Posts Tagged ‘tattoos’
At an age when a girl has hardly known the joy of walking or running, both her feet are broken. To those of us in The Western World breaking the feet of a small child would be justifiably called child abuse but to deliberately break the feet, then purposely stop them from healing, is unthinkably barbaric, yet the custom was practiced in China for hundreds of years.
The agonizing life-long process of foot-binding was performed to make women more attractive to men, giving them better marriage prospects and insuring they would spend their lives closely tethered to the home. Also guaranteed were a lifetime of pain, the stench of rotting flesh and maimed feet which would impair the ability to walk. Once the weight-bearing and balancing properties of the feet were altered, a girl with bound feet would never enjoy more mobility than a horse with hobbles. Like livestock branded and penned, husbands need never worry about their wives wandering far.
As the Chinese practice of foot-binding became an integral measure of desirability, the deformed foot and it’s accompanying odor became integral to the erotica of the age. The men of that era were even convinced foot-binding strengthened and enhanced a woman’s sexual response.
Eventually, foot-binding was banned, mostly because, in the age of communism, the women’s role as laborer superseded her role as sexual vessel. Women who had been the property of men, were now property of the state.
To us in The West, the practice is repulsive, cruel and bizarre, yet it is just one of many culturally-based beauty practices of unnatural body modifications and/or mutilations practiced in the world. Unusual practices like the lip-stretching of the East African Mursi tribes or the use of metal coils to elongate the neck by The Karen tribes of Thailand and Myanmar, seem strangely primitive to us, but are they really so much different from the practices of our sophisticated use of silicone and other materials to change the shape of our faces or bodies?
Nips, tucks, lipo, piercings, gauging, tattoos . . American women are no longer strangers to body alterations–with one big difference…we alone decide what we will do to be attractive. Whether budgeting for Botox or choosing a tattoo, the decision is our own. While our media and culture may indoctrinate us with ideas of beauty, we are not under an edict to conform.
Nevertheless, it is almost impossible to determine how much of what we do for ourselves is really a response to those who will see us or evaluate us. The need to be accepted, the hope of eliminating perceived flaws or the choice to conform to an ideal, fuel our decisions, but they also express our desire to be desirable. Even powerful women, who reject being subjugated by society’s expectations, may not realize the extent to which external messages become part of innermost feelings.
I know of what I speak, for as I write this, my mouth is filled with inconvenient metal and wires. Though they will eventually correct legitimate alignment problems, I’d by lying like a bad hairpiece if I didn’t admit, only the prospect of a better smile, makes the trade-off, worth the discomfort.
For more on the history of foot-binding: http://www.angelfire.com/ca/beekeeper/foot.html
Researching via the internet, is always more interesting, than researching at a library. Inevitably, there are interesting distractions along the way. I was doing research on the subject of a future blog, when I ended up on one of those wild Google chases. One minute, I’m making helpful notes, the next I’m reading an article about why women have embraced waxing themselves bare–as in Brazilian bare.
The article was written by a professional in the field of psychology. It asked the question “WHY?”
A very good question. Anyone who has never experienced a Brazilian wax, has to ask, “Why?!?”.
Any anyone who has had the experience of laying on a table for hot wax and hair-pulling should be asking the same question.
I’m not a psychologist, but the answer is simple. It is because men have eyes.
Women have embraced it because it makes them feel better. It makes them feel better, because it makes them believe they look better. Men are initially attracted to women because of what their eyes tell them is attractive–the beauty eye-deal.
(This makes me wonder what we would look like if men couldn’t see. Since natural eyebrows, lip fuzz and body fat are more tactilely interesting than a uniformly thin and smooth body, one has to wonder what our beauty aesthetic would be in a world of blind men. Needless to say, make-up and tanning would be obsolete.)
Me suspects the bare-down-there look was popularized by the porn industry, but no matter, it’s just one of many very bizarre or extreme things women do to mold themselves to the beauty eye-deal.
Popular now, are things like having botulism or any number of substances injected into the face. We can have fat surgically removed or d-cups surgically implanted. We are told it’s the fault of the media for propagating unrealistic ideals, but are they really to blame?
Before you answer, let me remind you this isn’t new. Women have always done very bizarre things to make themselves more attractive to men. In modern society, in primitive tribes, in remote places, and in ancient history; there has always been some unnatural standard to which women insanely aspired–the Asian practice of foot-binding comes to mind, but it’s one of many.
