Broad City and Butler

Ilana: “You wanna talk nasty seafood? I read a thing on Buzzfeed that said there’s microscopic shrimp in all of New York City’s drinking water.”

Bobbi: “What?”

Ilana: “Copepods, they’re called.”

Bobbi: “No!”

Ilana: “Yeah, Google it. We have shrimp inside of us at all times, which I’m okay with, sounds delicious. But it’s like, ask me first?”

According to the NYT article, there are 100 trillion bacteria on each person’s skin, and the Medical News Today article claims we have up to two kilograms of bacteria in our guts. The NYT article also says that we are only 10% human, meaning that for every human cell we have there are 10 microorganisms, and 99% of the genetic material inside our bodies are from said microorganisms.

In the excerpt from Broad City, we see pop culture evidence of non-consent in microorganisms inhabiting our bodies. We do not initially consent to these beings living in our bodies, but this occurs anyway. Only through scientific research do we even learn about this, which brings up questions of epistemic privilege and the divide between the conscious/subconscious brain.

The more I learn the more I find myself struggling to grapple with questions of inherent non-consent in our everyday lives, and to some extent non-consent that lives in the divide in the brain. To be honest, this is hard for me to describe in words. We don’t know what’s going on in our own bodies at all, but our subconscious brain/body responds to stimuli without our conscious brain knowing about it. Here is where epistemic privilege comes into play as well: those who are well-versed in biology (doctors, researchers, etc.) know more about violence inflicted upon the body than the average lay person.

Sickness, in this respect, is also violence enacted upon the body in biological, socioeconomic, and cultural strains. Structural/institutional violence against the body is evident in the American healthcare system in which people who cannot afford healthcare/treatment often go untreated and eventually will die (another pop cultural reference: Breaking Bad). Culturally, some people may be shunned for having diseases, especially if they are part of a marginalized group to begin with (HIV/AIDS epidemic, violence against queer (and especially queer POC) bodies).

Butler’s fiction forces me to become cognizant of these issues of everyday violence, and beckons questions of how truly autonomous and “free” we really are. In this respect, I find myself thinking a lot about choosing what is “right,” meaning what I should do, not what I can do.


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