Footballers’ knees and lunch lady arms: On naming body parts as problems and selling cures

Philosopher Kate Manne, in On Bodily Non-Problems with a Name, offers a feminist analysis of the names that are given to unruly body parts.

Manne writes, “How often do we name bodily non-problems—states of the body that are entirely benign, painless, and have no discernible import for anyone, in being a purely aesthetic variant? For just about every body part, head to toe, I could think of such a label: widow’s peakeye bagscrow’s feetgeographic tongue; turkey neckside boobuniboob; skin tags; FUPAstrawberry legscankles. And so on.

And who does this labeling and naming serve, in the long term? My hunch is: nobody, save for capitalism.”

I enjoyed Manne’s piece and recommend you go have a read. Over the years I’ve been writing about these names and wishing the naming trend would come to an end.

Photo by
Amine Mohammed Layati

Possibly my first blog post of this form talked about camel toe. Camel toe puzzled me as a thing to be worried about.

From that post, “Partly I think it’s connected to nervousness about weight and disgust about fat. (Chubby there is bad because chubby everywhere is bad, now your labia can be too fat along with everything else.)

Partly it’s because there should be no reminders that women’s bodies are at all sexual. No visible labia goes along with no visible nipples. (Read about nipple phobia here.)

And of course it’s about selling us things. Create a problem, some new body insecurity and then market a solution.

This makes the most sense to me since I didn’t know what camel toe was until Lululemon came along with the solution. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. Like the visible panty lines of my youth (pre thong, I bought special underwear designed to minimize VPL about which I only became aware after an ad campaign for said underwear mentioned the problem) and visible nipples now (saw special bandaid like stickers in a store just today, to wear on your nipples, under clothing and to avoid visible nipples), it’s one more thing women have to check on the way out the door. Body policing and the internalized panopticon continues.”

But camel toe was just the start.

Here’s more:

Cankles, more broken body parts you can feel bad about, or please let’s just stop

Bingo wings and dinner plate arms: Let’s put our wit to work elsewhere

Let’s label all the body bits and have fun with it!

Violin hips and arm pit vaginas, oh my

Flying bat
Photo by  Sudha Surendran  on  Scopio

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