Every time you discuss my appearance you violate me. The fact that you can see my body doesn’t make my body public domain. Has no one ever told you this?
I used to believe the opposite; that I had to submit to public criticism and public feedback about my body simply because it was visible to the public. I assumed visual access implied all other kinds of access. You get to judge me because you can see me; I thought this was a cultural law. I was obligated to submit and endure because my body is visible. I was likewise obligated to assert cultural dominion over any body presented to me as well. I thought visual access to your body gave me certain rights. And vice versa.
One of my resolutions for the new year was to stop commenting on physical appearance unless it was necessary. I had no idea this was going to revolutionize what I believe about my presumed rights to that commentary. It feels asinine to me now; the fact that this is something I chose — that I automatically assumed I had choices over how I treat other peoples’ bodies. The resolution in January was a tiny first step. The revolution would take another four months. But now it is here.
The pivot point was a statement Sonya Renee Taylor made in her book The Body Is Not An Apology. She tells a story from her childhood wherein she is playing outside with the children in her neighborhood and overhears adult women discussing the budding boobies of her friend. Her friend was approaching puberty. The appearance of her friend’s breasts triggered these women to exercise their right of jurisdiction over those boobies and her friend’s body in general. The right to judgment and prediction and commentary. Sonya writes,
From that moment forward, puberty became synonymous with public humiliation. I learned that our bodies and their changes were areas of public domain — and things to broadcast, be teased about, and be ashamed of.
Public domain. It stopped me cold, y’all. These women assumed dominion over the body of someone else because no one told them they couldn’t or shouldn’t, and because someone — everyone — was given dominion over their bodies as well. It’s what we do. The right to examine, judge, critique, and discuss the body of any other person, at will, individually or in a group, in public, all because we can see it. I’m stunned by the absurdity of this, my friends. I’m equally stunned at how long it took me to find this absurd.
I vividly remember my parents humiliating me when my puberty-body began to change. I just assumed they had the right to humiliate me. First because they were my parents but also because we are all allowed to humiliate anything we see. I therefore learned as I grew into adulthood that I had the same right of dominion, jurisdiction, and privilege to discuss and even humiliate any body I could see.
Anyone presenting his or her body to the public (by being in public) was supposed to expect this from me. And from anyone viewing that body. If we can see it we get to discuss it, and good or bad you are expected to endure it because your body is visible to us. What utter bullshit, y’all. I’m completely baffled by this now. With this kind of jackass cultural philosophy it is no wonder at all we so easily make the leap to violating these same bodies with our hands and and our weapons and our laws.
And we laugh about it. We joke about it. And we play along because an alternative has never been suggested or promoted.
Until now. Fuck this shit. My body is not subject to your commentary simply because you can see it any more than it is subject to your abuse because it is within reach. And I never had the right to discuss, criticize, violate, or abuse anyone else’s body even though the world allowed me to do so, and in some cases encouraged it. What are we supposed to do when we are in a group? Look at someone who is not in the group and discuss his or her appearance. Try not doing this sometime and see how the group responds. I dare you.
Is it harmless when it’s a compliment? No. NO. NO IT IS NOT. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say it is wrong to assume dominion over someone else’s body as long as our feedback is positive. It’s not the feedback, folks, it’s the assumption we have the right to judge it either way. We don’t. A body we judge as beautiful is still a body we have violated with our judgment. We do not have the right to judge the beauty or lack of beauty of someone else’s body. The beauty of a body is not public domain because the body is not public domain. Ever. Not at puberty. Not in adulthood. Not even at birth.
Don’t think for a second I didn’t have to reconsider how I was going to respond holding my infant grandson for the first time last night. He has only been on this planet one goddamn day and everyone who looks at him has already assumed the right to discuss his physique. His face. His eyes. His head. His hands and feet. His infant cock and balls. Public domain. Because he was born and we can see him. It doesn’t matter that every comment is flattering because the same Right Of Commentary will be extended toward him and ultimately against him in every phase of his life. If we are going to stop it we have it stop when he’s cute. Even his grandmother is accountable. I have no right to discuss the physical appearance of this child.
Or any child. Or any adult. Ever. And I never did.
And neither do you. And the fact that you can and will get away with it five seconds after clicking away from this post still makes it a theft, a violation, and an abuse. I’m done abusing my power to discuss your appearance. If I wouldn’t rape you with my hands or my genitals I shouldn’t rape you with my mouth either. Or your child. Or anyone. Ever. Harsh language suits a harsh reality, folks. If this pisses you off then stop pissing on people by assuming you have any rights to their appearance. It is NOT okay just because everyone is doing it and so far there’s only me to contradict it.
And Sonya. There’s also Sonya. That’s two.