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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Intentionally Cancerous


According to the National Cancer Institute, “Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body.” As the “second leading cause of death globally,” I imagine the reader knows at least one person who has or had cancer.

Cancer starts when something goes wrong in this process and your cells keep making new cells and the old or abnormal ones don’t die when they should. As the cancer cells grow out of control, they can crowd out normal cells. This makes it hard for your body to work the way it should.

For the early stages of my enlistment in the military, I was stationed upon Fort McClellan, Alabama which has been regarded as “a chemical exposure nightmare.” According to the United States (U.S.) Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “VA does not presume that any adverse health conditions are associated with service at Fort McClellan.”

Regarding the intermediate portion of my service, and although some believe that military radar doesn’t cause cancer, the aircraft radar that swept my barracks room aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California seemed to have a warming effect on those who resided in the structures. Increased radiation is correlated with elevated heat.

During the final portion of my enlistment, I worked at the Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas, which is the primary U.S. nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. Reportedly “hundreds of workers have fallen ill due to work performed over the years at the Pantex nuclear arms facility,” as one source declares, “If you’re on the plant . . . you’ll get something eventually.”

It will be astonishing to me if a cancer diagnosis isn’t in my future. All the same, I accepted the consequences of military service and my experience with potentially cancer-inducing environments wasn’t with the intent of likely one day dying from a cancerous disease.

Activistic cancer

When discussing serious diseases, I use caution with hyperbole—exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Just as I question ridiculous comparisons between military boot camp and physical fitness so-called boot camps, others may raise eyebrows if I haphazardly compare activism to cancer.

Nevertheless, instead of analogizing on my own, I will report what one feminist source has to say about activism as a form of viral contamination and I intend on linking this comparison with cancer. Per the Multidisciplinary Journal of Gender Studies:

Because women’s studies radically challenges social hierarchies and lacks a unified identity and canon of thought, it often negotiates a precarious position within the modern corporatized university. At the same time, women’s studies offers—by virtue of its interdisciplinary, critical, and “infectious” structure—cutting-edge perspectives and goals that set it apart from more traditional fields. This paper theorizes that one future pedagogical priority of women’s studies is to train students not only to master a body of knowledge but also to serve as symbolic “viruses” that infect, unsettle, and disrupt traditional and entrenched fields. In this essay, we first posit how the metaphor of the virus in part exemplifies an ideal feminist pedagogy, and we then investigate how both women’s studies and the spread of actual viruses (e.g., Ebola, HIV) produce similar kinds of emotional responses in others. By looking at triviality, mockery, panic, and anger that women’s studies as a field elicits, we conclude by outlining the stakes of framing women’s studies as an infectious, insurrectional, and potentially dangerous, field of study. In doing so, we frame two new priorities for women’s studies—training male students as viruses and embracing “negative” stereotypes of feminist professors—as important future directions for the potentially liberatory aspects of the field.

The astute reader may object, “Deric, cancer isn’t viral in nature, so you’re already committing the very hyperbolic comparison you disavowed.” However, as one source states, “[T]here are several viruses that can lead to cancer.”

To further expand upon this point, consider what one source offers:

Viruses are very small organisms; most can’t even be seen with an ordinary microscope. They are made up of a small number of genes in the form of DNA or RNA surrounded by a protein coating. A virus must enter a living cell and take over the cell’s machinery in order to reproduce and make more viruses. Some viruses do this by inserting their own DNA (or RNA) into that of the host cell. When the DNA or RNA affects the host cell’s genes, it can push the cell toward becoming cancer.

Taking the aforementioned feminist source at its word, the field of women’s studies has indeed produced enough viral impact to become intentionally cancerous for U.S. society. Generally speaking, I understand that use of terms such as should, must, or ought is indicative of moralizing demandingness.

How does an activistic perspective relate to a scientific approach to life, as related to cancer outlined herein? Is a subjective practice compatible with an objective framework?

Whereas the practice of science tells a person what is, it doesn’t prescribe what ought to be. As an example, science informed me that working at a nuclear weapons facility is linked with cancer, though it didn’t dictate that I ought not to do so.

Still, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, consider the aforementioned American Cancer Society source which states, “[…] cells keep making new cells and the old or abnormal ones don’t die when they should […] This makes it hard for your body to work the way it should.”

Here, use of the word “should” indicates that which is normal—conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. Infected cells not dying when they should thus impact a body’s ability to function as it should. Hence, not all should, must, or ought statements are irrational in nature.

If the aim of women’s studies is to use activism as a form of infectious contagion intended to “infect, unsettle, and disrupt” specific fields, and perhaps society as a whole, does such behavior correspond with moral values or scientific examination regarding what is considered normal?

I argue the former in spite of the latter. As women’s studies radically challenge “social hierarchies,” the field and related practices dispute that which is standard, usual, typical, and expected.

Disputation from the feminist perspective then carries with it the aim of moralistically identifying what is perceived as good, bad, right, wrong, and so forth. For instance, men holding positions of power and privilege may be castigated as repugnant and wrong.

To address perceived wrongdoing, activistic cancer spreads through metastasis— the development of secondary malignant growths at a distance from a primary site of cancer. These tumors permeate many areas within a stable society and erode it from within.

Then again, what do I know? According to one source, the so-called “Feminism is Cancer” movement has devolved into “childish and ignorant whining,” and apparently “promotes hate.”

I’m not part of any movement. I’m not an activist. I’m not even one who advocates petulant whining.

Contrarily, I recognize that whether it’s to be compared to a virus or cancer, feminism, intersectionality, and other women’s studies-associated activism appears to be effective. Our nation seems to be deathly ill at present and with little indication of recovery in the near future.


Having worked in Fort McClellan, Miramar, and Pantex, I had no plan to deliberately expose myself to cancer-causing agents. Still, if I develop cancer because of my service in those environments, I at least understood the potential consequences of military service increasing the likelihood of death.

Considering my enlistment and understanding the value of informed consent— permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences—I wonder what level of awareness the average U.S. citizen maintains in reference to intentionally cancerous practices facilitated through programs such as women’s studies.

Have some people been exposed to pathogens, viruses, or other changes to the metaphorical DNA of our nation without ever knowing they were at risk? If so, what may be said of those who perpetuate this sort of harm?

Herein, I don’t propose solutions, because I haven’t the answers to the problem I didn’t create. All the same, I express concern regarding observed trends though I’m not fearful, angry, sorrowful, or disgusted about what I’ve witnessed.

Use of unconditional acceptance (UA) allows me to tolerate that over which I have little influence and no control. I can’t change women’s studies and its tumorous infection.

Rather than disturbing myself about what I think should, must, or ought to be, I merely acknowledge what is—the ailing society in which I live has little expectation to survive at this rate unless some drastic intervention is applied.

The concerned reader may at this point say, “Deric, this post sounds dreadfully downbeat. Aren’t therapists supposed to inspire hope?”

For those who’ve been paying attention, I’ve commented on what is, not what I think ought to be. People seeking treatment with me can expect truthful assessment, not feel-good sessions.

My aim as a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) practitioner is to help people get better, not feel better. As such, I start with truth, promote UA, increase low frustration tolerance, and excise irrational beliefs much as one removes tumors from the body.

Oh and, fuck cancer!

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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