Join 3,376 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Heroine
October 21, 2009 2:29 PM   Subscribe

"The Kindest Cut" A Colorado surgeon is helping to restore sensation, biological structure and self-esteem to victims of female genital mutilation. She's "Trinidad's Transgender Rock Star"
Bowers performs the surgery free of charge, and the hospital caps its fees at $1,700. "...you cannot charge money to reverse a crime against humanity," she says. "Sexuality is a right."

Trinidad, CO is also known as the "Sex Change Capital of the World."
posted by zarq (51 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
All links are SFW. However, the first link discusses FGM in graphic terms.
posted by zarq at 2:31 PM on October 21, 2009


I hope this works. FGM is a crime against humanity. I wonder if it would be such an under the radar topic if we were talking about male genital mutilation.
posted by bearwife at 2:37 PM on October 21, 2009


I wonder if it would be such an under the radar topic if we were talking about male genital mutilation

Is it at all possible to discuss the actual topic at hand, and not plummet down the rabbit hole of male circumcision?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:45 PM on October 21, 2009 [24 favorites]


"you cannot charge money to reverse a crime against humanity"

I feel hopeful.
posted by fuq at 2:46 PM on October 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


under the radar topic

No snark here, but I don't consider FGM to be, all things considered, under the radar. Is your average middle American family discussing it on a regular basis at the dinner table, no. But I've certainly seen different aspects of the causes/effects of FGM reported in multiple mainstream news outlets over the past several years.
posted by gagglezoomer at 2:48 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should clarify that I don't mean that was your intention, bearwife -- you may not have even been talking about circumcision. But the phrase "male genital mutilation" tends to encourage a specific, very long-winded, and ultimately irresolvable discussion on MetaFilter that's a derail from the subject of this post, which is a good one and deserves its own conversation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:52 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm praying this doesn't get derailed. I'd hate, hate, HATE for this post to turn into a trainwreck. :(
posted by zarq at 2:53 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


It enrages me that this is just one more procedure that insurance companies don't want to cover. Thank you for posting this -- I had no idea that surgery could help in these cases and it is so wonderful to hear about healthcare workers who are contributing their time and efforts to this. It's also great to know that the supposedly terrible national health care in France is paying for this.
posted by tractorfeed at 3:00 PM on October 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


I wonder if it would be such an under the radar topic if we were talking about ...

"NOOOOOOOO"

::leaps away from explosion in slow motion::
posted by FatherDagon at 3:11 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am totally in favor of a world where transfolk and god damned UFO cultists join forces to right moral evils. Just sayin'.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:33 PM on October 21, 2009 [7 favorites]


So far Astro Zombie, you're the only person in this thread to mention the 'C' word... perhaps preemptively throwing your hands up at the inevitable is a self-fulfilling derail.
posted by danny the boy at 3:34 PM on October 21, 2009


Great post; fascinating reading about Trinidad. Sounds like a lovely place to visit.
posted by Neofelis at 3:37 PM on October 21, 2009


I don't want to go all farky here, but can I suggest adding a hero tag?
posted by cjorgensen at 3:53 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fact that reconstructive surgery is advancing in this way is great news. It's distressing, however, to see such tired old stereotypical portrayals of "genital mutilation." Interestingly (or maybe not, I guess) I've been to Africa but the only woman I've ever met who is actively and publicly engaged in protesting the surgery that removed her clitoris is a white woman whose doctor did it in a North American hospital. I hope that this doctor can offer something to her and women like her as well as to African women who are unhappy or unhealthy with their genital surgeries.

And bearwife, it really depends. Boys in some places in Africa are circumcised in much the same way that it is described in this article; that is, in non-surgical settings and without anesthesia. I've always found it interesting that people seem to assume that male circumcision is always non-harmful and that female cutting always is.

Just as a note, there are almost certainly people who read this site who have had genital alterations as children or young adults, either within surgical settings or outside of them. Some of these people may find the term "mutilation" to be a hurtful and/or insulting one. Many activists have switched to the term "genital cutting" for that reason, and I respectfully suggest that we adopt that language here.
posted by carmen at 3:56 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't want to go all farky here, but can I suggest adding a hero tag?

