North Texas Daily

We need to stop equating fetishization with progressivism

We need to stop equating fetishization with progressivism

We need to stop equating fetishization with progressivism
October 23
12:00 2020

At first glance, it might appear as though society has become less biased with regards to beauty standards. But in fact, physical features that have been unfairly deemed unattractive in the past are now being fetishized rather than accepted, and those who do not wear said features in a certain way are still left in the dark.

Society gaslights minorities, Black women especially, into thinking any physical attributes they don’t share with the majority of white people are inherently ugly. This has continued despite the escalation of a trend in which white women appropriate these traits for internet clout. Black women, and dark-skinned women in particular, are still being picked apart for their looks by white society and even Black men, only now they have to contend with watching white women be praised for the same things they themselves are ridiculed for.

Black women who are celebrated for their looks by white society are typically mixed-race, as seen in mainstream media attempts to make Blackness more palatable for white audiences by way of only casting mixed-race actresses in Black roles. Mainstream media wants to be applauded for incorporating diversity into its products without potentially alienating racist viewers. This particular racist trend has fused somewhat with that of white girls trying to look Black, in that some of these women will go as far as to let those who don’t know them personally assume they are mixed race, a la Ariana Grande.

Though not part of a marginalized demographic, fat people have also suffered under this new spin on performative progressiveness. The fetishization of fat people, particularly women, has only debatably benefited those with enough money to afford expensive makeup and clothes. Skinny women are allowed to flaunt a casual look that gets fat women called lazy and ugly.

Modern society’s most popular interpretation of body positivity seems to be “fat women can be pretty too” rather than, “physical appearance is not indicative of worth”. This serves to make skinny people feel progressive for perceiving fat people as attractive, once again ensuring that consumers of whatever campaign is exploiting body positivity are not alienated by the prospect of confronting their own internalized biases.

As a lesbian, I can say firsthand that being fetishized is not an adequate substitute for being looked at as a human being. Movies and television shows that have women engage one another sexually in scenes clearly catered to men do not resonate with me. In turn, they reduce acts of love between two women as something to satisfy the sexual proclivities of men, who apparently cannot resist the allure of making everything about themselves.

Historically speaking, the fetishization of any marginalized group lends itself to the justification of sexual violence against said group by people of privilege. “Corrective rape” is defined as rape committed for the purpose of attempting to “correct” somebody’s sexuality and has successfully been used as a court defense by perpetrators of rape against lesbians.

Corrective rape is still a problem, particularly in South Africa, but closer to home is the problem of sexual violence perpetrated against Native American women, more than half of whom have experienced said violence at some point in their life. Society doesn’t usually deign to pretend to fetishize these women as some convoluted attempt to help them Instead, it just keeps shamelessly capitalizing on their culture through sexy Halloween costumes, brand logos and misguided Disney movies.

This is what our white, capitalist society does when it isn’t being pressured to repackage its prejudices. When stripped of all woke window dressing, it becomes clear that fetishization is, at its core, dehumanizing and exploitative to a dangerous degree.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

About Author

Rachel Card

Rachel Card

Rachel Card is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in sociology. She was born in Austin, Texas, and is currently quarantining there with her family and three dogs.

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