Who is body positivity for?

The body positivity movement has seen a lot of change over the years. The question remains as to who are its rightful stakeholders

On March 21, 2015, celebrity event planner turned author and influencer Rachel Hollis made waves in the mom-blogosphere when she posted a photo of herself on a Cancun beach sporting her post-pregnancy stomach. In the photo, Hollis smiles, leaning forward, as her stomach forms small wrinkles on her otherwise small frame. In her caption, she writes, “My belly button is saggy… (which is something I didn’t even know was possible before!!) and I wear a bikini. I wear a bikini because I’m proud of this body and every mark on it. […] Flaunt that body with pride!”

Four rows down on her profile, in March of 2015, Hollis posted a photo of a cake celebrating her accomplishment of competing in the Los Angeles Marathon, writing “Thank goodness calories don’t count on marathon day!!”

So, you should flaunt your post-pregnancy body because you deserve to, but calories from cake should be a concern? Something’s not adding up.

This is not an attempt to single out Rachel Hollis (though she has had her fair share of controversies in the past). Her co-opting of body positivity in the service of a less-than-ideal relationship with food is part of a much larger trend.

Recently, there has been some high-profile backlash against the body positivity movement, with celebrities such as Lizzo suggesting that it has lost its focus on liberation. As the singer explains in an impassioned TikTok video, “Now that body positivity has been co-opted by all bodies, and people are finally celebrating medium and small girls and people who occasionally get rolls, fat people are still getting the short end of this movement.”

Indeed, what we now call “body positivity” grew out of the Fat Liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. In those days, the aims of the movement were primarily to fight for the civil rights of fat individuals in healthcare and the workplace, as well as confronting the diet industry. This work continued through the decades and, as fat acceptance activist Stephanie Yeboah explained to Refinery29, in the late 2000s, the work moved online, as primarily fat, Black women shared their experiences with anti-fat bias and weight discrimination across social media groups and blogs. Around 2012, however, the movement exploded as people of all body types, including thinner creators, started claiming “body positivity.”

Now, on the one hand, this is a great thing. Arguably, any movement that helps normalize different body types and gets people talking candidly about their tumultuous relationships with their body image is a net positive for turning the tides of weight stigma.

As Dr. Sarah Nutter, Assistant Professor of counselling psychology and researcher of weight-related issues at the University of Victoria points out, weight stigma relies on what is called “healthy weight discourse.” This is the common conception that weight and health are inextricably linked, where a lower weight means a healthier body, and one can always achieve this through modifying their diet and/or lifestyle.

Dr. Nutter explained, “Inherent in ‘healthy weight discourse’ is this idea that weight is an individual and moral responsibility, and I think it’s that emotional aspect of morality that is really implicated in weight stigma and the way that people can respond to the body positivity movement.”

This notion is seen most strikingly in healthcare. Aubrey Gorden, a writer and podcaster who used to publish under the pseudonym “Your Fat Friend” until last year, discusses her experiences with medical weight stigma for Health Magazine. She explains that due to her size alone she does not receive the same quality of healthcare given to her skinnier friends. In the article, she describes the common occurrence of doctors not ordering necessary diagnostic tests, instead prescribing weight loss for any ailment under the sun (including, astonishingly, an ear infection).

Gorden writes, “I wondered how thin I would need to become in order to earn the kind of health care my thin friends got — a privilege that increasingly seemed reserved for those already perceived as healthy.”

Gorden believes, however, that despite good intentions, body positivity cannot solve this fundamental inequality deeply rooted in the healthcare system. She writes, “No matter how much we love our bodies, those of us living on the margins can’t love our way to good health.”

Though body positivity alone is never going to tear down the preconceptions keeping fat people ostracized, there is a real need for a movement that makes people in marginalized bodies (whether fat, queer, disabled, or otherwise) feel good about themselves in a world that wants them to be ashamed.

“To be able to curate a life […] that isn’t weight stigmatizing is really difficult,” explained Dr. Nutter. “For the health of everybody across the weight spectrum, getting rid of weight stigma is a really great idea.”

Zachary Fortier, a first year journalism and political science student, explained that while he finds a lot of issues with the current commodification of the body positive movement, there is still a necessity to promote fat acceptance.

“As a non-binary person assigned male at birth, my relationship with my body has been complicated,” explained Fortier. “Fatness and the celebration of bodies we’ve been told are ugly beyond repair is what fat acceptance is all about. Your body cannot be ‘beyond repair,’ what needs repairing is the jumble of harmful constructs that make up beauty.”

So, how can body positivity move to help uplift fat individuals, and not reproduce society’s focus on thinner bodies?