I added "hero" and "heroine". You saw the title of the post, yes?
posted by zarq at 3:57 PM on October 21, 2009


Oh, if you're interested on what kinds of genital cutting have been done to North American children under the umbrella of "surgery", you can get lot's more info at the Intersex Society of North America. I point this out not to sidetrack the discussion, but hopefully to move it to a position of common ground rather than the sensational "us" and "them" tone of the news article.
posted by carmen at 4:00 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is a great post, and it's a great message. I wish this were the sort of example held up more often as Greatness: someone who becomes a master of their craft, then gives it away selflessly.

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson (of all people), she makes me want to be a better man.
posted by Pragmatica at 4:07 PM on October 21, 2009


It's distressing, however, to see such tired old stereotypical portrayals of "genital mutilation."

I don't understand this. Can you explain?

Marci Bowers and the man from whom she learned this procedure, Pierre Foldes, are both heroes and humanitarians. They help me hate people a little less.
posted by rtha at 4:11 PM on October 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some of these people may find the term "mutilation" to be a hurtful and/or insulting one. Many activists have switched to the term "genital cutting" for that reason, and I respectfully suggest that we adopt that language here.

Actually.... I'm aware of the difference. I used "FGM" in the FPP deliberately. I personally tend to think that the milder term is intended to minimize the harm being done by the procedure.

But if you prefer that we use FGC in this thread instead, I have no objection. I'm willing to admit I might be doing more harm than good by using FGM, and I'd rather not make things worse for anyone seeking help.

For anyone else who might not be aware of the difference in terms, here's a primer:
Female genital mutilation:
this is also a collective name to describe procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs whether for cultural or other non-medical reasons. This term is used by a wide range of women's health and human rights organizations and activists, not just to describe the various forms but also to indicate that the practice is considered a mutilation of the female genitalia and as a violation of women's basic human rights. Since 1994, the term has been used in several United Nations conference documents, and has served as a policy and advocacy tool.

Female genital cutting:
Some organizations have opted to use the more neutral term 'female genital cutting'. This stems from the fact that communities that practice FGC often find the use of the term 'mutilation' demeaning, since it seems to indicate malice on the part of parents or circumcisers. The use of judgmental terminology bears the risk of creating a backlash, thus possibly causing an alienation of communities that practice FGM/FGC or even causing an actual increase in the number of girls being subjected to FGM/FGC. In this respect it should be noted that the Special Rapporteur on Traditional Practices (ECOSOC, Commission on Human Rights) recently called for tact and patience regarding FGC eradication activities and warned against the dangers of demonizing cultures under cover of condemning practices harmful to women and girls.
posted by zarq at 4:14 PM on October 21, 2009


Some of these people may find the term "mutilation" to be a hurtful and/or insulting one.

And some white supremacists think "racist scumbag" is a hurtful and insulting term, but who the fuck cares? Allowing people who think cutting up children's genitals for no even putative medical purpose is okay to set the terms of the debate is a horrible idea. As well allow NAMBLA to set the terms of debate over pedophilia.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:27 PM on October 21, 2009 [17 favorites]


Oh, if you're interested on what kinds of genital cutting have been done to North American children under the umbrella of "surgery", you can get lot's more info at the Intersex Society of North America.

For clarification's sake:

"Intersex" is a term which describes human beings who are physical hermaphrodites. That is, they have a genetic, hormonal and/or physical disorder which manifests as either complete androgyny or the possession of both male and female gonads. The ISNA site discusses unnecessary surgeries performed by concerned parents on their children, so their external genitalia will reflect a single sexual identity.
posted by zarq at 4:28 PM on October 21, 2009


I point this out not to sidetrack the discussion, but hopefully to move it to a position of common ground rather than the sensational "us" and "them" tone of the news article.

I'm not entirely sure how the Newsweek article sensationalizes FGM. Could you please explain what you mean by this?

The women undergoing corrective surgery were subjected to genital excision or worse against their will. Are you asserting that they were not?
posted by zarq at 4:31 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


A good person, doing good work. Too rare, but wonderful. Huzzah!

