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1 What about "Female Genital Mutilation"? And Why Understanding Culture Matters in the First Place Author(s): Richard A. Shweder Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 4, The End of Tolerance: Engaging Cultural Differences (Fall, Source: 2000), pp. 209-232 The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences Published by: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20027671 . Stable URL: Accessed: 24/01/2011 15:07 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=mitpress. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] The MIT Press and American Academy of Arts & Sciences are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Daedalus. http://www.jstor.org

2 A. Richard Shweder What About "Female Genital Mutilation55? And Why Understanding in Culture Matters First the Place Female as mutilation also known (FGM, genital has been circumcision) female practiced in centuries sub-Saharan for traditionally Africa. and taboos have Customs, rituals, myths, even the it has perpetuated practice though or maimed women killed untold numbers and of FGM's disastrous health girls... effects, combined with the it social injustices perpetuates, a constitute to serious barrier overall African development. ?Susan and Rich Stephanie Joyce1 On the vast on the basis literature the of harmful one have effects of genital surgeries, might a wealth studies that anticipated finding of document increases considerable in and mortality no This review could morbidity. find on incontrovertible evidence and the mortality, rate medical that of suggests complications they are the rather than the rule. exception ?Carla M. Obermeyer2 Richard A. Shweder is human at the Chi professor of development of University cago. a This is Free The Exercise of essay part R. edited volume, of Culture, forthcoming by M. H. and Markus. ? Russell Shweder, Minow, Foundation. All reserved. Sage rights 209

3 210 A. Richard Shweder societies in established strong Africa Early over women the controls their behavior sexual of means to circumcision brutal and the devised of curb sexual desire and response. female Koso-Thomas3 ?Olayinka ... that studies the investigate systematically women men in and sexual societies of feelings are are where and rare, surgeries found genital scant into that is the calls available information assertion that the question female genital are to antithetical surgeries fundamentally women's and with sexual incompatible sexuality enjoyment. M. ?Carla Obermeyer4 some most who the Those practice of controversial such of customs?clitoridectomy, or the children marriage marriages of polygamy, are that coerced?sometimes otherwise explicitly women as them necessary for defend controlling customs the that and persist openly acknowledge at men's insistence. ?Susan M. Okin5 is It the number difficult for me?considering of own? I ceremonies have observed, my including to to what be that accept appear expressions of in ecstatic and celebrations womanhood joy of coercion hidden experiences of disguise actuality I that bulk and the Indeed, offer of subjugation. so women Kono who these rituals do uphold want relish the because they to?they over leaders their ritual powers of supernatural men in brace the and society, against they and, authority female of particularly, legitimacy the mothers their and of authority grandmothers. ?Fuambai Ahmadu6

4 211 "? Mutilation "Female Genital What About TO THE LISTENING BY WOMAN: A RITES FEMINISM VOICES OF MULTICULTURAL a November Afri Fuambai ON 1999, 18, young Ahmadu, can in United delivered who the scholar up grew States, a at American Association the paper Anthropological to liberal all be that in should troubling deeply meeting Chicago the and who value democratic pluralism people freethinking care the of who about "differences" and of toleration accuracy our in debates. cultural representations public-policy with these words: her Ahmadu paper began activists I scholars and with feminist share also campaigning concern a women's for female the circumcision] [of practice against as as the and well for sexual well-being, psychological physical, status for women's and traditional of these rituals implications an Kono of from in ethnic group [the power Coming society. in which and initiation female Sierra Eastern male) (and Leone] a are and "circumcision" feature of cul central institutionalized ture this and traditional and having society undergone myself a I it find of "woman," process challenging becoming increasingly own to discourses with reconcile my global experiences prevailing on "circumcision."7 female ceremonies ceremonies and gender-identity Coming-of-age em are alterations embraced and deeply genital by, involving not in in African Africa the lives bedded women, many of, only as in the United Estimates of States well. the but and Europe women in African who of number contemporary participate and million these between vary wildly widely practices eighty women two In and their hundred these million. keep general, secrets to not most secret. have been the inclined expose They to intimate their bodies examination of and parts they public case on not in have their of been the habit the making op-ed or at in American the halls of of newspapers, pages Congress, was an event to it So witness academic extraordinary meetings. an an initiate and Fuambai stand up Ahmadu, anthropologist, state that the and claims adverse ef oft-repeated "regarding on not fects women's female do circumcision] [of sexuality tally most with the Kono of her women," experiences including was own.8 Ahmadu old and twenty-two years experi sexually

5 212 A. Richard Shweder to to so Leone she enced when Sierra returned be circumcised, own case at in her least she is knows she what about. talking women Most Kono of the female (and male) practice uphold circumcision its and evaluate for their consequences positively and Ahmadu social, spiritual, psychological, physical well-being. on women went to Kono that and feel suggest girls empowered the initiation and she de ceremony (see above) quotation, by some reasons of the scribed why. observations and Ahmadu's ethnographic testimony personal seem to In readers Dcedalus. of social the and may astonishing most in circles which intellectual it Americans travel has been so to correct" female circumcision that the "politically deplore claims and of anti-"FGM" representations alarming advocacy of African and for hundreds parents groups (images routinely and of their female chil years maiming, murdering disfiguring, a dren them of their for and sexual capacity depriving response) not to have scrutinized been with reliable carefully regard Nor have been evidence. cross-examined they by freethinking a con of minds rebuttal. the process systematic Quite through on correct the the the attitude and facts for moral trary; ground so to taken be have been self-evident that guys" "good merely FGM?" is "what about the rhetorical question posing presumed as an to to obvious cultural function counterargument plural a to to ism clear limit define and of tolerance for any feelings This in is of life. alternative because this ways unfortunate, case case reason one to is the that believe there is far less good are not that than "bad the that sided all guys" supposed, really the be the of values that that should and bad, upheld, pluralism an to and have awful rushed may gotten guys" judgment "good rather lot wrong. Six Fuambai Ahmadu her months before expressed publicly on the circum discourse female doubts about global prevailing Medical ob of the readers cision, Quarterly Anthropology a an event of similar served yet extraordinary (methodologi a sort. Carla different medical Obermeyer, cally) anthropolo a at and Harvard gist University, epidemiologist published on review the medical of literature existing comprehensive in in she that which female concluded Africa, surgeries genital

6 213 Mutilation"? "Female Genital What About are movement anti-"FGM" of the claims the exagger highly not match and ated may reality. ex out that "The her essay pointing by began Obermeyer on is which this article of based literature review the haustive a as was be what motivated disparity by potential appeared resources tween activism toward and the of mobilization the to she When efforts."9 such that research base support ought a at 435 total of look base" that "research closer took (a were the and reviewed from articles medical, demographic, article avail science social every literatures, including published or on circumcision" "female the "female of able topic genital in Sociofile and the mutilation" Medline, databases), Popline, most statements in in which that discovered she publications were circumcision female of the effects made about devastating no was at all. When she examined research evidence presented she evidence discovered reports containing original actually or numerous small flaws (e.g., unrepresentative methodological no and control (e.g., quality-control problems groups) samples, some in the of of medical vague complications) descriptions most She remarks: de cited their documents. "Despite widely come some to of have the reports ficiencies, acquire published an aura and cita uncritical of repeated through dependability tions."10 even some to In if draw conclusions order realistic, tentative, in circumcision female of about health the consequences Africa, some introduced standard then epidemiological Obermeyer For criteria for evidence.11 example, evaluating quality-control a its if be methods excluded would research sampling study case a on were or were not if its based claims described single a the basis the of On rather than relatively sample. population mini that of available studies number small actually passed mum on the standards studies scientific (for eight example, the medical that of reported topic Obermeyer complications), of medical African op complications genital widely publicized are not the that erations the female rule; exception, genital are not with alterations sexual and enjoyment; incompatible women of numbers that the and that have untold claim girls as a not is killed of this "traditional well result been practice" the evidence.12 supported by

7 214 A. Shweder Richard on and other researchers who work Many anthropologists aware in in various field this Africa been have of settings topic on between the discourse circumci female global discrepancies its sion of sexual (with murder, images maiming, dysfunction, own and and ethno their coercion, mutilation, oppression) with discourses and experiences graphic indigenous physical realities.13 first the the protest against Perhaps anthropological global came to in 1938 from discourse who, Jomo Kenyatta, prior a wrote first of the Kenya, postcolonial becoming president at in London thesis the Ph.D. Econom of School anthropology as a was His ics. thesis book entitled Mount Facing published in The which the Tribal he described of Gikuyu, Kenya: Life the of the both sexual customary practices premarital Gikuyu of toward and rather liberal attitudes adolescent (lots fondling and the sexual of and female arousal) (and petting practice circumcision. male) an con in have 1938, uncanny words, Kenyatta's published us "In First relevance. he informs and 1931 that temporary ring on was a in African children held Geneva the under conference In Save Children Fund. this of the conference the auspices was time that the when several ripe delegates European urged custom' should be this 'barbarous and like all that, abolished, once at it should other abolished 'heathen' be customs, by law."14 on a to He that the alter among goes argue genital Gikuyu a re is is "like that circumcision," ation, Jewish bodily sign non sine the "as of whole conditio the of qua garded teaching no man that tribal and proper law, morality," religion Gikuyu or or woman sex was someone not with would who have marry an is into that essential the respon circumcised, step practice African for and that adulthood and sible many girls boys, a in is educated of "there strong community Gikuyu opinion custom."15 of defense this of echoes later years message Jomo Kenyatta's sixty Nearly can in Corinne found of be who written the has Kratz, writings a account in initiation female of detailed another ethnic group in not the tells The she Okiek. do talk about us, Okiek, Kenya,

8 215 Mutilation"? About Genital "Female What or terms in of sexual the of circumcision pleasure dampening terms "in it of of but rather cleanliness, desire, beauty speak men women to Okiek and and adulthood." Kratz, According self-control the and and modification view bravery "genital as constitutive of the experiences operation during displayed Okiek personhood."16 be of could be cited other discrepancies Many examples tween of and field the discourse the many experience global to in issue the of sexual Africa. With researchers enjoy regard men that Robert remarks for ment, "Kikuyu Edgerton example, societies East African several other those of like and women, me in 1961-62 that assured female that circumcision, practice re women to be and similar continue circumcised orgasmic," in other field marks appear reports.17 to circumci the that discourse With represents regard global a or a as Lane and Sandra sion "mutilation," disfigurement the caution: Rubinstein have offered Robert following is An that of societies members caveat, many however, important not do the that view traditional female surgeries practice genital as in these the result mutilation. groups, fact, Among resulting over an in is considered female appearance improvement genitalia woman a or to to state. call their natural uncircumcised, Indeed, man a son a an is of uncircumcised call the terrible insult mother, are and adult often female noncircumcised considered genitalia we in In interviews conducted and urban rural Egypt disgusting. in of Institute the studies conducted and Nurs of by High faculty of the University, Zagazig majority ing, Egypt, overwhelming women on to have circumcised the procedure planned performed we women some In with discussions their found daughters. fifty at are resent two and who circumcised. been angry having only one not women is Even circumcision female that of think these do most women In critical the and the Egyptian facing girls. problems we some rural where have conducted fieldwork hamlet Egyptian women were not not circumcise did familiar with that their groups was not learned cir the female researcher that When they girls. was mixed with their cumcised response disgust joking laughter. married wondered how she could have thus and gotten They an could her how have such mother questioned neglected important of her for womanhood.18 part preparation

9 A. 216 Richard Shweder are These because reports noteworthy ethnographic they own our that that of instead of suggest perceptions assuming are must transcen universal and and be disfigurement beauty we want to a dental is consider the that there possibility might in and divide real cultural around the world moral, astonishing to reactions and aesthetic female emotional, surgeries. genital no own our of There that doubt of course, is, personal feelings can are and this about and be anxiety topic disgust powerful and with aroused either manipulated rhetorically easily pic or tures Third World of with (for example, surgical implements) or "torture" "mutila words the (for activity labeling example, we to true want if But understand the this character of tion"). sense to in it sensibilities make divide cultural bracket may good own our emotional/visceral reactions initial automatic) (and save to conclusive for the of and the end any feelings powerful or have them color rather short-circuit all than argument, of the instead objective Perhaps, analysis. simply deploring we a better of the "savages," might understanding develop a account of inside of the constructing synoptic point by subject women of the from African those for many view, perspective seem and both normal desirable. such whom practices THE PLURALISM MORAL YUCK AND RESPONSE" "MUTUAL at at other's each and each recoil say practices "yuck" People comes over to it world. female the all other When genital is the "mutual response alterations, however, particu yuck" sense a even of intense mutual and may outrage approach larly a or of From that horror. view, point particu descriptive purely is routine of the of "natural" and lar modification type body For in normal national ethnic preva groups. many example, rates for have of 80-98 been lence percent Egypt, reported the and Sierra the Leone, Somalia, Mali, Gambia, Ethiopia, rate nations In is where the overall Sudan.19 African prevalence in in 43 50 Cote lower?for percent percent Kenya, example, some in is 30 Ghana?this because percent d'Ivoire, typically a in countries have tradition of female those ethnic groups not. For other ethnic circumcision while do groups example, east in the north and the the ethnic within Ghana groups

10 217 Mutilation"? "Female About Genital What in the south the while ethnic circumcise groups (and boys), girls no In both for circumcision. female of tradition have general, the circumcision of best the and (versus predictor boys girls ex or For is affiliation. cultural of absence group it) ethnicity Kono Sierra of the is for circumcision Leone, customary ample, women not. For it within is these for of Wolof the but Senegal one other cultural factor?their groups, affiliation?trumps key or as socioeco educational level such of behavior, predictors a women even status. with nomic the Kono, secondary Among are or while education school circumcised, Senegalese college not. and unschooled?are the illiterate Wolof women?including are For about this cultural facts notable other There practice. women one not most circumcision do about think African thing, terms. circumci who endorse female in Women human-rights an is of it that cultural their sion argue part important typically women not or who the endorse do while their religion, heritage not it is that cultural their argue by practice permitted typically or their religion.20 heritage of ethnic for whom female members groups among Second, is circumcision of cultural their part ratings approval heritage are custom to the for rather the According generally high. Health of which Sudan and 1989-1990, Survey Demographic was out in central and northern of conducted 3,805 Sudan, were women women 89 interviewed the Of circumcised. percent or were 96 said who circumcised had circumcised, percent they When circumcise asked whether their would daughters. they 90 of favored continuation of the circumcised percent practice, women its continuation.21 said favored they vast In is Leone much the and Sierra the the same, picture are women to of Even the majority practice. sympathetic Olayinka an note anti-"FGM" of the makes activist, Koso-Thomas, high for of she expresses support operations, genital although degree a in tones. voice herself and rather with patronizing imperial not "Most African Koso-Thomas "still have observes, women," or to see to in the feel many sensitivity developed deprived a conse their cultural of human The violation rights. practices women most in in the is when this of quence that, mid-80s, can Africa and influence have decisions voting political rights to to their continue harmful up health, practices against they

11 A. 218 Richard Shweder mores in hold dictates communities and the of the which they seem as to in fact traditional beliefs invio live; they regard comes to it late."22 When their and maintaining coming-of-age not the Koso-Thomas does like ceremonies, gender-identity women vote. is African She thinks she many way enlightened in remain and that human health and about the rights they most But dark. does her she censure, that, recognize despite women in Leone Sierra circumcision. the endorse of practice ethnic affiliation is the best group Third, although predictor who circumcises of who does form and the of and not, timing are across not consistent the is there groups. Thus, operation enormous nor at in the which is the age surgery variability to birth time from late the teenage years). (any performed mally enormous in is also the traditional There and variability style a cut in of the the surgery prepuce (from covering degree area to out" the the of clitoris by "smoothing complete genital most not if the all and of clitoris the visible all of parts removing some In in ethnic and Somalia the groups (for labia). example, out" is the concluded Sudan) operation by "smoothing stitching the aim of with the closed fertility opening, vaginal enhancing the womb.23 The latter referred often and procedure, protecting or as not to in is Pharaonic "infibulation" circumcision, typical a most it has received ethnic groups, circumcising although in It esti anti-"FGM" is attention literature. the of deal good cases. occurs in 15 it African about of all mated that percent is In circumcision female of where the popu practice places it is believed and the Somalia Sudan, lar, by widely including women that and bodies their alterations these improve genital more more more more them make civilized, feminine, beautiful, honorable. a is made and smooth the More because beautiful pro body or to is is removed that trusion encumbrance" "fleshy thought a to is and There both touch.24 and be odious sight ugly in ethnic aesthetics cultural groups, among circumcising play as an and the human sexual of ideal cleansed, smooth, region view of both the the that which supports refined, genitals women are men and rather and unap misshapen, unsightly, state. in if their "natural" left pealing

12 Genital 219 What "Female About Mutilation"? More because feminine unmodified males both and (in genitals are seen as a From female's females) sexually ambiguous. as an is clitoris the viewed unwelcome of perspective vestige is and the male its removal with associated organ, positively several the attainment of full female things: good identity, a into induction network social and of group support powerful adult and and motherhood.25 women, ultimately marriage Many women who these traditions female initiation of seek uphold to as themselves rid of what empower perceive getting by they an trace unbidden and of unwanted male anatomy. dispensable a a ac More because is civilized alteration genital symbolic to tion one's that about exercise says something willingness over over restraint lust of and self-control the antiso feelings cial sexual for desire pleasure. announces More honorable the because one's commit surgery ment to as the and value the womb the perpetuate lineage source social of reproduction.26 as to As "us" it in be hard for where may believe, places not circumcision is female it is but commonplace only popular as to fashionable. As it hard be I for "us" believe may (and some "us" to for of that is this hard recognize believe), really women as in such many Mali, Somalia, places Egypt, Kenya, are and the Chad idea of unmodified female repulsed by geni as view tals. unmodified and unrefined, They genitals ugly, not un hence and human. associate undignified, fully They or at with modified life of the outside civi bottom of genitals to lized think "what kind of "Yuck," society. themselves; they are who barbarians these don't circumcise their genitals?" The of mutual. Female alterations course, is, "yuck" genital are not routine or and normal for mainstream of members in the United majority States, populations Europe, China, Ja other and of the For South Africa. pan, parts world, including of those members cultures the of female very thought genital an visceral it surgery reaction; produces unpleasant although us should noted be that for of the detailed visualization many an a sex of kind of any surgery?a operation, abortion, bypass a a or a even breast face operation, lift, change implantation,

13 220 A. Shweder Richard or an decorative tongue eyebrow piercing?produces unpleas ant In a visceral reaction. other words, merely contemplating on or can the the face be surgery, especially genitals, quite or even seems when the surgery upsetting revolting, jus fully own our tified "native view." from of point In sur the States and United the of practice Europe genital as re has been It "mutilation."27 has been gery disparaged as or torture described and associated the with rape nightmare some a of brutal male Victorian (or gyne patriarchal perhaps a woman or into the her young cologist) grabbing girl, pulling room a or razor back and and knife screaming kicking, using to blade of her her Various dramatic and deprive sexuality. been claims made about have health the hazards and disturbing effects of side harmful African the operations, genital including a to loss of sexual capacity experience pleasure. a to the has of become oppo Saying "yuck" practice symbol women to sition of and of one's the for their support oppression around the world. the has emancipation Eliminating practice a become mission Western for feminists many high-priority some in for activists under (and Africa, who, human-rights not come from often, enough, invariably, although standably some ethnic and for health international noncircumcising groups) and World the Health (for organizations example, human-rights and Now). International, Amnesty Organization, Equality in Outside and of States United the Africa, especially Europe, to so circumcision female has become opposition "politically most correct" until criti that ?mi/-anti-"FGM" very recently or cism has been The sym defensive, sympathetic. superficial, are criticisms of pathetic critiques mainly counterproductive on more to tactics. "eradication" how advice be They provide as an anti-"FGM" activist.28 effective also been occasional There that anti-"FGM" have complaints resources attention divert and from battles campaigns displace in the social States And and United injustice against Europe.29 concern have about been of there the expressions anguished state in of children mind of African the United States who living are and the that media social-service told their by agencies by own is is "mutilated" and she that mother potentially danger ous to them too.30

14 221 Mutilation"? Genital "Female About What In not do But criticisms of these very go types deep. general, circumcision female about facts the go unquestioned, purported case are to be of the moral the obvious, thought implications to mere is about "what FGM?" func the and query presumed a as both in knock-down tion of and itself argument against tolerance.31 inclination toward and cultural any pluralism ABOUT WHAT SO FGM? as a treat I real "FGM"? this shall about So what question as a a than rhetorical rather considered response deserving to For the terminate all debate. intended starters, prac query a of is rather alteration tice of poor example gender genital women. on or the of world, Surveying society picking inequality one in if which few finds any, cultures, very surgeries genital are on not are there but many although boys, girls performed on or on are in both which cultures boys only performed they sexes. in alterations often take adoles male The place genital can cence sub involve modifications and major (including they in the of is line the the which urethra). incision, along penis split rel the of and the intensity timing, Considering prevalence, on a evant alteration world and initiation rites, viewing genital an one to it is obvious that is hard wide argue scale, pressed con a the of instance Quite disfavoring inequity girls. gender both of the ritual transformation of social trary; recognition men a as more mature status into and empowered girls boys a women not the is of and ceremony. major point infrequently occurs In it and when female where other circumcision, words, more a case in of is much and Africa, society treating boys girls common into the them law and before respon inducting equally in sible adulthood ways. parallel a rather is of also The poor example practice patriarchal in do Asia and cultures domination. Europe Many patriarchal case or at not in in all alterations the of (as engage Jews, genital African ethnic and non-African many many Muslims, groups) in from do valued this and exclude practice participation girls to cir it that ethnic the African Moreover, groups boys. only are females each from cumcise different other very (and males) in ceremonial economy, life, family practice, religion, kinship,

15 222 A. Shweder Richard so are some are not. are Some and forth. Some Islamic, patri some a as are not. the matrilineal Kono, (such archal, society) Some formal initiations into have women's well-established care a some Some do not.32 lot about female organizations, restraint outside of sexual and the social purity, marriage, as are more but of the others (such desire, regulation Gikuyu) are not relaxed sexual about and play premarital puritanical. comes to it And initiation when and female alterations genital most is the almost and controlled, practice always performed, kin do male often women, by upheld strongly although provide men material moral and have support. however, Typically, to not rather little with these female do know may operations, not it is and about much feel their very may them, really or to to to business their interfere tell aunts, try wives, mothers, women to It is what and the do. of the grandmothers society are in cultural who this intimate the feminine experts domain, are or not to inclined and their up powers give they particularly secrets. their share cases am In I female alteration of those which with genital most in familiar lived have and where the (I taught Kenya, some routine is for the adolescent ethnic groups), practice girls an to initiation It is forward who ritual the it.33 look undergo can if it and ordeal done be (especially "naturally" painful as a test is is It it but viewed without of courage. anesthesia), an event have their and who controlled women, by organized own view view of the the different aesthetics from of body?a ours is about what The and beautiful. civilized, dignified, girl's are to not to their cruel be parents trying daughter?African one or too. No is love their children tortured. parents raped a event. is the celebration There surrounding on What about effects the health and negative devastating are in anti-"FGM" that the litera portrayed sexuality vividly comes to it ture? hard-nosed scientific of When investigations on and of female the consequences surgeries sexuality genital are sound studies. few there health, relatively methodologically most in the her As of medical discovered review, Obermeyer or on is sensational else relies "data-free" literature published or secondhand testimonials, reports, inadequate samples. Judged of basic the research much standards, against epidemiological

16 223 Mutilation"? "Female Genital What About some most of the evidence, widely including published empirical in literature anti-"FGM" the cited (in advocacy publications are flawed.35 influential Hosken the fatally Report34), cluding some in science think is there worth Nevertheless, considering con to which leads female about circumcision, Obermeyer ing and discourse about the health sexual clude the that global not is with of the consequences practice supplied sufficiently evidence. credible features anti-"FGM" The literature long typically advocacy of cir and medical of lists short-term long-term complications men acute blood infection, cumcision, shock, loss, including steril strual incontinence, difficulties, childbearing problems, that These lists read like the and death. warning ity, pamphlets enumerate which every many accompany prescription drugs, ever has effect of the medicine been that claimed side negative are to matter how very scary (no infrequently). They reported are stomach and very read, they misleading. Scary-looking, lists of medical possible complica churning, anxiety-provoking review tions litera of the aside, comprehensive Obermeyer's on ture risk of medical and the actual frequency complications com in Africa that medical surgery suggests genital following are not the African the that children rule; exception, plications not have been die because circumcised do die from they (they not of and because war, disease, malnutrition, coming-of-age com is the sexual of and that ceremonies); experience pleasure of related aesthetics and with the practices patible genital groups. circumcising are Her consistent with Robert basically Edgerton's findings comments in circumcision the female the about among Gikuyu missionaries Western 1920s and first when the of 1930s, Kenya own "FGM version launched eradication their of programs." was As the without remarks, operation Edgerton performed was most it and anesthesia hence bore very "yet girls painful, as or a serious infection suffered result. few and injury bravely women not to lose Circumcised their sexual did enjoy ability nor was their diminished. relations, capacity child-bearing the Christian offended Nevertheless sensibilities."36 practice a are In alarmist claims that other the standard fea words, ture of the anti-"FGM" literature that African tradi advocacy

17 224 A. Richard Shweder or tions circumcision numbers have untold killed of "maimed of women them and their of and may girls"37 sexuality deprived even true. not most Given if be the scientific reliable, limited, at be those claims viewed with evidence should hand, skepti no as not matter cism times and how many fact, accepted they on are of the editorial New the pages uncritically recapitulated or a on in Times invoked York essay journalistic poignantly PBS. a were in If Africa alteration long-standing really genital to in oblivious which cultural parents, intolerably practice high their and murdered disabled adoles and risks, pr?adolescent reason to cent wish its for be would there children, good quick this that review characterization of end. suggests Obermeyer's as as at it is the fanciful be the or, may nightmarish, practice Given is the dubious of and very least, importance misleading. in accurate debates information cultural about public-policy in is time for anti-"FGM" it liberal the democracies, diversity seem to who have taken the of groups, place yesterday's advocacy to revise the "factoids" dis either Christian missionaries, they or to to the else substantiate their claims with tribute public, collected data. rigorously are I would The otherwise. With real suggest, facts, quite to of the of the consequences surgeries, weight genital regard of that the the evidence suggests majority youth overwhelming as in countries Sierra ful initiates and such female Mali, Kenya, Leone been have believe they (physically, improved socially, and the ceremonial ordeal and process symbolic by spiritually) initiation. The associated with the evidence pain) (including to most be initiates of that these indicates manage (in youthful or even own without disastrous their estimation) "improved" or for their health. short-term consequences long-term major we not to not about should docu the that is This say worry rate 4-16 associated infection with mented percent urinary or cases in is which of there 7-13 the these percent surgeries, or rate 1 The the excessive of percent septicemia.38 bleeding, not to to is reaction of unsafe many abortions, however, people some be of antiabortion rid abortions. groups get might Perhaps some are that because abortions the argument by tempted a no at be far abortions should all. there However, unsafe,

18 About 225 What "Female Genital Mutilation"? more to to reaction unsafe reasonable is abortions them make same case not in safe. reaction the of the female Why genital and Infections alterations? other medical that complications or can arise from unsanitary procedures surgical malpractice a be without corrected of "others" rite of passage depriving to and of central their and cultural system meaning personal sense want their I and of overall identities What do well-being. to sense current is the that of suggest, however, shock, horror, and "Western" directed the mothers righteous indignation against of Sierra the Somalia, Leone, Mali, Egypt, Gambia, Ethiopia, the and is Sudan and rather misin misguided, disturbingly formed. ON THE OF CONCLUSION: VIRTUES BEING TO SLOW THE JUDGE UNFAMILIAR AND HAVING A HARD SECOND LOOK can no I to of think better conclude than this way essay by Lawrence scholar who writes: quoting legal Sager, concerns and the of counsel that Epistemic principle equal liberty we to we a be slow the that take hard second unfamiliar, judge our own at look we beliefs and factual normative before judgments condemn endorsed counsel that too, So, practices. culturally they extant excuse not of to and be closed categories legal mitigation the distinct of cultural And minorities. of course, experience finally, our that robust tradition of constitutional require they liberty? the of to and the of belief, parents including rights speech right the of their to and the of guide children, development right people be free to from intrusion into decisions that be governmental ought on to theirs terms alone?be full available and fair cultural minori ties.39 a as In matter this to I of have tried concern, essay, epistemic we that should be anti-"FGM" of the advo suggest skeptical literature the and discourse that African cacy portrays global as or mothers "torturers" of their "mutilators," "murderers," children. We should be dubious of that suggest representations are or that mothers African bad that First World mothers, a means mothers a have to better it idea of what be good to We mother. be slow should the unfamiliar of judge practice

