When anyone asks a chronically ill (or any) woman under capitalism and patriarchy whether she is “okay” what answer do they reasonably expect? On our best day, women under this system are mined for our resources and used as targets for male perversion and violence and yes, we have thoughts and feelings about that, as pointless as those thoughts and feelings may be. These are probably NOT thoughts and feelings of hope, pleasure, leisure, control, fulfillment, safety, gratitude or anything positive unless the woman being asked is a masochist (or pretending to be one to get by). So what is the correct answer when someone asks us, in all seriousness, how we are currently faring in our lifelong role as useful object and target?
In the same vein, how is someone with an untreatable, incurable, progressive chronic illness expected to respond when someone asks us if we are “okay” when they already know we aren’t? What are sick people supposed to come up with when what our interrogators are really asking, in essence, is for us to take time out of OUR day and energy out of OUR reserves to make THEM feel okay about the fact that WE are never going to be okay ever again, where in fact we were never really okay in the first place even before we got sick on top of everything else. And neither is the person asking probably okay themselves if they are honest. No, I’m actually not ok, mkay, and more than likely neither are you.
I am not a masochist and after living in this body and mind for over 40 years I can report that I am fundamentally incapable of and disinterested in lying about being “okay” or about anything. Out of both exhaustion for mind-fucking rituals and principle, I generally no longer ask other women how they are or tell them that I “hope they are okay” and if I do it’s only because I know they aren’t okay but I’m hoping they are relatively okay and that things aren’t getting demonstrably worse. Implicit in my fauxquest for information I already know, I hope they will feel free to tell me honestly how things are including if they are getting worse but really, I expect that if something is going on that they want me to know about that they will just tell me without the mind-fucking, gaslighting ritual of waiting to be asked first. Perhaps unsurprisingly to those who perform and expect these rituals, I have lost friends (well, acquaintances) due to my failure to reliably make fauxquests for information I already fucking know but guess what? If I ever had the energy to do that, and I never really did, I certainly don’t have it now and I also don’t have the energy to entertain fauxquests for information from other people who should fucking know better than to gaslight a sick woman under capitalism and patriarchy by asking whether she is “okay.”
Whenever a woman asks another woman under capitalism and patriarchy whether she’s okay, a puppy dies. And whenever a woman under capitalism and patriarchy, when asked if she is okay, responds that she’s fine, the woman responding dies. Most of us have fallen on this sword a million times and unless and until we are too sick to perform this gaslighting ritual, will fall on it a million more. This is what passes as female friendship and female empathy under capitalism and patriarchy in fact: forcing each other to vocalize — literally vocalize — our contentment with being oppressed.