/ducks away from various derailments
posted by emjaybee at 5:41 PM on October 21, 2009


A woman who went to Dr. Foldes for reconstruction surgery wrote very movingly about her experiences after FGC and her progress towards recovery, including her relationship with her parents and other family members and their reactions. She posted for 9 months before and shortly after her surgery (which was in 2007). She wrote in French, but English translations of her blog have been provided by another blogger.
Papillon's original blog (in French)
Papillon's blog in English (via A Changing Life)
posted by periscope at 9:11 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a circumcised male. I prefer "genital mutilation".

Only in very rare cases is it medically warranted. I respect no "culture" that performs unnecessary surgery designed to deaden pleasure and control desire. Not my culture. Not some indigenous culture in Africa. No culture. Nowhere.

If the price of preserving a culture is preserving the right of its adults to carve the sensuality out of their children then it's too high. To hell with them. Slash and burn.

But that's a false dichotomy. No culture will be eradicated by ending mutilation of children. Cultures only die when you despoil their lands and destroy their economies.

Put it another way: imagine child molestation was inimical to a living culture today. How many of you would be careful to to describe the practice in value-neutral terms for the sake of respect?
posted by clarknova at 10:01 PM on October 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's distressing, however, to see such tired old stereotypical portrayals of "genital mutilation."

It's mutilation. It's done without the consent of the child, and therefore constitutes a form of assault causing permanent psychological and physical damage.

If an adult woman decided to go through the procedure for cultural or religious reasons, then I can see using the more neutral term "cutting". But as long as it is primarily done to children, it's Female Genital Mutilation, period.
posted by jokeefe at 10:09 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay,
A?: My legs are crossed so fucking hard right now.

B: lol @ Dr. Foldes.

C: It is a bit sensationalist the way we're beaten over the head with the "barbaric" facets of the FGM/FGC practices in these articles time and time again (dirt floor of an outhouse in this case) because it's not really the lack of proper western medical facilities which is the problem here, is it? Making the cultural trappings of practice seem barbaric (the villagers all partied while the girl was in PAIN do you hear me?) is an derisive and semicolonialist cultural misstep in this battle. I mean, I find it repulsive in every goddamn way, but I don't need to be cojoled into disrespecting these people with didactic rhetoric to feel that way.

D: The description of Sila, who's having reconstruction, amuses me: "attractive, fun-loving, and talkative." That's so clit of her, so naturally female pleasurey and stuff. I'm not being snarky, I just think the sort of constellation of attributes we build around female sexual pleasure is adorable, and it reminds me of the vagina monologue:

My vagina was green, water soft pink fields, cow mooing, sun resting, sweet boyfriend touching lightly with soft piece of blonde straw.

There is something between my legs. I do not know what it is. I do not know where it is. I do not touch. Not now. Not anymore. Not since.

My vagina was chatty, can’t wait, so much, so much saying words talking, can’t quit trying, can’t quit saying, oh yes, oh yes.

Not since I dream there’s a dead animal sewn in down there with thick black fishing line. And the bad dead animal smell cannot be removed. And its throat is slit and it bleeds through all my summer dresses.

My vagina singing all girl songs, all goat bell ringing songs, all wild autumn field songs, vagina songs, vagina home songs.

Not since the soldiers put a long thick rifle inside me. So cold, the steel rod cancelling my heart. Don’t know whether they’re going to fire it or shove it through my spinning brain. Six of them, monstrous doctors with black masks shoving bottles up me too. There were sticks and the end of a broom.

My vagina swimming river water, clean spilling water over sun-baked stones, over stone clit, clit stones over and over.

Not since I heard the skin tear and made lemon screeching sounds, not since a piece of my vagina came off in my hand, a part of the lip, now one side of the lip is completely gone.

My vagina. A live wet water village. My vagina my hometown.

Not since they took turns for seven days smelling like faeces and smoked meat, they left their dirty sperm inside me. I became a river of poison and puss and all the crops died, and the fish.

My vagina a live wet water village.
They invaded it. Butchered it
And burned it down.

I do not touch now.

Do not visit.

I live some place else now.
I don’t know where that is.

