Week 6 Blog Post

I found out that this week’s topic is quite interesting. Culture impacts people in many ways including the feminine beauty. When talking about feminine beauty, it is hard to define since the definition would varies depends on personal point of view and it is very subjective. Some people view feminine beauty from external view such as make up or body shape. While, there are also some people view feminine beauty from inside such as kindness. Not to forget, the cultural practice defines feminine beauty too through their rite of passages such as discussed in this week’s topic: Chinese foot binding, female genital cutting, and plastic surgery.  From the website Collegiate Times, the feminine beauty defines as “a socially constructed opinion that one of a woman’s most important assets is attractiveness and is something all women should strive to achieve and maintain. In other words, women should try to obtain these ideals in order to be considered beautiful by society’s standards” (Gleysteen 2018). From my opinion, I would like to be as the same mind as the author thinking about the definition of feminine beauty since I believe every woman out there would try to reach the standard made by one’s culture or society and attempt to impress people in their surroundings. However, some women might not try to be in the same shoes.

Jumping into the female genital cutting, I learnt that as a Muslim, a woman has already undergone this method since she was a baby while for a man, he will undergo the male genital cutting after seven days of birth or before he reaches puberty (in Islam, it is called as ‘baligh’). Based on my reading regarding the genital cutting for Muslim, it is called ‘khatan’ and in Islam, it known as ‘tahara’ which mean purification (BBC 2013) or like mentioned in the lecture video, it also can be as a rite of passage for a man or a woman. The author of the article “Female circumcision: Muslim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java”, Lynda Newland also feels that the female genital cutting acts as a passage for a girl to become a woman (Newland 2006). The main reason given for the ritual is cleanliness. Muslims believe the removal of the foreskin makes it easier to keep penis clean because urine cannot get trapped there (BBC 2013).

Next, the foot binding in China. I believe that when reading about this fact, everyone must be shocked and could feel the pain. Nevertheless, like genital cutting, the foot binding practice must have its own reason why it had been created. The author of the book “Snow Flower and the Fan” mentioned, she believes that foot binding further improves cultural practice and makes women to be accepted into the society (See n.d.). Like in the reading, foot binding “holds men’s fascination during private and intimate moments between a man and a woman” (See n.d.) but there is also other opinion, Laurel Bossen, co-author of a book “Bound Feet, Young Hands” shared, “girls who had their feet bound did not lead a life of idle beauty but rather served a crucial economic purpose…” (Hunt 2017). They found that foot binding endured longest in areas where it still made economic sense to produce goods like cloth at home and began to decline only when cheaper factory-made alternatives became available in these regions (Hunt 2017).

All these matters go the same as plastic surgery. It makes someone feels comfortable with his or her new skin with own reasons. Some people are getting plastic surgery in order to change what they already have and to improve some of their body parts to better one. Whereas some people are getting the plastic surgery in order to repair what they loss or get an incomplete part especially when someone involves in an accident or may be born different from everyone else in some parts. Despite of the genital plastic surgery, other type of plastic surgeries is also prominent among people especially in Korea. For some teenagers, getting a plastic surgery is consider as a rite of passage for them when entering adulthood. Most of Korean teenagers’ parents give their children any plastic surgery as a present when they reaching 18 years old or also any years they want to. We, as an outsider, cannot judge someone who change themselves to become pretty through plastic surgery since that is how they survive through their culture or society’s way of life and being accepted. If all these practices being forbidden by law, it might hard for Muslims to get the cleanliness that they wanted, no economic changes and attractiveness in Chinese women, and someone might difficult to live in society’s standard.



BBC. (2013). Circumcision of Boys. BBC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islamethics/malecircumcision.shtml

Gleysteen, Mackenzie. (2018). The power of pretty: Feminine beauty ideals hold importance in personal professional pursuits. Collegiate Times. Retrieved from http://www.collegiatetimes.com/opinion/the-power-of-pretty-feminine-beauty-ideals-hold-importance-in/article_736816d4-222d-11e8-88a8-6f4bfd68487e.html

Hunt, Katie. (2017). Work, Not Sex? The real reason Chinese women bound their feet. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/21/health/china-foot-binding-new-theory/index.html

Newland, Lynda. (2006). Female Circumcision: Muslim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java. Women’s Studies International Forum. Retrieved from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/6.2-Newland.pdf

See, Lisa. (n.d.) Footbinding. Retrieved from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/6.1-See.pdf


3 thoughts on “Week 6 Blog Post

  1. All cultures have different standards to what feminine beauty is. But, when do we determine what is a risk for women? The standard could have come from someone that did not want the best for women and was just trying to suppress them. Me studying different religions, I know from my research that being a Muslim woman now and then is different because of the “rules” they say apply to women if they are Muslims. Now some of those rules are considered basis and prejudice against women. During this weekly reading we seen that in West Java that there are multiply cases of female genital mutation. They say that it did not change their sexual desire or hurt them, but a lot of this is being done without a licensed professional present so you can never know.

  2. Hey Farah! I was also excited to dive into this week’s topic because the concept of female beauty is so different in various areas and it largely relies upon culture. Feminine beauty is so incredibly subjective and for this reason, I would like to add that I think it is wrong to judge other countries practices and rituals that have to do with their culture’s idea of feminine beauty or entering womanhood. I feel like so many people look down on female genital cutting in the United States and judge it to be invasive and demeaning. However, as described in this week’s lecture, it is very rare that the whole vagina be sewn shut, it is typically a small prick or scrape to the clitoris that does not tae away the ability to experience sexual pleasure. In the article, “Female circumcision: Muslim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java”, Newland mentions that no knife is used, just a needle to scrape the clitoral area. There is also very little blood involved (Newland, 2006). Do you think most people are disgusted by it because they think it is more extreme or just because it is something different than what we practice?

    Newland, Lynda. “Female Circumcision: Muslim Identities and Zero Tolerance Policies in Rural West Java.” ELSEVIER, 2006, anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/6.2-Newland.pdf.

  3. Hi Farah,
    I agree with you that Lynda Newland does a good job of showing the cultural norms surrounding female circumcision in Indonesia, and its general ease of practice. However, It seems to me that she glossed over any other type of female genital cutting and showed only one side of the female circumcision. Sometimes the procedure is done in less than sterile environments and complications do occur from these types of rituals. Even foot binding killed 1 in 10 women as stated in Lisa See’s book. Teenagers in the US, South Korea, and the United Kingdom also face possible serious side effects when going under the knife in hopes of a more perfect body and face. Yes, in some parts of the world these practices can be considered cultural norms. However, I don’t believe that doesn’t mean we can’t be critical of these practices as outsiders or insiders. What we can do is study them further to better understand their function within each of these societies and the beliefs surrounding them.

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