Thursday, October 3, 2013

The "Traditional" Female

As strange, and even abusive as this may seem.... these women actually derive validation, pride, and even their very sense of identity from their respective "tradition".

I for one am glad that I wasn't raised in such a culture. Though if I was, it would seem normal, and even attractive to me.  I find it disturbing that, as a "suitor" I might even do my part (however subtle, or overt) to make some young woman —who is trying her hardest to meet my (conditioned) expectations so that her appearance is pleasing to me— feel inadequate and unattractive.

I see many correlations to this sort of senseless, arbitrary behavior in my own given society. It is mind-boggling to think that tradition is what we do to feel "comfortable" simply because it's all we know...
Is it a bad thing to want a world where things like neck rings, or lip plates, and plastic surgery, no longer imply social status, or attractiveness?

I think there is a bigger picture to all of these varying traditions. I haven't spent a whole lot of time learning about the given cultures and origins of these practices, but I have an inkling of their commonality. I'm not sure I even know how to explain it. It is the suppression, exploitation, and desecration of the "sacred feminine". Making women feel that they are a commodity by insisting on certain behaviors in order for certain "rewards", like marriage, or care taking. This is done systematically, and systemically within cultures, and the various ways range from the banal to the bizarre. But all forms have the same effect: eliciting a voluntary display of their desire to be accepted. Usually, on patently masculine terms. Men participate in similar behaviors on some level to, but these examples tend to pale in comparison to those of women, and many hardly bear mentioning (though some compulsory traditions like circumcision do deserve a discussion of their own...).

The above examples are modes which are physical augmentations, and are therefore visually perceptible. The psychological modes are so nuanced and varied that I don't feel I'm able to even delve into that aspect of social conditioning. While the physical manifestations of women's subjugation to male-dominant culture can be seen around the world, and around us each day, I don't think most of us really acknowledge the full implications of what we see. It is so common place to see women trying to be "10"s, trying to adhere to fashion "do's" and social "musts", that we forget that it is arbitrary, and senseless.

 So, are these traditions wrong? They do seem unnatural... But does "natural" necessarily mean "right"? In the context of tradition—and especially in long-held traditions passed down through many many generations of practitioners—what does "unnatural", even mean?  It seems almost like a case study in Darwinian evolutionary theory, except that the individual is accountable to either augment themselves, or else essentially become "less fit" than those who do. The individual must "evolve" themselves. If individuals cease to do so, then the species/culture at large "devolves", and these arbitrary traditions are lost, for better or for worse.

This is both a beautiful fact, and a perplexing one. On the one hand, it means that each of us is free to define ourselves. On the other, it means that we must *allow* each individual to make that choice.  We must each be free to choose to define ourselves as "one of the herd" if that is what we truly desire (whether that desire stems from familiarity, or sense of duty, etc.) Perhaps that "herd" happens to be the one that says that a woman's desirability is directly proportionate to how large a hole she can create in her lower lip. Perhaps we choose to go against tradition, and miss out on all the comfort/familiarity, status and protection afforded to those who keep up the tradition. It may seem unjust for a woman to be cast out of her tribe for refusing to mutilate her face. But then again, if she chooses it, who are we to say that the consequences of that choice are not just, and natural? Non-compliance is, after all, anti-social behavior....

What's so fascinating about tradition, to me at least, is that it seems to not only elicit compliance, but even a fervent, zealous commitment.... no matter how bizarre or appalling it may seem to an outsider.


Eve Golding said...

Great post. The videos wouldn't load on my phone, but I knew what they were before pulling the post back up on my computer. Do you remember what the book was that had those pictures in it when we were kids?

¡91211790! said...

I don't. but I remember exactly the one you're talking about. I even had an image of it in my head as I was writing this. I recall being weirded out by the "giant" blonde woman on the cover... but thinking back, I think it was just a good example of forced perspective/poor graphic design. :)