Friday, February 25, 2005

Malkin on Self-Mutilation

Michelle Malkin has recently written about self-mutilation ("cutting") and the trend it seems to represent. Many of her critics (and there are many) have written in response that self-mutilation is old news and that it's been going on for centuries, and that it is not associated with emo music (as Malkin claims). Usually when wiser and more articulate people than I are conversing in the blogosphere about matters like this, I keep my blogmouth shut and let them say it better than I could, but I thought this time I'd put my two cents in.

I think Malkin is overreacting to something she's just discovered even though it's not new (I'd heard about it when I was a young adult), and it's completely understandable. Self-mutilation as it's practiced in America today is shocking to our predominant culture, in which Malkin takes part. That, in fact, is one of the reasons people do it-- because it's shocking and being shocking is one way to get attention. That there would be movie stars and musicians who irresponsibly promote the practice in public is execrable, and that in fact is one main thrust of Malkin's arguments. Whether emo music plays a role is debatable, but there can be no doubt that wallowing in self-pity is a contributing factor to self-mutilation. I'd be willing to bet, though, that there are many, many more factors in play, and that in any given person who self-mutilates, not all of these factors exist.

On the other hand, her critics who counterargue with timelines of self-mutilation in history are being disingenuous. American teens who self-mutilate aren't doing it because of cultural solidarity with Vincent Van Gogh, African tribesmen, Filipino religious flagellators, or characters in Sophocles' plays, and these critics know it. They just like to throw eggs at Malkin instead of making an original argument. At least, that's my impression of them.