Sunday, February 22, 2015

Consent, but Free Choice?

            Most of the body art modifications that we have discussed in class are products of free choice. Going under the knife for cosmetic reasons, getting a piercing on any part of the body, and even getting needled for a tattoo are all personal choices that individuals have made on their own. Some prefer earlobe piercing while others prefer genital piercing. Some prefer a rhinoplasty while others prefer a face-lift. Some prefer a hidden tattoo while others prefer the in-your-face ones. All of these body modifications are performed under the consent of the individual. When we started to discuss in class Olive Oatman’s blue chin tattoo, I was torn and indecisive whether or not it was out of her free choice. Did she really elect to have her chin tattoo in blue? – Something so eye-catching that it’s hard to miss by anyone. Some said that it was indeed out of her free will while others believe it was not. When I read the chapter Becoming Mohave in the book written by Margot Mifflin The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman, my initial thought was that it was similar to China’s foot binding tradition.
            A passage in the book states, “Tribal elder Llewellyn Barrackman believed that Olive, like most Mohave females, chose to be tattooed because, he said, the tribe never forced the tattoos on anyone.” This quote clearly indicates that the chin tattoos are of the female’s personal choice, however, what follows is what reminds me of the foot binding tradition and indecisive whether it’s really free choice. “Indeed, some Mohaves resisted chin tattoos until they got older and were either persuaded or chose to get them for fear that they would be held back in the afterlife without them.” A chin tattoo does not only represent their existence in the tribe, it also signifies that they will not end up in a desert rat hole after they pass away. Certainly they are not pointing a gun (or a spear for that matter, since they didn’t own guns back then) at anyone’s head to force them to get a tattoo but they are undeniably putting the pressure on the females to get their chin tattooed.
            A similar debate could apply to foot binding. The young girls elected to bind their foot for ‘beauty’ so that they could marry into prestigious families and have a good life. Well, here we have Oatman and the other Mohave girls who were apparently given the choice of tattooing or not, keeping in mind that if they don’t they are told that they are going to end up in a desert rat hole after death. Now, are they getting it done willingly? On the surface, maybe, but inside they may not have wanted to. The term ‘beauty’ differs from everyone’s perspective. Perhaps the Mohave females perceive the chin tattoo as a form of beauty and they did indeed tattoo their chin eagerly. However, if that wasn’t the case, then it surely wasn’t free choice, it was more of a kind of social pressure and the only way to conform was to get a blue tattoo on their chin.

            The article Brazil's child sex trade soars as 2014World Cup nears by The Guardians puts into perspective the issue of legalized prostitution in Brazil. Brazil’s issue with prostitution during the World Cup is somewhat like a version of modern day ‘free choice’ tattoo. The females get the tattoo as a form of ownership. Each gang have different trademark. Do the females have a say in whether or not they want to get the tattoo? The answer is a simple no. The trademark of the particular gang is tattooed onto the females so that other pimps wouldn’t solicit them under their ‘wings’. The females do go through the procedure voluntarily because they fear that those individuals will hurt them if they don’t get it done. Yet, it is another kind of pressure that they face even though they apparently did it willingly.

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