And as happy and centered and light as a feather as that makes me, it also makes me want to step into the homes of the people who write such sexualized policies of opression, who crush the best thing on earth for their own capital gain, and put bullets in their hearts. Because that's how wrong they are.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:24 AM on October 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's mutilation. It's done without the consent of the child, and therefore constitutes a form of assault.

I agree the word mutilation is good to use here, because it has the right and powerful effect.

But your definition above is lacking, since that could also cover (for example) all male circumcision, as well as such things as tonsillectomies and appendectomies.

It's not about the child's consent, that's bad water to work, full of red herrings. It's not even about the usefulness/uselessness of the operation in question, which per examples above could at least be sort of debated to various degrees. It's about the motivation, which involves some serious cultural forces that are the root problem.

This woman's work is great, but even if a thousand people joined her, that wouldn't make the work unnecessary, and that's what we're really after, of course.
posted by rokusan at 4:08 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty, I said that the word "mutilation" may be offensive to people who have had this done to them. Your comparison is ridiculous. I was not suggesting we endorse the procedures. But, in fact, it is possible that women who live in societies where such procedures might be performed may object to them without seeing the procedures as mutilating or themselves as mutilated per se.


I agree the word mutilation is good to use here, because it has the right and powerful effect.

It may have a good effect in terms of creating some outrage/activism in North America, but I was asking us to consider the effect in the communities where change actually needs to take place. This kind of terminology, and the presentation of African communities (as in the article) as primitive places where people do horrifying things to children for no apparent reason can make it much harder for women in these communities to create change. Where there was once a community with different ideas working out their problems, there becomes a former colony resisting the cultural imperialism of the former colonial master. While colonialism seems pretty long ago to most of us in North America, many people living in Africa now were born under colonial governments, and let me assure you that that people remain very aware of the power imbalances that colonialism created.

Taking a rhetorical position on genital cutting that is seen as cultural colonialism/imperialism can mean that women in the community can't create their own stance against the issue without getting lumped together with people whose motives as a group, because of our historical relationship to Africa, are suspect. It may satisfy one's righteous indignation to cry "mutilators!" but it would be a tragedy if someone pointed to such comments and said to a local protestor "we can't let these people define who we are, and so we must continue strong and proud in our traditions".


Allowing people who think cutting up children's genitals for no even putative medical purpose is okay to set the terms of the debate is a horrible idea.

For the record, once again, I was suggesting that we allow people *whose genitals have been cut* to set the terms of the debate.

Also, this phrasing seems to suggest that if there is a putative medical purpose then cutting up children's genitals is okay. See also zarq's insistence that the medical conditions that cause intersexed genitals make the surgeries somehow different (medical, therefore not cultural?).

One reason I think common ground is so important is because these kinds of arguments (you shouldn't do it if it's not for medical reasons / it's not safe to do it on the ground / with a stone knife etc.) have led to the medicalization of genital cutting. Despite what the article suggests more and more of these surgeries are being performed in medical facilities and/or by medical personnel. Medicalization is hugely problematic for a lot of reasons, but let me summarize by saying that it makes it that much harder to stop cutting practices. If we can acknowledge that medicalized genital surgeries are not always legitimate in our own home, then we are in a better position to suggest that they aren't in someone else's either.

Also, zarq, many societies that perform genital cutting on males and females consider the genitals of children to be ambiguous in much the way that we consider the genitals of intersex children to be ambiguous, and thus the justification is essentially the same: that the cutting makes genitals congruent with the assigned gender. I am not suggesting that we have to agree, but please recognize that someone within a society with that orientation to genital cutting may consider an American who justifies intersex surgeries on those grounds to be hypocritical and their arguments irrelevant.

AstroZombie pretty much has it for what I meant by sensational. Evil grandmother, taunting children, weak absent mother topped off with a scare (OMG it could be happening HERE!!). Also the "reason" they gave is not, by far, even close to most of the reasons that various rituals of these sorts take place.
posted by carmen at 7:27 AM on October 22, 2009


Articles like this and folks like this that show me that there is light in our dark world. Horrible acts can be, if not reversed, mitigated. Broken people can be mended. People can rise above circumstances and circumcision.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:06 AM on October 22, 2009


For the record, once again, I was suggesting that we allow people *whose genitals have been cut* to set the terms of the debate.

