12 November, 2013

Hard To Believe? No, Actually. It's Not.

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Mystic Metals Body Jewelry

Hard To Believe? No, Actually. It's Not.

Expertise is an interesting thing. We watch a plethora of news magazine programs, or other interview type of nonsense, and on each there is always someone who is labeled an expert in whatever field or topic is being discussed. Expert is an interesting moniker because it is a thing based on an assumption, a mutual agreement. This cat has a degree in something and wrote a book, therefore he is an expert. He doesn't have a plaque or a proclamation that says he's an expert. He just has these points of evidence and we say, 'ok; dude knows his shit.' I'm not an expert in anything. I think that is something to be clear about. I know what I know, and I study what I enjoy. That doesn't make me an expert on anything. Does it make me knowledgable? I'd say so, but an expert? Not at all. I am not an expert on body modification, and typically when news sources run stories (usually libelist rants about our culture) they'll find some cat to talk about our culture who isn't necessarily a part of our culture. But he's an expert, or so we assume, and therefore the column has merit in the eyes of the reader.

What the hell am I talking about. A friend flashed me onto an article on the health section of CNN.com. *spits on floor* Thank you Theresa. This article was rehashed bullshit about heavy modification and the apparent link to body dysmorphic disorder, or warped self image. What made this article special was that it was written by a plastic surgeon, Dr. Anthony Youn. Dr. Youn is an accomplished cat. He appears on TV quite a bit to talk about plastic surgery types of things. He's written books and papers, and is considered one of the best in his field.

Dr. Youn wrote a fine article about heavy modification, which is a common thing for news outlet health sections to do when they've run low on talking about things like the health benefits of adding a rare eastern lowland carrot to your breakfast routine every third Wednesday of months containing the letter R, or some such bullshit. Good for your duodenum, I've heard. The title of Dr. Youn's article is "Body Modification -- Or Mutilation?" Now, I would have expected an alumnus of Michigan State to come up with something a little fresher than that. That thesis has been used and never nearly proven more times than President Obama saying, "Let me be clear." (There's some late night talk show host humor for you kids.) But we in the community have come to expect those outside of our community to view us as body mutilators, so whatever. Can't hate on unoriginality. (See also; MTV's programming) But Dr. Youn continues in the prototypical way of using words like 'bizarre' and 'unusual' to describe the behavior of those in the community, and reiterates the different points of view toward modification by juxtaposing the words 'modification' with 'mutilation.' That's all fine and cliché, and again; I can't blame someone outside of the community for being bland and repetitive. There are a couple jabs in the article, however, that don't feel too nice across my eyes.

The first is what my old man would call 'picking fly shit out of pepper,' but it bears notice. This sentence, which I should be used to because it appears in every modphobic type of article, rubs me in a way that isn't at all pleasant or worth paying for: "People called "body modification artists" perform these unconventional surgical procedures, typically on young clients." The quotation around the job title always gets my goat, had I a goat to get. Which I don't. The majority of artists who are qualified and talented enough to perform heavy modification procedures shouldn't have their job titles mocked by punctuation. Seems like a silly thing to harp on, but honestly. Some of the most talented artists I know use the body as a canvas, and I would never disgrace any of them by placing quotations around their titles. It's condescending and a subtle mockery of the individual's work and history. Is it a question of schooling, or having a degree? If that is the premise, then most artists of any practice ought to be qualified by the unimaginative punctuation. Or is it a degree of doing something radically unconventional in a theatre traditionally accepted as containing a norm of something else? With that premise, Picasso was an "artist" to Michelangelo's being an artist. It's a small irritant that pops up in articles such as this that really needs to slow down a little. It's a cheap shot by a writer who hasn't enough material to intelligently diminish what he doesn't like with data. Instead writers use the quotation mark convention the way reporters on the news say "n-word" instead of nigger. They make the reader do the work so they can say their intention was to not be insensitive. It's cheap and lazy.

Dr. Youn asks the reader, "Hard to believe?" and then references BME's library of photos to prove that it oughtn't be. No, doctor, it's not hard to believe for anyone who respects the boundaries and points of view of others. It's not hard to believe for anyone who has walked outside of his own life sphere and experienced different points of view. It's an insulting "observation" (see how I used the quotation mark weapon to diminish the idea? Man, I'm awesome.) about a culture to point out something different about those within the culture, and say, 'Gee isn't that weird what these other people do?' Pick out any other culture or lifestyle or group and add the question 'hard to believe' after describing a typical behavior of that culture and see how insensitive you sound. Gay men have sex with other gay men! Hard to believe? Atheists don't believe in God! Hard to believe? Women are now involved in mixed martial arts! Hard to believe? God, shut up. No it's not hard to believe. Just because something is going on that you don't know about doesn't make it hard to believe.

