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21 Apr

Munroe Bergdorf: ‘Equality all the time wins in the

The model, creator and activist talks beauty standards, body policing, and the present media environment for the transgender community. ‘I’m massively optimistic… But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be fighting back’

From time to time a girl in the general public eye will probably be spotted with some underarm fuzz or a little bit of hair on their legs, and a barrage of hateful comments will probably be unleashed by social media and the press. From Rachel McAdams and Emily Ratajkowski to Lil Miquela, models in Nike campaigns and people just attempting to exist on the web, nobody is exempt. Not even being probably the most conventionally attractive women on the planet, or a CGI robot influencer who doesn’t exist, will prevent from the vomit emojis.

“It’s probably the most natural thing to grow hair. If people genuinely think that our natural state is well worth the vomit emoji then that claims quite a bit about how people view themselves and their natural state, which is incredibly concerning,” says Munroe Bergdorf, the newly announced ambassador for Estrid, the razor and body care company. Counter-intuitively, over the previous couple of years, it’s been razor brands which have been a few of the most boundary-pushing when it comes to representing feminine body hair within the media. Billie often showcases pubic hair and upper lip hair in its imagery, while Estrid has long featured women’s body hair in its campaigns.  

This taboo around body hair has deep roots twisted up in race (“women of certain ethnicities have more hair than others”) and the sort of beauty that’s prioritised by society (“the infantile image of a smooth woman in pornography”), Bergdorf says. In Estrid’s latest campaign, For Human Beauty, she stars alongside a solid including Florence H-Q and Sophia Hadjipanteli to represent and have fun the variety of body and facial hair, in addition to the expansiveness of gender expression. 

Dazed spoke to Bergdorf in regards to the campaign, the general public obsession with celebrities’ bodies and the present media environment for the transgender community.

How necessary do you’re thinking that campaigns like this, that commemorate inclusive beauty and all genders, are? Do you’re thinking that it makes a difference?

Munroe Bergdorf: It definitely makes a giant difference. I grew up in a time when the sweetness industry was very much geared towards encouraging everyone to strive to be something that they might never be. So it was a never-ending quest for what was essentially a really narrow idea of beauty, normally cisgender, straight, white, thin, conventionally western beauty standards. 

And now we’re seeing rather more gender variance; rather more racial diversity; rather more sexual expression; rather more beauty in all types of shapes, sizes and shades. That may only be an excellent thing because nobody must be made to feel like something that they’ll never be. 

In the previous couple of years, we’ve seen loads of really great efforts around body positivity and inclusivity, however it also looks like the pressures around beauty standards are stronger than ever – do you are feeling that as well?

Munroe Bergdorf: I used to be watching Ariana Grande’s video the opposite day and it just sort of confirmed to me what I used to be already pondering. Once I was a teen, it was the tabloids who were being extremely toxic about people’s appearances and I believe, in some ways, we have grow to be the tabloids with TikTok. ‘Who’s on Ozempic? Who’s had buccal fat removal? Who needs buccal fat removal? Who has placed on weight? Who is horrifying skinny? Who’s bleaching their skin? Who’s on tanning injections? Who’s doing blackface? Who is simply too pale?’ It’s just never-ending. 

In fact, it’s necessary that we talk in regards to the impact of beauty standards and things like weight reduction injections, but we’re making it personal and it’s an limitless commentary on how people look. It’s massively unhealthy for everyone, not only the folks that are being talked about. I’ve done magazine covers where I’ve been greater than I normally am and the backlash that I got from people, who saw it as a possibility to bring me down a peg or two, was just wild. In my instance, these were anti-trans individuals who saw that as a strategy to be more transphobic, and I feel like we’d like to take into consideration what are we actually doing here by critiquing people’s appearances. Are we doing it to make ourselves feel higher? Or to push our own motives? Are we actually concerned?

I spoke to a psychology professor once in regards to the ‘before and after’ Instagram accounts and he said whenever you have a look at these comparisons of other people – even when you be ok with yourself for a second – you begin to have a look at your personal body and your personal features in that similar way. You switch that energy onto yourself. So it’s harming everyone to have this culture of ‘before and after’ and ‘who’s been photoshopped’.

