What should I do about my stretched ears?
July 23, 2012 1:25 PM Subscribe
Gauged ears - what to do? Cultural appropriation, work, your opinions and suggestions needed.
posted by Frowner to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So it has come to my attention that gauged ears are kind of culturally appropriative, since tribal peoples of Africa and South America originated the practice. I have not read that it is a sacred practice or associated with religion like dreadlocks, however. They're a commonplace among white punks and queer folks. I've had my ears moderately stretched (to about 1/2" - I think many people believe I'm just wearing button earrings) since 2004. I do not have the huge gauges that some folks do, nor do I wear anything faux-"tribal", or the hollow plugs that call attention to the hole.
Let's be honest - I only did it because it looked neat and because my ears were kind of stretched (maybe to a 10-gauge, if that means anything to you) from wearing heavy ol' earrings anyway. I don't have any philosophical or spiritual reason to have the gauged ears. When I did this, the discourse around cultural appropriation was a lot less sophisticated, and honestly I was too ignorant to even realize that this ear-stretching thing was derived from tribal practices.
I still like them - I think they're pretty, I like having very simple jewelry without dangles or moving parts. However, this cultural appropriation thing gives me pause - I have definitely read blogs by people of color who view white folks having gauged ears as disrespectful (because we don't have any cultural context for it) and sort of thieving (white folks get all the privileges from colonialism and we come in and take the jewelry styles too.) I basically believe in not doing culturally appropriative things as much as possible, so I am trying to get into a headspace where I will actually take action instead of just think about it.
At the moment, I am unsure what to do for the best. My options seem to be:
1. Maintain the status quo - no one has ever mentioned the ear issue to me. Lots of queer folks have body modifications; there's a sort of queer-cultural-angle on this as well. Also, my ears aren't stretched that big and may not be super noticeable. Problem: Many people of color who find white behavior privilege-y and frustrating just don't have the emotional energy to deal with calling people out, so maybe this is bothering people and they just aren't mentioning it.
2. Switch to more earring-like earrings that sit flatter on the ears - glass or acrylic ones look less gauged. Problem: ears are still stretched.
3. Take out my current ones and let the holes shrink a little - they won't ever go back to normal without surgery, but they'll go down a couple of sizes - and wear acrylic hoops instead. Those look even more like regular earrings. Problem: very informal, maybe not suitable for work. Also, acrylic hoops are less widely available than other plugs.
Options that are a lot less possible: can't just take out the plugs, since although my ears are not stretched very large and thus do not droop emptily, they still don't look like regular pierced ears and people at work would notice. Can't afford cosmetic surgery to stitch 'em up at the moment, although I could save up in about two years once other financial/house obligations were completed - if that is the best option, that is what I will plan to do.
People who have thought about cultural appropriation, what do you suggest?