Lorrraine (lorrraine) wrote in radicalbodies,

Body Politics


I think I see a connection between trans issues, disability issues, fat issues, and appearance issues (lookism). In all four cases we have a socially accepted ideal of what constitutes an acceptable body. A socially acceptable body must have the primary and secondary physical characteristics associated with the gender assigned at birth, it must have certain physical capabilities, it must fall within a certain weight to height ratio and it must have a certain degree of symmetry and proportionality. Otherwise the body becomes unacceptable (trans, disabled, fat, or ugly).

Some of us can and do alter our bodies and fit within the standards of a socially acceptable body while others of us can't or don't. Some of those who alter bodies do so because of the social standard, while others have other reasons. It can prove difficult sorting out who does what for what reason because the social pressure to have an acceptable body permeates societies and has many consequences both visible and invisible.

The idea of socially unacceptable bodies even underlies much of sexism because people, including some women as well as men, have seen women's bodies as unacceptable for some purposes and as inferior to men's bodies. And of course many racists categorize the bodies of people of color as inferior to white bodies. This last held up even when such differences proved invisible to the naked eye. And much of ageism expresses itself as a revulsion for bodies which become socially unacceptable as they grow older.

Some people with socially unacceptable bodies can pass by hiding that which society deems unacceptable. Trans folk can pass as members of the gender we got assigned at birth or after transition some of us can pass as non-trans. Some disabilities have less visible effects than others allowing the person with that disability to pass under some circumstances as non-disabled. Bulky clothes and some body types can allow some people to carry weight that would get someone else seen as fat. And padding, covering clothing, or even cosmetics can conceal features that people would otherwise see as ugly. Passing allows some individuals to interact with society without facing discrimination or at least without facing as much discrimination, but it does not solve the underlying social problem that some bodies get characterized as unacceptable.

People with socially unacceptable bodies become targets of humor, disrespect, and even violence. We get othered. And persons with insecure social status often prop up that social status by asserting dominance over us. This unfortunately has meant that some of the time folks with socially unacceptable bodies have attempted to assert dominance over one another both within categories and between categories. This strategy hurts many and provides minimal benefit to the few who exercise it since they still have socially unacceptable bodies.

*I think we need to overcome the idea that anyone has the right to judge which bodies get social acceptance.

*I think we need to find ways to promote the idea that people with all sorts of bodies have a place in this world.

*I think we need to acknowledge that people with all sorts of bodies have sex without fetishizing socially unacceptable bodies as exotic.

*I think we need anti-bullying legislation not just in schools, but throughout society to stop those who bully individuals with socially unacceptable bodies.

*I think we need a body acceptance movement that acknowledges and accepts both the full range of bodies and the right of individuals to alter their own bodies even when those alterations match societal norms while we as a movement neither privilege those with more socially acceptable bodies as spokespeople nor reject such individuals as not belonging to the community.

*I think we need to respect an individuals choice to pass for personal reasons or reasons of safety while promoting visibility as a strategy which benefits us as a group.

*I think that everyone should have the freedom, the opportunity, and the support necessary to take pride in their own body.

*I think that people with all sorts of bodies, even socially acceptable ones, need to work together to make these things happen.

What do *you* think?

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