March 18, 2015

Political Body as Magical Body

It occurred to me recently that people who are othered -- women, PoC, queer people, trans people, fat people, disabled people, and all the rest of us who are not the "default" in some way -- have what I am calling Political Bodies. This is a magical body that is not created by the othered person, but by the society that others them.

Let's look at Mike Brown (may he rest in power). Mike was a big guy, yes, but not actually significantly larger than his killer. He was, by all reports, pretty chill. And yet Darren Wilson (may he never know peace, may the Eumenides follow him all his days and whip him with the scorpion flails of his own guilt) definitely perceived him as much larger, as very threatening, as a "hulk" and a "demon". This is not an image that Wilson conjured up (literally) on his own. It is a magical construct built out of and fueled by the racism and racists of our society. Any Black man or boy has the same political body thrust upon him: that he is violent, that he is a criminal, that he is a threat, that he is armed, that he is on drugs, that he is much larger and angrier than he is. Black women have similar political bodies thrust on them that are modified by misogyny and misogynoir.

I'm fat. It's one of the first things people notice about me when we meet. I am definitely and distinctly fat. That fatness carries a political body, too. Laziness, lack of discipline, physical weakness, never exercises, couch potato, bad eating habits, stupid, at fault for everything bad in my life. My queerness has its own political body, both as a bi woman and as a woman married to a woman, each of which carries a different political bodies. Being a woman carries another political body with it. So does having a mental illness. And all of these bodies, together, form the political body of me.

These political bodies are not just invisible assumptions. They actually change the way we are seen -- Darren Wilson (may he understand what he has done, and may it haunt him forever) quite literally saw that magical construct instead of Mike Brown's physical body.

And yet, these political bodies are intimately connected with us. What might witches and magicians and workers in the subtle arts do with these bodies, if we claimed them as ours, named them and tamed them to our hands? How could we reshape not only our own political bodies, but by contagion, all political bodies that are like ours? What magic can we work to change the landscape of fear and bigotry in which we live through such avenues?