In the last 6 years spent researching my autoimmune disease and others, I have learned that what is known as autoimmune disease is not well understood by capitalistic patriarchal medicine. Just saying those words puts a shiver down my spine because since when does capitalism and patriarchy tell the truth about anything, especially anything that regular people could use to better understand their world and their station, and especially any information that regular people, especially women, could potentially use to better their own lives? They say they don’t understand the cause of autoimmune disease, and that that’s why they also can’t seem to find a cure; they also can’t offer any advice for what to avoid that may potentially cause or trigger it, things you shouldn’t be exposed to, conditions you should never endure, but “stopping doing” or “not doing” or “avoiding doing” is anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist at base. Of course they would never tell us what to avoid doing so that we were never struck down by a crippling incurable progressive disease, and definitely not one that’s so, so profitable.
Whether they know or not really isn’t my point or my concern since there’s nothing we can do to find out if they don’t want us to, but it does make room, I think, to think outside the box and consider more radical possibilities when in fact all possibilities remain on the table. Big Pharma and Big Medicine playing dumb or being dumb opens doors to radical theorizing about the possible origins and causes of our diseases because we know we need to start from the beginning. Anymore, I just naturally assume everything we “know” and don’t know about disease is a lie. And in the case of autoimmune disease, Big Medicine likes to say that it’s a dysfunction or misfiring of the immune system — that “for some reason” the immune response “mistakes” healthy and native tissue for diseased tissue or pathogens and starts erroneously attacking it with white blood cells, fever, inflammation and the like, in order to kill it.
In the case of Crohn’s disease, “something” is indeed seriously damaging if not killing my tissues and this has been demonstrated on scopes where I have been found to be housing countless aphthous ulcers in my small intestine and ileum as well as chronic inflammation (as far as I know there is no necrosis, and I assume I would know if there were). But I think the claim that my or anyone’s immune system, which have evolved over millenia and seem to have been successful to date have made a mistake carries a large burden of proof, and so far I have not seen the proof. And particularly in the case of women, who comprise the majority of autoimmune disease patients, and where capitalistic patriarchal medicine has long assumed that female bodies were defective and “doing ‘body’ wrong” as compared to men and male bodies, the suggestion that it is our female bodies which are defective and mistaken is absolutely suspect.
An alternative to the mistake theory in all cases of autoimmune disease, which is just a theory because as they say they don’t really know, is that the immune system is not making a mistake and is in fact rightly attacking unhealthy or foreign tissue in order to kill it. Basically, in the case of systemic autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, to name but three, this would mean that humans themselves (or some humans anyway) have become foreign or diseased and our immune systems are trying to kill us and if this is the case our immune systems are doing a damn fine job indeed.
It is women, afterall, who comprise the majority of autoimmune sufferers, and it is also women, not men, who are routinely exposed to the worst capitalism and patriarchy have to offer including toxic environmental exposures due to both relatively low economic class as compared to men and due to our sex. For example, work-related exposures like toxic cleaning products, degreasers and the like, as well as living next to toxic Superfund sites that are often located in the most impoverished areas, and the medication and over-medication of girls and women with toxic Big Pharma poisons for both sexless issues (meaning, the ones we share with men) and for “women’s issues” that do not plague men including everything having to do with reproduction and childbirth. And considering the extremely polluted condition of our environment including industrial and nuclear waste, and considering that everything that goes into our bodies including air, food and water is likewise heavily contaminated, with things that we know about and with things about which we have never been and may never be told, could our bodies be becoming essentially foreign tissue that our immune systems have every reason in the world to attack? Are we what we eat, drink and breathe?
Of course men are exposed to toxic environmental pollution too, whereupon they go home and ejaculate their toxic bodily fluids into women’s bodies during intercourse. Women truly get it coming and going and our immune systems are known to be stronger than men’s as well, so even if we were exposed to the same amount of environmental toxins our immune response would be expected to be stronger. Honestly, the assumption that any modern person’s tissue is “healthy” native tissue considering the extreme environmental pollution we are exposed to including our air, food and water seems rather baseless, but especially in women’s case, it seems likely that our bodies have simply become too polluted for our immune systems to ignore.
I also think it’s interesting that so many autoimmune sufferers say that they no longer feel like themselves, and I myself haven’t felt like “me” for many years since I have become chronically ill. I have heard Crohn’s sufferers in particular say that they do not even feel human anymore, and I have to concur with that assessment because I don’t feel quite human either and I haven’t for a long time. Of course these are euphemisms for feeling and being ill, but the language women with autoimmune disease are using to describe their realities and their new normals is interesting to me in light of this idea that we have somehow now become something else due to extreme environmental pollution, including man-made ionizing radiation that does not exist in nature and is in fact quite foreign to this world and to this very universe as I understand it. Man made nuclear isotopes are not native to this world and yet we are exposed to — and assimilate — them every day in our air, water and food. In that sense, in the sense that we are what we eat, drink, and breathe, we must be becoming nonnative to this world too.
Not to belabor this point because there is no way to prove it, but there is a massive pro-nuclear propaganda campaign especially in American popular culture that for the last 60 years — almost from the beginning of the nuclear industry — has normalized both nuclear exposure and the known physical changes to human beings who are exposed to it and literally become “something else”. Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four are the ones that immediately come to mind. And here are 15 more I had never even heard of until I searched for it, but they are there, and I can’t help but notice that these old-school and primitive superheroes and superhero culture itself are becoming extremely and increasingly popular in the last 5 to 10 years. We are all being asked nicely and then forced to accept — to the extent that we accept or participate in popular culture — that exposure to radiation including man-made ionizing radiation is unavoidable and that it changes you, for the better and often in the case of the tragic superhero whose lives are affected both positively and negatively, also for the worse. I do not think our immune systems are designed to react to man-made radiation itself because it is not native to this planet and we are rather without defenses against it, but if our tissues become toxic, nonnative or are otherwise changed by it, that would seem to be another matter.
This is what I am thinking at the moment, and while it may or may not be more plausible than the “mistaken immune response” theory, it is certainly less offensive politically as it assumes women’s responses and women’s immune systems are working as designed. And frankly, I am very inclined to believe that that’s the case — that we and our human and female immune systems are not wrong — regardless of what is really causing us to attack our own tissues and destroy our own bodies and our own lives.