Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Clit cutting is not equivalent to Christmas and wedding dresses

I usually adore Amanda Marcotte, but I have to say one of her latest pieces is really facepalm worthy. She actually defends the American Academy of Pediatric's new "compromise" on female genital mutilation to offer "ritual nicking, such as pricking or minor incisions of girls' clitorises."

I didn't originally post about this issue because many other excellent bloggers made the same points I would have made. Melissa McEwan sums it up best:
See, this way, people can honor that awesome tradition without actually removing part or all of the genitalia. Everyone gets a little something: Girls get only a little heinous physical and psychological trauma, and their guardians get to practice their violent misogyny, just in a slightly less violent way. Yay for compromise!

...FGC is a human rights violation. It has no medical purpose, and its cultural rationale is steeped in gender inequality. There is no reason to tolerate even this proposed alternative version of the procedure in a culture with an ostensible belief in gender equality.

Insert the 10,000 posts I've written about consent and autonomy here.

And, despite the AAP's claim that endorsing nicking will be a deterrent, Equality Now rightly notes that advocating a more minor version of the procedure will almost certainly mean that "mothers who have until now resisted community pressure and not subjected their daughters to FGM in the U.S., in part because of the anti-FGM law, could be forced under the AAP guidelines to ask pediatricians to 'nick' their daughters' clitorises if it is legally permitted."
So why does Amanda Marcotte defend it?
People do this sort of thing all the time, and usually they get applauded for it. They realize a religious or cultural tradition is backwards---silly at best, oppressive at worst---and they’re faced with a choice. Do they abandon their heritage, or do they compromise? Obviously, being a big time atheist, I wish people abandoned their traditions more, but as someone who still gets a kick out of Christmas, I understand the urge to hang on to some stuff. Doctors offering a relatively harmless, ritualistic alternative to more severe cutting could go a long way towards encouraging the view of it as merely a ritual, and not something that has to produce long-term damage to count.

... And it’s not like Western culture is so free of blatantly misogynist traditions, either. Part of me wishes that we had a two minute nicking at the doctor instead of the entire painfully misogynist wedding tradition that persists in the name of tradition. Everything from white gowns to bouquet tosses to the father “giving” the bride away---all about reducing women to objects that exist strictly to fuck and marry men, if not suggesting that we’re male property. But people hang onto it, because it’s tradition. And we applaud every nudge in the right direction, from refusing to be given away to keeping your name, instead of suggesting that anything but a marriage boycott for all is inadequate.
...I'm sorry, but cutting a clitoris is not equivalent to rocking around the Christmas tree or walking down the aisle in a frilly white dress. For one, people choose to celebrate Christmas and have a traditional wedding. I still merrily celebrate on the 25th without religious pressure, and I'll likely let my dad give me away in a white dress because I choose to do so. It's all about choice, and young girls subjected to female genital mutilation have absolutely no choice. By allowing this, we're taking away their one last voice.

But the other main thing is harm - remember how doctors are supposed to "do no harm"? While nicking isn't nearly as bad as complete removal, it still isn't all rainbows and pansies. You say you rather have that than a traditional wedding ceremony - well good for you, because cutting my clit seems like a stupendously awful thing. I'll take a meaningless wedding ceremony over that any day. And yes, it is meaningless. Maybe it used to represent patriarchy and objectifying women, but can you honestly say anyone thinks that when they're at a wedding anymore? We don't call for a boycott on traditional marriage ceremonies because they're not hurting anyone, and no one is forced to do it.

And I love how she adds the bit on circumcision being worse than ritual nicking. Yes, it is. But that doesn't mean we should allow ritual nicking because we already allow something worse. That just means we need to keep trying to reduce circumcisions, and treat it the same as other types of genital mutilation.

Yeah, sorry Amanda, but I'm not convinced. It's kind of hard for me to be culturally sensitive to something absolutely barbaric and misogynistic.

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