Damned body seems to have a mind of its own! Yes, Judith, bodies matter! *
10 January 2023
I managed to dodge THE dreaded virus for nearly 3 years – followed all the guidelines, double boosted with the vaccine, wore masks in indoor settings, and avoided crowded spaces. Then, just before Christmas, I started to get irritated eyes and a runny nose. I spent a day in denial because I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d been where I could have caught Covid in the previous week.
When some fatigue set in, still in denial, I ordered the RAT kit online as a precaution, collected it and had a PCR swab taken. They both tested positive for Covid. I have since learned an unmasked runner passing me (also unmasked) when out walking can infect people they pass with the virus, so that could be how I caught it.
So, I was one of the statistics that spent the Christmas weekend in isolation, which actually wasn’t so bad. My dose of Covid was fairly mild and didn’t last long. I got antivirals delivered pretty quickly, the weather was warm, and I had everything I needed. But, this is just one example of how my body seems behave in ways that I can’t totally control.
This is certainly true with many women’s experience of menopause, or the earlier pre-menopausal phase known as perimenopause, which can come as an unexpected shock: for some this can have very physical effects such as depressive moods, fatigue, and brain fog. I’ve only had hot flushes that still persist, and that I have adjusted to as a new physical reality. I now tend to dress in layers that can be stripped and reloaded on my body with relative ease. I have made some adjustments to my exercise routines and have a healthier diet: more like the Mediterranean one, with far less processed food, and more fruit and veg.
This is an example of how our birth sex has lifelong impacts on our health and physical and mental well-being. At birth or earlier our bodies can be identified as having either a male or female reproductive system (or in very rare cases, neither). When many of us are in our most productive years in our 40s and 50s, suddenly our bodies no longer behave in ways we’ve got used to.
The recently broadcast Menopause documentaries on NZ TV1 among other things show the continuing lacks in medical knowledge of the changes women go through during menopause. This is one aspect of the under researching of female bodies by the science and medical establishments. The take-aways from current knowledge are that the correct balance of hormone therapy as well as appropriate diet and exercise can make menopause easier to live with.
Diet and exercise can also help weather a global pandemic. The spread of Covid has confronted us with new material realities – older bodies especially have immune systems that don’t function as effectively as when younger. It may be easier for younger people to be in denial about the continuing impacts of the pandemic as they rush to return to pre-Covid lifestyles. But the deaths continue. This year there were over 2000 Covid deaths: a much higher rate than those for flu, and at a higher rate than the 377 deaths on the roads this year.
Weka has shown on The Standard, “What repeat covid infections do to the human body”. And it ain’t good for bodies of any age: repeated infections can cause increasing damage to many of the body’s organs.
Wearing masks, avoiding crowded spaces, and good ventilation systems, as well as testing and isolating when we have Covid, can result in less strain on our currently over-stressed health system and community and welfare services. It can result in fewer work absences, and less stress on businesses and families already struggling with the rising cost of living.
Healthy exercise and diet can mean we can better cope with various illnesses and life changes. Nevertheless, many people of various ages will still get very sick from a nasty virus like Covid. That’s the reality of the diverse range of bodies and their capabilities, that we humans are born with. It’s the luck of the birth lottery.
So, Judith, bodies DO matter, but not exactly in the way you imagined: they have a material reality that exists as a result of the different biological systems and capabilities we are born with. These inborn capabilities and organs can also be affected, for better or worse by social interactions, choices we make, institutional arrangements, and the material environment we live in.
Take care, all, in these challenging times.
*In her book, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, Judith Butler denies the inborn realities of human bodies. She argues that bodies become material through social interactions, cultural influences and behaviour that we keep repeating in various contexts.
Bob Morris, MD, PhD @rdmorris: twitter, Nov 20 2022 https://twitter.com/rdmorris/status/1596978505107263489?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1596978505107263489%7Ctwgr%5Eac3584c55a85645afeca453c40ef428ef8aa776a%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fthestandard.org.nz%2Fwhat-repeat-covid-infections-do-to-the-human-body%2F
China CDC Weekly, “”An Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Subvariant BA.2.76 in an Outdoor Park – Chongqing Municipality, China, August 2022. https://covid.dropcite.com/articles/0bda88cc-8aaf-4de6-94f2-4bd23ee5c036
“Sex, Myths and Menopause”: documentary https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/sex-myths-and-the-menopause
“Sex, Mind and Menopause”: Documentary https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/sex-mind-and-the-menopause
Sigal Samuel, VOX, 22 November 2019, “Women suffer needless pain because almost everything is designed for men”, [review of Invisible Women: Dta Bias in a World designed for Men, by Caroline Criado Perez], https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/4/17/18308466/invisible-women-pain-gender-data-gap-caroline-criado-perez
Otago Daily Times, “Covid deaths factor in NZ’s record mortality rate”, 17 November 2022. https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/covid-deaths-factor-nz%E2%80%99s-record-mortality-rate
Raphael Franks, New Zealand Herald, 1 Jan 2023, “Highest road toll in four years: 2022 ends with 377 road deaths”. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/highest-road-toll-in-four-years-2022-ends-with-376-road-deaths/NZQJU7UKEZFJHM7SYG5Y5RESIU/
Farah Hancock, RNZ, New Zealand Herald, 13 Dec 2022, “Covid-19 vs the flu: Death rates compared”. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/highest-road-toll-in-four-years-2022-ends-with-376-road-deaths/NZQJU7UKEZFJHM7SYG5Y5RESIU/
Weka, The Standard, 6 January 2023. https://thestandard.org.nz/what-repeat-covid-infections-do-to-the-human-body/
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