Munroe Bergdorf: We will’t speak about bodily autonomy without talking about people’s rights to do with their bodies what they need – and that features cosmetic surgery. I believe there’s a giant difference in lying about having surgery and just not disclosing. The concept persons are having surgical procedures to hoodwink people, or deceive people, can be a narrative that actually damages trans women. So I believe that folks could take a leaf out of the trans people’s books when it comes to how we view surgery – nobody goes to be having surgery for anybody else. And in the event that they are then people must have compassion for that, because that person obviously goes through something. 

A number of years ago, you probably did the Qween’s Speech with Dazed. In it, you said, “in really difficult times, culture thrives”. I wondered if that was still something that you just believed in, because at once it looks like we’re in extremely difficult times.

Munroe Bergdorf: Yeah! I believe it’s something that I’ll all the time come back to since it’s massively true. Resistance forms culture. Subcultures are formed – and prevail, eventually – underneath oppressive circumstances. We’ve seen it before with the sexual revolution as a response to Puritan culture; the blues got here out of slavery; we saw disco thrive underneath the HIV and Aids crisis, and LGBTQ rights come out of the backlash.

I feel like in loads of ways the trans community is navigating a media environment much like what gay men were navigating within the late 80s and early 90s, close to Section 28 and the moral panic, and the media hysteria around trans people in single-sex spaces. The way in which gay men were in comparison with paedophiles and sexual abusers, we’re seeing the exact same thing occur, with trans women being framed as potential rapists and child abusers. 

‘The concept persons are having surgical procedures to hoodwink people, or deceive people, is a narrative that actually damages trans women’ – Munroe Bergdorf

Each time that our community makes significant gains, there’s going to be significant pushback. But that pushback will not be rooted in reality or fairness, and equality all the time wins in the long run – it can. I’m massively optimistic about that. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be fighting back against it because no battles are won with us putting our feet up. We should always all be protesting against this dangerous ideology, and ensuring that the transphobia that we’re seeing proliferate across the country doesn‘t grow to be the sustained norm. What was the query? Did I answer it?

We’re seeing an increasing number of people, yr on yr, attend Trans Pride. The way in which that the media and the way in which that the federal government function will not be necessarily what most of the people thinks. There’s loads of division occurring at once and clearly it’s having an impact, but I do feel that folks are compassionate at their core. I believe the way in which that we now have seen the rights of girls advance, the rights of ethnic minorities advance, the rights of queer people advance, the increasing variety of folks that are standing behind migrants and asylum seekers coming to this country – I do feel like at our core, we aren’t evil.

Your book got here out in February – congratulations! How does it feel to have it out on the planet?

Munroe Bergdorf: It feels really freeing. For a very long time I desired to draw a line under loads of the chaos that’s happened in my personal life and profession and have the ability to have fun the great place that I’m in. It was nice to have a look at how far I’ve come personally with regards the memoir element, but additionally speak about my journey as a trans person across multiple lines of human identity from adolescence to sexuality, gender, love, race, and purpose. 

It was just an actual honour to have this platform and be a voice for my community, since it’s not fairly often that we hear from trans people about what it means to be trans. We’re always hearing from cisgender people, who’ve a bone to choose with the community that’s often unfounded. I hope that it makes its way into many trans people’s hands who need it and other people who could do with understanding the trans perspective from a trans person.

Do you have got a message for anyone who sees this campaign and feels seen or represented for the primary time?

Munroe Bergdorf: Should you feel seen and represented by this campaign, then that’s job done. I believe that’s incredible to see yourself in imagery that’s aspirational, and even just inclusive. Once I first saw imagery in campaigns, or on screen, it opened a possibility to me, not necessarily that I desired to be that person but that I could do whatever I desired to do. And I believe it’s incredibly powerful, representation and visibility, because for loads of people the world does feel very lonely without that. Should you don’t see yourself in your immediate surroundings, then you would like to see yourself within the media to assist reaffirm who you might be, that your presence matters, that you just’re not in it alone, there are people on the market who share your identity. 

So when you feel seen by this campaign, then don’t stop demanding visibility and representation. And likewise be that representation for other people, be that visibility for other people, since it’s a sequence response. I hope that other people carry that on and demand higher representation, and more of it, if it’s something that you just’re not seeing.

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