Author: has written 5281 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

46 Responses

  1. Kathy McCarty
    Kathy McCarty October 27, 2006 at 3:33 pm |

    I don’t see any reason why this man should get a sentence any lighter than a parent who cut off their child’s PENIS with a scissors.

  2. Caren
    Caren October 27, 2006 at 3:45 pm |

    I have a 2 year old daughter.

    The idea that someone could mutilate her like that…no, can’t go there.

    I hope they lock him up and throw away the key.

  3. leederick
    leederick October 27, 2006 at 3:54 pm |

    Why is this the first trial?

    This sort of thing has always been illegal, hasn’t it? Is FGC just really very rare in the US? Or is it not rare, but are the authorities just ignoring it?

  4. Myca
    Myca October 27, 2006 at 4:04 pm |

    Oh god, that makes me ill.

    If he did this, I hope he rots in jail forever.

    If he got someone else to do this, I hope they both rot in jail forever.

    What really pisses me off is that he’s charged with “aggravated battery and cruelty to children.” Is it my imagination, or does that sound awfully light? ‘Aggravated battery’? Even if the definion under law seems to encompass this, it just feels like it’s not enough.

    Last, goddammit, cultural whateverthefuck and religious bullshit need to take a backseat to human rights sometimes, and the fact is that there’s absolutely no reason that even if this kind of mutilation is vitally important for some reason or another, you can’t wait until your daughter is old enough to make the choice herself.

    —Myca
    (Same thing applies to plain old regular male circumcision too, of course. And no, it’s nowhere NEAR the same thing, but it’s still unnecessary and fucked up)

  5. AnonyMouse
    AnonyMouse October 27, 2006 at 4:22 pm |

    That’s just wrong…

    Myca, on male circumcision, I just read an article in the newspaper about how circumcised men have a noticeably smaller risk of getting certain types of illnesses. I’ll try to find it online, but it may be subsriber-only.

  6. Myca
    Myca October 27, 2006 at 4:29 pm |

    I’m skeptical about such claims, but even granting their truth, I don’t see any reason not to leave the decision to an individual, once they’ve reached the age of majority.

    I would prefer not to get sidetracked, so let’s focus on the horrible mutilation of this girl, but if you do find the article, please post a link. I’d love to see it.

  7. belledame222
    belledame222 October 27, 2006 at 4:39 pm |

    omg. i think i need to go look at some cute puppies and kittens or some shit like that for a while; that’s just sort of put me over the edge for the week

  8. little cabbage
    little cabbage October 27, 2006 at 4:56 pm |

    That is completely fucked.

    However, I don’t understand the mother’s argument that the father did it. She claims he did it and she didn’t notice it for a YEAR? When the girl was two? And probably still wearing diapers, that the mother was changing at least some of? How do you miss something like that?

    Either way, whoever did it should rot in jail, and then rot in hell.

  9. Galloise Blonde
    Galloise Blonde October 27, 2006 at 5:43 pm |

    Last night, the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize was awarded to Comfort Momoh, an anti-FGM campaigner in Britain, who performs FGM reversals where possible in her work as a mid-wife; she has written a book too. Congratulations to her (I shook her hand!). Please read the link, it’s inspiring.

  10. jt
    jt October 27, 2006 at 6:04 pm |

    However, I don’t understand the mother’s argument that the father did it. She claims he did it and she didn’t notice it for a YEAR? When the girl was two?

    I don’t buy that for a second. I suspect she was somewhat complicit, if only passively, and was somehow moved to turn against him.

    I was particularly surprised to realize that this was actually the FIRST trial of this kind ever. That’s both cause for celebration and deeply disturbing. Perhaps it’s just too difficult in many cases to put together a convincing case against one individual.

  11. Regina
    Regina October 27, 2006 at 6:16 pm |

    This sort of thing has always been illegal, hasn’t it? Is FGC just really very rare in the US? Or is it not rare, but are the authorities just ignoring it?

    Actually, no. It has a pretty sordid history in the US. As late as the early 20th century, clitoridectomy was considered a reasonable therapy for little girls who masturbated. According to wikipedia, it was legally practiced in the US until 1996.

    Not a typo… 1996.

  12. Regina
    Regina October 27, 2006 at 6:21 pm |

    More from wikipedia:

    Clitoridectomy means the partial or total removal of the external part of the clitoris. It was sometimes practiced in English-speaking nations well after the first half of the Twentieth Century, ostensibly to stop masturbation. [12]. Blue Cross Blue Shield paid for clitoridectomies in the U.S.A. until May 18, 1977

    So anyone thinking that it only ever happened elsewhere, think again.