Hey, carmen, could you point us toward some sort of evidence that the bulk of people whose genitals have been "cut" do not feel they have been mutilated?

Because right now, all we have is you telling us that destroying a woman's sexuality is just "cutting."

I have a difficult time believing that people who have had their sexuality destroyed feel they are merely "cut."
posted by five fresh fish at 9:13 AM on October 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


*scans article*

Yup, there it is. The requisite photo of her putting on lipstick.
posted by Theta States at 9:22 AM on October 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


(but otherwise good articles, sorry for the derail. I play a drinking game with articles like these.)
posted by Theta States at 9:29 AM on October 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, this phrasing seems to suggest that if there is a putative medical purpose then cutting up children's genitals is okay. See also zarq's insistence that the medical conditions that cause intersexed genitals make the surgeries somehow different (medical, therefore not cultural?).

What?

I insisted on no such thing. I said no such thing. I simply defined "intersex" and explained what the ISNA does for those who might not be familiar with them.

This is what I said: "Intersex" is a term which describes human beings who are physical hermaphrodites. That is, they have a genetic, hormonal and/or physical disorder which manifests as either complete androgyny or the possession of both male and female gonads. The ISNA site discusses unnecessary surgeries performed by concerned parents on their children, so their external genitalia will reflect a single sexual identity.

I made no comparisons.
posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on October 22, 2009


Theta States: fucking signed. The article in the second link is pretty awful, and hits just about every square on the trans fail bingo card I just made up. I note, for example, that we also know what her voice is like.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:00 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I may have a simple mnd but there seems to be a lot of sophistry on this thread. Let us assume the practice under discussion here was human sacrifice . . . or cannibalism. Would we need to have a respectful label for these practices in order to encourage local members of the community to urge that they STOP? And what little island are we pretending these female child mutilators live on, that is insulated from feeling the impact of the views of the rest of the world?

Also, male circumcision may be debatable, though to my way of thinking the medical reasons why it is a good idea are long established, but it is NOT equivalent to removing the clitoris. The only male equivalent is removal of the penis . . and that is not a practice in any culture I know about.

In short, some things are wrong, whether done to children or adults. I guess it would be interesting to talk about whether they are wrong when done to consenting adults, but I for one wonder if any adult woman who has undergone clitorectomy has really had the autonomy to enter into informed consent. And reality wise, this is not a practice involving consenting adults . . . just as past victims of human sacrifice and cannibalism haven't wanted to be sacrificed or eaten.
posted by bearwife at 10:05 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yup, there it is. The requisite photo of her putting on lipstick.

A friend pointed that out to me this morning. It's an imposed stereotype on transgenders which I hadn't heard of before.

I'm pleased that the Newsweek article didn't, though. At least there's that.

Not only that, it didn't mention that she was transgender until the eighth paragraph. It was pleasing to see that they didn't make a big deal out of it. Her identity is an important part of the story, yes. But the fact that she's had gender reassignment surgery is just an aspect of the story -- which shouldn't be sensationalized or eclipse the rest.
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on October 22, 2009


Also, zarq, many societies that perform genital cutting on males and females consider the genitals of children to be ambiguous in much the way that we consider the genitals of intersex children to be ambiguous, and thus the justification is essentially the same: that the cutting makes genitals congruent with the assigned gender. I am not suggesting that we have to agree, but please recognize that someone within a society with that orientation to genital cutting may consider an American who justifies intersex surgeries on those grounds to be hypocritical and their arguments irrelevant.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no valid justification for intersex surgeries. That's why I called them unnecessary, above.
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on October 22, 2009


just as past victims of human sacrifice and cannibalism haven't wanted to be sacrificed or eaten.

Well, most of them. There was that crazy dude in Germany who volunteered himself for supper.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look, I'm not trying to be a jerk or derail or anything here, but I really feel strongly that the research I've done suggests that the way in which we talk about genital surgeries is potentially harmful. I am just as confused about why you are reading into my words some sort of moral relativism as you seem to be over me apparently arguing for moral relativism.

