Moving Toward The Ugly
November 11, 2019 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Why Ugliness Is Vital in the Age of Social Media A wide ranging interview between ALOK and writer and disability justice organizer Mia Mingus touching on desirability in queer spaces, how abilism shapes our relationship to ourselves, and how disability and interdependence offer us spaces for tenderness and intimacy. "I think we literally get taught that you are only worthy if you’re beautiful; that there are no other pathways to worth besides desirability. This is where magnificence comes in to me. That feels like — I needed a word other than "beautiful." Magnificence comes out of our struggle. Give yourself permission and cultivate it and embrace it, rather than always literally wearing the mask." Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability

"ALOK: So much of the fear of “ugliness” is rooted in racism, gender binarism, and ableism. They’re afraid that if they look like us no one will desire them. But what I’ve learned is that oppressed peoples are able to build other forms of intimacy that are perhaps more robust. What does intimacy mean to you and how is it related to beauty?

Mingus: Ugliness is a pathway to intimacy. You can’t have intimacy without trust, and you can’t have trust without vulnerability. In order to be vulnerable, you have to reveal parts of yourself that are dismissed as capital-U Ugly. There’s also this piece around disability — the interdependence of disability is inescapable. I feel like access is not a burden, it’s an amazing opportunity to be generative, to deepen community, relationships, everything.

When I think about intimacy and its connections to beauty, I feel like it’s more connected to ugliness than beauty. I think the only way that we can build intimacy is through ugliness. For example, there is something very magnificent about how disabled people build access to intimacy — that kind of intimacy that comes with not being afraid to state your access needs. Not beauty, but the magnificence or the learned experiences that ugliness teaches you on how to survive. People see this as an extremist thing, but what I’m saying is that it’s been a way in my life to not let go of people, and to live in that interdependence that doesn’t always feel revolutionary and good. Sometimes it fucking sucks — sometimes you just want to be able to take a walk by yourself. Sometimes it sucks to have to depend on someone to help you take a walk by yourself.

There are times when it’s incredibly hard. I’ve learned and we have all learned so many different pieces of how to survive, how to be and thrive within our lived experiences. The alternative is to pretend it away, but I also think there is something with disability that doesn’t allow you to turn away. You could try to pretend it away even though your reality is not such. But there’s a concreteness to me about disability that doesn’t allow you to pretend it away.

Shitty things happen. Ugliness is all around us all the time. Sometimes shit is not beautiful and that’s okay, that’s actually more generative, there is a depth to that. If I was able-bodied and I didn’t fall all the time, I would never know that experience and that depth. There have been so many amazing strangers who have helped me pick up all of my things from the sidewalk, from the floor, helped me get some ice. All of these pieces of everyday life are so connected to those moments of intimacy. There’s something in that."
posted by stoneweaver (12 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Previously: How do I become Ugly?
posted by stoneweaver at 10:22 PM on November 11, 2019

I don't know if a person is beautiful until after we have a conversation.
Dau Voire
posted by robbyrobs at 10:41 PM on November 11, 2019 [14 favorites]

So many feels. What a great article. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by kanata at 11:51 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think that people shy away from ugliness because they also associate it with complications. Something/someone is either pretty/cute or "alot... phew". I'm guilty of this too as well as I think someone who's been a victim of it.
Totally agree that ugliness is required for intimacy, bc intimacy requires the truth and the truth isn't always pretty.
posted by bleep at 12:28 AM on November 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

That was inspired. Thank you for posting.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:11 AM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

We fear the ugly. So, we can’t actually face things like the migrant kids in detention. We can’t actually be with it in a way that allows us to address it. I think about the ways that we normalize violence and genocide. We see violence and beauty as this interpersonal thing. In reality, a lot of our policies come from whether people think folks are valuable — and that comes from whether or not we think people are beautiful.

This is so interesting. It made me think about beauty — that is, the experience of observing beauty — as an orienting response. In this way of thinking, the beautiful is what makes us want to look at it more; whereas the ugly may actually be the thing that needs our attention most. Thanks for posting.

I remember a Twitter conversation several years ago with someone about the cost of beauty. I tried to make the case that frumpiness is actually a live option consistent with a happy life (case in point: me), but I was not successful. I think sometimes we confuse “doing x unusual thing has nonzero costs” with “doing x unusual thing is impossible” and I think that is to our detriment. Especially when, let’s be real, frumpiness is all around us!
posted by eirias at 5:14 AM on November 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

I really like the bit about "magnificence" and am going to be thinking about that for a while. Thanks for posting this!
posted by Foosnark at 6:33 AM on November 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

These are some interesting thoughts and I will have to sit with them for a long time. Thank you for sharing!
posted by sperose at 7:54 AM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I thought this part was so important: "Don’t engage with disability justice and knowledge it as just an intellectual exercise without also engaging in the lived reality of it. That could be engaging with yourself around your own compulsory ableism — the way you don’t allow yourself to rest when you’re tired. That’s part of how ableism continues."

I've only recently started to allow myself to rest when I'm tired or sick. Like yes I want to come party on Saturday night but I also want to get over this flu so I'm going to stay home (and many less trivial examples). Now that I do it, it's hard to understand why (or how?) I pushed myself so hard to keep working or to do things through illness. This is helping me to unpack part of the reason why.
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 2:24 PM on November 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

Not to be that person (you know, Captain Derailment as always), but did you have to use an octopus of all things as your ugliness mascot?

Because let's be honest here: octopi are anything but ugly. Have you ever been to an aquarium? I mean, they're gorgeous and elegant in a unique movements way, like a muse for modern dance.
posted by Delia at 3:28 PM on November 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

[I think this was posted on Metafilter before?]
posted by erattacorrige at 4:37 AM on November 13, 2019

« Older Now you are perfect.   |   Getting The Dynasty We Deserve Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments