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Julie Jenkins

on 16 March 2015

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Transcript of FGC SOAN181 F14

WHO 1997
--“female genital mutilation is universally unacceptable because it is an infringement on the physical and psychosexual integrity of women and girls and is a form of violence against them”
--outright abolition or make safer?
Human Rights violation?
--Vienna World Conference on HR (1993)
--FGM classified as a 'VAW'
-'VAW' came under purview of international human rights law
But the representation and interventions are problematic for a number of reasons
Discrepancy in claims about health consequences and evidence
-some times no evidence is presented
-problematic study design
representations often focus on 'worst' form of Infibulation, but only accounts for 15%
different types of circumcision:
WHO Classification
--Type 1: partial or total excision of the clitoris or its prepuce or both (clitoridectomy)
Type 2:
Partial or total excision of the clitoris in addition to labia minora or labia majora or both (excision)
Type 3:
--excision of part of the external genitalia and adhesion of the labia minora or majora or both to enclose the vulva (infibulation)
Type 4:
--all other unclassified procedures, including pricking, piercing, or stretching
Varies dramatically between contexts/settings
What about male circumcision?

--tend to not be associated with inhibiting orgasm
--other health complications can occur
FGC-- understood as inhibiting women's sexuality
Problematic b/c
--female sexuality not well understood
--doesn't remove all of clitoris, some of which is not seen
--accounts of sexual enjoyment not being limited
1970s- clitoris reclaimed as symbol of femininity for feminist movement
Before 18th c-- women conceptualized as men, inversed.
--orgasm & sexual excitement essential for reproduction
18th century:
--changing ideas of biology
--idea that female orgasm unneccessary for reproduction
--seen as irrelevant appendage
--advocates for removal to eliminate to cure masturbation, hysteria, insanity
--difficult to quantify sexual experiences cross-culturally
--meanings associated with beauty, sex, age, etc vary cross-culturally
In review:
--FGC does not exist as a category
--evidence of health consequences are based on poorly designed studies
--Most reps of FGC in the US tell us more about own historically embedded preoccupations with sexuality/power relations
--Anthros do NOT necessarily condone the practice(s)
--but advocate on behalf of women while not reproducing stereotypes that silence women
"Discourse is also practice; it is not simply a way of understanding or thinking about the world, it is also a way of acting it"
DO NOT rely on "hardened view of culture" with essentialist notions of difference
--Problematic reps use this to argue that 'tradition' is meaningless hangover from a pre-modern era

Henry Lewis Gates:
"Is it after all unreasonable to be suspicious of Westerners who are exercised over female circumcision, but whose eyes glaze over when the same women are merely facing starvation?"
--recongize that FGC doesn't exist as a category-- diversity in practice/place
--embedded in various meanings and politics
-- most often infibulation (pharaonic)
--also practice clitordectomy (sunna)
--movement against FGC strong
--but numbers still remain high
--FGC a 'symbol' about social structure of society & conceptions of the body & sexuality
--beauty aesthetic
--male sexual satisfaction
--ideals of virginity
--failure to conform to ideals risks ostracism and failure to attract desirable partner
--embedded in women's position in society
--focus on socializing women's sexuality/virginity provides protection
--provides avenue for social power in relation to children
"Not 'prisoners of ritual', they are actively engaged in debating this aspect of their culture-- and struggling with the social meanings attributed to women's bodies"
Western Kenya- Sabaot - clitoridectomy (But initiate both genders)
--rite of passage
-confers adulthood, marriageability
--test to show no pain
also patrilineal & patrilocal
--sexual play allowed/expected before circumcision
--channels sexuality into the patrilocal/lineal context
----women age - sets-- access to ritual secrets
--review of literature shows that claims are based on problematic studies, often with no evidence presented at all
--health consequences depend on type & context
--variation exists (subincision, superincision)
--often in same societies that practice FGC
A part of our 'discourse' is to see these issues in either/or terms:
--either cultural relativism or politically informed outrage

How do we not get 'stuck'? What does Walley offer about trying to understand FGC among the Sabaot and Bukusu in Kenya?
WHY is FGC spoken about as a 'tradition' or 'culture'?
--who is reinforcing this version of 'culture'?
--who is contesting it?
--how is the concept of 'tradition' meaningful in local economic, political, social circumstances??
important marker of social, ethnic, and adult identity
--ethnic affiliation in political context
--struggles between"Sabaot" and "Bukusi" over indigenous land claims
Does everyone have the same opinion about FGC? Can sentiments be contradictory?
What role does Islam play in this debate?
What role does ethnicity play in this debate?
What kinds of painful body modification do we do in order to attract or please sexual partners?
This may not be the most important problem to the Sudanese...
"Africa, parts of Asia, & Middle-East"?
African/Muslim cultures - oppressive
--US/UK - free
Women enslaved to evil, irrational tradition
--US/UK-- transcend tradition through rationality
All forms are severe
-- although lots of different forms, varying in experience
"Discourse is also practice; it is not simply a way of understanding or thinking about the world, it is also a way of acting it"
Full transcript