(This blog is setting up to be long. So you know.)

Dr. Youn makes the obvious statement that mod artists are not doctors so they can't knock you out for the procedure. Not a tough logic leap for a doctor of medicine, but he uses this point to set up an insensitively phrased concept. Before this, I was mentally polite to Dr. Youn. The article was fine, and less insensitive to the culture than most of these types of articles. But then he drops this: "Want to fork your tongue? Take a swig of whiskey, apply some ice, and try to stay still while the body modification artist slices it in half. Seriously." C'mon, man. You're a freaking doctor! This statement is clearly designed to slant splitting in a way that sounds dangerous, horrible, and done without care like a back alley abortion. Do your homework, doctor. Splitting procedure is a delicate procedure done with the utmost care by artists who have a world of experience in the matter. Swig of whiskey? You and I and anyone who has any knowledge of the culture know that a skilled artist would never involve such careless behaviors to such a precise practice. This cat knows about anatomy. This cat knows what the body is capable of and what man is capable of doing with the body. (Note: Not 'to' the body, but rather 'with' the body. Clear semantic difference.) This is insulting because the purpose of this statement is far and away not designed to objectively educate about the procedure or the opportunity for bifurcation of the tongue. It is designed to present the artists and the collectors as savages who throw caution to whatever wind of convention happens to be blowing. It's a careless statement, and I'd expect a doctor writing for news outlet like CNN *spits on floor* to be more considerate and careful.

Dr. Youn continues to talk about how he's repaired stretched lobes, which he ignorantly calls "gauge earrings." He should be happy about the business, I'd assume. Then Dr. Youn briefly explores the possibility that those of us in the mod culture have connections to body dysmorphic disorder. To illustrate this point, Dr. Youn uses the example of Dennis Avner, the Cat Man, who in 2012 sadly committed suicide. The Cat Man was a heavily modded celebrity who modded himself to look like a cat. You've seen him. He was a Ripley's staple. The doctor alludes that Avner may have experienced BDD, which lead to his heavy modifications. BDD also has connections to suicide. Dr. Youn admits that many of his patients have a higher probability to experience BDD, leading to his work and expanding of his bank account, though he believes that his work in plastic surgery is a different beast than body modification.

I am a diagnosed anorexic. I know about body dysmorphic disorder. Are my modifications symptomatic of the BDD, or are the modifications a way for me to find comfort in the skin I see much differently than others may? That's an unsolvable debate no matter how many university studies are conducted.

But the good doctor's argument for the differences between mod artists and plastic surgeons rests solely on the argument of training and schooling. In such, he becomes the proven expert and the mod artist the amateur. But one could argue that what he does and what mod artists do are exactly similar regardless of the process of training undergone by the practitioner. Apprenticeships are rigorous endeavors often ignorantly dismissed by those in the cosmetic surgery field. Also, those who practice heavy modifications are often students of the fields themselves, and take years to master the art forms they participate in, and nearly all of them will tell you that regardless of the years of research and practice, they will never be masters. Cosmetic surgery is heavy modification whether the doctors who practice it will admit it or not. The difference in the two similar practices is that one is socially acceptable, and the other is considered fringe and cruel. Yet I challenge anyone to watch a pocketing procedure, and then watch a liposuction procedure and then tell me which is more cruel or gruesome. Compare a lobe stretching to a rhinoplasty. Compare jaw adjustment to a splitting procedure. Compare ear pointing to breast augmentation. If the litmus is purely an eyeball test, then plastic surgery loses every time in my book.

I support cosmetic surgery. I have to. I support all forms of body modification, and since I consider cosmetic surgery heavy modification, then logic says I support it. The difference is of preference, and one cannot apply the rigid structure of right and wrong to an opinion. In my opinion, Dennis Avner is less appalling (read: not appalling at all) to me than Toby Sheldon. Who's Mr. Sheldon? Oh, he's just that cat who spent over a hundred large and five years on plastic surgery to look like everyone's favorite fame whore Justin Bieber. Search that dude, and you tell me which is a bigger indicator of mental illness. See also; Herbert Chavez's transformation to Superman, Nadya Suleman to Angelina Jolie, and Annette Edwards to Jessica Rabbit. The last one is worth checking out. But to make the point, Dr. Youn uses Dennis Avner as the example of heavy modification as an indicator of mental illness, though he himself participates in the same actualization of others to manipulate their bodies into the presentation with which they are most comfortable. Hypocrisy, or does the doctorate justify the piousness? Stay beautiful, kids.


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