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The blurry line between inclusion and tokenization

After an invitation to perform at Naked Boys Reading, artist Black Cracker questions whether an increase in visibility is a step toward equality

Black Cracker by Alexa Vachon

Oct. 31, 2017 – Recently I was asked if I would perform a “naked reading”, as in reading text out loud, unclothed, publicly. The conversation was more matter-of-fact than an actual request, generated from individuals who genuinely felt responsibility to expand the original series, Naked Boys Reading, to include a wider diversity of bodies. A valuable notion seemingly logical, but far more complex than exposed skin.

I must first say that I can be ultra-sensitive. Especially so around subjects concerning gender and sex. Finding it far too effortless for individuals to assert passive-aggressive, condescending, misinformed and assumptive ideology, with or without intent. Rhetorically distilling distinction, leading to discrimination, hierarchy, then on to misogyny, transphobia, queerphobia and/or so on. I thought to myself, “Why am I being asked only now, and not a as part of the original series?" Was this a suggestion that my body is less than, or at minimum, other?

In the end I tricked myself into believing, to relax my alarm, that the series was actually for gay boys, and for this reason only, I was not invited. But I honestly don’t know, as I have never attended. Poetry and penises sounds like a curious combination, only nothing I feel I need to see, though I respect the event, its organizers and especially the participants and their members.

Every action with every and any body in public is political. Even a lack of realization of privilege and authority is a highly political act. The notion that a form of equality can be achieved in this context by inviting all bodies is unfortunately loaded. I thought immediately about the bodies doing the inviting. I also thought this may be the idea of bodies who do not know the deeper strains of alienation, the lived experience of discomfort and the danger beyond what is considered the norm. There is so much safety in certain unclothed bodies due to sheer exposure and power structures.

To manifest equality, it is important, in the context of certain privileges, to understand that some rights can not be simply given or allowed. Some experiences must be revoked and disenfranchised to reform. For example, certain body types ought to resist the privilege of going shirtless in warm weather, at the club, in sports and in public spaces in general. In fact, laws could be created against it, because that safety is a privilege. Simply allowing other bodies to do the same, even legally, will not be normalized until so many structures in our society have been renovated, because those bodies will still be at risk. Only once it is no longer dangerous on any level for difference to be seen, celebrated or even unseen publicly and without spectacle, can we claim equality.

My nude body reciting poetry will not make the world a better place, trust me. Though one day I will gladly perform naked, ideally in a flatteringly lit porn trilogy co-starring my hot lover – for the right price, of course.

Black Cracker is an artist working with text, music and video. He produced the new Boiband album and provided vocals on the new KiKu album


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