Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Impact of Bodily Alterations

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Impact of Bodily Alterations

I shared an article about bikini waxing a while back, in one of my Sunday Surfs (I would get the link for you, but I currently don’t have access to internet, so my husband does the posting, while I do the writing at home). The conclusion was that when waxing your genitals, you are not alone on the table, you have to consider every other woman who might be pushed into it because of your doing. Because everything we do to alter ourselves, normalizes body alterations.

We live in a world where we - women especially - are obliged to always look our best. But our best - as we know so very well, since we are constantly reminded by ads and commercials - is not ours to obtain. No matter what we would try, “best” is not in our realm of natural possibilities. So to look our best, we must result to the services of estheticians and hairdressers, to creams and make-up, to enhancements and plastic surgery.
Indeed, our best is locked away somewhere with a very big price tag and the question is: how far are you willing to go to obtain it?

So we pluck and tug and sweat and have stuff removed here and stuff added there. But to what price?

Because not only are we literally paying the price for the products and the services, we are pushing every other woman - to start with our daughters - to do the same. We are telling them, by our own body alterations, that they too are inadequate.
When we shave our legs, we are telling the world that unshaven legs are inadmissible.
When we brush our hair, we tell our sisters that undone hair is unruly.
When we alter our breasts, we tell our daughters that their natural form is somehow inadequate.

All alterations of our physical selves - however pleasing the process may be, most often it is not, and closer the torture, we impose this on ourselves to create an image towards the outside world. We don’t undergo these dreaded actions for ourselves.

Take the act of leg shaving. I used to have my legs waxed, but that is simply not an option any more here in Africa, so I shave. I do admit that I am not very regular and if I look down right now, I think I should be wearing pants instead of shorts, if being proper was on my mind.
However neglectful I can be about it, my unshaven legs are on my mind. I often sigh to myself that I should really take a moment to shave.
But if it would be just me? If I were a Cameroonian woman, my hairy legs would be a sign of beauty. I would flaunt them for all the world to see.
Yet for ow, I persevere, and show the world that it is ok to be unruly at times. That you don’t have to be groomed to perfection, that make-up and hair brushing and shaving and the like should indeed be returned to the realm of the private.
As for now, my unshaven legs, un-dyed hair with no specific cut, my clothes who are mostly made out of 4 dollar fabric, are a political statement, by which I hope to communicate to all women that I may encounter that it is ok to just be, without all the alterations. And that you can even be beautiful and secure that way.

I am not saying that we should forgo grooming altogether, just that we must be aware of the implications they have. That we must become conscious of it’s cultural imprint on us, and - most importantly - on its futility and dispensability.

Sadly, most people just think I have ‘gone local’ and I know that many women would be appalled upon reading this. (The reactions upon the “Smelly White Men” article come to mind).



  1. I don't think I can agree that absolutely any alteration says that the natural state is unacceptable. I love changing my hair color when I was in high school, not because I hated my natural hair color, but because I loved being different and being creative with my body. The same reason I like my tattoo and want to get more. I like being artistic with this canvas of mine. But overall, I do agree, that when we normalize and universalize body alteration it makes the natural state seem "wrong," and I don't like that. That is demeaning to the natural female (or male) body.

  2. that's indeed a whole different topic, where you alter your body to go against the grain. Whichever way does not promote body acceptance, and most people who change their appearance dramatically (through body art or hair colors) don't really consider this and do it exactly to be different than what they are
    Don't get me wrong, I do think that tattoos etc can be a creative expression, when well thought through and when the person is considerate of why exactly he/she is doing it

  3. Am preparing a post on natural hair beauty.... now you've made me self conscious - perhaps we shouldn't even be brushing it!


  4. sorry... I bet there are oodles of articles to be written on natural beauty that don't alter your body or make other women feel bad about themselves.
    I haven't brushed my hair in over 10 years (except the odd trip to the hairdresser) and the result is thick hair to the waist with no split end (I don't cease to amaze the occasional hairdresser and drive them to occupational orgasms)

  5. ahhhh.... see.... please post about this:-) I will link to you:-) !!


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