johanna hedva – my body is a prison of pain so i want to leave it like a mystic but i also love it & want it to matter politically (2015)

Event presented by the Women’s Center for Creative Work at Human Resources on October 7, 2015

Go here for a version of this speech adapted for Mask Magazine.

Johanna Hedva’s Sick Woman Theory proposes that sick bodies are the 21st century’s sites of resistance: chronic, pathologized, and historically feminized illnesses ought to be read as modes of protest against the unlivable conditions of neoliberal, imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist cis-hetero-patriarchy. Sick Woman Theory insists that the definition of “wellness” is a capitalist one — to be well enough to go work — that needs to be rejected. SWT redefines the body with its vulnerability as the default, so therefore, we are constantly (not only sometimes) in need of care and support. Because society has eradicated such infrastructures, what are we going to do now?

From here, Hedva (herself a spoonie) has wound up at mystical anarchism, which proposes a communal politics of love, where the “self” has been obliterated in favor of the Many. This talk will try to converge the feminist mystical tradition of Marguerite Porete, Simone Weil, etc., who proposed rejecting the body for the sake of love, with an intersectional-feminist, anti-white-supremacist, queer, and crip politics, which foregrounds the body as primary matter.

A question for the audience: Are these two positions irreconcilable?

Johanna Hedva is currently a Research Fellow with “at land’s edge,” under the mentorship of Fred Moten.
#JohannaHedva (

Johanna Hedva. Photo: Mask Magazine


ani difranco – your next bold move (2001)

coming of age during the plague
of reagan and bush
watching capitalism gun down democracy
it had this funny effect on me
i guess

i am cancer
i am HIV
and i’m down at the blue jesus
blue cross hospital
just lookin’ up from my pillow
feeling blessed

and the mighty multinationals
have monopolized the oxygen
so it’s as easy as breathing
for us all to participate

yes they’re buying and selling
off shares of air
and you know it’s all around you
but it’s hard to point and say “there”
so you just sit on your hands
and quietly contemplate

your next bold move
the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

what a waste of thumbs that are opposable
to make machines that are disposable
and sell them to seagulls flying in circles
around one big right wing

yes, the left wing was broken long ago
by the slingshot of cointelpro
and now it’s so hard to have faith in

especially your next bold move
or the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

you want to track each trickle
back to its source
and then scream up the faucet
’til your face is hoarse
cuz you’re surrounded by a world’s worth
of things you just can’t excuse

but you’ve got the hard cough of a chain smoker
and you’re at the arctic circle playing strip poker
and it’s getting colder and colder
everytime you lose

so go ahead
make your next bold move
tell us
what’s the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

laurie penny – cybersexism: sex, gender and power on the internet (2013)

‘In ye olden tymes of 1987, the rhetoric was that we would change genders the way we change underwear,’ says Clay Shirky, media theorist and author of Here Comes Everybody.‘[But] a lot of it assumed that everyone would be happy passing as people like me – white, straight, male, middle-class and at least culturally Christian.’ Shirky calls this ‘the gender closet’: ‘people like me saying to people like you, “You can be treated just like a regular normal person and not like a woman at all, as long as we don’t know you’re a woman.”’

The Internet was supposed to be for everyone… Millions found their voices in this brave new online world; it gave unheard masses the space to speak to each other without limits, across borders, both physical and social. It was supposed to liberate us from gender. But as more and more of our daily lives migrated on line, it seemed it did matter if you were a boy or a girl.’

It’s a tough time to be a woman on the internet. Over the past two generations, the political map of human relations has been redrawn by feminism and by changes in technology. Together they pose questions about the nature and organisation of society that are deeply challenging to those in power, and in both cases, the backlash is on. In this brave new world, old-style sexism is making itself felt in new and frightening ways.

In Cybersexism, Laurie Penny goes to the dark heart of the matter and asks why threats of rape and violence are being used to try to silence female voices, analyses the structure of online misogyny, and makes a case for real freedom of speech – for everyone.

Laurie Penny. Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). PDF here.

john berger – ways of seeing (1972)

I cannot overstate how immensely John Berger contributed to awakening a critical understanding of Western cultural aesthetics and ethics in me. I feel deeply indebted. Here’s a wonderful recent interview with the man.

On this, his 90th birthday, I thought it fitting to look back on this BAFTA award-winning TV series from 1972, which rapidly became regarded as one of the most influential art programmes ever made. Ways of Seeing is a four-part BBC series of 30-minute films, created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger’s scripts were adapted into a book of the same name.

The series and book critique traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. The series is partially a response to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series, which represents a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural canon.

In the first programme, Berger examines the impact of photography on our appreciation of art from the past.

The second programme deals with the portrayal of the female nude, an important part of the tradition of European art. Berger examines these paintings and asks whether they celebrate women as they really are or only as men would like them to be.

With the invention of oil paint around 1400, painters were able to portray people and objects with an unprecedented degree of realism, and painting became the ideal way to celebrate private possessions. In this programme, John Berger questions the value we place on that tradition.

In this programme, Berger analyses the images of advertising and publicity and shows how they relate to the tradition of oil painting – in moods, relationships and poses.

More John Berger on Fleurmach:

John Berger on being born a woman

John Berger – “Les Petites Chaises”

What I rail against, impotently, and wish I could embrace