Tuesday, February 20, 2007

the "Modern Primitive's" Mistake

While Daniel Rosenblatt presents many ideas about the body modifications such as resistance acted upon the body, mainstream and its constant flux, and therapy/self realization through body modification, I found his discussion of the "modern primitive" the most enlightening.

"'Primitives' or 'others' have long had a hold on the Western imagination. It is de rigueur these days to put the words in quotation marks, indexing the author's awareness that whatever it is that obsesses our imagination is as much or more a product of that imagination as of encounters with other societies" (Rosenblatt 1997: 293).

I think that the context he placed the idea of primitive and primitive-ness is especially crucial to his research. While primitive is currently not considered very politically correct, ethnocentric, and wrong, it is essential for this research to proceed. Identifying tattoos as tribal or having "primitive" like qualities sits in a specific Western ideology which illuminates more about Western cultures and those who practice these body modifications than the elusive "primitive" society who apparently has none of the problems of Western society. Through placing the definition of "primitive" within the Western context of imperialist nostalgia and first in his article, Rosenblatt allows the reader to follow the progression of these specific body modification practices in a Western context. I enjoyed the historical aspect of Rousseau and Benedict.

It was easy as time to get lost in the rambling prose and to sometimes wonder where a particular point was going, but overall article was enjoyable and very thought provoking. From an ethnographic standpoint, I found there was a lack of fieldwork examples since he mainly relied on the text Modern Primitives. The ideas were unpacked somewhat disarrayed, but very thorough. He moved his information both "in" and "out" focusing upon both the intricate aspects of this research within the community and broader social implications. The dialogue of mainstream, resistance, and self discovery all interwove to establish a rambling picture of the situation.

Again, ending with the idea that the "primitive" modern primitives identify with is their own construction, Rosenblatt ends with his own research with the Maori of New Zealand saying the the tattoos they receive are a unifying marking rather than marking out an individual. If there were more examples such as this, I feel that the author would have better expressed his point, because while he research is obviously very extensive and well thought, he was not present in the text save the beginning and the end. This, overall, gave the text a floating and at times distancing stance.

Future Body Modifications

Despite my mother’s horrific reaction if she knew, my next planned body medication is a tattoo. The image I wish to place on the inside of my forearm is a triskele – a Celtic symbol of three interconnected spirals drawn with a single line. I chose this figure because it is simple in design but complex in meaning. The triskele represents womanhood, the interconnected experience, reincarnation, and continuous movement of time. The tattoo would ideally be pink because my mother is a breast cancer survivor. I feel that this would be a marking that I could grow with since tattoos are permanent and that it is vague enough to have personal meaning to me without others ascribing it meaning. The placement of the tattoo may change depending on when I receive the tattoo, but I am fairly certain that the image I have selected will remain the same.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Splitting Hairs

I've known for a long time that both of my grandmothers and my mother greyed early: meaning that they started to have grey hairs. Early is, of course, relative. When I say early, I mean in their early 20's. Shortly before my 21st birthday about a year ago, I pulled my hair back to wash my face. To my surprise among my dark brown hair, something stood in stark contrast. It was small, it was singular, it was white. My first white hair. I wasn't sure how to react to it. I wanted to make sure it wasn't a random blond hair that I find from time to time, so I pulled it out. Checked against the white porcelain sink, the hair was beyond a shadow of a doubt white.

I wasn't sure how to take it. It bothers me slightly, but not in the fact that it makes me old, I just don't know how to deal with my white hairs. Yes, I have found more. I do have about 5-10 white (not grey) hairs scattered about the top of my head. My hair is changing on me, and I'm not 100% sure that I want it to change. The white hairs give me conflicting emotions. I think it's rather neat to have little white hairs about. I think they confuse those who see them as much as they confuse me. Some tell me to pluck them out; I don't see why, they'll just grow back. Other people tell me to dye my hair. As much as I enjoyed being a red head, I want to see my hair change color on its own, and not be surprised when the white hairs begin to take over.

The white hairs, I must say, take me by surprise. There is something inevitable about them. How does one alter that biological change? Do I even want to?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Changing the outside from within

My dieting narrative:

So, in short (and this will be the shortest statement of the narrative), I tend to ramble. I will go on and on, but so it goes (as Vonnegut would say in Cat's Cradle).

In second grade, students would sit in front of their classroom doors waiting for their teacher to come. My teacher, Ms. LaVerne, had a large bench for all her students to sit on. As usual, before class, I would sit next to my then friend, Sarah Lobdell. Sarah was always a petite child. I remember thinking that my thighs were so much larger than hers and not liking my thighs. But I did not diet. I don't think I really knew what a diet was. My mom was always on a diet. But like curse words and drinking alcohol, diets were for grown ups. I could diet when I was a grown up. Diets meant eating salads and not eating desert. And well, I could wait to grow up because I did not like salads.

Going for my regular check up years later, the doctor informed me that I was under the average height for my age group. I was strangely pleased with this fact. I enjoyed the idea of being smaller than other people. Starting middle school, I realized that I was not as tiny (weight wise) as the other girls. While I didn't start to limit my food intake, I did start watching what I wore. Fat. That's what I felt. I forgot about it some days, but I never liked for alot of skin to show. I wanted to wear baggy clothes. And I stopped feeling cute.

As middle school progressed, the feeling of ugliness and fatness went hand in hand. Now one might think that since my mother with her constant dieting and quest to be thin would project that feeling onto her three young daughters. However, I did not feel this was the case. Mom ate salads because she was a grown up and that is what grown ups did (this in and of itself can be examined and picked apart. My mom was insistent that we did not have access to a scale. She felt that constantly weighing ourselves would be negative for our self esteem. I do think that she had a point. But when a boy told me that I was ugly in sixth grade and I felt that no boys liked me, I "knew" in my head that it was because I was ugly (since my face was covered in acne and I was, according to me, overweight. I started playing soccer in seventh grade, and one of my teachers asked me if I had lost weight and that I looked good. It was such a high. I felt like a million dollars. I was validated, and the feeling immediately disappeared when I started eating. I felt that every bite was me gaining weight.

I try to take a philosophy that if my clothes fit than I am maintaining a good weight. Soccer kept me very in shape. While I was never tiny, I didn't feel quite so fat. I have a phobia of being picked up, not because I'm scared of heights. I don't want the person picking me up to think that I'm fat and heavy. I want to be little and light. I am 5'2", and I like being short. I know that part of this liking being short is that I'm perceived as light/tiny. I don't "diet" per se, but I do watch what I eat. I am very aware of my food intake, and yes, I do think of food as sometimes the enemy. I know where this information comes from. I am aware of where I'm getting these images. Dieting is no longer for grown ups in my head. I don't have to eat salad all the time because I am 21. I was shocked when my younger sister told me that when she was in elementary school, her and her friends used to go on "diets" in the cafeteria, i.e. eat their salads and not their cookies. She recalled that they inevitably forgot and would eat the cookies. But play "diet." That fact is a little scary.

I still think I'm heavy. I don't like being picked up. I have a fear of getting fat. My dieting narrative does not reflect what I eat, but how I behave to food. I enjoy food, I'm from south Louisiana everything is fried goodness. I still eat, but I work out. Maybe not every day. But I feel fat when I don't. I try to run off the weight. Food is good for one person to live and to live well. But that doesn't mean we view food in a healthy light. I think like most Americans I desire a diet to change my outside rapidly without changing my life style. I accept more today than I used to that my body is beautiful. I accept that this is who I am. But in some ways, it feels more like giving up and truly accepting and loving.