REVIEW: Bodily Functions

Saturday, `12pm-1pm – The Royal Exchange

By Press Room Contributor Chloe Reeson

How gross are bodies, right? Wrong! We all got ‘em, why not talk about them? That’s what was on the agenda at the Bodily Functions panel at the RE on Saturday. Shaylee Leach, Anthony Nocera, and panel chair Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen did a terrific job of breaking down all those taboos around bodily things like fatness, queer sex, shit, discharge, wee, etc. (you know, the good stuff!).

Speaking to the singular visual representations of mainstream media, Anthony suggested that when you don’t get to see your body and the personal way it functions on screen it can be useful to write about it. You spend so much time with your body that writing about it makes living in it a lot less lonely. Body writing creates a kinship with others based on differences as well as similarities and often once a topic is written about, the stigma around it starts to disappear.

Shaylee agreed. One of her first interactions with body writing was the sealed section of Dolly Doctor, which often contained a variety of images and discussions she never otherwise got to experience. In her words, it was a veritable “catalogue of tits”. By talking about their bodies with honesty and openness, these writers don’t view themselves as being flippant or silly, they feel they are taking something silenced and making it public. They are connecting with people who have similar, unspoken bodies of their own.

An interesting point that emerged in the discussion was the intersection of queerness and body writing. There are things you have to learn about your body when queer in order to perform acts like sex. Anthony says that when you’re queer people are always asking you questions, mostly about your genitals, and steering the conversation about your body. He says that writing about his body allowed him to talk about it on his own terms. Controlling your own body talk is an important factor too when it comes to drawing the line deciding how much you expose of yourself. When you are in complete control of your writing it means you can massage your own representation in whatever way you like. This isn’t to say you need to be dishonest but rather that you can emphasize your own control.

When it comes to writing about your body through different formats, Shaylee raised an interesting distinction between traditional or online writing and writing for the stage. She said that unless you state that a character doesn’t have what would otherwise be considered a ‘normal’ body, people usually assume the character is thin. Writing for theatre is interesting because you have a good opportunity to make an audience shut up and really listen to what you have to say. The worst they can do is walk out, but most people will be too embarrassed to do that. Zines, she said, are a similar opportunity to be honest and personal are less permanent than the internet.

There was a standout, excellent dynamic between these three panellists. Giselle’s questions were always relevant, interesting, and personal and when aiming to dismantle body stigmas this was an important dynamic. The atmosphere of the room was comfortable but dynamic.

While writing about your own bodies is important in order to normalise the unseen, the panellists agreed on some excellent advice: only write for publications that you feel respect you and your body.

The panel then finished with some good old fashioned shitting stories of their own. They were brilliant but not mine to tell so if you wanted to hear them you should really have been there!