In this post, physiotherapist Hanni Vitelson writes about how a classic children’s story became the inspiration for some critical thinking.
An advertisement for an anti-freckle cream catches the attention of 9-years old Pippi Langstrump. The sign says: DO YOU SUFFER FROM FRECKLES? Pippi goes straight to the selling lady and says: ‘NO!! I don’t suffer from freckles!!’ ‘But, my dear child, your whole face is covered with freckles!’ says the seller. ‘I know that,’ says Pippi, ‘but I don’t suffer from them. I love them. Good morning.’ This episode appears only in the fuller versions of the book, originally published in Sweden in 1945 by Astrid Lindgren.
This ever-fresh 70-years old text implicitly asks: 1. Do freckles actually induce suffering? 2. Who benefits from the supposed suffering? We can say that freckles are “biological”, while the “need” to conceal them is cultural. The social dictum in favor of homogeneous skin might cause unease to those who “deviate”. This unease might lead people to allocate considerable resources in order to minimize the “deviation”. Can we cautiously replace “freckles” with some professional terms like Cerebral Palsy, ADHD etc.? Does suffering stem from each condition per se, or from societal factors? Pippi does not use long words like consumerism or medicalization. She just celebrates her individuality, and maybe we can learn from her.