Soul Cysters Dot Net: Configuring the Feminine Body Through the Life Writing of Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

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  • Although PCOS includes an array of varying symptoms that produce medical complications, this paper looks specifically at the condition of androgen excess (an increase of “male” hormones such as testosterone) and the ways it is written about in This resistance to the normative medical system that is cultivated within this online space is conditional on a collective agreement to work to combat or “cure” these symptoms that produce a deviation from stable femininity. In other words, unsettles the authority of the medical institution while also reproducing a prescribed understanding of what a woman’s body is and should look like. By normative medical system, I refer to the institutionalized healthcare services and facilities which are enabled and provided through the state. This project seeks to consider several questions, including: how does conceptualizing online health forums for women with PCOS, particularly, as life writing allow us to understand this writing as disrupting the authority of the normative medical system yet affirmative of stable notions of gender normalcy? In looking at the writing of women with PCOS through the lens of Judith Butler’s theoretical framework, how can we understand the performativity of this writing and the ways in which it constructs the writer’s body, gender identity, and sense of self? What are the social advantages of constructing, through writing, androgen excess as a disease rather than one variation of femininity? Does this stabilize an understanding of gender identity that we are reliant on? In order to address these questions, this paper examines posts on the blog by categorizing content in different themes, including what I perceive as transgressive processes which unsettle dominant discourses (writing that indicates community-building, self-expression, and alternative treatment methods) and posts that reproduce normative gender, including attempts to combat symptoms of androgen excess rather than embrace them as an alternative embodiment of femininity.

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    Attribution 4.0 International