I had the great honor this weekend to chair a panel at CatalystCon in Los Angeles. I presented a panel with Joie de Vivre and Diana Hong about claiming female sexuality through performance. It was an absolutely fascinating discussion for me.
One of the questions I asked my panelist is how they felt about their bodies when they saw themselves on film. I expected Joie to express some dysphoria or dissatisfaction with the film images of her. The disconnect with one’s body is a common theme of many trans folks. What surprised me is Diana’s comments. She mentioned that she negated her body to help her perform. She doesn’t watch film of herself and she dresses in ways to downplay any attention to her body.
This struck me because when I see Diana, she is a stunningly beautiful woman. I know women of all shapes and sizes dislike parts of their bodies, and we all see our imperfections that others rarely notice, but I have rarely heard a performer speak about negating the concept they have a body so that they can perform.
I had a seven hour drive back to the Bay Area after my panel to think about what the other performers and audience members had talked about. Ultimately, I concluded that the current push by media to “perfect” the human body and to show us in our un-natural states is a clear and present danger to society. I am not being overly dramatic for effect here. I think our image industries are killing us. Here is why:
All genders are affected by unnatural presentations of beauty. The body-positive movement has been largely focused on women. The reality is, all people are hurt by image industries. Men have an enormous number of body-related image issues. Not just gay men- all men. Men are sold an idea that they need to have a six- or eight-pack of abs, large muscular arms, unhealthy tiny waist, chiseled features, and either well-manscaped body hair or clean shaven (this is largely tied to what racial group they identify with).
I know several male comics who are unwilling to have video images of them taken. Several are at the point in their career where doing YouTube series or a taped special would be advisable. However they eschew these career moves specifically because they do not want to see themselves on film.
Men starve themselves, engage in extreme workout regimens, avoid dating, and engage in body modification the same way women do to cope with an unhealthy body image. In fact, one survey found that almost 30 percent of men and over 60 percent of women had foregone intimacy with a partner because they were ashamed of their body. We have created a culture that so values and idealized image of a person that human interaction is being destroyed because we do not match a cartoon version of human.
We have created a culture that so values and idealized image of a person that human interaction is being destroyed because we do not match a cartoon version of human.
Its not just fat white girls that need to believe they are beautiful and champion new versions of beauty. We all need to understand our beauty. We all need to be able to love ourselves for who we are now, not who we will be 15 pounds from now, a Botox injection from now, a laser hair removal session from now, a plastic surgery from now.
This means radically changing the marketing and beauty industry. It means showing all people as beautiful and not just niche beauty. It means combining the “beauty” aisle with the “ethnic skin care” aisles at the store. It means representing all body types in fashion, art, pornography, and advertising and not singling the ad or the clothing line for the “fat girl” out as “radical” for accepting someone who is a size 12 (still smaller than most American women).
We can’t wait a decade for this to change. We can’t just ask the fashion, advertising and beauty industries to create this change. They listen to what you buy. So when LuluLemon says they will never make clothes for anything but skinny girls, all women need to stop buying them. When a line only shows white models and repudiates and POC models because they are not “on brand” we all need to stop buying the line. We need to do this today. We need to do it for ourselves. We need to do it so we can start loving and connecting to ourselves and each other. It is that fundamental.