Stigmatization of Body Modification
The life of Olive Oatman really sticks out to me in representing how body modification can be used for cultural reasons or branding. In the tribe she was taken by females had these blue facial tattoos. Yes, she agreed to it, but in the situation Olive Oatman did not really have another choice. It is hard to say if she was truly unhappy because she was adapting in order to survive in her given circumstances. In some ways the tattoo helped her be more similar to those of the Native American Indians.
However, all of this happened after she watched her family be brutally murdered. So in the back of her mind, there must have been some discomfort with her new life. I sew the tattoo as an agreement to fit into the society and adapt, rather than an autonomous decision. This relates to the tattoos on those of forced prostitution rings. It is hard to imagine that something we see as an art, can also have devastating consequences. Tattoos that are given to mark culture can be commonplace and necessary in certain societies, which is okay when that is a culture of ones choosing. However, in the case of forced prostitution and in Oatman’s life the tattoo is a mark of ownership (the Native Americans owed her the prostitution lords own the girls).
This made me realize body modification can be an art that is used to enhance one’s self emotionally or physically. People get tattoos for a variety of reasons. However, there is also a long history of the tattoos role in dehumanization.
For Oatman, she could not live a normal life after she was “rescued” because the U.S. culture regarded her as a victim and a freak. They might have pitied her or found her story interesting, but they did not accept her or treat her as they would anyone else. I think this strikes a chord for me because it really hit me that after the Holocaust things may have been similar. Victims of the concentration camps were tattooed (there no one tried to say the tattoos were done willingly), but it also did not let them fit into society when they were liberated. It is like once branded, a person has a new identity in these situations. Once a person get a strange tattoo or brand like Holocaust numbers or Oatman’s facial tattoo they are regarded as victims. They can no longer live in society as a strong independent person because people view them as victims, or freak. I have a lot of empathy and sadness about the situation.