Home The Op-Eds Your Body is Political….So Act Like It

Your Body is Political….So Act Like It

by Erika Nicole Kendall

A couple of weeks ago, I snarked about the dawning of the apocalypse that was the inauguration of that man as America’s president.

In response, a person commented on my post as a ‘reminder’ that ‘not all of your fans agree with you’ about this man preparing to destroy everything we know and take for granted in this world, as if to impart a passive warning about political commentary because I might offend the president’s supporters who also read my website.

To that, I ask: are you new here?

No, really. In the eight years I’ve been running this blog, I’ve never shied away from political commentary. I’ve never shied away from calling boneheaded things “boneheaded.” And I for damn sure have never felt like the threat of “losing ‘fans'” should be grounds for me remaining silent about what matters to me and people like me.

Be clear, this isn’t just about me. My openness about what I know and what I don’t has created and contributed to a space where my “fans” feel equally emboldened (at least, I hope) to stand up for themselves, seek out the facts, shine a light on what matters most to them, ask questions without shame, and—yes—disagree. People who can’t do that don’t last long here, regardless of whether or not they agree with me.

No one’s presence should require my silence. If anything, that’s what’s so wrong with the way we talk about politics at all. If you’ll only stick around if I keep my mouth shut, the problem isn’t the fact that I’m choosing to speak—the problem is that you’re so insecure within your own beliefs, that you can’t be in the presence of dissenting opinion. You can’t make that my responsibility by asking me to be quiet.

I am not quiet in talking about food stamps. I’ve never been silent in talking about poverty. I’ve never been silent in talking about women’s issues.

I think nothing of talking about race. I don’t bristle in the presence of a hijab or a sari or a turban or any other signifier of “difference.” I don’t think people should be mistreated because of their “difference.”

I told you your homophobia was a murder weapon. I told you racism is a key component in the way we talk about poverty. I’m also pretty sure I told you racism is the reason why we can’t address poverty in this country, because too many people believe people like me are inherently lazy and, therefore, undeserving of their hard-earned tax dollars.

Why the hell would it surprise anyone that I’d be concerned by… whatever the hell this is that’s happening right now?

Listen. We are all grown, but I know all too well what it’s like to not have anyone listen to you—I mean, truly drink up your words like fresh water, feel what you’re saying, and respond with empathy and understanding—and go unheard for so long, you give up even trying to speak. I understand. In some ways, in response to being repeatedly dismissed and disrespected, we silence ourselves.

But—and listen to me good—when we silence ourselves and become used to remaining silent…we get used to responding to things that matter with silence. We get used to responding with silence and, when asked about that silence, we go on the defensive with an eagerness to defend our silence. We get mad when other people refuse to stay silent.

Your body is political. Period. If it weren’t, people wouldn’t be fighting political wars over simplifying your ability to take care of it. If it weren’t, people wouldn’t be fighting political battles over making it cheaper for you to get care to stay alive. If your body wasn’t political, there wouldn’t be entire political factions formed against your ability to receive a single, sole, solitary medical procedure that is, in many instances, medically necessary to keep you alive.

If your body wasn’t political, then your government would be unified in doing what it could to make sure you could feed yourself and your children, regardless of the circumstances. If your body wasn’t political, there wouldn’t be entire movements organized to make it difficult for you to access, in many instances, what amounts to essential medications.

If your body wasn’t political, we wouldn’t be marching out in these streets protesting what amounts to the government protecting its right to brutalize you or take your life without engaging the judicial process. (Hashtag Abner Louima, hashtag Philando Castile, hashtag, hashtag, hashtag…)

If your body wasn’t political, we wouldn’t have spent the weekend watching and endless number of bodies being prevented from entering U.S. borders all because of how they pray.

Your body is political, and this is a place where we openly and honestly discuss bodies. If I remained silent on what mattered to me—regardless of whether or not we agree on the issues at hand—what am I modeling to the girls and women who read here? That, in the face of mounting opposition, it’s best to remain silent? Or to get informed, strive to make well-thought out arguments to support your beliefs, and to be willing to hear from people who think differently?

Your body is political, and your silence will not save you from the consequences of the battles being fought. You either suit up, or suffer. In silence.

You do what you want. I prefer to go out screaming.

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Lachelle Rankins February 5, 2017 - 1:56 AM

Thank you for this, everything you said is 100% correct.

Jill February 13, 2017 - 3:45 PM

Thank you for this. It’s interesting to read posts of people who say they are not engaging in political discussions. That IS engagement via silence; just as not voting is a vote. There simply is no standing on the sidelines, and how DARE someone tell you, in the forum created by you, what rules of engagement you are required to follow to avoid offending someone. Pssshhhhhht…

Mona Dagbe February 14, 2017 - 1:35 PM

Well written..Thank you!

Bianca February 15, 2017 - 4:09 PM


Regina Russell February 25, 2017 - 8:53 AM


Theresa March 7, 2017 - 10:55 AM

Yes, speak!

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