Category: Health and Wellness

Are Our Genes Really Our Fate? DNA’s Visual Culture and the Construction of Genetic Truth

The direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andme has recently been described by journalist Erika Check Hayden as a “unicorn.”1 For Hayden, this Silicon Valley idiom describes the company’s one billion dollar valuation while also capturing the rare opportunity it affords to scientists: its two million customers make up the largest available pool of gene-linked health data.2… Read more →

The Weight of the Presidency

In early January, President Trump had a physical exam at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a periodic rite for US presidents in the modern era. The results were made public a few days later, with fevered public interest from popular media and television commentators. Was the President, with a height/weight ratio that put his BMI… Read more →

I Think I Love You: Life, Death, and the Enduring Legacy of David Cassidy Fever

On May 30, 1974, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan died after lingering in a coma for four days. The cause of her death? Officially, “traumatic asphyxiation.” Unofficially, according to the coroner, “a victim of contrived hysteria,” otherwise known as David Cassidy Fever. Twenty-six years later, at 14 years of age, my own life was saved. The cause… Read more →

A Few Things I Need You To Know Before Getting Tested for HIV, As Told By Your HIV Tester

Welcome! Before getting tested for HIV, New York State requires me to go over a few things with you. First, testing is confidential but not anonymous. Second, testing is voluntary and can be stopped at any point. Third, I can and will stop a test if I feel you are a danger to yourself or… Read more →

“The Mommy Instinct” and Vaccinations

“Mommy instincts:” that’s what Jenny McCarthy called them.1 You know, those innate feelings you get about your kids when they’re lying to you, or right before they knock over that glass jar on the counter. These instincts kick in about kids’ health, too. It’s a sense of detecting what other people can’t. And since Jenny… Read more →

What’s Truly Outrageous About Intersex?

On August 5, the World News Daily Report published an article that has been circulating on my Facebook newsfeed every day since: “Hermaphrodite Impregnates Self, Gives Birth to Hermaphrodite Twins.” Never mind that at the bottom of the webpage, the World News Daily Report publishes the following disclaimer: that it “assumes all responsibility for the… Read more →

Real Men & Real Food: The Cultural Politics of Male Weight Loss

When Weight Watchers first launched an online program “customized just for guys” in 2007, one of their advertisements proclaimed, “Real men don’t diet.” This counterintuitive declaration evoked the questions that animate my current research. I’m analyzing how the consumer culture constructs notions of “real men” through depictions of food and the body, particularly during moments… Read more →

The Magic Liquid that Guarantees the Life of the Infant: Breast Milk as a Superfood

“Try squirting milk on that.” I stopped keeping track of how many times someone recommended healing my newborn’s ailments with a direct application of breast milk. From the time my husband cut a nail too short to a slightly more serious case of pink eye, my friends and family had come to regard breast milk… Read more →

Metaphors and Malignancy in Senator McCain’s Cancer Diagnosis

When my grandmother died from a mucosal melanoma (a form of skin cancer) in 2015, I sat around with my mother and my aunts talking through the wording of the email we were going to send round to her friends and colleagues to inform them of her death. We rejected the obvious line, “She died… Read more →

The “Right” and “Wrong” Kind of Addict: Iatrogenic Opioid Addiction in Historical Context

Last year, Kelly McEvers of NPR’s Embedded podcast introduced us to Joy. Something about Joy seems so ordinary, even familiar. She’s a certified hospital nurse, a mother of three kids, and a former Girl Scouts leader. She’s from Indiana, America’s heartland. She’s even close with her parents. And like many of us, she suffers from… Read more →