Oneal Ron Morris, a transgendered Florida woman, was arrested on Friday for allegedly practicing medicine without a license. Morris is accused of injecting a woman’s buttocks with a concoction of cement, ‘Fix a Flat’ tire sealant, mineral oil, and super glue. The patient suffered complications from the procedure, and was later hospitalized allegedly for pneumonia and MRSA. Unfortunately this incident is not the first of its kind, and many women across the world are seeking out cosmetic surgery with hopes to increase the size of their derriere.
Earlier this year a 20-year-old woman and her friends traveled to Philadelphia from London, England to receive a similar procedure that police believed they arranged over the Internet. After experiencing chest pains and trouble with her breathing, the young woman died after being rushed to an area hospital.
The obsession with butts, especially those belonging to women of color, has been going on for quite sometime. Over the past decade, many have blamed the increase of this phenomenon with hip hop culture. However, the root of this fascination goes back as far as slavery.
Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman (also known as the Hottentot Venus) a Khoikhoi woman from South Africa was enslaved by Dutch Farmers near Capetown. The brother of her slave owner sent her to England to be paraded in a circus exhibition. Baartman was forced to show off what was considered unusual body features (a large buttocks and elongated labia). She was later sold to a French animal trainer to continue performing in shows, and also to be the subject in several scientific paintings. After her death in 1815, Baartman’s brain and genitals were put on display next to a mold of her body in a Paris museum until 1974. France released her remains in August 2002, so they could be buried near her homeland 200 years after she was born.
Nine years after Baartman’s body was laid to rest, we continue to see the bodies of women being objectified. Music videos and celebrity magazines fawn over big butts, and we see many of these messages being passed onto women. The hypersexualization of women’s bodies has forced women to challenge their body image, confront society’s assumed ownership of their bodies, and even seek out potentially lethal means in order to fit ‘the prototype.’
A few celebrities that have experienced media fascination with their hind-parts.
Latoya Peterson spoke about her experience confronting body politics as a black woman in a blog post for Racialicious. Peterson writes:
“In the quest to develop a healthy sense of sexuality, we are prone to societal input and norms as a way from which to understand our behaviors. So while I may personally celebrate my curves, thanks to music videos and centuries of dehumanization, my body is often seen as the property of others. While many people voice appreciation for my body and how it is shaped, both men and women often feel as though the simple presence of my ass allows for them to take whatever action they see fit.”
We have a serious problem when people are seeking medical procedures performed outside the care of licensed medical professionals. The issue of body image amongst women (and men) has always been a challenging conversation, but with the increased cases of death and illness surrounding this particular procedure it is time for us to tackle cosmetic surgery head on. I am in support of a woman’s decision to choose, but with that choice should come education–specifically about risks.
One look at history and you will be able to see that people of color have been oversexualized. The bodies of women of color, in particular, have been erotized and viewed as forbidden property. By glorifying these women because of their physical features alone, society bases their value and significance in those assets. Young women looking for similar social approval will find ways to meet those standards, even if it means risking their health. I believe that it is important for media and communities to promote positive, healthy body images. We should celebrate the diversity of women, especially women of color. We should work to teach women how to find the value in themselves, and not in the acceptance given to them by others.
Please share your thoughts…
How do you believe the mainstream media is impacting women’s decisions to seek out cosmetic surgery? What do you believe the impact of cosmetic surgery is having on the self-esteem of women? What needs to be done in order to educate and promote positive self-image messages to women?