Monday, February 1, 2010

From the other blog...Train of Thought: From Mendhi to Growth Attenuation


Today, I will sit down with my two daughters and we will do some mendhi. We will paint and decorate with henna, beautify ourselves, and watch, over the next few days, our self-expressions deepen, darken and then slowly fade away.

I love body art...tattoos in particular. I had one applied when I was 21. There was no sense of rebellion that fuelled my desire, no deep dark secrets...just a real absolute love of the idea of having art on my arm...something I felt inside, permanently etched on my outer being for all to see, contemplate, or turn away from. I took a month or more to carefully choose what I wanted and had it done.

It was risky business, in those early '80's for a good, well-bred Catholic girl to get a tattoo. It was still the domain of the sailor, biker gang, bad girl types. No self-respecting daughter of a self-respecting family would stoop to such a garish mutilation, let alone on her forearm, to be seen by all in the bright light of day.

Today, however, even though somewhat more acceptable, there is still considerable cluck-clucking that goes on when a "decent" woman gets a tattoo. It's just soooo...rebellious, or dangerous, overtly sexual, or underground...and so most women's tattoos remain hidden on the low back or hip, or tiny, high up on the back of the arm. Some are also silly, stupid things, little squishy bugs or cartoon characters...hardly well thought out material.

So, the mendhi made me think of tattoos, the tattoos made me think of a certain anthropologist who has made body art the subject of academic research, the research made me think of ancient traditions of body art and modification...and I remembered that that same anthropologist is right now zooming out west to try and talk some sense into the medicos who are attempting to entrench as a "treatment" something called Growth Attenuation.

Do you see the connection?

Body modification of every sort has been practiced for centuries. Some traditions are far more dark than the application of inky dyes to the skin. Think foot binding, neck rings, female circumcision...and note that the last three are all done to women. Note, too, just how much so called Western civilization finds these customs...some persisting to this day...abhorrent.

Part of our distaste for these "cosmetic" alterations is that they involve controlling women and are performed upon them as children before they can protest in any way. A woman with tiny, twisted feet cannot run away. A woman with a dozen or more neck rings can be punished by removing them...where she will suffocate as her head falls over without the support of those atrophied neck muscles. A circumcized woman cannot enjoy sex and can only be "opened" by the man who "owns" her. Her sexuality becomes a lifelong pain.

Jump now, to Growth Attenuation. Currently, the protocols set in place for this "treatment" are detailed for girls only. Interesting, don't you think?

What about control? GA is about keeping someone small, permanently, so that they are supposedly easier to care for. The process is irreversible. Can you spell C O N T R O L??

How about the fact that the girls upon which this is perpetrated will never be able to speak for themselves, even as adults?

So, you have a society that can hardly yet manage the thought of a woman with a tattoo, that finds barbaric the body alterations of old and foreign cultures, able to somehow accommodate the thought of giving a six year old girl a hysterectomy, removing her breast buds and dosing her with massive amounts of hormones so that she remains small for her entire lifetime.

*********************long silent pause****************************

I wonder how long it will take...how many girls' bodies it will take...before someone looks back on our society and shakes their collective head about how horrific, barbaric and utterly nonsensical Growth Attenuation was.

Hurry up, would you please.

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