19 A. 226 Richard Shweder in asser female because the part alterations, genital horrifying tions anti-"FGM" activists the of consequences by concerning the out about health (claims practice mortality, devastating a are to not of the loss and well comes, sex) capacity enjoy credible with scientific evidence. supported Of the anti-"FGM" of overheated course, genre preemptive terms in too claims moral is all itself is It familiar. the expressed of kind discourse murderer of innocent (for "you life") example, some use to antiabortion it who activists, by employed stigma women men tize to liberal and who believe the right family a to cases in choice of unwanted preg privacy implies right one more reason a to is That take second and look nancy. just com to hesitate the "FGM" before describe the using epithet and embraced many gender-identity practices ing-of-age by women. women too of millions to African African have rights to and the of their personal family privacy, guide development own in to of children their ideals of the be and life, light good free of excessive and unreasonable intrusion. government an in African mother United States the who Imagine living holds convictions. the She her believes that following daughters as sons as to well her able be should their and looks improve enter a covenant into their with and prospects, God, marriage as be via members the adult honored of circumci community ex sion. that her (for Imagine proposed surgical procedure a covers cut more in no the is that the prepuce clitoris) ample, a view of medical the from substantial than customary point we not male American circumcision should operation. Why as to as Kono extend that the of well parents option daughters to the of for of sons, parents Jewish example?40 Principles due before the and cul process law, equity, gender religious seem to tural and would the freedom, support privacy family option. a Or female Somali teenager imagine sixteen-year-old living a in who believes that alteration "some would be Seattle genital She likes the look her of mother's and very great." thing body cousin's her circumcised far better than she likes body recently a own. wants to mature her the be of She and look beautiful or man a to wants at She Somali Somali woman, marry style. man a an least who the of initiated appearance appreciates

20 211 "Female Mutilation"? Genital What About wants to with other African woman's show She solidarity body. sense women and feminine of their who express civility, beauty, sense in she of aesthetics and and shares their this way, dignity the medical literature reviews and discovers She seemliness. no can and with be done the that surgery safely, hygienically, on sex. to consultation her After effect great capacity enjoy of of full her other members and the her with support parents on to the What elects tradition. she carry community, principle "eradi be her cultural should that demands of justice heritage an to end? and cated" brought I "What also the that have posing question merely suggested an not is FGM?" cultural about argument against pluralism. un accurate information sufficient scientific cultural With and see to is it the of (not unreasonable) point derstanding possible are whom for such those for they Seeing practices meaningful. is the the and facts cultural scientific point getting straight Our tolerance cherished ideals of tolerance where (in begins. not amount to ideal of the would "pro-choice") being cluding our was to eat to if much amounted all very they willingness to enter to and each other's each other foods grant permission a on for different houses of hours of week the couple worship means our end. aside Tolerance and aroused setting readily about the of negative practices immigrant powerfully feelings en to the and facts groups get minority enough long straight a in serious the "other" moral It take should far gage dialogue. more to offended than rhetoric and overheated sensibilities a to cultural "eradication" Needless the say, justify campaign. versus tolerance of of eradication val other question peoples' a not is women's issue. of life ued ways just over an not in is The female circumcision Africa controversy case. I it Given stakes the believe involved, high open-and-shut a men women? is of cultural and pluralists?both responsibility are who about African circumcision knowledgeable practices to this the educate and about out, forward, step speak public are women a sense out There African of many who, practice. a or sense of well-founded of fear, loyalty, privacy, modesty, a to is And it themselves. hesitate for may speak responsibility of anti-"FGM" activists and cultural everyone, alike, pluralists on reason to insist evenhandedness the and standards of highest

21 A. 228 Shweder Richard on at in this debate and evidence any topic?or policy public a to insist is least there with all sides that debate, policy public voices and fully represented. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS more in version A of this will and be far essay comprehensive published longer to Is Jif Exercise It Free Ri How Free Be? How Free The ed. Culture: Ought of A. R. York: Markus and Martha chard Hazel Russell (New Minow, Shweder, treats be Foundation That and several essay that, Press). Sage questions topics cause cannot varia addressed be cultural of limitations, space here, including a in link of tions the lack of "normal" edu the between tight conceptions body, cation and the and character and toward attitudes surgeries, genital implications various anti-"FGM" of "eradication and of liberalism" pro types "imperial of of also the toleration much how That addresses essay question grams." longer to context in the of the reasonable the be scientific, medical, practice ought legal, as a of such liberal moral traditions the and democracy pluralistic politically examines connection female and It between States. the male United circumcision, of the this that claim and evaluates many customary practice particular critically a as of form be viewed should ethnic African groups persecution." "political on initiation ceremonies African have and gen experts friends, Many colleagues, me the this with and/or discussed (and topic longer critiqued erously tolerantly) in them for version of this Without any my way per essay. responsible holding on to to I issue controversial wish this my express gratitude deepest spective David Fuambai Chambers, Beck, Cohen, Ahmadu, Jane Janice Boddy, Margaret Ylva Albrecht Arthur Robert Elizabeth Dunn, Hernlund, Eisenberg, Edgerton, Dennis Corinne Frank Sudhir Kratz, Kakar, Kessel, Hofheinz, Jane Kaplan, Maiv?n Martha Carla Hazel Heather Markus, Minow, Lindkvist, L?m, Krieger, Lauren Lawrence Anni Gerd Peller, Rabe, Shweder, Jane Obermeyer, Sager, Leti and Volpp. Spittler, ENDNOTES Les and Female Genital Mutilation: xSusan Rich Joyce, Eradicating Stephanie a sons M for 1990 Sustainable Fund Global Wallace Future, Donors, for an is D.C. 3. Susan Suite Rich 1, n.d., 250, NW, 20036, Street, Washington, in Africa who "FGM eradication anti-"FGM" activist programs" developed Action Fund of International. for the Projects Stephanie Population Special an consultant. is Joyce independent the The "Female Genital M. 2Carla Known, Unknown, Surgeries: Obermeyer, 92. 13 Medical the and (1999): Unknowable," Quarterly Anthropology an in the is and Carla department anthropologist epidemiologist Obermeyer at Harvard and international health of University. population

