Sunday, June 25, 2006

Those Crazy Cameroon-ians

I just read an article on Broadsheet, which comments on the horrors of "breast ironing" in Cameroon, West Africa. According to Broadsheet, "wooden tools, heated bananas and coconut shells are often used to iron and beat away at young girls' budding breasts in an attempt to stunt development. All this to deter sexual advances from men and boys."

Although this practice is horrifying and disgusting, it seems a logical extension of the African practice of Female Genital Mutilation (a controversial label). FGM involves clipping or cutting the clitoris to stunt the woman's sexual pleasure. American's have been outraged about this practice for years.

Here is my problem. Are we completely blind? True, any practice that leads to a discussion of "over-ironing" should be discussed and condemned. Of course I believe that. But how could an article talk about how harmful this practice is to the breast tissue without mentioning the American practice of breast enhancement (which can severely damage breast tissue, rendering the nerve endings completely numb). Why didn't the article mention plastic surgery in general? We are complete hypocrites.

True, Tracy Clark-Forey writes that these women are forced to undergo "breast ironing" against their will. Most women choose plastic surgery. But here we come to the big question, which many people have asked before me. Do women really "choose" plastic surgery? Doesn't society tell them what to look like? How to feel about their natural bodies? Is plastic surgery really a matter of free will?

Above all, I was just surprised plastic surgery went unmentioned. Although the practices are done for different reasons, they are both extremely dangerous, demeaning, and unnecessary procedures. Clark-Forey ends the article with: "But how insurmountable must cultural taboos surrounding women, family honor, and sex seem to Cameroonians for this to be practiced on 26 percent of young girls in the country?" How insurmountable must cultural, familial, and sexual expectations surrounding women seem to Americans for plastic surgery to be practiced on 10.2 million patients (82% women) in the country?

See American Society of Plastic Surgeons for more statistics


Melody said...

Well, as much as I would love to stop the aging process and stop looking older than I feel at the moment...that is beside the point.
I don't even think words would be proper to express how much I agree with your thoughts on this one...We (Americans)can sometimes be a little warped in our way of thinking.
BRAVA my dear! Well said!

Adam Elend said...

Great point. Really.

But how do you iron breasts w/ coconuts?

Anonymous said...

You immediately look at what is wrong in our society. (And I agree with you). But how can we help the girls who are being hurt? 25%??? That is a crime and certainly a human rights violation that we should be concerned with.

Amanda said...

Ah, yes. You're absolutely right, anon. But both the article from Broadsheet and the original article (the link is found in the Broadsheet article) cover the travesty of the process. I was trying to point out the thing that hasn't been said. I was trying to point out how hypocritical we're being (what's new? NUCLEAR ARMS!)

No one is saying this is a good practice. But shouldn't we fix our society before we go campaigning about problems in others? I know that's a bit outrageous, not to mention impossible. But I've always been a little hesitant to judge practices in a society if I'm not living there.

That said, this practice seems very cut and dry. Pounding on breasts obviously equals bad. But why would anyone practicing breast ironing listen to any of us? Our outcries seem arrogant, misguided, and futile.

I think all we can do is get the message out. Awareness. That's the only good that can come of our sudden knowledge of this process. No small thing. But I don't think I'm harming the cause by pointing out some good, old-fashioned American hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

Good point. Tackling hypocrisy, however, is VERY difficult when our administration uses it as a campaign strategy.

Anonymous said...

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