In lecture 6.2, we went over a few main points. Some of these main points included the following: culture shapes ideal body types for both men and women, men and women will do all they can to achieve these body types regardless on the health consequences, and the practices that physically alter women’s bodies to look more ideal are very difficult to influence as these practices are deeply tied to their culture. In this week’s lectures, we had discussed quite a few practices as well. One of them was Chinese foot binding. This practice functioned as a status emblem, a beauty emblem and as proof of undying respect. This practice involves literally binding a young girl’s feet with some type of cloth. This binding is so tight that it actually makes the girl’s feet physically smaller. In China, this is done because small feet are considered to be ideal, beautiful and attractive. Specifically, perfect feet were explained to be the following: narrow, pointed, straight & petite, (See 2005). This practice was sometimes done to women specifically for the purpose of finding a partner/ getting married. Think about how painful and dangerous this process was. Well, the practice in a way proved that a “bride to be” was capable of undergoing pain similar to childbirth, (See 2005). This being said, the process was not thought of as completely miserable. On the contrary, it was an event where a decent sum of the family came together to show support as well as to celebrate, (See, 2005). The book Snow Flower and the Fan actually goes into how this practice goes deep into the idea of improving social rank as well as giving economic protection to the bride and her family, (See, 2005). In other words, this could help the bride as well as the family gain wealth or at the very least gain a better quality life. There would actually be someone designated to guide the bride’s family with specific marriage advice.
Another practice discussed this week was female genital cutting. In many ways was this practice comparable to Chinese foot binding. For example, both of these processes are done in attempts to make women more beautiful. Fuambai Ahmadu talks about the practice in depth. Specifically, she emphasizes how many believe that the practice lowers a woman’s sexual pleasure and sense of independence, but counters this claim by stating that it actually supports these variables, (Ahmadu, 2007). She also explains how the practice is by no means meant to repress sexual function, and that the experience itself varies, (Ahmadu, 2007). Other reasons for these acts of female circumcision integrate from religion, especially for the Islamic culture, (Newland, 2006). Moreover, female genital cutting also plays a huge role in becoming a truly responsible parent, (Newland, 2006). The practice can also help benefit the children that a women can have. So, it makes sense why many people view this practice as a violence attack against women, but in reality it proves that a woman is religious, responsible and sexually independent.
The last practice that was talked about in depth was plastic surgery. This was also known as a beauty process. Plastic surgeries involved processes such as labiaplasties and vaginoplasties. Long story short, the labia or the vagina are manipulated in these practices in attempts to beautify the woman. These changes are definitely not negligible by any means, but many women continue to go through these processes because they have low confidence in their bodies, in their beauty, and in their mental representations of themselves. Another huge reason why these women strive to follow through with these practices is because these practices are tightly connected to culture. Women also go through these surgeries in attempts to get their bodies back after having kids. Many might not agree with me, but I kind of relate this topic of interest to body dysmorphia. These women do not feel like their bodies are up to the ideal standards that our country has set. Men are the exact same way to some extent. Every man wants a six pack and that ideal V shape. That being said, I think that women definitely are under a lot more pressure. I apologize if anyone takes offense to my view of this topic, but as a man who has suffered with body dysmorphia in the past, I know that it crucial for your health to love yourself for who you are.
Now if any of these practices were abruptly outlawed, consequences could vary. If women could not participate in them, then they would no longer feel beautiful or have a way to be connected to their cultures. Moreover, outlawing these practices, in a way, says that the cultures are not important. This could definitely affect many lives. Think about all the cultures out their. It would be like someone outlawed communion or some catholic rite of passage that I have gone through. These practices have helped make me into who I am today. These practices have also helped me grow in ways that I cannot explain. Moreover, these practices have made me closer to God.
In conclusion, the practices of Chinese foot binding, female genital cutting and plastic surgery function in a variety of ways. To start, all three of these practices function like an ideal standard as well as an ideal sense of beauty. This can also be related to how women in the United States are held to such an ideal, skinny, Hollywood image. All three of these practices are also correlated to how women are viewed by society as well as how these same women view themselves. Furthermore, all of these practices relate to culture as well. Two of these three practices, foot binding & female genital cutting, also act as an initiation practice as well as a way to culturally fit in.
Ahmadu, F. (2007). Challenging Myths of Sexual Dysfunction in Circumcised Women: “Ain’t I a Woman Too?”. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University. Retrieved from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/6.3-Ahmadu.pdf
Newland, L. (2006). Female circumcision: Muslim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java. Womens Studies International Forum,29(4), 394-404. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2006.05.005
See, L. (2006). Snow flower and the secret fan: A novel. Retrieved August 6, 2018, from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/6.1-See.pdf
Serena Williams Extra Credit Opportunity
As we heard last week, Serena Williams has faced quite a few problems with today’s biomedical system. She was not taken seriously, and as a result she was at complete risk. It has been shown through data and through lecture that white mothers are less likely to die during labor, so why would we be so ignorant especially toward a black woman of her achievement. Factors that contribute to the situation, when viewed at through a lens of intersectionality, include that Serena is a pregnant black woman.
This says that our society and many people in biomedicine, in general, view black women to be hysterical. They view black women as over dramatic patients that are just blowing situations out of proportion (Williams, 2018). Moreover, these health care providers are generally not listening to black women, and they are generally not paying attention to medical histories of these black women either. This is a very unfortunate issue as it can lead to undertreatment (Williams, 2018). The reason why this is an issue is because it puts patients in a situation where they have more complications or pain than they should have. Moreover, the fact that health care providers are being so dismissive of medical related concerns has made it unlikely for patients to receive an early diagnosis. This could lead to serious consequences such as worsening symptoms which may not be reversible (Williams, 2018).
In terms of class, it was important to note that Serena Williams was by no means a lower class citizen. On the contrary, Serena is an extremely successful & influential upper class woman that very well known in the medical field; however, this did not stop her from being treated poorly, (Williams, 2018). It is a little scary to think about that. What if she was a middle or lower class woman? She might not have had her voice heard at all. Just think of the consequences! She could have died. On the other hand, if she was a white woman, she probably would have been taken a lot more seriously.
The author suggest that medical professionals have the ability to correct this problem through simply listening to what the patients have to say (Williams, 2018). This includes all patients of all races including black women. By listening to all patients, and by reflecting on ways in which medical professionals could be involved in racism, we can finally make progressive steps forward.
Williams, S. L. (2018, January 12). Serena Williams’s Birthing Nightmare Is All Too Familiar for Black Women. Retrieved August 1, 2018, from https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/43qb5m/serena-williams-birth-black-women-maternal-mortality