Throughout time, women who were starving wanted to appear well-fed, while women who were well-fed, starved themselves to be thin. Today, women spend money to cultivate bronzy tans, in contrast to the age when women ate arsenic to achieve pallid white skin. Curly hair is straightened, straight hair is curled. Long hair is cropped, short hair is augmented with extensions. Thousands are spent on everything from eyelash extensions to acrylic nails.
In other cultures, beauty is enhanced by body modifications like tattoos & scarification. Nostrils, earlobes, lips and even necks are unnaturally stretched to make women more desirable. The beauty practices of other cultures may seem strange to us, but are they really any more unnatural than what we do? Even some of the things we wear, like high-heels and thong underwear, are indicative of the unnatural discomfort we will endure to please men.
In contrast, to what women will do, the list of the unnatural things men do to make themselves attractive is much shorter. What do men do that is unnatural? Shave and wear clothes. That’s about it.
We are constantly conforming to male ideals. Interestingly, the most misogynistic of these, to most of the the Western World, is the burqa, which is said to hide a woman’s outward beauty, so that only her true beauty can be seen. That’s a refreshing idea, but I’m not ready to suggest we all shroud-up to swap vanity for virtues. Nevertheless, it seems to me the entire collective of women across time and hemispheres needs a reminder, we are already beautiful.
The kids started it.
There was a piercing, followed by another piercing. The second piercing was followed by a discreet tattoo. There was a more daring piercing, then a less discreet tattoo. Soon, the piercings were more numerous and the tattoos no longer hidden. Eventually, it wasn’t just the kids, but also the mothers and fathers eager to show off their latest ink.
Still conservative enough to feel saddened by young girls who had opted to let their bodies become a canvas for graphic designs, I realized visible body alterations were only the tip of the iceberg. The trend of body modifications was becoming more the norm, than the exception; but while the 20-somethings were embracing glass gauged ears, and tongue barbells, their mothers (and sometimes fathers) were choosing everything from Botox and lipo-sculpting to silicone add-on parts.
Hold on! Back up the car! Did you see that?
It wasn’t the kids who started it. Rewind that tape.
Not the kids–Mom started it–the same mother who told her children they were perfect, special, unique-one-of-a-kind, & limited edition.
Mom did her best to convince the kids they were already uniquely perfect, but it was a “do as I say, not as I do” thing, leaving many feeling the need to do things to make themselves stand out. It would seem that outrageous bod-mods would be a completely unnecessary expression of individuality, unless those who do them aren’t all that unique. In the same spirit as the t-shirt that says, “I’m unique, just like everybody else”, staunch individuals started doing the same thing everyone else was doing.
A recent internet foray caused me to be distracted by a photo gallery of celebrity tattoos. Though I have very little interest in the lives of celebrities, I was fascinated to see that everyone from Miley Cyrus to Helen Mirren were getting inked. I wasted too much time gawking and scratching my head, before being drawn into a second gallery of celebrity plastic surgeries. I couldn’t look away, and was soon after browsing a third gallery of disastic-plastic surgeries.
It seams that even non-celebs can gain celebrity exposure by having excessive “procedures”, like Cindy Jackson, the woman who spent countless thousands to look like Barbie or the freakish socialite turned crazy-cat, Jocelyn Wildenstein.
We’ve come along way from the age when plastic surgeons specialized in reconstructive surgeries like fixing bad noses or large ears. The surgeries were becoming more cosmetic, as younger and more attractive individuals began opting for procedures intended to eliminate minor flaws or make them look like someone else.
I can understand and embrace the reasons women seek cosmetic procedures–but I wonder why we, as a culture, are so dissatisfied with what we see in the mirror. A little this (nip) or that (tuck) to reconcile what’s in the mirror–I’m down with that, but it’s like having a room that seems okay–except for the worn carpet. Replace the carpet, and suddenly, the drapes seem dowdy and the coffee table looks dated.
One day you’re a normal person, fixing a legitimate flaw, but if that turns out not to be enough, it’s only a matter of time before you’re riding the rapids down the Joan Rivers or crossing into the The Tropic of Michael Jackson–headed toward Neverland.
The problem is each little procedure brings us closer, but NEVER close enough to the thing we can NEVER achieve–perfection. The things we do to become more beautiful, make us less unique. The things we do to make ourselves more unique, can make us less beautiful.
In a perfect world, we’d all look into the eyes in the mirror and see our own unique unspoiled beauty, but this is not a perfect world and the mirror is a fickle friend. Some days it blows you a kiss and tells you you’re stunning. Other days, it winces as your eyes meet. Even if you could achieve perfection, it wouldn’t make you happy. You’d no longer fit in with the rest of us.