Saturday, June 7, 2008


Upon a re-reading of Dorothy Ko's article, "The Body as Attire," it elicited thoughts of modern adornments and the requirements of the workplace. In high school, a friend showed me a brochure of accepted appearances for associates working the booth. I don't understand, natural hair colors, two piercings, no visible tattoos. It was in a way, similar though without the extreme results of Han Chinese being required to assimilate to the Manchu way. If they didn't, they were celebrated by the Han majority for having sound, loyal morals. If they did, the Manchu would exploit them as an example for other Han Chinese, prompting retaliation from the majority towards these "traitors." It is not as serious in the case of changing appearances to fit the business model but it is similar in the humiliation one can receive for giving up what constitutes as hard-earned identity. Piercings and other bodily adornments such as foot binding and hair queues take time to cultivate, revealing dedication and status of the person. The further along one is in cultivating this adornment, the more serious this identity is for that person. This sub-culture of piercings, tattoos, and odd hair styles have a negative connotation that is stigmatized by corporations, despite the fact that some of these practicing this sub-culture are some of the nicest and most considerate people I've ever met.

Because of the serious time commitment to attain these adornments, it is difficult for others (i.e. foreigners) to appropriate these trends. In "Henna and Hip Hop," commodities like henna and bindis have been easily appropriated by westerners by stylizing their packaging as "kits." It was a DIY TEMPORARY identity kit for westerners to engage in "exotica." For the exorbitant price of about $25, one can adorn their bodies. But Sunaina Maira indicates that there are more expensive kits, complete with silver bowls. So does money make the identity? Adornments like piercing and tattoos take time and most importantly, money, as footbinding did to indicate social status. But for the price of $80, a DIY henna kit imbues the buyer with more authenticity. But in either case, money is an important factor to gain an identity that one is not born with.

So... Money to attain identity, wasteful or satisfactory?

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