Plastic Surgery, Body Modification and the African American Community Essay

That’s White People Stuff: Plastic Surgery, Body Modification and the African American Community Body modification has existed around since the beginning of time. Modifications have generally been used to mark the social position of an individual in a manner visible and recognized by other members of society.

That similar modifications are interpreted very differently from one culture to the next is an excellent indication of relativity of ideals of beauty and deformity (Britannica, 2012).Body adornments accenting and decorating kings and queens of tribes, leaders of countries has been documented through history. The topic of body modification has historically been frowned upon by African Americans here in the United States. Body modification is most prevalently seen in African tribesmen and a rite of passage into adulthood among African tribes. In the United States when some African Americans see these people with these alterations and categorize those persons as “out there”, “weird” or simply to say “oh that’s white people’s stuff.

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In recent years, plastic surgery has become the more and more prevalent in the African American community. This raises the question of is plastic surgery really “white people’s stuff? This paper will discuss the history of and definition of body modification. This paper will also focus on body modification and the relationship to African-American culture. Lastly this paper will discuss plastic surgery is important , how plastic surgery relates to today’s African American culture and why it should no longer be considered to be “white people’s stuff. ” What is Body Modification?Body modification or body alteration is defined as the deliberate altering of the human body for any non-medical reason, such as aesthetics, sexual enhancement, rite of passage, religious reasons, to display group membership, or affiliation, to create body art, shock value, or self expression (Wikipedia, 2012). In its most broad definition it includes plastic surgery, socially acceptable decoration (e.

g. , common ear piercing in many societies), and religious rites of passage (e. g. , circumcision in a number of cultures), as well as the modern primitive movement (Wikipedia, 012). In the United States everyone does something that alters their outward appearance. For example, a new cosmetic product, new earrings, a different hair style or color. These alterations are made without any extensive process having to occur.

The African American community within the last 40-50 years has strove to form their own identities through outward appearance. In the 1970’s there was afros and bell bottoms. In the 1980’s and 1990’s it was haircuts, color. It was a natural evolution for to plastic surgery become prominent in the African American community.Almost everyone knows someone who has had something done from Botox to full body lifts. So why is it that no one is willing to speak openly about having had plastic surgery? Body Modification and African Americans As previously stated, body modification has been around since the beginning of time.

Delving into the social standard practices of body modification in Africa, you will see many Africans with the following; scarification, piercings, stretched piercings, and teeth filing and even in extreme cases mutilation.Ritual scarification is used by tribes in Africa, done by burning, cutting, or making a slight incision to create a prominent scar. Done in patterns, scarification is used to identify members of certain tribal families and done for social and culture acceptance.

Not only done in the men of the tribes but also to women and children as a coming of age rite of passage. In women scarification is seen as something beautiful, marks showing they are suitable mothers and wives (Afro-punk, 2010).Pre-slavery, body modifications were embraced however once brought to America these modifications and traditions were not allowed by slave owners and punishable by beatings, whippings, or worse death. Slave owners did not frown upon their own branding of their slaves similar to the branding of their livestock. Plastic Surgery and the African-American Community The Real Housewives of Atlanta was one of the first reality television shows that had a majority African American cast that openly flaunted money, homes, cars, and lifestyles which included the occasional nip and tuck.These African-American women openly discussed plastic surgeries on national television without shame.

The filming schedule of the show overlapped many of these procedures showing the old nose or breast jobs in one scene and the new nose and or breast jobs in another. Essence magazine recently featured an article with Selika Borst, RN, Assistant Director of Clinical Research for Denova Research, a plastic surgery research firm based in Chicago, to find out why Black women are now taking the plunge and getting nipped and tucked now more than ever.In the article, Borst explained her opinion that the rise of professionalism and economic status of Black women has increased awareness of our physical appearance. We have the resources now if we wanted to change something. Also because we see more women like us, like Kelly Rowland or Vivica Fox or Vanessa Williams, getting work done, the stigma is less than it has ever been. Black women are just more conscious visually than ever before and we are taking more care of ourselves these days, from our hair to our skin. We’re taking more pride in ourselves.Cosmetic surgery has sort of become just part of your beauty regimen.

(Essence, 2010) Hollywood stars Queen Latifah, Tina Turner, Vivica A. Fox, Toni Braxton, tv personalities like NeNe Leaks and performers like Patti LaBelle are among the few African-American celebrities who have admitted that they have had some work done. In contrast, performers that relate directly to today’s hip hop culture like Nicki Minaj, Mary J. Blige and Lil’ Kim to countless video vixens are still staying mum on the work they have had done.

Stigma around Plastic Surgery Why is plastic surgery so hush?More than 900,000 African-Americans underwent plastic surgery in 2008, a 145% increase since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (Mann, 2010). Today more African American’s are flocking to body piercers, tattoo artists, certified licensed plastic surgeons and “hood” doctors to achieve the trendy look encouraged by rap artists, video vixens, television, and movie actors and actresses. The African American community continues to frown upon body modification, balking at the topic, exclaiming that to be “white people stuff. ”From the ime of slavery, when Africans came to the United States they were stripped of their African identities and religious beliefs. “There was a time when we didn’t do things because it felt like we were selling out. That mentality is gone and now we have a more glamorized, mainstream focus” (Essence, 2010). The growing number of African-Americans undergoing plastic surgery indicates a trickling down effect of values – those that start in pop culture, and overtime become accepted by society.

The stigma towards plastic surgery may be going in the direction of the stigma that used to be reserved for hair extensions (Essence, 2010).Plastic surgery whether spoken in hushed words or proclaimed has become part of the African American experience. Whether done for vanity reasons or medical issues the stigma of plastic surgery should be and is quickly becoming accepted in African American culture. This paper focused on plastic surgery as a modern day form of body modification. This paper also focused on plastic surgery among African Americans and the stigmas associated with plastic surgery. Modern African Americans live in a society where beauty is embraced and rewarded. A nip here and a tuck there should no longer be whispered in hush tones; rather it should be embraced as another area where African Americans are coming to age both socially and financially.ReferencesAfro-Punk (2010).

Body Modification: Tribal and Fashion. April 14, 2010. Retrieved August 21, 2012 from http://www. afropunk. com/profiles/blogs/body-modification-tribal-and Body Modification (2012). Retrieved August 21, 2012 from http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/71151/body-modifications-and-mutilation Body Modification (2012).

Retrieved August 21, 2012 from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Body_modification Jeffries, Alexis (2010). Is Plastic Surgery the New Black for Black Women? Retrieved August 21, 2012 from http://www. essence. com/2010/10/27/is-plastic-surgery-the-new-black-for-bla/#ixzz24Q5ukSQb Mann, Aleesa (2010). Plastic Surgery Gaining Acceptance the African-American Community. Retrieved August 21, 2012 from http://www.

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