Bragging about not bathing your children is a blatant act of white privilege


Over the past two weeks, celebrities such as Kristen bell and Ashton kutcher boasted that they did not feel the need to bathe or bathe their children unless they were visibly dirty or smelly. Jake Gyllenhaal also added: “More and more I find that bathing is less and less necessary sometimes… I also think that there is a whole world of not bathing which is also really useful for the skin care, and we cleanse ourselves naturally. “

Do not mistake yourself ; they are all right. Most health experts will tell you that you don’t really need to shower every day because, in simple terms, excessive cleaning – especially with soap – can cause dry out your skin and stop the good bacteria and natural oils in your body from doing their job. So there really is no problem with their choice to bathe less frequently. The problem is how these rich white people decided to talk about this “cool thing” they are doing.

Even though some of us wanted to be part of the “movement” without swimming, we still live in a world where only whites can get away with this rather lax approach to personal hygiene. Some awakened whites recognize it; in fact, journalist and physician James Hamblin, who wrote a whole book on the science of how we over-clean, mentions that he would have a different battle to fight if he wasn’t a white man who suddenly decided to go for a walk without swimming.

To that end, this unsolicited hygiene advice is quite infuriating because we as people of color do not have the opportunity to be even a little scented without suffering the racist repercussions.

Racism in the West, in large part, has always been rooted in the fear of disease and contamination strangers. For many immigrants and black Americans, “being clean” goes much further than having no body odor – it has to do with notions of respectability, assimilation, and acceptance. All the things white people get automatically, even if they literally just drove on a subway platform (I have, as a side note, separate pairs of “subway pants” and “house pants”).

To understand why people of color have historically been considered “dirty,” let’s examine the ubiquitous link between whiteness and cleanliness, okay?

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In Christianity, the color white is associate with notions of moral purity. To demonstrate both their spiritual and physical cleanliness, upper-class Europeans began to wear white underwear. Eventually, the association between whiteness and wealth, civility and good health stuck and was exported to other parts of the world, as Dana Berthold explains. in his manifesto on the subject. All of this only scratches the surface of a profound rejection of “outsiders”.

And you can’t have the concept of cleanliness without its counterpart: dirt. The obsession with getting rid of “impurities” was in full swing when Europeans colonized the rest of the world. The notions of “clean” and “dirty” came to encompass genetic and cultural impurity as well, and colonized people were often describe like dirty or sick.

The default association between cleanliness and whiteness runs so deep that anything that deviated from Europe’s patriarchal and heteronormative values ​​was automatically dismissed and considered repugnant. As early as the 17th century, for example, the Portuguese missionary Galeote Pereira visited China and lamented that the Chinese had unsavory homosexual relations and need to be evangelized, according to an article in Journal of historical sociolinguistics.

The Nazis regarded the Jews as contaminating “parasites” among the Aryan race who were to be erased. Segregation in Californian schools was defended because it was “dirty and infected”. And we thought the Mexicans were doing sick white students with their alleged strange foreign diseases. In each of these (largely unfounded) claims, fears of bodily and moral contamination justified subjugation.

So here we are in 2021, and anything that doesn’t fall under American white (or European white) standards is considered exotic – and uh, not in a good way. Fears at the start of the pandemic that Chinatowns might be crawling with the “Wuhan flu” to stereotypes of South Asians odour like spices, many of us have learned to be hyper-aware of how whites perceive our hygiene.

This “other” happens to black Americans, too, insidiously. Last year, an ignorant doctor commented on how COVID-19 might spread further in black communities, as they might not wash their hands as much. I am very serious. It would and luckily have been canned after that. “It’s another matter of turning away from the reality that black Americans and other minorities face additional challenges in this country that can affect their health,” said Bruce Y. Lee, in an article on the incident. “It is another matter to suggest that racism is not a major public health problem. “

Angel Betancourt, who is Puerto Rican and raised in the Bronx, vividly remembers how his white classmates told him he smelled “like the park” because he didn’t wear the same deodorants as the other students. Some even asked him if he knew how to take a shower. “The comments made me feel insecure and like I couldn’t go out or play with them because of the way I naturally sweat,” he says. “After gym class I wore more clothes to cover up any ‘smell’.”

Hemanee Sharma, an acquaintance of Indian descent, recalls white classmates approaching her and exclaiming (“eww”) that she “smelled like curry” at her Upper school. East Side. The negative reactions of other children to her scent made her embarrassed. of his heritage.

But for those of us who grew up on properly seasoned foods, having body odor was just a natural part of who we were. A little science: Consuming garlic and onions makes garlic and onions sweat. So if you can’t smell anything naturally, maybe you should take a cooking class.

Beyond the daily intimidation, notions of non-white as non-clean have real consequences in our culture. He appears when Donald Trump calls Baltimore, a predominantly black city, a “rat and rodent infested mess” or blame COVID-19 on the Chinese people, which has led to a continued increase in violent attacks.

That’s why it’s so frustrating for me – and I’m sure other people of color – when white celebrities proudly state that they choose not to shower when the rest of us is always there to try to avoid being portrayed as dirty and the carriers of disease. vectors.

Bottom Line: White celebrities can practice any type of hygiene they want, but they should be aware of their privilege and the implications of what they say in interviews. Future conversations about not showering need to be nuanced and not ignore the pain people of color have endured for being considered “hygienic.” but to stick to our daily routines.


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