Growing up queer and Jewish, there weren’t a lot of people around me to relate to. Enter Fran Drescher, whose character on The Nanny, and the truly amazing wardrobe the show gave her, provided solace and inspiration to queer, Jewy me. For a little over a decade, Drescher flew under the radar, but over the last couple of years, she has reemerged once again. This time, she doesn’t have a sitcom – instead, her activism and her willingness to make her views public via Twitter have transformed her into a kind of cult icon for lefty queers. I recently got to chat with Drescher about how her experience with cancer influenced her activism, whether she’s actually anti-capitalist, and what we can all be doing to be a little bit more fabulously radical in 2017.
You help run Cancer Schmancer, a nonprofit that originated from your experience having uterine cancer. It’s not like other celebrity nonprofits I’ve seen: You have a Frederick Douglass quote on the website and call out the medical industrial complex.
Cancer Schmancer is, as far as health organizations go, a little bit ahead of the curve I think. We’re not trying to promise you a cure. And let’s face it, there’s been trillions of dollars put into that since Nixon waged the War on Cancer, and where’s the cure? I don’t think we’re asking ourselves the right question. I think finding the cause is the answer, but unfortunately that might cut into somebody’s profit margins. Finding a cure keeps research groups wealthy and keeps pharmaceuticals wealthy because they come up with something that helps keep you chronically ill, but seemingly asymptomatic and not really cured. I think this quest to find the cure is another brainwashing device by big business. Why don’t we just dial back all of these toxic chemicals, repurposed war chemicals we use for civilian life, everything that’s making us sick, and eliminate it? We want people to realize that you are driving this toxic, disposable, unsustainable life with your purchasing dollars.
I see everything in micro- and macrocosms, and our microbiome is way down deep inside our gut, but then the world is a big living organism, too. Everything is worlds within worlds, and I think that the answer to a lot of the woes of the worlds, including cancer, is to first begin the change within you and then within your home. We have to do that, and we have to change policy. But don’t put all your chips in that basket, because most of our elected officials are middle-management caught between the big business ruling-class elite and their constituents.
So how did you become radicalized … or I don’t even know if radicalized is the right word …
Radicalized is the right word! … I’ve been on this journey since I started my odyssey trying to get a diagnosis, getting misdiagnosed, ultimately getting diagnosed, my battle, and subsequent survival. But even before cancer, I was very opinionated and articulate about finding balance and understanding the way things work. My dad was a systems analyst, and looking at systems is a big part of how I discover what needs to be dealt with. So I started to do the Detox Your Home thing as part of my journey, and slowly and surely identifying industrial farming both of animals and plants as a problem. As that happened, I was already saying in my speeches that capitalism has run amok. It’s becoming a cannibal, and like any systemic malignancy, it forgets to die. It forgets to stop before it kills its host, thereby destroying itself. That’s what I see happening on the planet with the big-business ruling-class elite. They are so sociopathically obsessed with the money god that they’re losing sight of everything precious in its path. I always say to people, “Listen, if greed is the only language they understand, stop buying.” Stop till it hurts. Stop till your lifestyle changes, because this is unsustainable.
Then I got married and my husband was very radical along these lines and actually helped further me. And his mother was a systems analyst, ironically. We both saw things in systems, and he really was able to teach me how the body’s system has to function as a whole. We cannot look at this extremity, that breast, this testicle, this prostate, whatever, as separate things. Everything works together and by the way, it also works with the way you’re emotionalizing your life. It’s all very interconnected: the visual of seeing yourself as a thermostat of your body is very helpful. You figure out what your optimum temperature set point is at home. Let’s say it’s 70 degrees, or 72 degrees. Then the thermostat is constantly gauging all kinds of interferences that may offset that 72 degrees. Is it cold? Is it hot? Was there a big wind? Did someone open the front door? It makes the constant adjustment to try and keep it leveled off at 72 degrees. Well, that’s the way we have to start looking at our body or system. We know when we feel great. That’s optimum. When you’re happy, when you’re content, when you’re relaxed, when everything feels fine. When you’re energized, stimulated, excited, happy, all of it. When you get to that level, that’s your optimal set point. Memorize that. Then, you’re the thermostat. So, what happens? You have a stressful day. You’re exposed to the guy next to you who has a bad cold at the gym. You get stuck in a rain storm. You’re on the road and you’re not eating the way you’re normally eating. You’re taking a long airplane ride. All of these factors offset your optimal set point. So, you are the thermostat. “I feel cold inside. I have the chills. Maybe I need to make myself some hot ginger tea, ’cause ginger will put a fire in my belly and warm my system up.”
Another thing we always say is let’s start looking at indigenous cultures to help us relearn what the Industrial Revolution has tried desperately to dumb us down into forgetting. Remembering that within us lies all the answers, within us is what’s closest to our creator.
You’ve been talking about individual decisions we can make, but it seems like you also have a systemic analysis of capitalism and how it affects things.
That’s a system, too. It’s all systems within systems. There are a lot of do-gooders out there. One is worried about sharks going into extinction. Another is worried about global warming. Another is worried about elephants or rhinos or water pollution. The list goes on and on. Everybody has their own special interest, but until you’re able to really see the global systemic problem, you are just chasing your tail. Once you really realize the global systemic problem is actually big-business greed, then you know really what you need to do.
Are you anti-capitalist?
I am anti-capitalist. I really think we need a new hybrid of systems. I’m not anti-making-money, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think making money is a bad thing, per se. But it has to be calibrated within the spectrum of what’s a true value. What I really tell people is, you might be the first ones at a global-warming rally, but meanwhile, do you know what’s in your investment portfolio? We need to not be supporting these companies at all.
I assume you’re not a fan of Trump. Is there any political movement or any politician you see as kind of a beacon of hope in this world?
I’m happy to see that the Green Party is getting some traction since the current administration, because I think that their Green versus Greed is spot on point. I also think the Five Star Movement in Italy shows a lot of merit, even though there’s been some bad press on them. But I don’t choose to believe that press. I think that since their party elected the first woman mayor of Rome, the people that are threatened by them are now taking notice, that they’re gaining some traction, too, so they’re using the media to make them out to be bad guys, which is what happens in this country, too.
Before you have to go, I wanted to ask: Are you aware of the kind of queer-icon status you’ve attained on the internet?
Yes. Yes, I am, and I’m thrilled because it gives me a forum to speak about the things I’m passionate about. Sometimes I’m asked if I’m gonna run for office and I really don’t know where I’m able to wield more influence, inside or outside. But right now, I’m outside. At the end of the day, I like to look at positives in every dark cloud. I saw them with the cancer. I saw it as a rape victim. I can even see it with this current administration, because it has awakened people out of complacency. We’re seeing and learning about democracy in a way that people haven’t thought about in a really long time, and they’re taking to the streets. And to be at an age, to experience kind of the ’60s but with internet is an unbelievably exciting journey. I think that’s what’s beginning to happen. Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it’s hard to go back to sleep.
This administration is proving the emperor has no clothes. All the power, really, is with us if we don’t allow ourselves to be divided and manipulated by the shiny baubles and toys, so we’re fighting with each other. We need to gather together as a whole body of American citizens and say to that, “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”