— Rolf Degen (@DegenRolf) October 15, 2017
“Thought-provoking paper argues disgust didn’t evolve to ward off germs, but to condemn unsavory people and behaviors https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3025885”
My way in to thinking about disgust was the way women’s armpit hair is marked as disgusting in certain times and places. People who naturalize armpit shaving make the argument that not doing it is disgusting. That it disgusts them, they argue, is a natural, inherent reaction.
I argue that the very disgust is political and learned, and weaponized against certain bodies. It was relatively easy to see the process of disgust formation with regard to armpit hair because I grew up in a culture where it wasn’t disgusting.
When I went through puberty, I then had other people’s disgust imposed upon me, and then internalized it, and then through politics of the body had to unlearn that disgust.
Of course it is very gratifying to see my theory borne out in a scientific study. My way in and personal application is fairly minor. I can remove my hair. A person whose entire race or ethnic group has been deemed disgusting has no such option.
From the point of view of praxis, the study teaches us with a firm foundation what I have argued from the foundation of theory:
Feelings of disgust, visceral as they may be, are not a valid argument for or against any practice or people. They are not inherent. Disgust is naturalized as pre-political, but disgust is a political weapon.
Further reading: Ideological Disgust and Authoritarianism.