There are few health repercussions, so you really should have a more “balanced” view of this. It’s their culture, you know.
Sociological Images, a blog I used to follow until now, recently published an article by Lisa Wade called ‘A Balanced Look at Female Genital “Mutilation.”‘ (yes, with the scare quotes). Some other blogs have published criticism of this entry (see here and here). As it turns out, Lisa Wade is a tireless critic of people who are against FGM.
But you know, fair enough, let’s first see what this “balanced” discussion should be about. As it turns out, Wade’s thesis consists of seven facts:
1. Using the word “mutilation” is counterproductive.
2. Media coverage usually focuses on one of the more rare types of genital cutting: infibulation.
3. Research has shown that women with cutting are sexually responsive.
4. Health complications of genital cutting “represent the exception rather than the rule.”
5. Girls are not generally cut in response to the influence of cruel patriarchs.
6. FGCs are not an “African practice.”
7. Western-led efforts to eliminate FGCs are largely ineffective and sometimes backfire.
I will not go through each in turn, since the other critics have already done that. But one important fact she omitted to discuss was why we should care about any of this. Some of these facts may be true (there are very good reasons to reject at least some of them), but they do not provide a “balanced” view of FGM. As a contrast, imagine that the article was instead an attempt to provide a “balanced” view of child rape, and the following facts were presented:
1. Using the word “rape” is counterproductive.
2. Media coverage usually focuses on one of the more rare types of parental sex: girls who are imprisoned and inseminated by their fathers.
3. Research has shown that women who had parental sex in childhood are sexually responsive.
4. Health complications of parental sex are rare.
5. Girls are not generally involved in parental sex in response to the influence of cruel patriarchs.
6. Parental sex is not a “male practice.”
7. Efforts to eliminate parental sex are ineffective and sometimes backfire.
I hope the analogy is obvious. Neither of these sets of facts are relevant to the debate because they are also ethical debates, not merely factual debates. Any discussion of human practices (no matter how mundane or repulsive, or both) must necessarily integrate moral or ethical considerations, lest we completely omit human rights and human well-being. This seems to be Wade’s goal; she wants to treat FGM as a purely academic concern in which no human beings are involved. Given the fact that we don’t treat children as human beings, she might be right on that.
One point on which she is absolutely right is that FGM is not an African practice: it has been practiced in the United States until very recently, and may reemerge once again. The debate around FGM will accordingly take more prominence. And there will be plenty of people like Lisa Wade there to promote woman-hatred in the name of facts. I repudiate her and her blog. Fuck Lisa Wade for being on the side of the oppressors of women.