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"Microbial Basis of Systemic Malodor and PATM Conditions (PATM)"

Dynamics of the Gut Microbiota in
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MEBO Research Clinical Trials

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NCT03582826 - Ongoing not recruiting
Microbial Basis of Systemic Malodor and PATM Conditions (PATM)
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Evaluation of Potential Screening Tools for Metabolic Body Odor and Halitosis
United Kingdom 2009 - 2012

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Taboo of Body Odor Medical Conditions and Ecological Counternarratives

a RARECONNECT TMAU forum member has had a paper about the Taboo of Body Odor published in JStor Magazine.

The full paper is $15 (author receives nothing).
A summary can be read below...

The Taboo of Body Odor Medical Conditions and Ecological Counternarratives.
Ethics and the Environment 24:1 (Spring 2019), 19-43.

Below is a brief summary of my article which was published last month:

Research on the modern norm of completely odourless bodies shows that it arose in contexts of nineteenth-century classism and imperialism. Western middle-class hygiene practices were ideologically deployed to present working classes and non-western people as dirty and inferior; companies capitalized on such stereotypes to sell hygiene products, as in the notorious “White Man’s Burden” ad for Pears’ soap (1899). While it is commonly acknowledged that olfactory discrimination in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was motivated by classism and racism, I argue that today’s individualized and supposedly meritocratic version of olfactory hatred remains oppressive. The article explores the potential of new ecological fields to challenge and undermine this bodily norm, which is unattainable for many people, and draw attention to the social exclusions which it legitimizes.

Histories of modern western hygiene practices show that advertising of products like soap and mouthwash played a major role in making consumers ashamed of previously acceptable body odor. Although the socialist tradition includes odor-phobic writers like George Orwell, anti-capitalists have also been critical of the way advertising plays on people’s fears and desires in order to maximize companies’ profit. Ecosocialism, in particular, highlights the environmental unsustainability of consumerism and urges us to stop identifying the good life with products which we do not really need. This perspective exposes how the extreme degree of body-related shame we feel today is not natural or inevitable but constantly reinforced by corporate ads.

Mainstream psychology is unlikely to challenge olfactory discrimination because it is invested in hegemonic norms such as individualism, and typically encourages people to adapt to their society’s institutions. Ecopsychology, a branch of psychology which seeks to make sense of humans’ destructive relationship with the environment, is critical of both of these positions. It presents humans’ adversarial attitude toward nature as pathological, a view which has implications for how we understand our bodies and the need to “civilize” and "control" them.

This movement argues that there is a connection between women’s oppression and abusive and unsustainable exploitation of the environment. This insight led some writers to identify a western tradition of contempt toward the body, and more specifically, toward “body people.” According to this theory, a small group of privileged, white, non-disabled men have claimed to be superior because they are supposedly less encumbered or marked by their bodies than other people, pejoratively described as “closer to nature.” Since body odor is often represented as a sign of animality or corporeal excess, the theory shows that such language is part of a broader project to discriminate against certain kinds of the embodiment; it is not inevitable or politically neutral. One ecofeminist, Richard Twine, calls for a “coalition of body people” to resist body-related oppressions.

Posthumanism, the critique of speciesism.
In recent decades there has been growing dissatisfaction with the influential idea that humans are superior to other animals. This challenge is relevant to body odor because it shows how anthropocentric norms encourage us to dissociate from our bodies instead of accepting them as part of our complexity and to create hierarchies among humans (in which people with less disciplined bodies are considered “lower” and “closer to animals”).


Comment by author ...

None of the arguments above are the kind that can be used to defend against day-to-day odor-related discrimination. People who harass members of this community --bosses, ignorant strangers-- have probably never heard of any of the writers I discuss, and are typically unwilling to critically examine their own stereotypes. So the article does not have direct practical utility.

Still, it offers a set of reasons to not internalize the hatred we often experience from others. If you’re thinking about going vegan, giving up alcohol, or using a reputable dietary supplement in hopes of reducing your body odor, that’s probably safe enough. But there are members of this community who occasionally experiment in much more drastic ways --fasting for days, self-medicating with antibiotics obtained online-- as well as considering self-harm. I hope some of the arguments above will prompt people to rethink whether it’s worth risking their lives and health just to avoid “offending” a few bigots.

LINK : Rareconnect TMAU Forum


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