Monday, February 24, 2014

And the Fetish Ran Away With the Spoons

Jason Walsh:

So-called spoonies are people who identify as suffering from chronic fatigue as a result of illness. I’m sorry that sentence is so artless, but that is really what this is about: identifying. Of course this all happens on Facebook, Tumblr and, most of all, Twitter.

The term originates in a blog post by lupus sufferer Christine Miserandino, where she wrote of how she, sat in a café, explained her finite energy to a friend using cutlery from the surrounding tables: with each spoon representing a finite amount of energy, one taken away for a simple task, such as washing or dressing, that would scarcely be a burden to a well person. This is called “spoon theory”. Really.

...The construction of apparently positive identities around illnesses, which are after all malfunctions, is very dangerous road to travel down. There is no moral judgement to be passed on a person suffering an illness. No chronically ill person should be mocked or mistreated for being sick; no disabled person should be treated as a lesser being; no elderly person should be dismissed. But to define oneself by an illness is to transform oneself from a subject into an object. A person defined by something that happened to them, rather than by what they do, is a person who has lost their agency.

When I first heard of this, I kept asking for it to be explained again to me, sure I must have been missing something. Eventually I realized that the main reason for its invocation was not to clarify any nuance but to serve as in-group code. Identity reinforcement. I refuse to dignify it with the name "theory", though. It's a metaphor, damn it, and not a particularly profound one at that; nothing more, nothing less.

And maybe it's the Nietzschean in me, but I do find it repugnant to define oneself through negativity like that.