  13. piny
    piny October 27, 2006 at 6:24 pm |

    Actually, no. It has a pretty sordid history in the US. As late as the early 20th century, clitoridectomy was considered a reasonable therapy for little girls who masturbated. According to wikipedia, it was legally practiced in the US until 1996.

    Not a typo… 1996.

    I don’t want to derail, either, so this is just a quick addendum: there’s also the surgical assignment of intersex children according to arbitrary rules about what female genitalia should look like.

  14. Myca
    Myca October 27, 2006 at 6:24 pm |

    Oh my god, Regina, I had no idea.

    Jesus, that makes me physically ill.

  15. Regina
    Regina October 27, 2006 at 6:27 pm |

    there’s also the surgical assignment of intersex children according to arbitrary rules about what female genitalia should look like.

    Oh yes. Doctors in the US have been surgically fooling with babies’ genitals for centuries now, with nary an eyebrow raised until relatively recently.

  16. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe October 27, 2006 at 6:31 pm |

    As an uncircumsized man, all I can say is when I send my mom flowers on Mothers’ Day, I enclose a couple of extra blossoms in gratitude for her not having that done to me.

  17. Regina
    Regina October 27, 2006 at 6:43 pm |

    Also slightly OT, but it was also a therapy visited not-infrequently on women who were mental patients, and those institutionalized for mental retardation, as a cure for chronic masturbation, nervousness, hysteria, and “unseemly urges” (i.e., lesbianism).

    My point is, this is not new or historically rare in the US at all.

  18. piny
    piny October 27, 2006 at 6:50 pm |

    Also slightly OT, but it was also a therapy visited not-infrequently on women who were mental patients, and those institutionalized for mental retardation, as a cure for chronic masturbation, nervousness, hysteria, and “unseemly urges” (i.e., lesbianism).

    I think that more people are familiar with the history of clitoridectomy (or at least that basic attitude towards women’s sexual bodies) during the Victorian period, but tend not to understand that Victorian sensibilities didn’t disappear.

  19. Regina
    Regina October 27, 2006 at 6:59 pm |

    It makes me crazy. Everyone acts like these attitudes are so far in the past, or in some other country on some other continent, when in fact they’re right here and now (or, particular to this thread, as recently as 10 years ago).

  20. raging red
    raging red October 27, 2006 at 7:35 pm |

    Hm, think it’s a coincidence that although this has been a practice in this country for some time, the first person to be prosecuted for it is someone from Ethiopia? Sure, when a girl’s clitoris is cut off for a medically-approved Western reason like stopping chronic masturbation or “curing” hysteria, it’s a-okay, but when it’s some weird cultural practice from Africa, well, that’s not okay.

  21. belledame222
    belledame222 October 27, 2006 at 7:41 pm |

    ]. Blue Cross Blue Shield paid for clitoridectomies in the U.S.A. until May 18, 1977

    WHAAAAT???

  22. Violet Socks
    Violet Socks October 27, 2006 at 8:12 pm |

    Jesus Christ, Jill, I saw this post in the feminist blogs feed and couldn’t bear to read past the first sentence. I still can’t quite really read it; I had to kind of race through it in terror just looking at the bare minimum words.

    I feel like crying.

  23. AnonyMouse
    AnonyMouse October 27, 2006 at 8:18 pm |

    Myca:

    http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/canada_world/story.html?id=7fbcd4da-0c48-459f-86fa-ada7bbb0457b

    Anyway, I basically agree with all of you: FGM is totally wrong, and whoever did it to the little girl should be made to understand that by facing severe consequences.

    But y’know, what we should be focusing on is how to STOP this sort of thing from happening, here in North America and in the rest of the world. We need to raise awareness and make people realize that this practise is just so very horrible and wrong and harmful for the girls its being done to.

  24. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon October 27, 2006 at 8:27 pm |

    Doctors in the US have been surgically fooling with babies’ genitals for centuries now, with nary an eyebrow raised until relatively recently.

    I consider that a sign that society is evolving into something better.

  25. Louise
    Louise October 27, 2006 at 8:33 pm |

    And I was just thinking last night that my older daughter is now the age I was when I found out about masturbation and wondering how/if to discuss it with her…a topic that makes her father stick his fingers in his ears and sing loudly. HOW CAN ANYONE, EVER, DELIBERATELY HURT THEIR CHILD? How can they justify that action to themselves?

    Belledame222, I agree- the Halloween costumed dogs may be safe, light and fluffy by comparison to a topic that has us all spinning in horrified revulsion and anger, but it’s a balancing act with our sanity when we hear something like this. Woof.

  26. Dennis
    Dennis October 27, 2006 at 10:45 pm |

    Anyone making comparisons to male circumcision, please understand that it’s not analogous. I’m not saying that male circumcision is right or permissible, but it is nothing like FGM.