All sources point back to making sure body positivity retains its origins in fat liberation. While all people can feel bad in their bodies, it is important to acknowledge which bodies in society are the most marginalized, and fight the structures that keep them that way.

As Dr. Nutter explained, “Body positivity should be about accepting all bodies regardless of weight, size, or what bodies look like, and that all bodies have inherent worth and all bodies are beautiful. If that is truly the message, then that should be reflected in the [social media and publicized] imagery and whose voice is heard.”

 

Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

What’s the Consensus: Should Concordia have made vaccines mandatory for in-person learning?

How do we feel about schools mandating COVID vaccines?

When vaccine passports came into effect in Quebec on Sept.1, a place that was notably missing from the list of locations where vaccine passports would be required was the post-secondary classroom. Understandably, educational institutions are not considered a non-essential service, distinguishing them from the locations where vaccine passports are required upon entry, such as restaurants and fitness centres. At the same time, we students know (boy, do we ever know) all too well that virtual learning — despite its challenges — is possible… so, should those who are unable or unwilling to get vaccinated against COVID-19 be required to learn from home?

It’s important to note that Concordia is following the lead of Quebec health directives, which indicated that vaccination was not necessary to attend classes in-person. In Ontario, however, where vaccine passports were more recently put in place, some universities, such as the University of Ottawa, have independently made vaccine passports mandatory for in-person learning — regardless of their provincial recommendations.

On Sept. 23, Concordia sent an email to all students, informing us that there have been 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by people who “may have been” on campus while they were contagious. As unsettling as that is, there’s no way of knowing whether those potentially contagious students were vaccinated against COVID-19 or not; while most Quebecers are now fully vaccinated, there’s no data on how many Concordians have gotten one or both doses of the vaccine.

So, Concordians, here’s what I’d like to know: do you wish that Concordia had made vaccine passports mandatory for attending classes in-person? Would the reassurance that your classmates are fully vaccinated make your learning experience a more comfortable one? Or, do you think that it isn’t a university’s place to mandate vaccinations?

What’s the Consensus?

 

Click here to cast your vote:

https://the-city-concordia-u.involve.me/new-project-09ac-copy

 

The results from each poll will be published in the following edition of this column.

Last week I asked readers if they think it’s okay to travel for leisure during the pandemic. Out of 20 submissions, 65% said yes and 35% said no.

 

Feature Graphic by James Fay

Categories
Arts

Decrypting crypto art: The new art movement on the block(chain)

How lucrative the rare pepe-making market is becoming

In November 2017, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi was sold at Christie’s, the biggest auction house in the world, for US$450.3 million. In October 2020, Satoshi Nakamoto’s Block 21 was sold at Christie’s for $131,250.

The former is the most expensive piece of art in the world. The second is the first piece of crypto art to ever be sold at a major auction house.

Cryptocurrencies have been having their moment for a while, with the 2018 Bitcoin mania (which, by the way, was created by the person under the alias of  Satoshi Nakamoto) and the recent rumours that it could replace paper money once central banks inevitably crash due to the pandemic. And because, of course, it wouldn’t be the internet without the idiosyncratic evolution of an underground subculture, there’s now also an increasing presence of crypto art in the crypto community.

I hear you asking: “What the hell is crypto art?”

Crypto art is a new movement that allows people to create digital art while guaranteeing official ownership of the piece with what crypto fiends call an NFT.

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, which means something that is certified unique; it’s irreplaceable, which gives it a certain amount of intrinsic value. Since most online art can be replicated à volonté by just about anyone, making a piece of digital art an NFT, where the copyrights and ownership details would be stored on a cryptocurrency’s blockchain, would give it the same amount of rarity as a physical piece of art like da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi.

The art can still be replicated, but only the person who has the token — the artist’s cyber signature on the piece, essentially — really owns it.

NFTs can have many forms. They can be specific pieces of artwork just like they can be collectible characters and games, like CryptoPunks — a bunch of punk characters that you can buy using Ether, a cryptocurrency— and CryptoKitties, which is kind of like Nintendogs, but with a digital cat that has a unique NFT genetic code and that you can breed with other cats to make another unique kitty.

Another use for crypto art is what is called cold storage: some crypto art pieces are available as physical prints that feature a QR code, which Bitcoin users can then use to store their Bitcoin outside their crypto wallet. Since they’re transferring funds onto a physical, two-dimensional object — which therefore can’t be hacked into — the art print then acts like a safety deposit box at a bank.

