There are many things I loved about teaching, but far and away my favorite part has always been having spirited class discussions.
Soon after I returned to teaching, at the local community college, I learned that a new essay text was going to be picked. When the writing coordinator asked if anyone wanted to help select it, I volunteered. We ended up picking a neat text of essays (called Every Day, Everywhere) that included a wide range of delightful readings.
Early in a semester, I would assign Germaine Greer's incisive essay titled "One Man's Mutilation is Another Man's Beautification." You can read it here, if you like.
To get students' minds working, I would show them various photos--here are some samples.
from top left, clockwise: Neck elongation; skin scarification; henna painted hand; lip enlarging using wooden disk; bound foot (pointing straight down); and filed teeth.
Invariably, students would react negatively. The one practice that really seemed to bother them was foot binding. A spirited discussion always followed my showing that photo.
Of course, I was lying in wait for them. After the students got lathered up in discussing the barbarian practice of foot binding, I would ask--you mean you wouldn't submit to such a practice? Of course not, they indignantly replied.
And then I showed them photos such as this.
What's the difference? I asked. And then the discussion really heated up.
I am particularly interested in the answer. Shoes with such a high heel go in and out of style. I remember spike heels. I wore some when I was younger. I do NOT wear anything like that today. I wince and hobble with bad knees, even if I am bare foot, or have my favorite pair of Clark's on my feet. Super high heels? Well, you may as well tell me to have my feet bound.
Of course, what I am tapping into with the discussion is the cultural variations we all exhibit. And that's what Germaine Greer meant by her provocative title.
Super high heels
Ah, the ad? Well, it was those photos of women's super high heels. Inflicted cruelty in the name of fashion, if you ask me, resulting in long-term mutilation all for the sake of short-term beautification.
One man's (or woman's) mutilation is indeed another man's (or woman's) beautification. OK, class, discuss among yourselves.