Thursday, July 1, 2010

In defense of body modification

If you're an American, the odds are good that you're at least to some degree a practitioner of body modification. Braces, teeth whitening, LASIK surgery, earrings, waxing, shaving--pretty much everyone I know, including the most straitlaced people, does or has done something to modify his or her body. Despite that, however, I routinely have to listen to people bash others for their modifications:

I can't believe he pierces that!

Her tits are obviously fake.
and on and on.

I usually listen and say nothing. After all, we're all entitled to our opinions.

The problem is, many times the folks saying these things are unaware that they're hurting the feelings of someone else in the room: the woman with breast augmentation, the man who secretly uses face cream that is supposed to alter his skin, the woman who had breast reduction, the guy with the earring (I'm one of those), the woman who plumped her lips, the couple who have matching split tongues.

I think it's time for us all to be a bit more sensitive on this topic. I know some people modify their bodies for the wrong reasons: insecurity, fear of age, and so on. Some, though, do it because they think it looks good and they don't mind altering their bodies. Similarly, some folks buy sports cars and fancy watches and expensive books for reasons that are at least arguably wrong. Yes, in some situations we may mock those folks, but if we do, it will either be away from them or with the understanding that we're choosing to attack them to their faces. People ridicule the body mods of others without thought and without ever realizing they've just hurt someone they call a friend.

I have friends with every single one of the mods I mentioned. As with all such things, I have my own opinions. (For example, I think augmented breasts frequently look awesome, and some piercings and tattoos are amazing.) Those opinions don't matter, however, when it comes to someone else's body; only that person's opinions matter then.

By the way, the prejudice against these changes is likely to vanish in a generation or two. People my age care a great deal more about such things than most younger folks.

Until that day, however, I have decided not to sit quietly any longer. If I hear you mock someone for an alteration that I know someone else in the room also has, you can expect me to call you on it.


Kyle said...

Nice try, but I'm still going to make fun of your penis enhancement surgery.

Eric said...

Amen to that. You make the decisions to modify yourself. You may regret the decisions later, but they are yours to make. I don’t have to like them, but they are still yours to make.

I’ve had a pierced ear. I’ve also had two rounds of plastic surgery, both for scar reduction. I catch no flack over that, even though the decisions were 100% cosmetic. (My scars did not inhibit function at all.) However, having had surgery for cosmetic reasons, I have no right to criticize anyone else’s choices.

Funny thing: I’ve put a lot of effort into moderating my native Appalachian accent, and that’s a bigger rejection of my natural born self than the plastic surgery ever was. Absolutely no one, outside of Eden, North Carolina, ever criticizes me for that. In fact, most people say that that changing my accent was sensible.

Funny where people’s prejudices lie.

Mark said...

Fair enough, Kyle, though I think it's not nice to make fun of someone who gave up precious flesh to help you be whole again after that terrible accident.

Yeah, I went there.

Mark said...

Very true, Eric.

Sarah said...

Good post. I agree. But I have to say my favorite part of it is the tag again.

Anonymous said...

I would never consider a nose job or lip enhancement, but I don't mind people that do. Hey, if a woman wants to pay thousands of dollars trying to look as beautiful as I look au naturelle, I'm flattered. Ha ha!

Laura said...

@Eric: Interesting point about accents and changing them as a rejection. I too have worked hard to erase the accent I grew up with (shades of Baltar in the new Battlestar Galactica). Most people tell me I don't sound Southern, by which I think they mean I don't sound like the stereotypical Southerner.

On other body mods: even if they're not choices I would make, I figure people can do whatever they want.

I think you're right, Mark, about it being a generational thing. My parents--both 76 years old this year--have said, in all seriousness, that they would practically disown my siblings and me if we ever got tattoos. And I had to wait until I was 18 to get my ears pierced.

I pranked them a few years ago by going home to visit while I still had a henna tattoo. I told them it was permanent and let my dad sputter for a little bit before 'fessing up that it was henna and would fade shortly.

Mark said...

I aim to amuse.

Mark said...

Laura, I can only hope we remain more open as we grow older.

Todd said...

I agree with you, I also like boobs.

Mark said...

Well said, Todd.

Michelle said...

Whatever someone wants to do to make themselves feel better, is really no one's business. Enhancements are exactly what they are designed to do, enhance. Not everyone is on board with that, but I totally embrace anything that keeps me from having my boobs and butt dragging the ground as I get older.


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