Left-wing Solidarity with Disability Activism and the Taboo of Body Odor Medical Conditions

A. Smith

May 26, 2018

Left-wing analyses of capitalist ideology insightfully expose how personal responsibility is deployed to blame marginalized populations for what are actually consequences of oppression. The implications of this critique for body odor medical conditions, however, are rarely spelled out.

Since the early twentieth century, corporate advertising has invoked norms of personal responsibility and body shaming to disseminate the myth that all people have the ability and obligation to become odorless through consumption of hygiene commodities. The billions of dollars invested in ads for soap, deodorant and mouthwash have effectively erased those who do not have full control over the way they smell due to metabolic conditions like Trimethylaminuria (TMAU), certain digestive disorders, or other medical reasons. A USDA publication has estimated that “as much as one percent of the U.S. population may suffer from a genetic defect ... leading to development of a fishy body odor” characteristic of TMAU.

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