22 229 "Female Mutilation"? What About Genital A Women: The Circumcision Eradica Koso-Thomas, for Strategy of 301ayinka a is 37. Zed tion Koso-Thomas gyne Books, (London: 1987), Ltd., Olayinka an in Leone anti-"FGM" activist. Sierra and cologist Genital 95. "Female Surgeries," 4Obermeyer, Is Okin 5See Moller Multiculturalism Susan Women? Bad with for respondents, and C. Matthew ed. Martha Nussbaum (Princeton, Howard, Cohen, Joshua a 14. Princeton Susan First is Okin femi World 1999), Press, University N.J.: a at nist scientist Stanford and contends that who University, political women. is bad for multiculturalism on An "Rites and Power Reflects 6Fuambai Insider/Outsider Ahmadu, Wrongs: in and "Cir Bettina Ylva and Shell-Duncan Female Excision," Hernlund, eds., in cumcision" and Colo.: Culture, (Boulder, Controversy, Africa: Change on in also Genital the "Female 2000), 301; Rienner, Lynne panel presented a of 18 An Local November Global 98th 1999, Debate," Dynamics Cutting: American of the nual Illinois. Association, Meeting Anthropological Chicago, a woman in Leone. Sierra Kono is the Fuambai Ahmadu from She up grew a in at States is and United candidate Ph.D. the School London anthropology to to At Economics. of of the Leone she Sierra returned be age twenty-two to secret to into "women's be the initiated and circumcised society" according customs of the her ethnic group. 283. 7Ibid., 305. 308, 8Ibid., 80. Genital "Female Surgeries," 9Obermeyer, 81. 10Ibid., n. 24. "Ibid., 79. 12See also above; ibid., quotations for and Wombs Alien and Men, Women, Janice 13See, Spirits: Boddy, example, in Zar Sudan Wisconsin the Northern of Cult Press, (Madison: University Embodied? "Violence Cul Gender and Circumcision, 1989); Politics, Boddy, in R. P. Emerson Re and tural Dobash Russell eds., Aesthetics," Dobash, Women Violence Calif.: Publica (Thousand Oaks, Against Sage thinking Ellen Over "The Cultural Female Debate 77-110; tions, 1996), Gruenbaum, Circumcision: The Are This One For Out Sudanese Themselves," Arguing Medical 10 Corinne (1996): 455-475; Kratz, Af Anthropology Quarterly in Women's and Okiek Movement, Experience Performance: Meaning, fecting Institution Initiation D.C.: Smithsonian Press, Kratz, 1994); (Washington, in Dilemmas: "Contexts, Controversies, Circumcision," Misty Teaching and Bastian in New Studies the eds., Jane Parpart, African Africa: Teaching L. Colo.: Millenium Amede Rienner, 1994, 1999); Obiora, (Boulder, Lynne in Cam and and the Polemics Barricades: "Bridges Intransigence Rethinking 47 Western Female Case Reserve Law Review Circumcision," paign Against 275-378 Female Melissa ; (1997): Parker, Circumcision," "Rethinking Af rica 65 "Circum Female Shell-Duncan and (1995): 506-524; Hernlund, eds., cision" in for An 'Voices': Christine J. Feminism, Walley, "Searching Africa;

