Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blog 6: Body Modification

Who has the power and authority to say what is right and what is wrong within a culture? Technically, no country should have power over any other country’s cultural and social existence. The issue of body imagery causes debate on whether America is normalizing their own practices and pointing fingers in disbelief towards others’. For example, if an American citizen took a bird’s eye view of the techniques used to maintain, enhance, and display “correct” body imagery, I would strongly predict that this person would realize how blinded they are by their culture. From an outsider’s view, things such as artificial tanning, body-building, extreme dieting, and cosmetic surgery appear to make no sense, and even cause unnecessary harm on citizens. But the variety of choices many Americans can make towards how they uphold their body imagery shows the individualism within our culture.

Individualism, in relation to body image, means that each citizen is mostly concerned with them selves, and therefore spends the extra time, money, and energy to maintain or change the body they have. This may be done in the ways previously stated, but also in many other techniques that come in a variety of forms and styles. Although many of these body-imagery practices are technically unhealthy on many levels, our culture accepts it and therefore normalizes the physical and mental obstructions of our bodies.

In contrast, American views towards indigenous countries’ body-imagery practices will most likely be negative and ignorant. So is America enforcing their generalization upon other cultures? I believe so because American citizens are used to individualism. In contrast, many other cultures and societies focus on the collectivism of its people. For example, in ancient China, females starting from the early ages of childhood would begin the process of foot-binding. This entails of breaking the arch of the foot and tightly wrapping the foot in bandages, which would cause excruciating pain. An initial reaction from an American may be, “I can’t believe they would do that to the women!” But one must take into account that the females didn’t necessarily have a choice, due to social rites of passage and the dominance of the patriarchy. Also, it was something Chinese women did as part of their culture, whether or not it was healthy and humane to do so. But women did in order to be a part in their community.

In comparison, women in America who have breast-augmentation surgery will go through pain after their surgery, and even loose sensual feeling in that area. Not only is there a major difference of modernization verses ancient history, but also the fact of an individual’s choice. The woman is focusing on increasing her chances to be successful through her body-imagery, but does not necessarily need the surgery to survive among her people. Women in ancient China did not exactly have a choice to not have their feet bound because they would risk losing their rite of passage within society and having a family. Not only would it greatly decrease a woman’s chance of marrying, but also of the possibility of being disowned by her own family. This shows how the practice of foot-binding does not focus on the individual, but on the community as a whole and for the better of the people.

Body imagery is a complicated topic to justify, explain, and even comprehend. But this does not mean that there is any one country that has control over all other countries of what type of body imagery is appropriate. But I think there are many contradictions towards the safety and humanity of the people who are personally experiencing techniques for their body image. This does not mean American citizens have the right to degrade and undermine others’ practices, because that would be contradicting themselves into thinking their practices do not affect one’s health. A country’s history of culture always needs to be taken into consideration, not just the action itself of someone’s body image. We have to ask ourselves if body image is being expressed and practiced through the individual, or through a whole community.

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