Thursday, May 22, 2014

Body Modification: An Unfair Scale

Yesterday, as I was getting my tattoo retouched, I mentioned to my artist that I always loved wrist pieces and henna style tattoos around the hand. He told me that I better know what I want to be when I grew up, because that can cost you a job.
Which really irritated me. (The fact that he is right, not the fact that he said it.)

There are two things I want to lay out before I venture on into this literature:
1- These are not solely my critiques; I was inspired majorly by a professor of mine. 
2- This is only briefly about makeup, and for those of you who only view my blog for makeup purposes, which is completely and totally okay, you may not enjoy this post.

Now, let's get into it.

One of the first things we are taught at children is "not to judge a book by it's cover." Seems pretty standard. However,  there is only a tiny minority of souls around the world who genuinely live their life out in this sense, calculating and creating their opinions around the mind instead of appearance.
This is important to note, because, unfortunately, you may be one of these people who do not. There are times when I am, too. I am ashamed to admit it, yes, but most people have a vanity factor to them, no matter how much emphasis they put on it.

Now, here are a few self proclaimed facts that I believe are going to be important when trying to digest this article, and hopefully society in general.

1- Social configurations are created by society. This is basic. For those of you who do not know what a social configuration is, it the construction of meaning and standard. What does love mean? The meaning of love is such that it is, in this area and culture, based on what meaning society gives it. You may not be aware of the social constructions around you, but they are there, and they are shaped by race, religion, ethnicity, and any other segregating or non segregating values. In short, there is only meaning to something because society has given it that meaning.

2- There is no absolute right, wrong, ugly, or beautiful. If you do not agree with this, then we have some issues. What is right in my eyes may be a sin in yours, and what I find to be attractive may turn you off. That is not defined as right or wrong, but as a matter of human nature in developing preferences.

3- There is a total hypocrisy in praising some forms of art and not others. I believe that all art, excluding violent or maliciously intended, is something to be praised, because it is that individual allowing himself to open up in an attempt to try to relay to the outside world what can only really be explained inside the mind. Such vulnerability should never be ridiculed.

4- There is even more hypocrisy in setting standards down based on values that not everyone shares. Like the skinny versus fat body type argument that everyone is so passionate about, there truly is no absolute as to what a standard body is. Are you 90 pounds and healthy? That's awesome. What about you, are you 250 pounds and joyous? Good for you! There is no meaning behind these standards that society deems fitting, like a model that can only be a size 00 or the absurd notion that "real women have curves." Is that girl who was born thin not a real woman? What is she then, a ghost? I do not place value on weight, and therefore societies standards and how I may or may not live up to them do  not bother me. But this can be true of every standard. Who is the perfect person who gets to make these up?
It is a constant spiraling question that only leads to frustration. Free yourselves of these standards.

Now, after that monologue, I present to you the true purpose of this article:
The Invisible Ranking Scale of Body Modifications

A body modification is any change that you willingly make to your physical self, with whatever intentions you have.
Here a few common body modifications, loosely ranked in order of "acceptance" here in California. Of course the order is going to vary depending on where you are, which is only further evidence for my theory. I will begin with most accepted and make my way down to the "worst."

-Dental Work (whitening, braces, fake teeth)
-Makeup and Cosmetics
-Hair Coloring
-Fake Hair (wigs, extensions)
-Plastic Surgery (breast augmentation, rhinoplasty)
-Ear Piercings
-Belly / Nose Piercings
-Tattoos on Men
-Tattoos on Women 
-Facial Piercings (plugs, anchors)
-Tongue Splitting

Of course there are many more, and of course there are many scales on which to rank them, but I believe one of the most important issues in scaling these modifications is not the act of placing them correctly on some chart, but the actual concept of a scale at all.
Upon whose shoulders rests the weight of ranking? How is the degree of socially acceptable placed on any one of these?
In India, this chart might look very different, as nose piercings and tattoos are common. Again, in tribal countries, where men do not cut their hair and women do not shave, this list would be dissimilar as well.

Who is to say that a tattooed woman is not a saint? Who is to say that a man with piercings and tattoos cannot be employed at a prestigious establishment?
Furthermore, who is the one to say that a woman with perfectly straightened, white teeth, a beautiful body, and nicely kept hair is not the wickedest person out of all?

However a person chooses to express themselves, whatever style of art and body modification they choose to perform or not perform, is not only not a direct representation of their heart, but it holds no correlation to the academic, professional, or moral person they are. Where are you placing your identity? If it is behind such things as the tangible then you are probably doing it incorrectly.

The way I see it, having a faith in a God and a life after this, if we are only on this planet for an average of what, 70 years, then this body that I am occupying is by no means eternal nor important. No matter what faith you do or do not have, the truth is this: skin is skin, and it is nowhere near forever lasting.

Why are breast implants acceptable and my arm tattoo isn't? Surgery is much more expensive, invasive, and permanent that any marking of ink in my skin, and yet I feel the judging glances from people who do not agree with tattoos. It is only so because society claims that plastic surgery is alright, but tattoos are distasteful. Does that mean I should not be allowed to get the job I want? Does that reflect any way whatsoever on my work ethic?
I drew my tattoo in a time of development. It means a lot to me, that which I cannot express verbally, and mine is the only opinion in the world regarding this tattoo that I will place any emphasis on.

My tattoos, and piercings, and makeup, and hair color, and clothes, and anything else that I may change about my body in the years to come, have never once held me back emotionally, financially, or academically. I still major in Biochemistry at a top research school. I still have a faith to call my own. I still love everyone the same as I did before I "changed."

I can boast in very few things, but of this I feel secure in saying: I do not interact with nor judge people according to any set of standards America has fed me. If I get to know you, and I enjoy your company and the person you are, that is all that matters.

I believe that body modifications are not the real problem, but a prejudiced society that standardizes based on the credentials of nothing and nobody, and praises or ridicules blindly. The only type of modification that should matter to anybody is that of the mind and spirit.

I am sorry for the what is going to seem like a rant to some, but I am very passionate about this. The world would be a much more comfortable and safe place if these social constructions were torn down and opinions formed based on the person as opposed to the presence.