Body Modification Hypocrisy

This is another subject that bothers me, personally, and something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s all about the hypocrisy in the vast world of body modification. This is probably going to sound like a rant, and in a way, it probably is one. So, sit tight and just hear me out.

Remember that body modification is defined as just that: modifying the body. This can range from anything very mild and temporary to something very severe and permanent. But a lot of the hypocrisy comes from the fact that some are “acceptable” and some are not, and those that are deemed acceptable are usually even more dangerous and permanent than the non-accepted ones. It drives me batty sometimes.

Society and religion tend to dictate which modifications are deemed appropriate and which ones aren’t. Or to what degree certain mods are acceptable. For example, it’s acceptable to color your hair, but only in certain colors. But hair color is hair color, it’s the same thing, it’s modifying your hair to be some color that it is not naturally. Or it’s acceptable to pierce your earlobes, but if you pierce your earlobes more than once it’s not acceptable. What’s the difference? It’s the exact same thing, just more of them. So why is it okay to perform a certain body modification, but only to a certain degree?

A lot of that last sort of hypocrisy comes from within the body modification community itself. I hear a lot that stretched ears are fine, but only to a certain size, otherwise it’s “gross”, or people look trashy, or people start making all sorts of assumptions about who they are and their lifestyle. All the time I hear something like “I like stretched ears, they’re cool. OMG! Those huge ears are so gross! I bet they don’t even have a job with ears like that, they probably live on welfare, at home. Way to ruin your life. Man, whoever does that must have serious daddy issues, because why else would they stretch so large if they didn’t want attention?” That’s not okay with me.

Or I hear that certain piercings are okay, but others are dumb or gross or ugly. You don’t have to like a certain piercing, or piercings stretched to a certain size, that’s your right as a free-thinking human being. But just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it gross, or dumb, or ugly. It just means you don’t like it, so don’t do it. That simple.

Earlobes can be gross at any size if you don’t take care of them. Lobes can be just as gross and ugly at 4mm as they can be at 40mm, but remember that “gross-ness” is an issue of hygiene and aftercare, and not of aesthetic preferences. Remember to separate those two aspects before you judge something to be “gross” or not.

Or the fact that a certain number of piercings or tattoos suddenly makes you “know what you’re talking about” or that you’re “really” tattooed. I hear this sort of thing all the time: “You only have two piercings other than your ear lobes? You have no idea what you’re talking about! Try having 30 piercings, then maybe I’ll listen to your advice!” Why does volume of piercings mean anything? Maybe all they wanted were those two piercings. Just because you don’t have a lot of piercings doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re talking about when you give advice, so long as the advice itself is good and productive. A backyard mechanic could only own two or three cars, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing when they give you advice on how to fix your own vehicle. Maybe they only CURRENTLY have 2-3 cars, but have repaired and sold dozens of them previously, worked in a professional mechanic setting for decades, educated and studied the work for decades, and spend all their free time associating with others who are into the same hobby. Volume of something shouldn’t dictate how knowledgeable one is on that subject. So long as the advice given is sound, correct, beneficial and helpful, that’s all that should matter.

Or when someone with only one small tattoo isn’t seen as awesome or as cool or as “really” tattooed as someone who has 60% of their bodies covered. “You’re not tattooed if you only have one small piece of flash, or one kanji character, or whatever. THAT’S not a tattoo. You have to have at least both arms completely sleeved, your neck completely covered and at least one leg totally sleeved, THEN you’re really tattooed.” Once you’re tattooed or pierced, you’re a part of the modified community, end of issue. How severely you’re a member shouldn’t be relevant.

It also bothers me that the accepted forms of body modification are actually MORE dangerous, and their potential complications and consequences more severe, than the unaccepted kind. I’ll never understand why invasive surgical procedures you need to be put under full anesthesia for are more widely accepted, or even encouraged, over something as simple and minimally invasive as a piercing or tattoo. Botox is a very poisonous toxin injected into your face to paralyze the muscles and fill in wrinkles and lines, and women are flocking in droves to have this procedure done, sometimes at as young as 20 years old. It’s the botulism toxin, the same severely poisonous bacteria that you get from bulging and enlarged cans of food. I don’t care how diluted it may be, it’s still poison you’re injecting DIRECTLY into muscles and blood systems. How is that more okay to do than a simple lip piercing? Some people even have their leg bones surgically broken and elongated to become taller. Some women will have their little toe removed to wear super narrow pointed toe shoes.

