The body positivity movement has transformed lives and attitudes about how all bodies are beautiful and worthy of respect. It has empowered people to live in their bodies and love themselves unapologetically. But, what about body politics?
While body acceptance is needed, it lacks in addressing the social, political, and economic disadvantages of living in a marginalized body.
Last summer, the death of George Floyd, Toni Mcdade, and Breonna Taylor challenged society to start thinking about #BlackLivesMatter and Black Americans’ right to exist without experiencing violence.
There have been years of violence and neglect of the issues that impact bodies. Body positivity is necessary for some, but everyone must begin to develop a body politic that addresses gender, race, size, and ability.
Society tells us how to treat people based on their bodies. There is an expectation for people with marginalized bodies to perform and behave in ways that are assigned to them by society based on their bodies.
“I’ve been fat my whole adult life, and even when I wasn’t “fat” in high school, I was labeled as such. I’ve been consistently fighting societal norms, to prove to others that my body doesn’t determine my worth, and should not now or ever dictate the level of care I should receive from a doctor…”
Aby Deal, Body Positive Advocate
Little People of Atlanta star, Abira created the hashtag #NormalizeDwarfism last summer to educate average height people about dwarfism.
In September 2020, Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act in Congress as a response to the long history of medical discrimination that Black and non-Black people of color face.
In an interview with Demetria “Demi” Jackson, Wardrobe Stylist, she explains her experience with physicians as a Black woman with Sickle Cell, “they all have this perception of what I should look like or the weight that I need to lose compared to what I actually want for myself. This can be a bit of a concern for a person like me specifically because stress can trigger sickle cell pain crises.”
The way your body is perceived will have an implication on the type of health care you receive and will result in death.
Body Politics Impact Us All
Marquisele Mercedes, a researcher at the University of Missouri’s Center for Body Image Research and Policy, is working on understanding how all women are impacted by body image, weight discrimination, and health care believes that “Body politics is all about power. It’s about how somebodies, by virtue of their different characteristics, have more power than other bodies.“
Body politics requires everyone to assess not only their disadvantages due to the bodies they live in but also its advantages. Kimberle Crenshaw created the term intersectionality “to describe the way people’s social identities can overlap.”
The cycle of inequalities thrives by “all bodies mattering” these issues without addressing the harm that some bodies experience.
If you look at body politics, you can see the world’s history in how we look and feel about different bodies. Some people experience job, housing, and medical discrimination because of their bodies.
Body politics impacts everyone and everyone needs a body politic.
Have you heard of the term “Body Politics” before? What are your thoughts on it now that you know a bit more about it?