Andrea Storgaard Brok var en af initiativtagerne til FedFront for godt 2 år siden, og vi har siden da nydt godt af et konstruktivt samarbejde med en af de allersejeste kropsaktivister nogensinde. Læs her Andreas tale fra 8. marts på Kapelvej 44. Og gå på opdagelse i FedFronts posts fra september 2018, hvor Andrea lavede page take-over og postede om skønhedshierarkier.
“This is a text version of my speech for the 8th of march this year <3
Happy 8th of march!
The following will be about beauty, body activism, what place I think it has in feminism and some of the unfortunate developments in bodyactivism that we as feminists have to be aware of. The reason that I decided to talk about this tonight is that I often experience many different interpretations of what bodyactivism is, and I’d like to kind of set the record straight tonight by underlining what feminist, socialist body activism is, as opposed to the commercial bodypositivity movement. This is important because bodypolitics desperately need to be integrated into other types of politics, like health politics and economics for example, and the way I see it, in order for the left wing feminists to do that, to really integrate bodypolitics into our general politics, we need to understand the structural consequences that come with having deviant bodies, and not just interpret bodyactivism as something that has to do with promoting self-love.
First I’d like to talk about the bodypositivity movement and why it is important to be critical of it. The bodypositive movement as it exists in its current form is a movement that focuses on promoting bodylove for people who deviate from body norms or who don’t have bodies that are represented in the mass media. The body positivity movement has created representation for many types of bodies.This in itself is quite a lovely goal to have as a movement, but the execution of these ideas and goals unfortunately often end up reproducing norms of beauty and in a way it reestablishes and legitimises the focus on beauty and looks.
This focus on beauty and looks is reestablished when many of the activists from the body positive movement insist that everyone is beautiful. This is quite a central thing in the movement; the understanding that everyone is beautiful. We see it on social media; body positive activists with more or less deviant bodies, posing and setting up photo shoots along the same aesthetic lines of mainstream media, and continuously promoting the message that beauty is important and that everyone deserves to be beautiful. This is a reproduction of not only the conventional standards of beauty, it is also a reproduction of beauty as a marker of value. So essentially when we keep saying that everyone is beautiful we keep underlining beauty as something that is important, beauty as something that we should all strive to have.
I ask, rhetorically; if everyone is beautiful, does that mean that beauty is not part of a structure and does that mean that the capital and privilege that comes with being beautiful is granted to everyone?
Because surely, if we’re all beautiful, we all have equal access to beauty privilege.
The answer to that rhetorical question is; no, beauty is part of a structure and some people are conventionally beautiful and are granted privilege and capital because of that beauty, whilst others who are not considered beautiful do not have access to the same capital and privilege.
In this way, the problem with body positivity is that it more often than not fails to acknowledge the hierarchies of beauty that exist, and it fails to acknowledge that these hierarchies help in protecting the structures of inequality. The hierarchies of beauty interact with symmetry, fatness, ableism, racism, class and gender, and I believe that combatting these hierarchies is not something we can do by accepting that beauty should continue to be something that makes people valuable. In other words, if we accept the premise that beauty is something to strive for, we remain active in a system that produces hierarchies and structures of inequality.
Another problem with the bodypositive movement is its focus on individuality; the people who take the most space in the movement are primarily concerned with preaching individual self-care and body love, rather than focusing the attention towards community building and politics of the body. Promoting individualism over community is a central tactic of neoliberalist ideology, which is the ideology of free-market capitalist society that focuses on individual gain and making people compete against each other, rather than focusing on collaboration and communal strategies. These are all fancy words, essentially what I am saying here is that our bodyactivism should be community based and not focused on the individuals search for self-love. If we keep focusing on the individual search for self love we lose sight of what the fight is really about, which is fighting against structural inequality.
Does this mean that people shouldn't feel good about themselves and their bodies? No of course not. It's great when people like themselves and they should keep doing that, especially if they do not comply with body and beauty normativities. However, it’s also important to know that not everyone can like or love themselves.
What I am saying here is, that the selflove of the individual is not what body activism is about. Or at least, it is not what body activism should be about.
So what should body activism be about?
If we remove our focus from trying to make everyone feel beautiful, we uncover many systems of oppression, of inequality, that have to do with bodies that deviate from the norms, which are often bodies that are considered less beautiful and do not hold the privileges of beauty. There are many examples of how deviant bodies are systematically excluded, dehumanised, desexualised, fetishised and pathologised.
In the healthcare system, for example, fat people, people of color, people with functional variations and trans and queer people with bodies that deviate the norms are stigmatised and pathologised to a point that has created significant health inequalities.
On the job market, we see a similar pattern; the bodies that fit the norms are the ones that get the jobs.
In the social arenas, also within feminist spaces, deviant bodies are still picked last for gym so to speak, and people whose bodies are not normative are excluded from various social activities.
The consequences of these various exclusions are economic and social and health-related.
These structures of exclusion are what body activism should focus on, and I think one way of approaching that is being aware of how beauty interacts with all these things. Body activism should not be trying to broaden the scope of what is considered to be beautiful; that would be counterproductive because making everyone feel beautiful does not change the fact that people who are not considered beautiful outside of feminist or bodypositive space are still subjected to oppression.
instead body activism should challenge the idea that beauty is important and work against the acceptance of beauty as capital. Because as it stands right now, beauty is capital, being beautiful gives you access to economic, social and health-related privileges, and that is something we can definitely work against.
In summation, beauty is a marker of value that needs to be broken down rather than enhanced; when we say that everyone is beautiful we neglect the people that are subjected to oppression because they do not comply with beauty norms.
It is no one's duty or right to love themselves and their body, but it is everyone's duty to acknowledge that bodies exist in hierarchies of beauty and that those hierarchies have very real consequences for peoples access to different spaces and services.
Our activism and our feminism is not what we buy and it is not how good we look, our activism and our feminism is what we do and when we do it right we do it together, and we do it with a focus on the collective rather than on our individual gains. Our feminism is what we do with aggressive love for our communities and our feminism should not be beautiful. In other words, our feminism should be ugly and over the top.