I would love to get into it more, but I just don't have the time and unfortunately I don't have web resources at hand to point to (there aren't many that I know of). So, for the person who asked for references, here is a shortened bibliography of the research I've done. I would love to annotate it for you, because there aren't web references, but I'm sorry, I don't have the time. If I were to suggest only a few readings, I would pick Ahmadu, Mackie, and Gruenbaum. Mackie in particular talks about eradication campaigns that have been successful.

Ahmadu, Fuambai
2000 Rites and Wrongs: An Insider/Outsider Reflects on Power and Excision. In Female “Circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund, eds. Pp. 283-312. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Boddy, Janice
1997 Wombs and Alien Spirits. In The Gender Sexuality Reader: Culture, History, Political Economy. Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo, eds. Pp. 309-324. New York: Routledge.

Chase, Cheryl
2004 Federal Judge Finds Wyoming Prison Violated Constitutional Rights of Intersexual Prisoner. Electronic document, http://www.isna.org/dimarco, accessed July 13, 2005.
...2002 "Cultural Practice" or "Reconstructive Surgery"? U.S. Genital Cutting, the Intersex Movement, and Medical Double Standards. In Genital Cutting and the Transnational Sisterhood: Disputing U.S. Polemics. Stanlie M. James and Claire C. Roberson, eds. Pp. 126-151. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Dayner, Jennifer E., Peter A. Lee, and Christopher P. Houk
2004 Medical Treatment of Intersex: Parental Perspectives. American Urological Association 172(4):1762-1765.

Dreger, Alice, and Cheryl Chase
2004 A Mother's and Daughter's Experience Rejecting Clitoral Surgery. Electronic document, http://www.isna.org/drupal/node/view/633, accessed 12/16, 2004.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne
2000 Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
...1997 How to Build a Man. In The Gender Sexuality Reader: Culture, History, Political Economy. Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo, eds. Pp. 244-248. New York: Routledge.

Gosselin, Claudie
2000 Feminism, Anthropology and the Politics of Excision in Mali: Global and Local Debates in a Postcolonial World. Anthropologica XLII:43-60.

Gruenbaum, Ellen
2001 The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
...2000 Is Female "Circumcision" a Maladaptive Cultural Pattern. In Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund, eds. Pp. 41-54. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Gunning, Isabelle R.
2002 Female Genital Surgeries: Eradication Measures at the Western Local Level--A Cautionary Tale. In Genital Cutting and the Transnational Sisterhood: Disputing U.S. Polemics. Stanlie M. James and Claire C. Robertson, eds. Pp. 114-125. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Holmes, Morgan
2002 Rethinking the Meaning and Management of Intersexuality. Sexualities 5(2):159-180.
ISNA

Kessler, Suzanne J.
1998 Lessons from the Intersexed. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
...1990 The Medical Construction of Gender: Case Management of Intersexed Infants. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 16(1):3-27.

Kuhnle, Ursula, and Wolfgang Krahl
2002 The Impact of Culture on Sex Assignment and Gender Development in Intersex Patients. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 45(1):85-103.

Leonard, Lori
2000a Adopting Female "Circumcision" in Southern Chad: The Experience of Myabé. In Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund, eds. Pp. 167-191. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.
...2000b Interpreting female genital cutting: moving beyond the impasse. Annual Review of Sex Research 11:158-190.

Lutz, Catherine A., and Jane L. Collins
1997 The Color of Sex: Postwar Photographic Histories of Race and Gender in National Geographic Magazine. In The Gender Sexuality Reader: Culture, History, Political Economy. Roger N. Lancaster and Micaela di Leonardo, eds. Pp. 291-306. London: Routledge.

Lyons, Andrew P., and Harriet D. Lyons
2004 Irregular Connections: A History of Anthropology and Sexuality. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Lyons, H.
1981 Anthropologists, Moralities, and Relativities: The Problem of Genital Mutilation. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 18(4):499-518.

