As many others did, I felt instantly uncomfortable at seeing the Donald Trump ‘art installations’ around America, and seeing what narrative they’ve begun. And further, the recent circulation of a satirical piece on wanting the criminalization of ‘fat, white men’ made me wince and feel angry for all the wrong reasons.
It’s simple. Mocking a man’s body is not feminist nor activist. Mocking the size of a penis, someone’s body fat percentage, the placement of their jiggly bits, their hair – sorry, it just isn’t radical.
After all isn’t that literally what the mainstream media does, anyway? Of course, we have women and non-binary people living up to far more impossible and rigid standards than the average white male. There is certainly a more unforgiving and judgemental gaze on women, gender fluid, non binary people, and people of colour. Undoubtedly. That’s not something I’d ever want to downplay. But fuck that narrative that thinks body shaming, fat shaming, publicly hurling abuse and derision at somebody’s appearance, is funny, radical, or that it is in any way activism.
We have managed to override the criticisms of Trump’s evil politics, his rampant misogyny, his blatant and shocking racism, and in general his utter disregard for human and environmental rights (and probably there’s been some animals rights abuses too). Genuine, thought-provoking, and hard hitting criticisms (and useful, clever satire) has been completely replaced with schoolchild ‘strip the bully naked’ rhetoric and empty jibes.
I understand people’s desperation. I vehemently hate the ‘burkini ban’ (which has been suspended, hurrah!) and the constant escalating violence towards the Muslim community. It’s one of the biggest human rights issue globally (on that note, did anybody see the UK government seems to have scrapped the Human Rights act? What the fuck.), and who knows what dark path we’re heading down if governments like the French, the UK, the US, keep acting criminally in response to ‘rising terrorism’? – something they really helped spur on, in case anybody was in any doubt. Trump is a vile human being who has somehow risen further than a man like him ever should (though they do, often) and he is dangerous.
But, in the end, who are you hurting? We know Trump is a human being who is naked from time to time, and that he’s boastful about his huge dick, and that’s the joke, apparently. Though we may find temporary satisfaction and respite by attacking ‘fat white men’ for their fatness, their embarrassment and humiliation is, in reality, shared.
Who you are actually hurting: the hundreds and thousands of people who have jiggly bits, small penises, who have issues with their bodies. They’re terrified of getting intimate with others because that means taking off their clothes, they daren’t go on the beach because satirical articles describe them as ‘Walruses’. Or maybe they’re really freaking confident (because why shouldn’t they be) but they end up shaken by the fact so many ‘compassionate’ and ‘free-thinking’ people think that this is an acceptable way to attack the dominant society.
“But we’re just laughing at Trump.” “It’s a joke, art. It’s satire. It’s mocking the dominant culture.”
You’re right, to a point. There is a certain level of mocking white male privilege here. And done right, satire can be funny and poignant and it can the point across perfectly. But you’re not just laughing at Trump, face it – you’re laughing at fatness, and ‘ugliness’, and this time it seems you’re allowed. There are people of all genders and all colours who should not have to see this widespread bullying of the human body. There’s so many other radical, satirical, funny, hard-hitting, clever or knee-jerk ways to respond to fuckery like Donald Trump’s presidential campaign or the horrendous act of a woman being stripped on a French beach.
When you bring body-shaming into your activism, into your criticisms of the powerful, you’ve just fallen into the dominant culture yourself.