I actually googled the phrase "colonization cleanse" to see if anyone else had thought up this totally crude pun. I even looked up "colon(ization) clease." Yeah. No results I could find. I was literally shocked. It has come to my attention that I am bombarded by images and experiences that normalize and aggrandize a colonized existence. These things include (but are not limited to): the gender binary, institutionalized female/femme inferiority, the fetishization of white, thin, and able bodies, compulsory heterosexuality, and monogamy. These are things that my friends are not. These are things that I am not. And yet these are things that are so deeply embedded in our culture's fingerprint that they can be described as part of the air we breathe. And it's the nagging desire to hold onto or pursue privileges that prevent us from experiencing liberation, joy, connection and love. At a recent lecture I gave I talked about the dangers of not at least seeming like you're trying to gain or maintain privilege: you become a target because what hold can a culture have on someone who doesn't want to buy what it's selling? You become a renegade. As Judith Butler has pointed out, society is most vulnerable at its margins and those margins are heavily surveilled. I think many people I know - including myself - struggle with internalized colonialism: a deep sense that there is something wrong. Rather than locate that wrongness outside of ourselves, we believe it resides within us. In response to this feeling, which I carry inside me too, I've decided to commit to a 30-day colonization cleanse. The agreement I've made with myself goes like this: no fashion or celeb mags, limit films, books and articles that do not feature and center people of color, fat, queer, non-monogamous and other non-normative experiences, watch lots of people of color and fat people in porn, focus on my family, honor the relationships I'm in enough to really commit to them (even though it's scary). This is what my colonization cleanse looks like. If you can, I encourage you to try your own version and report back. My results are forthcoming.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.