Multiculturalism trumps feminism. “Cautious criticism: A Growing Number Of Activists Are Hesitant To Decry Female Genital Mutilation,” by Zosia Bielski in the National Post (thanks to all who sent this in):
Academia’s fixation on cultural sensitivity is changing the debate around female genital mutilation, with a growing number of professors and women’s rights activists becoming hesitant to condemn the practice.
Where feminists rallied against the operation from the pages of Ms. magazine in the 1970s, today’s critics are infinitely more cautious, with most suggesting that the Western world butt out until Muslim African communities are ready to reconsider what they are doing to their daughters.
The shift in attitudes about the practice– which in the worst of cases involves the carving out of a woman’s clitoris and inner labia and can cause lifelong urinary tract infections, sterility and even death — comes at a time when high-profile victims of the operation such as writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali and model Waris Dirie, both Somalis, have launched very public campaigns against the practice.
The issue is so explosive, it has two names — female genital mutilation, or FGM, to those most vociferously opposed to the practice; and female genital cutting, or FGC, to those in the less-condemning camp.
The latter includes the chair of anthropology at the University of Toronto, who has written a new book on the subject. Although not prepared to defend what she calls FGC, Janice Boddy defends women who undergo the operation and want the practice to continue in future generations.
“There are good reasons within the society for the operation to continue, but these are cultural reasons. They are not scientific ones,” says Prof. Boddy, author of Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan.
Working through British and Sudanese archives, she looks at the history of FGC in that country, particularly European colonial interactions with the practice, from British nurses attempting to re-educate Sudanese midwives in the 1920s, to the country’s outlawing of the practice in 1946 amid Western pressure.
“It isn’t a happy situation by any means. I wouldn’t want it to continue. But I think that up until this point, the West has not been particularly helpful in the way that it’s gone about trying to assist in the eradication,” Prof. Boddy says.
Of course, it’s the West’s fault. What isn’t?