Body: Ideas of Beauty

Tue, 16 Jul 1996 10:14:54 EDT

Since this is a thread that goes on and on, I'll echo the caution of
Cyril Belshaw, " to label decorative modifications of the body as
"mutilation" is going far too far."

As I was scanning a new book, Philip Ravenhill's Dreams and Reverie,
Smithsonian Press, 1996, it seemed to me that the aesthetic part is a
critical part of much bodily enhancement (mutilation??) According to
Ravenhill, NECK RINGS -- horizontal creases -- not fat necessarily
[although in my case they are] -- sometimes NATURAL, sometimes created
through SCARIFICATION -- are considered beauty lines... on humans and
statues favored by the Baule in West Africa. They emphasize the human
neck, elongating it, a la Brancusi, to approximate an ideal type... or to
play on the idea with embellishment. Ravenhill says they also prefer
well developed pectoral muscles, and very muscular legs -- as signs of
physical splendor and strength. Ravenhill implies that form = identity.
[I know many men -- a global ideal? - who spend a lot of time in the gym
working out and others who "mutilate" their systems with steroids trying
to approximate some parallel ideal type.] Ravenhill also talks about
the the play of fashion with the form -- while he is discussing statuary,
it gave me food for thought about how groups get themselves into extreme
forms of some ideal type.

Aside: in contemporary US culture, as someone who has a tatoo and has
always admired them -- it's amazing how many [post 50] suited, stiff
men, when they see mine (which is on my arm and fairly visible), have
taken me aside ( during meeting breaks, for example) and shown me
theirs.... quel interaction!

Patsy Evans, AAA
703/528-1902/ext.3024;FAX: 703/528-3546

NB: Opinions expressed are my own and do not represent my employer.

"There is no sea as restless as my mind." Derek Walcott