Beauty has means many different things in many different places around the world, but in it’s simplest terms it is a combination of different qualities that are found to be aesthetically pleasing. Beauty for women has become a crucial part of our lives due to the socially constructed and widely accepted idea that physical attractiveness should be one of the most important things that women strive for in life. The qualities that people deem as aesthetically pleasing in women varies across oceans and across time periods. There are several different practices we discussed this week that we have discussed that for many women have played a role in their path to achieving feminine beauty: Chinese footbinding, female genital cutting, and plastic surgery.
The first of these practices that I looked at was Chinese footbinding which was a common practice from the 1200s to the mid 1900s. Chinese footbinding involves the binding of a young girls toes with the aide of binding cloth and small sized shoes to help develop a small moon shape. In China, there were other reasons for women to engage in this practice other than just to be physically appealing, partaking in this practice also helps to show both obedience and wealth. Obedience is important in both Confucianism and in finding a spouse. Footbinding can be used by women also as a way to climb higher on the social ladder. The lack of footbinding would signify a poorer family because they could not afford for their daughter to partake in the ritual because they can’t afford for her to not be able to work. If this practice ended more abruptly than it did, it might be more difficult for women to find suitors similar to how they have been for centuries. There would probably be another practice put into place focusing on another physical characteristic of women who are seeking out husbands.
Another practice that we looked at was female genital cutting which happens in many different parts of the world including many areas in Africa. This practice is usually done on young girls and there are several different levels to this practice, ranging from a small prick in the girl’s clitoris all the way to infibulation which includes removing the skin, removing the clitoris, and sewing up the vaginal opening almost completely. Engaging in this practice can be a way for a woman to show her faith in her religion, especially if she is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, a rite of passage, or to help show faithfulness to her husband in marriage. In many places around the world where female genital cutting is not practiced, it is seen as a inhumane and barbaric practice that must be stopped. Since there are similar practices being done in other parts of the world, I think it would be more difficult to justify an end of this practice. Abruptly ending this practice, its hard to say how women will accept this. For women who do not practice this, it will seem like a positive thing for women in other places around the world. For women who are used to this practice, however, it probably won’t make any sense. Abruptly ending this practice could force women to continue the practice in secret, which could be dangerous if something were to go wrong.
The third practice we looked at this week is plastic surgery which can be seen in many places around the world, including the United States. We specifically looked at vaginal plastic surgery. I found this to be almost the same practice as female genital cutting. One of the biggest ways that this can be seen as a different practice is because plastic surgery is most often sought out for cosmetic reasons. This is similar to female genital cutting, but female genital cutting is done for other reasons as well, including as a rite of passage, and as a measure of faith. If vaginal plastic surgery abruptly ended, I don’t believe that would be too detrimental because it does not seem to be very widespread, especially when compared to other types of plastic surgery. If all plastic surgery ended however, it could push women to engage in more dangerous practices. If women could no longer get liposuction for example, there would probably be more women becoming anorexic or bulimic which could possibly lead to death.
Serena Williams Extra Credit
After reading about Serena Williams and everything that she went through after her pregnancy, I realized how important it is to understand your own body and don’t doubt what you are feeling. If Serena decided that the doctors knew best and she was just being crazy and irrational, there’s no telling if she would be alive to share this story with us. In reading the article, it becomes more apparent that the feelings and thoughts of black women are usually ignored and made insignificant not just in the view of biomedicine, but also in the view of society as a whole. Often times we are depicted as being irrational or crazy for things that would be justifiable for other groups of people. In Serena’s situation, it seems that she went through this because she was a black woman. Women in general, but especially women of color, often have their symptoms taken less seriously which leads to under treatment or worsened disease because opportunities get missed for early diagnosis.
I think the most surprising thing for me in this situation is that Serena Williams is a famous and wealthy woman, but she still had problems similar to many other black women. Her class level did not seem to help her much in this situation, but in general I believe that class usually does play a role. If you are from a lower class, you may not have money to seek out the testing that you need or you will only be able to afford mediocre testing that may not be completely reliable.
I appreciated in the article how the author offered ways for the medical system to lessen the racist problems that exist in our medical system. One of the simplest things that can be done is to listen to and trust the concerns of black woman rather than disregarding what we say which involves putting their bias aside and doing everything that they can to treat their all of their patients. Another very crucial solution that is overlooked is underestimating the risk of complications in people just because they are young and healthy. Even though they have lower risks, as long as there are possible risk involved, they should not be ignored.