Resistance is a space in your body
The week that Trump became President-Elect, I noticed a painful growth in my left breast.
On November 9th, I sat in a car with three women. We lamented about how our bodies ached, and we listened to Secretary Clinton’s remarks, and we sobbed.
That night I wandered into the Red Rock desert and texted a boy who had made me feel beautiful once (because it was clear on that day that it was men and not me who could authoritatively represent my body). I dragged my feet in the rust-colored sand and idly played with my breast and wondered whether to tell him I thought I had cancer. Instead, I called G. and cried to her on the phone and she told me stories of all of the other female bodies she had heard of reacting viscerally to the tragedy of Trump: vaginal rashes and inexplicable sores and UTIs.
That week, our female bodies became the first things to revolt.
There is a substantial amount of philosophical conjuring about the body: the body in the street can exist as an act of resistance, a symbol of oppression, a call to arms. The body looked at is a transference of power: to see a body is to make it an object. The body politic is the recognition of the power of human flesh: or, for Foucault, a recognition of the power that is imposed upon it.
The phrase he actually uses is bio-power, and he uses it to refer to the ways that the modern state has turned the citizen’s body into a stage, upon which power could perform and play and subjugate. It describes the method of disciplining the body for the sake of control. In his words: “I mean a number of phenomena that seem to me to be quite significant, namely, the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy, of a general strategy of power,” (Security, Territory, Population p.1 (2007)).
For a human body to be a political subject, it must be seen, categorized, book-kept, recorded, surveilled, and placed in a hierarchy. Like how the women in Texas must bury or cremate miscarried or aborted fetal tissue; like how policy dictates that child-rapists in Bangladesh are forgiven their crimes if they marry their victims; like how black bodies are murdered at a more efficient rate today than when lynching was explicitly legal; like how Americans openly describe the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as the least bloody wars the USA has faught despite the immense amount of brown bodies indiscriminatley disposed of: we see that the human body is the arena in which political battles are faught in this century.
And so for feminist resistance to be successful today, for the next four years but also in this century, it must stem from the body. In a 1984 interview, Foucault said “Resistance was conceptualized only in terms of negation. Nevertheless, as you see it, resistance is not solely a negation but a creative process. To create and recreate, to transform the situation, to participate actively in the process, that is to resist.”
This means that successful resistance will take the form of creating organizations that restore dignity to colored bodies, disabled bodies, female bodies, nonbinary bodies, injured bodies, etc. And it means vigilantly, tenderly loving and listening to your own: and to bring the revolt that manifests in your flesh into your consciousness, into your actions, and into your streets.