The Epistemology of the Man-flu

This post was originally titled: “Don’t Tell Me How To Feel About My Own Body,” quotes included. Though that was an obvious appropriation of retarded activist-speak, I couldn’t bear having it so prominently on display. Satirizing activists is a few degrees lower on the cringe-meter than an actual activist, and I don’t have the perpetual self-disregard of a trained actor to actually go through with it.

It turns out man-flu really exists—which, okay. The study looked at male and female mice (the article strangely calls the male mice, “men”), and the dude mice fared worse than the lady mice when injected with influenza. The article helpfully points out that, of mice and men, there are differences.

Studies like this aren’t needed to prove man-flu exists. You simply have to gauge the general reactions of men versus women when they get the flu. Maybe some access to simple statistics could help you along. Pinning the more acute reaction on men just being more whiny gained traction because the hah-hah chumpy sitcom dad trope is funny. Humor is easy to remember, and so is pathos; there’s nothing more acutely and universally pathetic than a whiny adult male. General likelihood doesn’t bear that scenario out though, since biological reactions—something we generally can’t control—happen with more consistency than a mild conspiracy on the part of men the world over to take advantage of their convalescent state. The former is a force of nature, which do not bend to force of will, whereas the latter involves human agency, which is much more variable.

The study isn’t needed because humans have bodily awareness, a field of philosophy that I don’t think is explored very much because it tends to get overrun by the physiology or psychology fields. In the case of “feeling” sick it’s called “intransitive bodily awareness,” since we are dealing with the body perceiving itself rather than objects existing outside of it. The thing of it is, it’s of the surest forms of knowledge we can have, since there’s no middle, interpretive layer between the sickness and the perception of it; the feeling of it is the knowledge of it.

Even in extreme, hypothetical contexts where a man’s awareness is tricked into feeling sick through stimulation of certain parts of the brain, it doesn’t change the fact that the sickness is felt, even after the deception is revealed. In other words, it’s “defeater proof.” If someone were to show me that the dead tree in the lot behind my house was actually a holographic projection, it still doesn’t change the fact that I still see a dead tree, even after knowing it’s not a real tree. I can’t be reasoned out of seeing the tree, just as I (or anyone) couldn’t be reasoned out of feeling a certain way when getting sick, because sense-data isn’t falsifiable*. Even our sitcom dad in question can’t argue with this.

* But perhaps not always. I need to read and think on this.

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