Body Art and Social Status
In this article, Sheila Jeffreys examines the development of the body modification industry. In particular, the author focuses on the practices which can be described as self-mutilation, for instance, one can mention tattooing, cutting, or piercing. In particular, the scholar argues that these practices are popular among people who occupy the so-called “despised social status” (Jeffreys 2000, p. 410). Among them, Sheila Jeffreys distinguishes women, lesbians or gay men as well as people who were the victims of child abuse. The author believes that this behavior can be the result of continuous abuse or marginalization of “a hetero-patriarchal culture” (Jeffreys 2000, p. 410).
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To elaborate on this argument, the author refers to the experiences of some women who continuously practiced self-mutilation. Many of them resent the very idea of “being female” (Jeffreys 2000, p. 413). Furthermore, the author mentions that many of the people, who undergo body modification procedures, were the victims of sexual abuse during childhood. Furthermore, the author mentions that in many cultures, women had to change their body image to become more appealing to men.
For instance, one can mention foot-bound women in China. The main point is that the people who act in this way have often been marginalized by society. Moreover, the scholar’s main premise is that these individuals began to despise themselves.
The ideas expressed by the author can throw light on some of the motives that prompt people to modify their bodies through self-mutilation. To some degree, this assumption may be considered by researchers because a person’s willingness of mutilating his/her body may be a sign of some psychological problems. Nevertheless, the article lacks empirical data, which can show that some groups of people are more likely to use piercing, tattooing, or cutting to change their perception of themselves. These data are critical for the validity of the argument. Sheila Jeffreys relies on the narratives given by some of these individuals, but they are not sufficient for proving the initial hypothesis.
It is the main limitation that should not be overlooked. Additionally, one should not forget that some of the body modification operations, such as tattooing, can be explained by the search for the ideal body (Sullivan 2010, p. 2). Sheila Jeffreys rejects this idea. Yet, she does not provide evidence showing that this theory can be dismissed. It is another aspect that should be considered.
Jeffreys, S 2000, ’Body Art’ and Social Status: Cutting, Tattooing, and Piercing from a Feminist Perspective’, Feminism and Psychology, vol.10. no.4, pp. 409-429.
Sullivan, N 2010 Changing Bodies, Changing Selves. Masquarie University, North Ryde.