It is not the same to go to the beach being fat or without shaving: the aesthetic violence that the new Equality campaign makes visible
It is not the same to go to the beach being a thin woman than being fat, nor is it the same to have a body with two breasts than having undergone a mastectomy of one of them, nor is it the same to be a woman who goes with hair on her legs or armpits to go shaved. It shouldn't matter, but still a canon of beauty unattainable for the majority validates the bodies that reproduce it and excludes those that distance themselves from it. It is what has been popularized as aesthetic violence, a reality that this summer has wanted to make visible a new campaign of the Ministry of Equality that has sparked controversy on social networks.
The poster, designed by Raccoon Art, shows five women enjoying a day at the beach. With stretch marks, without waxing, with only one breast, with cellulite, fat... And under the motto "Summer is also ours". The objective is "to claim bodily diversity and the right of all to enjoy public space" and arises as a response "to fatphobia and the questioning of non-regulatory bodies, particularly those of women", which "increase" in summer , points out the Women's Institute, promoter of the project.
The campaign has unleashed a wave of criticism (almost a norm with most of the initiatives that come from Minister Irene Montero). In this case, they trivialize and ridicule the message, with comments that accuse him of "creating a problem where it does not exist" or point out that non-normative women already go to the beach "and nothing has ever happened" while many ironically thank the minister.
It is even repeated that it has cost 84,500 euros, but the figure refers to the only annual institutional campaign with insertion in the media that the Institute will have, which will deal with beauty stereotypes next autumn. This, however, has cost 4,990 euros, as specified by the Ministry.
"Of course there is a problem, what happens is that it has been silenced for a long time. There is a problem in this society with women's bodies and their physical appearance, related to the requirement to enter into a specific standard regarding weight, skin, hair, age... In fact, there is a problem if people really believe that there is not and realize how we have normalized aesthetic violence and fatphobia towards women. The only new thing is that we are talking about it and denouncing it," says the equality agent and founder of the Stop Gordofobia platform, Magdalena Piñeyro.
In fact, there are few cultural and social representations that show diverse bodies. It is not easy to find women with mastectomies, fat or without hair. The last time was last May, with an advertisement for bikinis from the Roxy company that showed several women in swimsuits of different sizes and body shapes. The advertisement went viral and the company was accused of "advocating obesity", something that has been repeated with the Equality campaign. "We are not seeking to impose a body, which is precisely what the fat-phobic society does with thin bodies; we are not talking about imposing a model, but that there is none, that all bodies have the right to live in peace, to take care of ourselves and exist," replies the activist.
The term aesthetic violence, popularized in recent years, was coined in 2012 by sociologist Esther Pineda and refers to "the set of narratives, representations, practices and institutions that exert harmful pressure and discrimination" towards people, especially women, " to respond to the prevailing canon of beauty", explains Pineda in conversation with elDiario.es. This aesthetic pattern "demands femininity, whiteness, youth and thinness" and those who do not respond to it "are exposed to criticism, disqualification, ridicule, ridicule, humiliation or exclusion," adds the author of Bellas para muerte. Gender stereotypes and aesthetic violence against women.
The research that makes this issue visible is still incipient and there is hardly any data, but it is an experience shared by the vast majority of women. "Men also suffer from it, but it is more common in us because the pressure we have received historically is greater.
The ideal is to be thin, not have wrinkles or gray hair, cellulite or stretch marks, not have hair... And it is transmitted through different messages on a daily basis, we find it everywhere, from advertising to social networks or the media ", points out Noemí Conde, psychologist of the Desnúdate team. Body Self-esteem, specialized in accompanying people in conflict with their body.
The point is that the imposition of that ideal of beauty has as one of its most tangible effects that those who do not enter it seek to do so. As Pineda details in her book Aesthetic violence: a new form of violence against women, the 'perfect' bodies that must be achieved "are nothing more than fictitious, unreal bodies, conceived as ideal" while "the physical particularities of women are called 'imperfections' called to be intervened and suppressed, or in the least, corrected ".
Although aesthetic violence affects all women, it does not impact all equally. "The closer you are to that canon, the less you expose yourself, but the further you move away, that violence increases," illustrates Conde. This makes many women who are not thin feel ashamed or afraid to show their body and summer becomes a feared moment.
"Dressed you can 'disguise' what society should hide, but in a bikini we feel that we show how far we are from the stereotype. There are women who have a really bad time and with therapy we try to make them, at least, feel worthy of going to the beach", adds the psychologist.
It is something that fat people live in their own skin, which as described by the World Health Organization are often "stigmatized" and "suffer bias, prejudice and social discrimination." In this sense, Piñeyro differentiates "fat phobia", which he defines as a system of discrimination against fat people, from aesthetic violence, which mainly affects women. "The two intersect and make us fat women face double violence," he says.
The pressure to change and hide their own body usually accompanies them practically since they are children and adolescents and the effects on their mental health are seen by Conde daily in consultation. Self-limitation in everyday life is perhaps one of the most palpable consequences: "More and more spheres of life are closing to the point of stopping going to eat with friends, to dance, to the beach ...", she details. Hence, the message of the Equality campaign emphasizing that going to the latter is a right of all takes on special relevance.
"We fat people feel watched in these spaces and we feel that they are not places for us because we have been educated all our lives to cover our bodies. There are fat people who in summer don't even dare to wear a tank top or shorts, much less are they going to dare to put on a bikini and go to the beach. Our relationship with the beach or the pool is quite painful and sometimes non-existent, "illustrates Piñeyro.
For this reason, one of the ways to combat aesthetic violence is precisely to promote narratives, discourses and images that promote and represent bodily diversity. It is something that the Canarian Institute for Equality has been doing for some time, which has just held the third conference on fatphobia and, with the arrival of summer, has launched a "decalogue for diverse bodies" with a message that reproduces the campaign of Equality celebrated by experts and activists. Even so, unlike those who have criticized it, they claim that the controversial poster is only the first step.