Monday, January 21, 2008

Female Circumcision

Every so often, a new article comes out about female circumcision. Yesterday, it was the New York Times' turn.

The NYT takes us to Indonesia. And I mean they take us there, to the annual free circumcision fest. There's a slideshow and everything. (The pictures are from the slideshow. I weeded out the heartwrenching ones - a little too manipulative for my taste.)I'm horrified at the practice, and even more so because they don't care if they cut the clitoris. But we circumcise men. Is there that big a difference?

Well, yes, because rather than the original idea of circumcised penises, cutting doesn't mark you as "chosen" or "worthy." According to Lukman Hakim, the foundation that gives the free female circumcisions, the reasons are three-fold:

“One, it will stabilize her libido,” he said through an interpreter. “Two, it will make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband. And three, it will balance her psychology.”
Still, as far as I know, circumcised men feel less pleasure during intercourse than those who are uncircumcised.

The problem with cutting is that it stems from religious law that sees women as unstable temptresses. We're trying to get rid of a symptom of the problem, when we should be looking at the problem itself.

Some people feel it's right to call this torture, just like they call burkas oppression, but to dismiss someone's entire upbringing through your own paradigm is never excusable. Mothers who bring their baby girls to get cut are just doing what society expects of them.

It's like I always say, a lot of problems can be fixed with education. Let's help to educate these women, not by giving them a tirade on what's right for their children, but by showing them other options and creating those options for them.

Another parallel I can draw with out society is a topic I've been posting a lot about lately: plastic surgery. Some women are actually getting vaginal plastic surgery. Sure, the women aren't babies when they do this, but I wonder how many of them do it because "it will make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband."

I just don't think we should be so quick to paste our ideals on top of other countries. We have to look at the cause of the problem. Fixing the symptom will get us nowhere. Look at Iraq.

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