The Intersection of Street Harassment and the Commodification of Our Bodies

I’ve been sitting on this story for a few weeks now; still riding out the wave of the QSOCC conference and all the momentum it has given me. The night after the conference an incident happened to me, and that got me thinking about the commodification of my body. It happens to many of us, especially if we’re queer, fat or POC. I happen to be all three.

The night in question was spent dancing until two in the morning at Berbati’s with my cousins, my bf and other friends. We had a great time. However, after we left the club I was walking down the alley and this White woman started hollering at me, “OH MY GOD I LOVE YOUR HOODIE! I LOVE YOUR HOOPS” and THEN she grabbed at me. I didn’t even react; I kept walking.  It’s become so normalized to me.

The next day however, I started thinking about the incident and how used to that kind of interaction I have become. This woman saw me, a queer fat person (probably not brown because I pass) walking down the street and thought she had a right to touch me. I don’t care if she liked how I dressed, she had NO right to touch me and get into my personal space.

The commodification of our bodies is commonplace in U.S. culture: our fashion, our music, our androgyny, and our bodies. Everyone wants a piece when it’s popular and new. We become nonentities: the fat and sassy gay person, the exotic brown other. bell hooks called this, “eating the other”. We become exploitable by the majority.

This commodification becomes especially salient and dangerous when intersected by street harassment. When people start seeing us as nonentities available for their consumption our identities are erased and we are open to violence. This is a dangerous place to be, walking down the street, as we are navigating White space or heterosexual space.

Fabian Romero said that it is revolutionary to love our queer, fat, immigrant, brown, disabled, non-cisgendered bodies. I believe we should also take this revolution to the streets and push back against the commodification of our bodies. We ought to push back against street harassment. We are not the exotic object! We are PEOPLE. And we deserve our body sovereignty.


Decolonize Me

I am winding my way through crowded bodies
Rolling my eyes at you: Of course I speak Engleesh

No me llames papi
I'm not some south-of-the-border fantasy

My body lies beyond the sea
África se viene de mis ojos

Past lives, ancient legacies
Hablo en soltura, speaking in tongues

Francés, árabe, hebreo
Aiwa ya habibi, que no me entiendas

No me importa tu idioma
I'm not gonna fuck you

Sorry, I'm circumcised
Y mato a tus fantasias coloniales


More Fat Musings

So I was browsing Hari Kondabolu’s tumblr account because he has amazing politics and I have a crush on him. I was heartened to find his reblog of a short Salon.com article by Haley Morris-Cafiero documenting her photography project, Wait Watchers, where she turns the lens back on people that stare or give her dirty looks due to her weight. I had seen Morris-Cafiero’s work before and I was excited to share it again on my Facebook feed. I’d shared it before, but I don’t know why this time it just felt important. 
Hours later I noticed a Facebook friend of mine (not especially a friend persay) had shared my link without linking the full exhibition via Morris-Cafiero’s website and had proceeded to curate a conversation with her friends on her Facebook that consisted of breaking down Morris-Cafiero’s work and denying that the artist may experience oppression due to her size. The thing that made me angry the most was that all of these people commenting were thin. They were searching very hard to find other explanations for the subjects’ expressions around Morris-Cafiero. 
This all made me angry and a bit sad, but then I remember that this person who shared the link was the same person who proceeded to tell me and another friend about how horrible it was to be around fat people in the Houston airport, and how funny they looked using the tram because they were too fat to comfortably walk the distance. 
I admit I don’t understand this person very well. What I do understand though is that she does not see the people in the fat bodies. Fat people are an inconvenience to her. Fat people are subjects of jokes and derision. 
What it reiterates for me is that fat people are not worthy of humanity, and because I am fat that includes me. I'm sick of being dehumanized and watching others be dehumanized because our bodies are seen as invalid.

(Please check out Haley Morris-Cafiero's awesome work here)