Sunday, March 21, 2010

Female Genital Mutilation

i read a couple weeks back about this movie that was coming out starring model Liya Kebede in an autobiographical film about '80's model Dirie Waris. here is the film trailer:

after going through female genital mutilation and being married off at 13, Waris, a Somalian, was discovered in London by a model agent. after becoming famous, she shared her story and has started her own foundation whose sole purpose is to fight against Female Genital Mutilation. she has also written an autobiography entitled Desert Flower that i've been trying to get for the longest. i think someone stole it from the library.....
i think this movie premiered at some type of film festival, so i may need to find it on the internet or wait for it to come out on DVD.

this story interested me because it reminded me of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's autobiography Infidel. i think i read that about 2 years ago, and it was such an eye opening piece of work for me. i don't get emotional very often, but i cried a number of times throughout that book.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a native Somalian as well, underwent Female Genital Mutilation too. her grandmother held her down, while a man from their neighborhood (whose main occupation was to genitally mutilate females) cut off her clitoris with a rusty pair of scissors. he then stitched up her labia around her clitoris, which then was to be broken or cut open by her husband on their wedding night (although she escaped while on the trip to marry him). all while being administered no anesthesia, somewhere between the ages of 11 and 14. Ayaan recalls fainting when she urinated for some time after that episode. she is such an inspiration for me. not only has she gone on to educate herself, she's spoken out (at the risk of her life) against FGM as well as religiosity through her autobiographies and a film with the late Theo Van Gogh (a death threat for her was stabbed into his chest by religious extremists) and she's also served in Dutch Parliament.

i think this was the first time i'd read a personal account about Female Genital Mutilation, and i've since read a number of accounts (another to note, a book entitled Burned Alive by Souad). but every account is as horrific as the first. its difficult to even fathom someone doing that to one of the most sensitive areas of the body, but it happens all the time. The World health Organization has some facts about this "practice". and has some background information/theories about the supposed reasoning behind FGM.

as a westerner, it is difficult to critique practices from areas of the world i have never been because even though i have read facts, personal accounts, and statistics on a certain topic, i have a western bias whether i want to or not. i will have an aversion to some things simply because it is not commonplace for me. however, i think the only way someone can be corrected or changed, in their opinions, is to put those opinions on the table. if your arguments aren't heard, then you're likely to stay stagnant-stagnant in you mental state, in your politics, in your personal life, in growth altogether. to me, progression IS life. if i am not progressing , then there is no point.

that being said, i acknowledge that i may be wrong in condemning this practice, however, i think its a deplorable practice that should be banned by any means necessary. some individuals choose to call it "female circumcision", but its nowhere near that of male circumcision. its MUTILATION in every sense of the word. males undergo mutilation as well, it is simply more common for males, especially in the United States to undergo it soon after birth. but males have the foreskin of their penises cut off, while females have their clitoris cut off, and then have their labia stitched up around the clitoris. men do not have issues with urination after FGM, like females, and males do not have a menses or have to go through childbirth, so its almost pointless to even attempt to compare the two.

aside from the immense pain that is experienced through FGM, females also have issues urinating, usually get infections or diseases, have hemoragging and genital ulcers soon after, with an increased chance of STD's such as HIV. after the labia is ripped or broken open by husbands, genital tears are likely to occur. and thats not including the complications that result from childbirth. this practice forces women to have Cesarean sections, and the death rate for children born from mothers that have undergone FGM is significantly less that that of other children born to women that have not undergone FGM, not to mention the heightened risk of death for girls themselves. and all of this is even more horrific considering that prepubescent girls undergo this. if adult women chose to go through this, i probably wouldn't feel as disgusted by this, but there are young girls that are held down against their will, mutilated without anesthesia, usually cut with some crude knife, scissors, pieces of glass or sharp metal.

i think its also necessary to note that, from what i've read, the societies that expect women to be mutilated, the reason is because men want a virgin when they are married, and considering the vagina is stitched shut under the labia, this is one way of ensuring chastity. but does this mean that these men have some type of fetish with chastity? arguably. but what society doesn't? a simple examination of terms like "slut", "hoe", and "tramp", can show you that women in our society are judged a good deal based on their levels of chastity. women that have a large number of sexual partners are considered the lowest of the low, while men that do it have their dicks gold plated and worshiped.
it should also be noted that i don't necessarily link this to any religion in particular. although i have many issues with religion, and believe that it impacts society negatively more often than not, there really is not any particular Surah (verse) in the Quran that promotes or mandates FGM. however, i do think that Islam and Christianity do a part in limiting the ideals of females and holding the chastity of females higher than anything else. think about the most praised female in the bible. Mary. she did what besides have a child-while supposedly maintaining her chastity? NOTHING. she did absolutely nothing. she was a virgin and a mother, and she's held as the ideal in the bible. i think once something becomes habit in a society, its difficult to deviate from that, regardless of how unreasonable it may be.

so whats the point of this post? i think its always good to get a different prespective on something, and hear about different practices from different parts of the world. it also forces you to think about your thoughts on morality as a whole.
is it wrong to condemn other cultures? to what extent? if you say "no", then does this include things like child sex slavery? or even genocide? if you say "yes", then where do you draw the line between an uninformed opinion and a valid argument? do i need to experience FGM in order to critique it?

watch the movie. help me find the movie. read their books. comment. think. criticize.

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