If a cultural tradition says its OK to do something 'taboo' is it wrong to say its wrong?

Elongating the lower lips in an Ethiopian Tribe for instance would by most people be seen as wrong and cruel. but they still practice it. is it 'wrong' to say that practice is wrong?

Beware, its a little graphic: h ttp://nagarjunaa.blogspot.com/2010/03/insane-tribal-body-modifications.html


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Most Helpful Girl

  • I think it's good and productive to say you think something is wrong as long as your criticism is thoughtful and doesn't represent yourself and your own culture as the standard of morality and arbiter of justice.

    E.g. There's a lot of feminist debate about cultures that practice female genital cutting (FGC) in more traditional communities of Africa. Some traditional Western feminists would argue that FGC is a form of cruelty and call for its abolition. But others argue that in the West, we have normalised similar cultural practices in the form of breast augmentations (and all other manner of cosmetic surgery), and to some degree, male circumcision could be analysed through the same lens. So does that make all of these cultural practices a form of cruelty? Or are they an exercise of freedom? At what point can exercising one's freedoms (to practice FGC/boob job) become a form of broader cultural repression?

    Anyway, that particular discussion could get huge, but the point is that I don't think it's wrong or ethnocentric to criticise another culture SO LONG AS you can turn the mirror onto yourself at the same time.

    Actually, I would think it's healthy to ask these kinds of questions with an HONEST commitment to freedoms, instead of the prosaic PC responses every time...

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Have an opinion?

What Girls Said 3

  • No. It's not wrong to be against it, but there should be valid reasons for thinking it's wrong. How damaging is it to peoples' well-being/health? Is it a tradition practiced on young kids? Are they consenting adults? Is it oppressive towards one group? What are the reasons behind the practice- its function in the culture?

    It's a gray area, because it's important to evaluate things in their own cultural context and not fall to ethnocentrism, but at the same time refrain from taking cultural relativism to extremes and giving a free moral pass to all practices just because it's a part of peoples' tradition. There isn't an easy answer, but I think typically if you want to help change practices considered wrong or immoral, the most successful path is working with activists within the culture who also feel it should be stopped, rather than trying to insert change from the outside.

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  • It is a part of their culture. I mean imagine them saying ear peircings and tattoos are 'wrong' They would most likely be told to mind their business, or some good soul would sit them down and explain to them the meaning of value positions and cultural differences et. Their lip plates are not a disciplinary or punishing practice. They are predominantly a symbol of stature within a tribe. These days, it is a choice to wear a plate and the wearer usually takes pride in including some decorative ornamentation. There are many symbolisms of wearing plates including social maturity, a beauty accessory, social achievements etc. They also have important associations with public speaking and singing. So it's obvious that is in not a cruel or harmful practice. It is a personal choice in their culture, just like getting a tattoo or stretching your ear peircings. Calling it wrong is only a matter of opinion, therefore it's your right to think and say that it's wrong if that's what you believe. Each to ones own right. However it is definatley wrong if you were to walk up to someone wearing a plate in Ethiopia and tell them to cease the practice because it is 'taboo' in your culture. I think so long as it's an opinion unacted upon, say it's wrong all you like :) ...xX

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  • its not wrong to say something is wrong or objection to you, go for it. That's what democracy is for.

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What Guys Said 3

  • "Wrong" is relative. It would be "wrong" to go around judging other people about their cultures and forcing our cultural values on them. However, it isn't wrong to try to ask them if it is wrong. If we offer advice or nice criticism and it isn't taken, we should stop there before we become judgmental.

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  • I think you can't say something is wrong because its taboo in your culture if its normal in another.

    But I think you can say something is wrong if there are real problems with it.

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  • if morals are subjective NOTHING is "wrong"

    Because then its a matter of subjective opinion.

    You saying something is wrong does not hold any intrinsic objective value.

    So its no more right or wrong than anything else.

    Genocide is just as wrong as saving lives. Its just as objectively right as giving money to the poor.

    And there's your answer.

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