Men don’t usually go to such extremes as women do, because there usually isn’t as much pressure on them to be a certain way. But men are not immune to unrealistic bodily standards. They will go to extremes to bulk up on muscle, to the extent of taking dangerous and harmful steroids to achieve the bodies they want. Or they’ll go on risky and dangerous diets to lose weight. Some will also undergo cosmetic surgery to get fake muscles like calves or pecs, some will get nose jobs or chin enhancement implants, all in an effort to reach body image ideals, or what they believe will make them ideal. 

Cosmetic surgery is more body-altering than tattoos and piercings are. Tattoos and piercings don’t physically change your features and your figure to the point where you are not recognizable as the person you were before, and cosmetic surgery does. Some of the harder modifications, like subdermal silicone implants can change the features, but they aren’t meant to look convincingly real, like cosmetic surgery is.

The one that really gets to me is breast implants. Our society tells women that you’re really only as sexy as your cup size, so big breasts are encouraged so much that teenagers, sometime as young as 14 and 16 or even younger still, are going under the doctor’s knife to get bigger breasts. If you want them done for your own sake, then go for it, but I really don’t think it should be done just because society tells you that you NEED them in order for a man to love you. This very invasive, very dangerous, and very expensive procedure is more socially acceptable than a tattoo. This procedure is actually encouraged by our society, while a tattoo, no matter its size or subject matter, is condemned, or at least frowned upon.

The other aspect of body modification hypocrisy that really bothers me is this so-called “cultural appropriation” term that everyone is throwing around lately. It’s basic explanation is that certain people can’t have certain modifications if they don’t belong to the culture that the mod “originated” in. A big area of contention is stretched ears, or any other stretched piercing. The idea that people throw around is that these originated in African cultures, and that no one outside of African descent should have stretched ears. This is so wrong that it astounds me that people think this way, even in 2012. Otzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps in 1991, is the oldest mummy ever found, dated to have lived over 5,300 years ago. He was also revealed to have been of white, or Caucasian, descent. And guess what else he had? Stretched earlobes, to about 11mm. There have also been many European cultures to have stretched ears, including many Germanic tribes, the Scots, and the ancient Celts. Also, many Native American tribes have been known to have stretched ears, the Inuit included.  There is hardly a culture on the planet, past or present, that has not had stretched ears. Pretty much every culture on earth has also had some form of tattooing, piercing, or scarification in their history.

I guess the point of this post is to remind people to think before they judge or speak. Think about how you might belong to the same subculture or group you hate on. Do you color your hair? You’re in the same category as that girl with the pink hair you just condescendingly told to “touch up her roots”. Do you lie in the sun in the summer to tan, or spend time in the tanning bed? You’re the same as the person who gets solid black work tattoos. Do you work out to specifically lose weight or gain muscle? You’re the same as the person with implanted muscle enhancements and breast implants. Have you had metal braces in the past to straighten your teeth? You’re the same as the person with several facial tattoos, gold grills, or dental implants. Do you tweeze your eyebrows? You’re the same as the person who shaves her eyebrows off and tattoos or draws them back on. Do you shave your face or legs or other body hair? You’re the same as the person who shaves the sides of their head and styles the rest into a Mohawk. ALL of that are forms of body modification. Remember that before you start accusing someone of “ruining” their body with forms you haven’t chosen to do for yourself. Just because YOU wouldn’t choose it, doesn’t make it wrong. By condemning people for making choices in the same culture you also belong to is being hypocritical. Don’t be a hypocrite. 

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jen
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 19:07:31

    Hi! I saw your Gaia, you were commenting on a tragus piercing. I just got mine done 🙂 do you have a tumblr?

    Reply

  2. Jarrod
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 06:33:13

    absolutely AMAZING blog!!! I forwarded it to my parents (I’m 31 and they still give me crap lol)

    Reply

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