We as humans have created a complex relationship between objects and concepts. Michael Foucault was a French philosopher who wrote a number of works addressing this relationship. In his "The Archaeology of Knowledge," Foucault points out that meaning is not inherent, but that it is projected onto things through experience and becomes somewhat fixed over time. When put into the context of body modification, this object/meaning concept seems to be the basis of discrimination against modified persons. Tattoos and piercings have acquired a negative association by the experience of people who, in the past, observed modifications only on bikers and members of various other marginal subcultures. Regardless of the ever-increasing diversity of the western modified crowd and a distinct shift in the use of body modification by this crowd, such associations remain unchanged.
So, if we as modified persons are still receiving negative attitudes toward our mods when we have personally done nothing to justify such reactions, what are we to do? How can we change the meaning of modification? How can we modify modification?
This subject has been of considerable interest to me since I started getting seriously involved in body modification. In fact, it has changed the way I think about my life and interactions with others. When speaking with unmodified folk, I often wonder what they think of my various adornments. Are they shocked? Intrigued? (perhaps my next project will be to find out what they really are thinking...) With these uncertainties came a desire to project a positive image onto modification. In other words, I want to soften unmodified persons' experiences of modification in an effort to change the meaning behind modification itself. I realize that the national impact of my efforts will be nearly non-existent (for now), but if I act as the young, intelligent, psychologically stable poster-child for body modification, maybe I can alter a few unjustly negative impressions of modification along the way.
Now, I know that in past posts I've stated that we as a modification community shouldn't have to legitimize our practices. That's why I want to stress that the reasons behind my efforts to soften modification are more intellectually based than modification-based. It intrigues me that we make what seem to be natural connections every day, and yet many of those assumed associations aren't truly inherent. Meaning is fluid. We develop meaning based on experience, and over time meaning continues to exist, even without justifying experiences. This is the concept I've been trying to explain to my parents to make them realize that their detestation of my mods is unjust. And this is the concept that is behind much of the discrimination that goes on in our society.