The Female Circumcision Connection
Male circumcision is a cultural ritual in the United States, much like female circumcision (mutilation) is in other cultures. The double standards in the narratives surrounding male and female genital cutting, and how the practices are treated in medicine, criminal and human rights law, and ethics are becoming more difficult to ignore. Below you will find examples than span the gamut from academic journals, to mainstream news articles, and experiences and opinions of those from communities where male and female genital cutting are both cultural norms.
Circumcision, Sexual Experience, and Harm (University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law)
"We...highlight some of the inconsistencies in the current legal treatment of male versus female forms of nontherapeutic childhood genital alteration, and suggest that problematically gendered assumptions about the sexual body may play a role in bringing about and sustaining such inconsistencies."
Female genital mutilation and male circumcision: toward an autonomy-based ethical framework (Medicolegal and Bioethics)
"The non-therapeutic alteration of children’s genitals is typically discussed in two separate ethical discourses: one for girls, in which such alteration is conventionally referred to as “female genital mutilation” (or FGM), and one for boys, in which it is conventionally referred to as “male circumcision”...As an alternative, I propose an ethical framework for evaluating such alterations that is based upon considerations of bodily autonomy and informed consent, rather than sex or gender."
Male and Female Genital Alteration: A Collision Course with the Law? (Health Matrix)
"When one begins to question the normative status of male newborn alteration in the West, and when one thinks of female alteration as including even an hygienically administered 'nick,' one sees that these two practices, dramatically separated in the public imagination, actually have significant areas of overlap. In this article I will show that the two practices lack a legally defensible distinction..."
Between moral relativism and moral hypocrisy: reframing the debate on "FGM" (Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal)
"I draw on the biomedical “enhancement” literature in order to develop a novel ethical framework for evaluating FGM (and related interventions—such as female genital “cosmetic” surgery and non-therapeutic male circumcision) that takes into account the genuine harms that are at stake in these procedures, but which does not suffer from being based on cultural or moral double standards."
Genitals and ethnicity: the politics of genital modifications (Reproductive Health Matters)
"This is not necessarily an issue of either permitting or banning all forms of genital cutting, but about identifying a consistent and coherent stance in which key social values – including protection of children, bodily integrity, bodily autonomy, and equality before the law – are upheld."
Female Circumcision is OK (Video)
This is a four-minute video where circumcised women discuss the benefits of female circumcision and explain why they plan to have their daughters circumcised.
Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised (The Atlantic)
"An anthropologist discusses some common misconceptions about female genital cutting, including the idea that men force women to undergo the procedure."
Disputing the myth of the sexual dysfunction of circumcised women (Anthropology Today)
"In Sierra Leone, women’s initiation is highly organized and hierarchical: the institution itself is synonymous with women’s power, their political, economic, reproductive and ritual spheres of influence. Excision, or removal of the external clitoral glans and labia minora, in initiation is a symbolic representation of matriarchal power."
Does Female Genital Mutilation Have Health Benefits? The Problem with Medicalizing Morality (Quillette) — A discussion of child genital cutting in light of the FGM case against the Dawoodi Bohra Islamic sect in Detroit, MI.
"A lot is at stake here. Multiculturalism, religious freedom, the limits of tolerance; the scope of children’s—and minority group—rights; the credibility of scientific research; even the very concept of 'harm.'"
The Most Common Type of Female Circumcision (United Nations)
"The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified four types: Type 1: Excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris. Type 2: Excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora Type 3: Excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation). Sometimes referred to as pharaonic circumcision..."
Circumcised Women Uncritical of the Ritual (Science Nordic)
"...it’s a paradox that women who have undergone circumcision, and who have moved to a Western country and gained new insights, still want to circumcise their daughters. A considerable mental leap is needed to change positions rooted in one’s own traditions. “It’s hard to change a centuries-old tradition,” says Borgen. “This tradition has deep roots in culture and is for some people an imperative. Quite a lot of prejudices are involved in the circumcision ritual..."
Nigerian Health Service
Females defend FGM using the same reasons that Americans defend MGM.
Circumcised Women Can Have Healthy Sex Lives (SBS)
"As an anthropologist who has studied female mutilation rituals in West Africa for many, many years and have written about it extensively," Ahmadu said, 'most women do not experience it as mutilation and would never refer to themselves as mutilated.'"
Ending circumcision, Part One (Philly Voice)
Placing a comforting hand on her daughter’s small chest, Rita peels back the sticky tabs and opens the diaper only to recoil in shock. Blood, rather than urine, soaks the absorbent pad. Bright, red blood... Sick to her stomach with hands shaking, Rita carefully opens up her daughter’s labia majora to look inside the girl’s genitals. Yes, the wound from yesterday’s circumcision is bleeding, a lot. No wonder she has been crying.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali Speaks on Female Circumcision (London Evening Standard)
“It was done to me at the age of five, and 10 years later, even 20 years later, I would not have testified against my parents,” she states. “It is a psychological issue. The people who are doing this are fathers, mothers, grandmothers, aunts. No little girl is going to send them to prison.”
A Tiny Cut (This Islamic Monthly)
"When I asked my mother again recently, she revealed that she and her seven sisters had all undergone sunat. In Singapore in the 1940s, sunat involved cutting off a piece of a girl’s prepuce or clitoral hood, making it flat instead of naturally covering the top of the clitoris."
Boys and Girls Alike (Aeon)
"The truth is: I study childhood genital surgeries. Female, male and intersex genital surgeries, specifically, and I make similar arguments about each one. As a general rule, I think that healthy children – whatever their sex or gender – should be free from having parts of their most intimate sexual organs removed before they can understand what’s at stake in such a procedure. There are a number of reasons I’ve come to hold this view, but in some ways it’s pretty simple..."
The Day I Saw 248 Girls Suffering Genital Mutilation (The Guardian)
"Hdjella insisted that the form of FGM they practised is "helpful to girls' health". She explained that they clean the genitals and then use sterilized scissors to cut off part of the hood, or prepuce, and the tip of the clitoris. "How is this helpful to girls' health?" I asked. "It balances their emotions so they don't get sexually over-stimulated," she said, enunciating in schoolmistress fashion. "It also helps them to urinate more easily and reduces the bad smell."
Medical Benefits of Female Circumcision (Islam Q&A)
"The secretions of the labia minora accumulate in uncircumcised women and turn rancid, so they develop an unpleasant odour which may lead to infections of the vagina or urethra. I have seen many cases of sickness caused by the lack of circumcision. Circumcision reduces excessive sensitivity of the clitoris which may cause it to increase in size to 3 centimeters when aroused, which is very annoying to the husband, especially at the time of intercourse."
Confessions of a Circumcised Woman (GuggieDaly)
"I am a white American, non-Muslim woman who was circumcised as a toddler by the same pediatrician that circumcised my brothers and at the same hospital at which I was born. I have no clitoral hood and only a V shaped scar and the tiniest bit of inner labia they were kind enough to leave behind."
AAP Retracts Controversial Policy on Female Genital Cutting
" The American Academy of Pediatrics has rescinded a controversial policy statement that condemned the practice of female genital mutilation but suggested physicians might consider a clitoral "pricking" procedure to "satisfy cultural requirements" and prevent families from sending girls overseas for more severe forms of FGM, CNN reports."