23 A. 230 Shweder Richard over Genital Cul Debate Female Global and the Operations," thropology, 12 405-438. tural (1997): Anthropology Mount the The Tribal (London: of Gikuyu Life Kenya: 14Jomo Facing Kenyatta, 131. and Seeker 1938), Warburg, 132. 133, 15Ibid., 346. 16Kratz, Performance, Affecting Free The An Mau: York: B. Crucible Mau 17Robert (New African Edgerton, see n. Sexual "The and also 22; 1989), 254, Press, Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, in the Females Infibulated Circumcised and of Marital Genitally Adjustment 26 375-392. Sex Research (1989): Sudan," of Journal to Other: the A. Lane D. Robert and 18Sandra Rubinstein, Responding "Judging 35. 26 Center Female Genital Traditional (1996): Report Surgeries," Hastings in Africa: 'Circumcision' "Female Ylva and 19Bettina Shell-Duncan Hernlund, in and Shell-Duncan Practice and Dimensions the of Hernlund, Debates," in "Circumcision" Female eds., Africa. in Circumcision the Female of El Asma Dareer, e.g., 20See, "Epidemiology 13 43. Doctor (1983): Sudan," Tropical Continu the "Attitudes Teresa and Williams Surrounding Sobieszyzyk, 21Lindy to Next in the Tradition the the Sudan: Circumcision of ation Female Passing 1. Table the 59 and (1997): 966-981, Generation," Marriage Family Journal of 2. Circumcision The Women, 22Koso-Thomas, of as Cir Context of Pharaonic The Oasis: "Womb 23See Symbolic Janice Boddy, 682 9 American in Northern Rural cumcision (1982): Sudan," Ethnologist "Violence Embodied?" Alien and Wombs 698; Boddy, Spirits; Boddy, Lane and The Circumcision for 7; Women, Koso-Thomas, 24See, of example, Otto the above; Meinardus, "Mytho Other," Rubinstein, quoted "Judging Circum Female of Practice the of and Historical, Aspects Sociological logical, Scientiarum Acta Academiae the cision Ethnographica: Egyptians," Among You Do El Asma 16 Woman, Dareer, 394; Weep? (1967): Why Hungaricae 73. Zed Its Circumcision and Press, 1982), (London: Consequences So and Historical "Rites and Meinardus, 25Ahmadu, "Mythological, Wrongs"; the Circumcision the Practice of Female of Egyp Among Aspects ciological 389. tians," as Alien Wombs and "Womb for Oasis"; Spirits; 26See, Boddy, Boddy, example, Embodied?" "Violence Boddy, Fe Mutilation Sexual The Genital and P. Hosken 27Fran of Hosken, Report: Network Mass.: Women's International males 1993); News, (Lexington, 13 New York M. "The Possible Abraham Times, June Dream," Rosenthal, A25. 1995, 4. Lessons Mutilation: Female Genital 28Rich and Donors, for Eradicating Joyce, Review Boston "Hands Off Yael 29For (Octo Tamir, Clitoridectomy," example, ber/November 1996).

24 231 What "Female Mutilation"? Genital About on Afri Politics The Moral and Tewoubdar Impact Advocacy: Beyene, "Body on can in in the Female oral Families the U.S.," presentation panel "Revisiting 20 Current Feminism and November Circumcision: Discourse," Beyond American the of Annual 98th Association, 1999, Meeting Anthropological Chicago. more are recent in that The incisive, ethnographically exceptions?essays current anti the and/or of nondefensive, formed, profoundly skeptical "Rites and "FGM" discourse?include Ahmadu, Wrongs"; Boddy, global L. Doriane "The Seattle "Violence Embodied?"; Coleman, Compromise: 47 Law Review Duke and Multicultural (1998): Americanization," Sensitivity in L. Is "'Barbaric' Multi Sander Rituals," 717-783; Gilman, Okin, For Ellen Bad and Ritual culturalism Women?; Gruenbaum, "Reproductive of Women Circumcision Female the Subordination and Social Reproduction: in in O'Neill and in Norman Class and O'Brian, eds., Sudan," Economy Jay Vt.: Sudan cl988); Kratz, (Brookfield, Avebury, Performance: Affecting and in Women's Movement Okiek Initiation; Kratz, Experience Meaning, Dilemmas: Circumcision"; Controversies, "Contexts, Teaching Obermeyer, The the and Unknow the "Female Genital Known, Unknown, Surgeries: in Polemics and the Obiora, able"; Intransigence Campaign "Rethinking Female Female Circumcision"; Parker, Circumcision"; Against "Rethinking some in of the Shell-Duncan and Female "Circum and essays eds., Hernlund, a For views and in of cision" Culture, Controversy Africa: sample Change. see initiation female and and also circumcision, concerning representations Human H. "Women Alien and Wombs and Spirits; Mary Cooper, Boddy, 9 Researcher Inc.) Quarterly, CQ by Congressional (published Rights," You El Do Circumcision and Woman, 353-376; Dareer, (1999): Weep? Why Its Social Ritual and Gruenbaum, "Reproductive Consequences; Reproduc R. and Isabelle tion"; "Arrogant Perception, World-Travelling Gunning, of Case Genital The Feminism: Female Columbia Multicultural Surgeries," Human 23 Ylva Review Law (1991-1992): 189-248; Hernlund, Rights 'Circumcision' Without and Ritual Without Female Ritual Cutting: "Cutting in in Initiation the Re-Ritualization of Shell-Duncan and and the Gambia," Horowitz R. in "Circumcision" Female and Carol Hernlund, eds., Africa; 'Circumcision': African Women American "Female Confront Jackson, Carey 12 General Internal Medicine (1997): 491-499; Medicine," of Journal Mount and the Lane Other: Rubinstein, Kenya; "Judging Facing Kenyatta, to Genital Traditional Female Meinardus, Surgeries"; "Mytho Responding of Circum Female and Practice the of Historical, Aspects logical, Sociological Criti A Alison T. "Female the Circumcision: cision Slack, Among Egyptians"; 10 Human cal (1988): 437-486; Walley, Rights Quarterly Appraisal," for "Attitudes Williams and 'Voices'"; Surrounding Sobieszyzyk, "Searching in Circumcision Sudan." the of Continuation Female the entrance and connection "women's circumcision into the between *On powerful see secret in "Rites societies" Sierra and Ahmadu, Leone, Wrongs." see Mount also Kratz, Kenyatta, Facing Kenya; Kenya Concerning Affecting 'Voices.'" for "Searching Performance; Walley, note 27. 4See "Female Genital Obermeyer, Surgeries."

25 A. 232 Richard Shweder An Mau: Mau 40. Crucible, African 'Edgerton, 1. Female Genital and 7Rich Mutilation, Joyce, Eradicating Genital 93. "Female Surgeries," ^Obermeyer, Some G. Exercise Free "The of Culture: Lawrence Doubts and Dis 'See Sager, in issue this Dcedalus. of tinctions," at was in is the Center Se what Harborview Medical This proposed basically U.S. Patricia Schroeder until raised the and pos attle, objected Representative a "The of of violation Seattle law federal (see Coleman, Compromise"). sibility to status in of has law tested. The be constitutional the yet question

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