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a collection of responses to class discussion and the reading

2009 February 3
by aaclh

hymen construction as protection (from ???): I think calling hymen construction protection avoids some of the larger issues involved with this practice. While having a hymen construction so that you can pass a virginity test may enable you from being murdered or beaten – so does a bodyguard. I think that while this may be the reason or one reason (protection from bodily harm) to have such a surgery, I think that the practice is also motivated by a desire to ‘pass’ as a virgin to the family or family-in-law or husband in a way similar that some queer people ‘pass’ as straight. While I understand the reasons to do this, I also understand that every time a person ‘passes’ (as something that person is not), this is fails to challenge people to accept you as you are. I think that really, how I think about this (hymen construction surgery) (at least right now) is largely based on how I view the practice of lying. In general, I believe in telling the truth, yet I recognize that sometimes the benefits from lying outweigh the benefits from telling the truth – ie I can’t fight all the time about everything or you have to pick your battles.

That said, I’m not sure how to think about this in terms of gender. The answer – there is a virginity test for women and not for men just doesn’t satisfy (me). The fact of the matter is, there isn’t a virginity test for women. Hymens break for reasons other than intercourse, some women don’t have hymens, some hymens were surgically constructed… I think my viewing this the way I view lying or passing avoids the issue of gender.

Quotations from Banales I found interesting:

“Is it even possible for a woman to get cosmetic surgery ‘for herself,’ given the asymmetrical gender, race, and class power relations?”

“the extensive history and longevity of women’s resistance movements and organizing efforts in Peru as well as elsewhere in the Americas highlight ways in which these women […] actively assert and exercise their political agency”

“without the institutionalization of racism and other intersecting systems of oppression, the idea that there is such a thing as a more ‘beautiful’ or ‘desirable’ nose would probably not exist.”

“the [cosmeticc surgery] industry both contributes to as well as is a product of the larger systems of domination”

I think calling cosmetic surgery elective is fine. I think the problem is that we (who is this we anyway? do I mean I here?) think of individualism existing in a vacuum. I do not think society _determines_ a (any) person, (merely) influences them. I do think that a person has a self – perhaps not separate from society, but influenced by society and influencing society. To say that the cosmetic surgery is not elective, implies (to me) that a woman who undergoes an operation has no subject or say in it at all – it denies her the choice to say yes or no to the surgery comepletely. I think that she did have a choice to undergo such a surgery or not – it was a choice weighed with much societal meaning though. If my ability to get a job requires western facial features that I do not have – I still must choose whether or not to get a cosmetic surgery done or not – however I must do it knowing that my state of joblessness (or job) may rest on my decision. I think that all human choices are like this – we make them ourselves, weighing up the societal and personal ramifications the choosing or not choosing will have.

3 Responses
  1. aaclh permalink
    February 10, 2009

    In the same way.

    I was talking to Blankenship about this today though and I had a(nother) thought about this passing idea. First though – I wrote the above post thinking really from the perspective of social acceptance of [transsexuals, queers, people of color, female-not-married-not-virgins…] and the attempt to widen this acceptance. Of course if widening societal acceptence does not interest someone then it will probably have nothing to do with their decision to pass or not.

    Anyway, in talking to Blankenship today I noticed how focused I was on critiquing passing or not – which in one sense is fine because that was what I was thinking about. However, in another sense I missed thinking about all the people who ‘are not passing’ and how they are contributing (or not) to the aforementioned social acceptance. When I say ‘are not passing’ I think I mean … Let me explain by example: I call myself female or woman easily (with ease). I was born in a female body and – at least verbally – I have never challenged this label. I have always checked the ‘F’ box. (As far as I know) Other people always label me female. So I would not say that I am passing as female or as a woman. Perhaps in my lack of challenging this automatic labeling and self-labeling I am not helping to widen social acceptance.

    I say this because I think that in focusing so much on those who choose to pass (or not) I was unfairly putting all of the responsibility on ‘them’ and not evenly distributing it to those who (might or might not) pass AND those who do not.

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  1. DNA Technology (and Decisions of Passing) | Gender and Technology Spring 2009

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