Top image: Nayely, Lauren & Serenity of Change The Talk
The terrain of the body is changing. New developments require new thinking and – in the face of muted leadership from the top – positive direction is emerging at street-level. Opening safe spaces where people are free to share their lived experiences, thoughts and opinions, these LA voices are setting the agenda by actively rewriting the terms of engagement, encouraging topics of identity, body diversity and ownership.
Writer, director and producer combining social justice and digital storytelling.
“Conversations around body diversity have had a heavy influence on my work, not because of what is said, but because of what goes unsaid, or is rarely said. As a creator and conscious consumer, I am always considering which narratives I feel are being left out of the conversation, which sub-communities are ostracised from the larger community. I think the best artists prioritise accessibility in their work and this is something I am constantly considering as I develop and distribute my work.
This commitment to approachability has often, for me, played out through dance because it is a universal language and it does not grasp a particularly formal education or an expansive lexicon to grasp what is being conveyed. It takes complex ideas and emotions and translates them through a movement, rhythm and pace that I feel generally accommodates a wide range of spectators regardless of age, socioeconomic status, or citizenship.
In many ways, dance is also an act of self-love and reclamation of one’s body. In a world where marginalised bodies are so often politicised, sexualised and policed, I approach dance and choreography as a way of bringing spectators on a journey of female empowerment, a path towards redefining one’s value and worth.”
FAYE & EDEN
Faye (right) is the founder of Junior High LA, a non-profit dedicated to showcasing the artistic pursuits of marginalised voices. Eden (left) is Junior High space manager.
Faye: “I’m tired of seeing old men make decisions about what I can or can’t do for my own health. It’s exhausting to fight for rights that I feel should be inherent, bipartisan and inalienable. Right now a lot threatens Roe v. Wade – a legislation that makes it fully legal to seek or execute an abortion. Much threatens the safety of trans, gender non-conforming and black and brown people as legislation banning discrimination is under attack. There are a lot of old ideas about gender and autonomy that still have a stronghold in today’s political sphere because of who we see as our elected officials (see: wealthy men). I’m excited for the next phase of US history where the representation we see is a reflection of the communities we are part of.”
Eden: “I feel really lucky when it comes to the sex education I received. I was always the kind of student who did extracurricular research, so when I went into my sex-ed classes I would snarkily ask my teacher if he was going to cover topics like gay sex, the difference between sex organs and gender identity, or how to care for yourself after a traumatic experience. He would take those questions seriously and talk to the whole class about them. I’ve always really appreciated that. I don’t know if he still covers those topics today, but – since I was in high school relatively recently – I did see the changing social climate positively affect classroom discussion.”
Founder of Locatora Radio, an independent multimedia production company committed to archiving and celebrating the brilliance of woman of colour.
“In 2020, conversations about bodily autonomy are more public, accessible, layered, and intersectional than ever before. The internet has a lot to do with the democratisation of dialogue around body politics. However, we still live in a global rape culture. The uterus is still heavily politicised, legislated upon, and criminalised.
Femicide is a fact of womanhood. Trans and queer folk are constantly targeted and threatened with violent political and social policing of their bodies and movement. Our borders are heavily militarised and migrant refugees are unlawfully held in for-profit detention centres. Women of colour are criminalised and imprisoned for self-defence and survival. Black folks are targeted and extrajudicially murdered by police. The greed of gentrification has rendered thousands upon thousands of people homeless and sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles. These are all attacks on human bodies.
As technology allows us access to platforms, work, exposure, digital economies, and nuanced dialogue, technology is also increasingly used for surveillance and oppression of ourselves and our bodies.”
Healing Justice community organiser working on safe nightlife spaces for BIPOC youth in LA.
“Reproductive justice is one of my main focuses as an organiser – working beyond just asking for our reproductive rights back. When I feel anxious and worried about harmful changes to reproductive laws, I try to re-centre in order to fight off resistance fatigue and recommit myself to elevating and returning to ancestral forms of reproductive health.
We should be having conversations with our abuelas, elders in our neighbourhoods, community-based educators and come to a better understanding of how to take care of ourselves and others outside of relying on the state. This is the most fruitful and restorative use of our time. Changing reproductive laws may grant us permission to seek out reproductive healthcare. I believe we need to start taking matters into our own hands and invest in mutual aid tactics so we do not need to rely on the state. We need to build up our infrastructure for grassroots rapid response to state violence and poverty.”
Stand-up comic, actor and writer.
“It’s great that everyone loves Lizzo and we’re seeing more TV shows featuring WOC (women of colour), trans, non-binary, and disabled people, but the reality is #oscarssowhite #writersroomssowhite #disabilitysowhite.
The entertainment industry does an excellent job of celebrating specific people as proof that it’s changed, it’s progressive and it’s embracing body diversity, but call me when it’s normalised and not the exception to the rule. In the meantime, I’m really loving being photographed while brazenly fat, disabled, and Afro-Latina, while styled in designer clothes with my face beat. Hey Hollywood, more of this please!”
NAYELY, LAUREN AND SERENITY
Peer educators at Change The Talk, a peer-to-peer sexual violence education initiative for Los Angeles teens.
Serenity: “The topic of consent, and all that it encompasses, is becoming more familiar to everyone. The normalcy of rape culture has begun to lose its shine, and conversations can now be had with far less fear or shame. Speaking with my peers is also very eye-opening, seeing how many people have shared a near-identical experience, but now finally feel safe to come forward about it.”
Lauren: “Previously, a big issue for me has been not feeling educated enough about a topic to speak about it in fear of being shut down for my ignorance. By being a part of Change The Talk, I feel far more comfortable speaking about sexual violence and consent because I can back up my arguments with facts, and be confident in what I am saying. There is a lot of ignorance around consent and sexual violence, and I am glad to be educated on this very important topic and to bring this education to others.”
Nayely: “Change The Talk has been an outlet where I can openly and confidently speak about the neglected issue of sexual violence, not only within my own family but within my whole community. Topics such as sexual violence are changing for our generation, as there is much more support for people who have been through similar situations. These topics are much more accessible now.”