For the most part, crypto artworks can run anywhere from $50 to $500,000. But it’s difficult to follow the value of these pieces because the value of cryptocurrencies changes so much, and there are so many sources claiming different values for the most expensive pieces of crypto art.

So far, a crypto photo of a rose, sold for $1 million, is said to be the most expensive piece of crypto art out there. As a fast-paced business, it’s estimated the crypto art market is worth well over $128 million, and it expanded by $8.2 million in December 2020 alone.

Some are seeing this as a counterculture movement against the traditional art world, which has come to embody elitism and luxury. Where museums, art buyers, and the like are deciding which types of art and which artists will be put under the spotlight, the internet is able to democratize the industry and give small artists the support and recognition they deserve. The web is also home to a wealth of different styles and themes of art.

Now crypto art is all fun and games, but this is the internet we’re talking about, and on the internet people just have to make things weird. Enter the Rare Pepe Directory.

The Directory is a panel of “experts” who work to verify and approve user-submitted Rare Pepe artworks (which act and look similar to trading cards). They have a list of specific criteria to consider any submission, like dimension specifications and how many shares it must have had, to confirm the Pepe before their eyes is indeed rare. If approved, the new Pepe can then be bought and traded as an NFT.

As far as I know, there aren’t really any practical uses to crypto art. But the concept has been questioned by many as just another way for internet users to launder money more effectively. After all, the world of fine art is already used as a way to clean dirty money and tax evade through under-the-table payments and over appraisals; creating an art industry based on decentralized, anonymous payments seems like an obvious next step for the elite of the blockchain.

The rise in popularity and value of intangible art starts an important conversation about the reasons why we care about art in the first place. Salvator Mundi’s exorbitant price denotes the scarcity of original Leonardo da Vinci pieces, but what difference does it make when it’s possible to scrutinize the piece and enjoy it just as much as a JPEG file? Are we about to see higher and higher price records from digital pieces?

Most importantly, crypto art, as a prediction of what the future of art looks like, is an indicator that the barriers of entry to the art world have reached a tipping point. Just as we’re seeing in the rest of the digital world, the 99 per cent is taking art back from those who have capitalized on its captivity.

 

Photo collage by Kit Mergaert

Categories
Music

The radio sucks – and, it’s your fault!

Mainstream radio has changed with the new millenium, but there may be hope for music yet

Once upon a time, the radio was the deity of all public services. Sweet sounding tunes were mobilized into portable stereos through the revolutionary discovery of wireless connection. It was the greatest thing that could have happened to the progressive movement of music at the time. From barbershops to hair salons, music aficionados were gathered across state boundaries with a communal love for celebrating big moments in music. For decades, those who did not have access to vinyl, CDs or cassettes, the gift of “free” music was as good as it got. To your parents, the term “radio” evokes a nostalgia-fueled trip down memory lane to the “good old days.” Evenings spent glued to a set, case in hand, waiting for the right moment to rip the next track on a fresh tape. Oh! The glory that came from executing a playlist with a perfectly timed flip side. Quite simply, it was groundbreaking.

Flash forward a couple decades, to the present day. Who even listens to the radio? We’re talking traditional, FM/AM fine-tuned stations separated by disturbingly loud hissing sounds of white noise. Unless you are one of those blessed students who happens to have a car, or takes the occasional (awkward) rideshare, you can probably relate. The mainstream radio is dead and has been since the 2000s, as we have ceded our ears to the dreaded Billboard’s hot 100. Not to throw any shade to mainstream enthusiasts but, quite frankly, no one needs to hear Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” 12 times a day, perhaps not even once a day, or ever. Yes, there are different channels which you can get your music from, but they all share the same infuriating traits. They are as follows:

1.      Play only extremely popular synthetic tracks that appeal to everyone and their mother.

2.      Play them again, and again, and again.

3.      Insert completely unrelated dialogue about rumours surrounding controversial artist.

4.      Repeat.

This pattern has time and time again been a hot conversation topic for many modern day musical philosophers: “why don’t they just play good music that we like?” And to that, the only answer provided is that, as long as there are people who will listen to the top 100, there will be people who play it. However, there is hope for wireless music! With the glorious invention of the Internet, iPods and MP3s, selection has become the birthright of every music buff. The increasing speed of uploads and downloads in recent years has opened up a virtual paradigm of musical bliss. Here, selectivity is highly praised, and exploration is encouraged. From Soundcloud and 8tracks, to Spotify and the many dark holes of YouTube, music that pleases your strange palate is readily available at the click of a button. Trust, in a couple of years, the radio will be so far removed from today’s state that it will be as obsolete as Katy Perry’s last single.

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