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Joshua Astill

Professor Laura Robison


FHS 1500 Lifespan Human Development
28 September 2016
Question
Your new neighbors have just received U.S. citizenship and plan to make their home in your
neighborhood for the rest of their lives. The couple, originally from a small tribe in Africa, have
had plates placed in their lips, which over the years have stretched their lips out about six inches.
In their culture, this is a significant sign of beauty and they therefore wish to pass this tradition
on to their young daughter. https://www.themedicalbag.com/bodymodstory/pucker-up-lipplating-still-in-vogue-in-remote-tribal-villages (Links to an external site.) Seeing that this might
cause their daughter a certain amount of stress as she enters the U.S. public school system, you
suggest that the parents not do this to their daughter. The parents refuse your advice and proceed
with their plans to have the plates placed in their daughters lips. Could this be construed as
child abuse? Defend your response. What would you do?

Answer
In her article We are our Values, Susan Anderson states that our values determine who
we are as individuals in society (Anderson, 2000, 599). This statement makes quite an impact.
If our values determine who we are as individuals, as a society, and also something that makes
up our cultures and beliefs, then who are we to say otherwise? There are millions of cultures
throughout the world, these cultures are our heritage and define who we are as human beings.
For thousands of years, these smalls tribes in Africa and in the Amazon have placed plates in
their lips as a sign of significant beauty. With a culture as deep and rich as some of these tribes,
no matter where they relocate, these cultures will always be a part of them.
While these African and Amazonian tribes have cultures very different from those here in
the United States, parents will always do what they believe is right for their children. Even
though I could suggest not to proceed with this operation to their daughter, I dont view this as
child abuse due to the fact that it is based on a culture and tradition that has happened for
thousands of years. A child is taught that lip plating is a thing of beauty. With this in mind,
children growing up in this culture may look forward to having their lips plated and keep up with
the tradition and culture of their tribes.
In her book Invitation to the Lifestyle Kathleen Berger defines child abuse as the
following by stating Child maltreatment includes any form of serious harm to a child under age
18, and it includes abuse (deliberate physical or sexual action) and neglect (failure to provide
essential physical or emotional care) (Berger, 2016, 228). This definition of abuse does not

necessarily reflect the situation of these parents wanting to put plates in their daughters lips
because this is something that they are taught when they are young.
Coming into a new country with new cultures and traditions they dont know what to
expect. To try to remove that culture, no matter how strange or bizarre it may seem, is like
removing a part of that person themselves. Here in the United States, some of our youth and
adolescents engage in a process that gauges their earlobes. If this is part of our culture here in
the United States and other places around the world, how is it any different from those who put
plates in their lips to gauge them out and make them wider? According to Alix Fox who writes
for the body modification section in the British alternative magazine Bizarre states ear
stretching is in vogue. Its fashionable and easier to find a reputable, clean, knowledgeable place
to have this kind of thing done.1
We are who we are because of our values, traditions, cultures, and beliefs. If the parents
of this small African tribe want to continue the tradition with their daughters of inserting plates
into their lips to show off their beauty, then this is not a form of child abuse. Will the child be
teased throughout their adolescence and possibly the rest of their lives? Possibly, but to claim
these parents are abusing their children by following their traditions and cultures is simply not
the case. It is important to understand that we accept people for who they are regardless of the
choices they choose or not choose to make.

1 http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15771237

Works Cited

Anderson, Susan Leigh. We Are Our Values. N.p.: Mayfield, 2000. Print.
Berger, Kathleen Stassen. Invitation to the Life Span. New York: Rachel Losh, 2016.

Print.

McClatchey, Caroline. "Ear Stretching: Why Is Lobe 'gauging' Growing in Popularity?" BBC
News. BBC News Magazine, 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.
<http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15771237>.

Susan Leigh Anderson, We Are Our Values, in Daniel Kolak, editor, Questioning Matters,
Mayfield Publishing Company, 2000, pp. 599-609.