I have become anti-romance because I cannot be invested in romantic love, because this investment is dangerous for my mental health. It is perpetual and intimate exposure to the interlocking systems of white supremacy, fat hatred, cissexism and more. Under these systems, my body can’t be neutral, or erotic, or desired without being fetishized beyond context and recognition. Further, my body is invisible in the alternate visions being created by those who wish to dismantle these systems, who are perhaps more invested in them than they/we/I want to admit or recognize.
Romantic love, as we understand it, is a colonial construct. It is an all-consuming, possessive, lifelong, monogamous endeavor that works to sustain capitalism and white supremacist heteropatriarchy via the nuclear family. We are told that this romantic love is essential, shaping it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Were we to sustain ourselves on self-love, platonic love, and love of community, what could change? We could see the beauty of our interdependence, rather than individuals competing for higher wages and standards of living at the expense of each other. The formation of families, rather than communities, creates hierarchies of which people are worthy and deserving of our attention, protection and devotion. With a restructuring of romantic love as comparable to community/platonic/self-love, we begin to prioritize the care and livelihood of entire larger groups of people as equally important as our romantic partner/s.
In her piece “Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability,” Mia Mingus pushes us to transcend a beauty binary and move towards what she calls magnificence, an embracement of the Ugly and the diversity of the body—of every body. Mingus frames beauty as an inherently exclusionary construction that erases people of color, trans and gender non-conforming folks, and disabled folks, specifically. With this in mind, I am still working through what it means to be ugly and be beautiful, and better understand my investment in beauty. If being “not beautiful” means not being or feeling “love-worthy” and if “love-worthy” means humanity, what does it mean for those of us who are not beautiful? What does love-worthy mean under a colonial construction of love and beauty founded on white supremacy and colonialism? Under these systems, is reclaiming beauty radical or assimilationist? Does it mean something different for my fat, brown, queer, femme, body than it does for others? Who decides? And who are the ugly we are leaving behind?
This is powerful.