Mackie, Gerry
2000 Female Genital Cutting: The Beginning of the End. In Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund, eds. Pp. 253-281. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Nussbaum, Emily
2000 A question of gender. Discover 21(1):92-99.
Orubuloye, I. O., Pat Caldwell, and John C. Caldwell

Orubuloye, I. O., Pat Caldwell, and John C. Caldwell
2000 Female "Circumcision" Among the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria: The Beginning of Change. In Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund, eds. Pp. 73-107. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Shell-Duncan, Bettina, and Ylva Hernlund
2000 Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Dimensions of the Practice and Debate. In Female "Circumcision" in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund, eds. Pp. 1-40. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Thomas, Lynn M.
2003 Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Walley, Christine
2002 Searching for “Voices”: Feminism, Anthropology, and the Global Debate over Female Genital Operations. In Genital Cutting and the Transnational Sisterhood: Disputing U.S. Polemics. Stanlie M. James and Claire C. Robertson, eds. Pp. 17-53. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
posted by carmen at 10:43 AM on October 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


(zarq, my apologies)
posted by carmen at 10:46 AM on October 22, 2009


For the record, once again, I was suggesting that we allow people *whose genitals have been cut* to set the terms of the debate.

You know, that's fine, and all, if there were a monolithic block of "people whose genitals have been cut" to question. But there are many voices, from women who don't judge the practice as harshly as we may in the West to those , like Nawal El Saadawi, who have fought it their entire lives after experiencing the trauma of their own "circumcision". I take issue with the term "debate"-- what debate can their be about the act itself, rather than its cultural ramifications? It's wrong, just as slavery is wrong. I'm not going to take seriously any argument that suggests otherwise. FGM is a fundamental attack on the integrity of the body, just as slavery is. Just because you might be able to find some slaves who don't wish to be freed, and many slaveowners who think the system works just fine, doesn't mean that slavery in and of itself isn't immoral in the highest degree.
posted by jokeefe at 12:02 PM on October 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


jokeefe, I think carmen is making the same argument orthogonality made about abolitionists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:14 PM on October 22, 2009


Huh. I've skimmed his comments-- I can't read the whole thread now, I'm at work-- but I don't see how it applies.
posted by jokeefe at 12:35 PM on October 22, 2009


Hang on, I'm dense. Oy. I see what you mean. Sorry.
posted by jokeefe at 12:36 PM on October 22, 2009


Yay kind people. Brava Dr. Marci Bowers.
posted by nickyskye at 4:45 AM on October 23, 2009


Carmen, no worries. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 6:33 AM on October 23, 2009


Jokeefe, the debate is primarily in what should be done to make women and children safe and happy, and how such a situation can be achieved. To me, the ultimate goal should be the support of movements that are successful in making changes in the communities that are affected. I also believe that most people, particularly on this site, would rather help than hurt. My research suggests to me that movements that are successful come from informed positions.

There are almost certainly affected women who don't object to the term FGM. But since this forum is public, we can't assume that no one who reads this will be hurt by such a term. Just as someone who lost a limb (through any means, from car accident to torture) might be hurt by being labeled "mutilated," so might some women who read this website. To me, that's reason enough not to do it, but in this particular case, framing the problem as one of mutilation and evil can make things worse for some of the women and men who have the best chance of making changes. If that doesn't seem like a good reason to refrain from that kind of language and framing, then I concede that we have fundamentally different world views and will probably always disagree.
posted by carmen at 8:30 AM on October 23, 2009


There are almost certainly affected women who don't object to the term FGM.

Hold up! Is this about women who have been cut, or those who will be cut?

Because if the goal is to stop the mutilations, then calling it for what it is is probably more effective. More effective in gaining attention and more effective in creating social pressure against the mutilation. "Cutting" makes it sound relatively innocuous. "Mutilation" makes it sound outrageous — as it truly is.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:12 AM on October 23, 2009


Or as grubi says in another thread:
Heavens, let's not offend anyone.

(Because that's how change has always occurred throughout history. All great social shifts, all of them, were done while making sure people's sensibility's were neither challenged nor offended.)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:16 AM on October 23, 2009


Is this about women who have been cut, or those who will be cut?

Well, this specific thread started out about women who have been cut, if you read the article. It was in reference to that topic that I made my original comment, which came from the fact that I know that some women who have been cut feel hurt and dehumanized by being called mutilated. The discussion has moved on from there, but the initial point stands in relation, yes, to those who have been cut.
posted by carmen at 10:20 AM on October 23, 2009


« Older The Microsoft Surface was the subject of much ridi...  |  Chartporn is a blog devoted to... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments