This week, we were presented with various material about different practices. These practices included footbinding in Chinese culture, female genital cutting, and plastic surgery.
Chinese foot binding is thought to have been inspired by the 10th century dancer named Yao Niang. She would bind her feet to parallel the shape of a new moon. This type of practice altered the shape of the foot and was imbued with erotic undertones (ANP 270 Lec 6.1). Foot binding then became the symbol for the elite and served many purposes for the women of that society at that time. As stated by Amanda Foreman, “a small foot in China, no different from a tiny waist in Victorian England, represented the height of female refinement” (Foreman 2015). Women who had bound feet were viewed to be more “desirable”, and their character was often judged based on their bound feet. If their feet were bound, this correlated to obedience, meaning that they would be obedient to their husband. Along with these things, it also represented wealth, ethnic identity, and also tied in with religion. Confucianism was the religion that was prevalent during this time, impacting such practices as foot binding during the time. From the excerpt from Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Susan Rider, we read that, “I [also] understood that two Confucian ideals ruled our lives. The first was the three obedience: when a girl, obey your father, when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son” (Rider 4). Confucianism has many aspects but one of these key features was obedience. Obedience was a key characteristic for a women and made a women more “valuable and worthy”. In another part of Snowflower and the Secret Fan, we read when her mother was about to lose her child how she shared that she, “would rather keep her on this earth unmarried than lose her forever”. Her aunt responds, “then she would have no purpose and no value” (Rider 9). As we can see, this cultural rite of passage had a huge impact on the women’s life.
We also looked at female circumcision and plastic surgery. Female genital cutting was also connected with religion, but also was influenced heavily on how the man perceived the women. If a woman was cut, she was found to be more attractive then if she was uncut (ANP 270 6.1). Here, we see that this practice ties closely with the image of a women. If she is cut, she is considered more attractive. If she is more attractive, this will increase her chances of finding a husband. And when she does find a husband, she is then less likely to cheat on her husband and be an “obedient wife”. This rite of passage is connected to making the women more “attractive”. These examples may seem extreme to some but there are even procedures that occur here in the U.S. that are used to make women seem more “pleasing”. In the article by Sean Rossman titled, “Americans are Spending More than Ever on Plastic Surgery”, he explains how “An American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports found Americans spent more than 16 billion on cosmetic plastic surgeries and minimally invasive procedures in 2016, the most the U.S. has ever spent on such surgeries” (Rossman 2017). These surgeries are becoming more common. It is interesting to think about how this type of work was something that was looked down on but now that society has embraced it, it is something that is more common.
We have read about many practices that deal with “feminine beauty” in society. If these practice like foot binding, female genital mutation, and plastic surgery were outlawed, it would have some drastic effects on some of these societies. For many, it would seem beneficial to outlaw some of these practices, seeing as they present a lot of discomfort for the women’s body. However, it is significant to consider what other issues would arise if these were outlawed. In many cases, these practices are used to make the women more “attractive and marriageable”. If these practices were suddenly outlawed, then there would be an increase in the risk of procedure. There would be more people willing to get the procedure done illegally, which could lead to a greater loss of lives due to unsanitary conditions and inadequate procedures. Eradicating these practices (like foot binding and mutilation) would also decrease the chances of a women getting married. For some culture this is a great importance, and if a woman is unable to marry she would shame her family, which would also have a negative affect on how she thinks about herself.
There was a lot to unpack this week when viewing these types of procedures. Initially, the thought of such practices seems atrocious. However, it is important to be able to think about the cultural context of each practice before forming an opinion on them.
Foreman, A. (2015, February 01). Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-footbinding-persisted-china-millennium-180953971/
Rossman, S. (2017, April 12). Americans are spending more than ever on plastic surgery. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/04/12/americans-spending-more-than-ever-plastic-surgery/100365258/
Everyone knows Serena Williams to be one of the best tennis players alive. Recently, we have seen the various challenges she has had to overcome when delivery her child.
Intersectionality attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society (ANP Lec 5.1). This theory describes how an individual’s overlapping identities can pose different threats of discrimination. These classes in include race, gender, age, ethnicity, health, and other characteristics. Here, we see that Serena belongs to various groups. She is an African American female. With intersectionality, the same issues that arise from being a woman also overlap with the issue that come from for example being a minority. We can see how intersectionality has impacted Serena’s case.
It is known that there are many disparities in our healthcare system. An example of this is right in the article. Dr. Williams writes that, “the U.S has the worst maternal death rate among economically developed countries…while it is not surprising that black women fare worse, the degree to which the outcomes between races differ is alarming: black women are three to four times likely to die during pregnancy and childbirths white women” (Williams 2018). In many cases, one’s race or gender influence their outcome. Often times based on these factors, one does not receive adequate care, and the affects of such discrimination can be detrimental. Serena is an elite athlete and she still struggled with receiving the care that would save her life. Had this been a lower-class black woman, this situation would probably have not turned out the same and it definitely would have been a different experience for a white women. Examples of ways that we do not receive the same care as others is because of lack of empathy or because we are not taken as seriously. Our cases in some eyes are insignificant and as a result, we do not get the care we need.
In the article, Dr. Williams suggest that people in the healthcare system should listen carefully to each and every patient. Recognizing the social gap between different races and actually taking steps to fix it was another suggestion. These are both good suggestions. Once we have addressed the problem, we can take the next steps in order to fix it.