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Taboo (adjective): “Proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable.”
Take a look around, and you will see for yourself how “taboo” is still a label in our society. Sure, compared to 50 years ago, a lot more of people’s differences have been accepted. When cultures merge, ideas are exchanged and we influence each other. Close-mindedness is less common and while we might not have the same values, ideals or beliefs as others, we generally tend to accept them and live in harmony.
Everyone is quick to say that they don’t judge, but let’s face it, it’s a cruel world. We do judge and we are judged. Why do we judge? How do age, race, economic status and gender affect the way we judge the recipient of a tattoo, the reader of a pornographic magazine, the overweight person or the investor in plastic surgery? America is a land of materialism, appearance and reputation. It is a place where it seems as though we must fit-in to be happy. But is it not also the land of freedom? Most importantly, of freedom of expression?
So that girl has a tattoo. Where is it? Lower back? Is she a slut? Is that her “tramp-stamp?” Surely she must be the type of impulsive girl who does things without considering the consequences they could have when she is old and sags. Or is it art? Does it mean something to her? Does she just see that life is short and want to make the best of every day? Do you think her father didn’t speak to her for a week after he found out? Did that make her feel bad? In her dad’s day anyone who got a tattoo was considered to be trashy or a lowlife, save soldiers.
And that man is overweight. Does he have a job? A girlfriend? Does he smell bad because he’s dirty? He must eat all the time. He must not care. Watch those subtle assumptions you make. Question how they change if you see an overweight woman or an overweight teen. It is interesting how, whether we admit it or not, being fat is taboo in our culture. We often blame them for being fat. America spends billions of dollars a year on diets, procedures and supplements to become a skinnier nation. Yet we are the fattest. We have more documented cases of anorexia and bulimia than any country in the world. Yet eating disorders are somewhat taboo, too.
Porn—certainly taboo. Those girls in those magazines, they’re so indecent. Unethical people, surely. And the sickos that read them are not the kind of people we want in our society. It could be him, sitting across from you on the bus, who whacked-off to one this morning, or not. It’s more likely the curious preteen, the married lawyer, the honest dentist. I’ve read porn. I bought porn the day I turned eighteen. I’ve even considered writing for Playboy, and have had some good ideas for centerfolds. Can porn be art? It takes creativity.
Back to appearance: Plastic surgery. Face-lifts, tummy-tucks, breast implants. Here is a truly controversial subject, and I’m sure it will be for a long time. Shows like “Nip/Tuck,” which happens to be my favorite, normalize plastic surgery like never before. How is it different than getting a tattoo? Health-risks aside, how is it not just another form of expression? Your body is your temple…to decorate? To honor? Or to accept the way God made it and keep it that way?
Now take a look at our culture. And take a look at others. In many indigenous Amazon tribes, tattoo art has been practiced for thousands of years. In Fiji, being overweight was seen as beautiful. It symbolizes fertility and wealth. Unfortunately, with the arrival of American media came American eating disorders.
Child porn in other countries is rampant and horrible, don’t get me wrong. But are legitimate expressions of human eroticism really so bad? The “Kama Sutra” was created in the first century B.C. and was considered beautiful and sacred. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden and it wasn’t taboo until Eve ate the apple from the tree of knowledge. Their innocence was during their most indecent state—that’s irony for you.
As for plastic surgery, again, our culture pretty much normalized it. Countries in South America like Colombia and Brazil have enormous percentages of breast-augmentations. How does our perception of beauty affect that? How does that affect our perception of beauty?
I’m not preaching what is right one way or the other. I’m not even entirely sure what I think. Of course, most of these cases are situation-sensitive. But I encourage you to look at the way you judge people and question it. We all have a story and a past. We have reasons for doing the things we do. I challenge you the next time you see something that doesn’t suit your taste, something that makes you uncomfortable or seems “taboo,” to try to see it in another light. It’s just an exercise, a sort of mental stretch. Who knows? It could be good for you. After all, we’re all just human. How taboo can that be?
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ana McIntosh at Anna.firstname.lastname@example.org.