you’ve not been attached to a diagnosis: one of the aims of Sick Woman Theory is to resist the notion that one needs to be legitimated by an institution, so that they can try to fix you. You don’t need to be fixed, my queens – it’s the world that needs the fixing


woman in a vivid red dress on a wheelchair holding a stick on her right hand

photo by Pamila Payne; Styling, hair and makeup: Myrrhia Rodriguez; Art Direction: Johanna Hedva

Johanna Hedva (@bighedva) is an anticapitalist psychonaut sorceress who lives in Los Angeles, where she’s from. She is the writer/director of The Greek Cycle, a series of feminist-ed and queered Ancient Greek plays; and the author of The Crow and the Queen, a novel published in limited-edition handmade hardcovers; Incunabula, a series of 103 fables with each fable published in its own handwritten book; My Cellar Doors, a book of poetry written on Salonpas pain patches; and Permanent Winter, a book made to be buried in the ice of Antarctica. This article is an excerpt from the forthcoming This Earth, Our Hospital (Sick Woman Theory and Other Writings).

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