Re: the seriousness of mutilation

Adrienne Dearmas (DearmasA@AOL.COM)
Mon, 15 Jul 1996 11:57:31 -0400

In a message dated 96-07-13 20:44:33 EDT, jlm@TWICS.COM (John McCreery)

> Could it be (developing some thoughts I've posted elsewhere) that we are
> accumulating evidence for my proposition that tattoos and mutilations are
> highly uncomfortable subjects for those of us committed to seeing the
> "Other" as folks like us," which becomes, through projection, people for
> whom intellectual activity is more central and valuable than other aspects
> of life? Committed by relativism to the ethical position that the "Other"
> is an equal, we are happiest when attributing to them our own concerns.
> Thus, worldviews, values, even rituals seen in aestheticized terms as
> or art are comfortable subjects, ones that are, to borrow Levi-Strauss'
> famous phrase "good to think." Piercing, scarring, burning--all suggest a
> concern with the "meat" that is, in contrast, ugly, repulsive, "bad to
> think"?
Or, in another vein, are those who seek to compare mutilations cross
culturally causing individuals who subscribe to their own culture's versions
of body mutilation discomfort by proposing that they (Westerners) are not, in
fact, superior to "other"? I see very little difference between facelifts,
nose jobs, breast augmentation and other surgeries which are geared at
maintaining/achieving the Western obsession with youth and scarification,
tattooing or dental ablations which are embraced to achieve a culturally
prescribed aesthetic. But I am always confronted by people who think cosmetic
surgeries are "good to think" and scarrification "bad to think." Other is
often percieved as bad, and certainly the body and things associated with it
are about "meat" as you say. Yet, we talk about scarrification being about
"meat" and cosmetic surgery as being about aesthetics. If we seek to
understand a practice which is mainstream in another culture (i.e.
tattooing), perhaps we should be comparing it to cosmetic surgeries instead
of tattooing which is marginalized in Western culture.

> I wonder, then, if those among us who are tattooed are more or less
> comfortable with their bodies than those of us who are not?
Or rather, that those of us who are tattooed are more comfortable with
"other" bodies.

- Adrienne