Culture impacts everything in our lives. One of them being our ideas of beauty, specifically feminine beauty. There are practices in every culture that supposedly improve upon a woman’s natural beauty. They provide a function within a culture as well other than just making a woman supposedly more beautiful. There are three practices that will be discussed, Chinese footbinding, female genital cutting, and plastic surgery. Chinese footbinding serves as a rite of passage for women in China. It was inspired by tenth century dance Yao Niang who bound her feet into the shape of a new moon. Gradually the practice was adapted by court ladies, bound feet were always seen as erotic. The practice was common from the 1200s to the mid-1900s. (Week 6, Lecture 1) The practice of footbinding also served the function of an expression of identity in China after the Mongols invaded in 1279. (Week 6, Lecture 1) There was also the purpose of proving to future in-laws that a woman was obedient and hard-working, thus making her more desirable for marriage. “My small feet would show the world my obedience to my natal family, particularly to my mother, which would also make a good impression on my future mother-in-law” (See, 2005.) Footbinding was also used for a social function of moving up the social ladder. Women that were apart of lower class families could use the practice of footbinding to marry their girl children into wealthier families. “”It is not such a bad thing to make a good alliance for a daughter. A high family will bring you better connections, a better bride-price, and long-term political and economic protection.” (See, 2005.) The practice of footbinding was eventually outlawed. However, it was only possible to outlaw it because of the massive political and social changes that were already taking place in China. Lisa See is using the interpretive theory of anthropology, she is describing the cultural meaning that is associated with footbinding and the impact it can have on an individual’s health.
The next practice that I will be discussing is the practice of female genital cutting. This is a practice that is commonly associated with religion. It was mentioned in the lecture that there are different times that female genital cutting occurs in a woman’s life. They range from a small prick as a baby, to a rite of passage after a young girl reaches puberty, to an event that occurs right before marriage. There are also different forms of female genital cutting, the range is from a small prick to infibulation. Infibulation is the most invasive and the least common form of female genital cutting. What is interesting is the double standard of white and non-white women. “African women have been berated for over thirty years now for “mutilating” our own and our daughters’ genitals… But, white Australian girls as young as 14 and 11 can obtain “labiaplasty” underwritten by the National Health Service in local hospitals.” (Ahmadu, 2013) The practice of female genital cutting among people in Africa, Iraq, Yemen, and Indonesia served the purpose of a rite-of-passage for young women. However, in western places such as the United States and the United Kingdom female genital cutting is seen as an elective cosmetic surgery. (Ahmadu 2013) Fuambai Ahmadu is using the interpretive theory to approach the issue of female genital cutting, she is telling of the purpose that is ascribed the practice and the implements it has on womens lives. This is something that has been mostly outlawed, or the practice has been stopped outside of it being done under the pretenses of plastic surgery. If the practice was completely stopped then in theory the social pressure to look a certain way would begin to diminish as well.
Plastic surgery is something that can be associated with female genital cutting, because in some places it is considered exactly that. Plastic surgery is a way that people, not only women, can change something about their appearance that they are unhappy with. The function that plastic surgery serves is that it is a way that people can make their outward appearance more socially acceptable and visually pleasing. This practice can be connected to people feeling socially included within their community. If the practice of plastic surgery was outlawed suddenly there would probably be illegal ways of having the procedures done still. It is highly unlikely that people who wanted to have plastic surgery would just give up because it became against the law. People want so badly to be socially included they will often go to great lengths. This would however, mean that less people would be having the surgeries performed. Overtime this may lead to a culture that is more accepting of the differences in people’s outward appearances. This would take a long amount of time though and would not be an instantons result. There is also the issue that if this was outlawed would it just be for people who were have the procedure done electively and that the process would still be available for people who had been in some type of accident? Overall plastic surgery is performed to change some part of an individual and if it makes them happy who am I to say it’s wrong.
Serena Williams Extra Credit:
What are the factors that contributed to this situation when viewed at through a lens of intersectionality?
When viewing this situation through the lens of intersectionality three words are very clear, woman, black, and successful. Serena Williams is a successful black woman. The fact that she is successful however, does not save her from being treated by medical professionals as a black woman. Women face the stereotypes of being dramatic and over emotional. However, black women in particular are often portrayed as being extra dramatic. Women have historically had less rights than men, and black woman have had even less rights than that. Viewing this situation the doctors discriminated against Serena Williams and put her into a stereotype, when they should have been listening to their patient.
What does this say about how our society in general and many people in biomedicine view black women?
If someone was to generalize how our society and the field of biomedicine view black women based on this event the conclusion they would reach is that they are often not taken seriously and are seen as over dramatic. This situation shows that black women are often not shown the care equivalent of a white woman.
Where does class come into play and how might this have turned out differently for a lower-class black woman or a white woman?
This brings back up the point I made early that the doctors did not see Serena Williams as an upper-class black woman, they saw her only as a black woman. Taking that into account it is unlikely that a lower-class black woman might have been treated much differently, there is a chance that the doctors might not have listened at all in this case. If it had been a lower-class white woman I think the concerns would have been taken more seriously from the beginning. Which would have lead to an entirely different outcome. The article states that black women are three to four times more likely to die a maternal death. This is a telling number that this is not the first case of an incident like this occurring in the biomedical field.
What does the author suggest is a solution to this deeply embedded racist problem in our country’s medical system?
The author suggests that one solution to this problem is for doctors to recognize their biases and attempt to correct them. That doctors and health care professionals should be listening and learning from their patients and should be helping to eradicate the racist problem within our medical system.