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Carlie Owen

February 26, 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. 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:
There is no true definition of beauty. Every individual person sees beauty differently and in
different things. Culture has a large impact on some ones views and opinions of beauty. Culture
is far more than food, clothes or rituals it is the set of ides that people share. This makes culture a
powerful social construction, a concept constructed, or made by a society. Social constructions
affect how people think and behave and what they value, ignore and punish. Because culture is
so basic to thinking and emotions, people are usually unaware of their cultural values. (Berger,
2014, P. 12)
Women in the Mursi tribe in southwestern Ethiopia practice lip plating. They insert a clay
or wooden disc that expands up to 4 inches into young girls lips once they reach a certain age.
They are not sure how this practice originated but it is actually a traditional sign of beauty in
their culture. I would compare this to being skinny, having nice hair and expensive clothes in our
culture. Every culture has different views, traditions, and opinions. I think it is interesting that
people in our society actually do a similar thing called gauging. It is when people pierce their
ears and then slowly continue to stretch their earlobes out so that they have a large hole in their
earlobe. So why is this socially acceptable in our culture but lip plating is not?
You have new neighbors move into your neighborhood and they were originally from a
small tribe in Africa where they traditionally practice lip plating in their culture as a form of
beauty and were planning on performing it on their teenage daughter. What would I do in this
situation? Is it a form of abuse? If I am looking at our cultures views as a whole I would say yes,
they would probably view this as a form of abuse. By inserting very large holes into their
daughters lips it could severely impact the quality of her life, especially being a teenage girl in
todays society. Having said that, I dont necessarily think that abuse is the right word to describe
it. The definition of abuse is the cruel and violent treatment of a human or animal and I dont

think that lip platting can be considered abuse. They believe that by performing it, their daughter
will be viewed as more beautiful. I do however think that their daughter should have a say in the
matter, whether or not she wants lip plates or would rather not. She is old enough to make a
responsible decision and she should be able to make her own choices that could permanently
affect her life. It however is not our place to interject our thought and opinions into their lives.
They are allowed to live whatever lifestyle they desire. I would take it upon myself though to
inform them in a harmless, appropriate way the events that could follow them inserting a lip
plate into their daughters lip.
Everyone is allowed to live the lifestyle that they desire as long as they are not causing
harm purposefully. I think it is beautiful to study and learn about the various cultures and of the
traditions that they practice.

Berger, K. S. (2014). Invitation to the life span (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.