    If you must have an analogy, consider this: the fetal tissue that develops into the clitoris in genetic females (and genetic males with certain genetic or hormonal differences) develops into the dickhead in most genetic males. Though, the nerve endings are still less dense in the male genitals… So, when you’re wondering how bad FGM is, just remember: it’s at least as bad as cutting part or all of your dickhead off.

  27. Myca
    Myca October 27, 2006 at 11:23 pm |

    Speaking as the person who mentioned male circumcision in the first place, you’re absolutely right, Dennis.

    My point wasn’t that it’s anywhere near as bad as female genital mutilation . . . I mean, holy fuck, no.

    My point was just “don’t go cutting off parts of another person’s genitals, no matter how good you think your reasons are. If your reasons are really that great, then they’ll make that choice when they’re able to.”

    Whether the parts are big or small . . . whether you consider it major or minor . . . whether you would have it done yourself or not . . . whether you HAVE had it done yourself or not . . . whether you’re doing it to ‘keep her a virgin’ or ‘prevent AIDS’ or ‘choose a gender’ or because ‘God commands it’ or WHATEVER YOUR REASON IS, it’s not your goddamn body, and it’s not your goddamn choice, and when you do it to a baby, you are doing evil.

    It’s the simple right of bodily integrity, you know?

  28. Dennis
    Dennis October 28, 2006 at 12:26 am |

    Myca,

    I don’t think it’s as simple as you frame it. There are certainly cases in which surgical tampering with an infant is permissible or even obligatory. (Most obviously, life-saving surgeries.)

    What the FGM or male circumcision advocate is owed, here, is an account of why exactly it’s wrong… and, sadly, concepts of the good are divergent enough that I don’t think there’s really a defeater argument available to us. We can point out “Holy crap, you’re shredding up somebody’s private bits for no good reason!” until we’re blue in the face, but they really think they have a good reason.

    I think non-jews could probably be talked out of male circumcision fairly easily… just point out that it’s harder to make new foreskin than to chop off old stuff, and that something like the configuration of one’s own genitals ought, as much as possible, be left up to oneself, and the common reasons given (“It’s cleaner”, “we want his penis to look like his father’s”) look positively puny.

    However, when you move to arguing with conservative/orthodox jews, or muslims from FGM-practicing communities, you run into religious reasons. As we constantly see in the abortion debates, religious reasons aren’t weighed and considered as other reasons are… they have infinite weight, because it’s heaven and hell we’re talking about. Infinite happiness, infinite suffering. they really fuck with the utilitarian calculus. So, just like an embyro is sacred because it’s got teh soul!!! and therefore any countervailing reason is crap, foreskins must be chopped because it is their covenant with God, and clitorises have gotta go, because women who are allowed to keep them inevitably become insatiable whores and damn not only themselves, but also any men who happen to be drawn in by the irresistable allure of a woman who might enjoy sex.

    Oh, but what about all the good religion does?

  29. Male Versus Female Circumcision « Abstract Nonsense

    [...] in or barely out of the gray area between sentient and non-sentient. Now that Jill’s writing about the trial of a man in Georgia who cut off h [...]

  30. Myca
    Myca October 28, 2006 at 11:15 am |

    It’s a good question you raise, Dennis. How the heck do we convince people who believe that this sort of mutilation is religiously mandated to stop?

    I’ve honestly got no idea. I mean, we can pass laws outlawing the practices, but when it comes to ‘God told me to” kind of stuff, I tend to think that that will just drive it underground.

  31. piny
    piny October 28, 2006 at 12:04 pm |

    Hm, think it’s a coincidence that although this has been a practice in this country for some time, the first person to be prosecuted for it is someone from Ethiopia? Sure, when a girl’s clitoris is cut off for a medically-approved Western reason like stopping chronic masturbation or “curing” hysteria, it’s a-okay, but when it’s some weird cultural practice from Africa, well, that’s not okay.

    I think it’s a mixture of both, given that it’s only recently that we Westerners have become aware of the practice in other cultures and remotely concerned over the effects of this sort of treatment, but there are definitely racist implications in the insistence that it doesn’t happen here.

  32. jt
    jt October 28, 2006 at 4:28 pm |

    It’s a good question you raise, Dennis. How the heck do we convince people who believe that this sort of mutilation is religiously mandated to stop?

    Well, there are plenty of Islamic clerics out there who have publicly condemned FGM, so a religious movement could certainly exist against it. (And yes, I know FGM is not just an Islamic thing, but the areas it’s most prevalent in are still largely Muslim.)

  33. Hawise
    Hawise October 28, 2006 at 4:49 pm |

    This is not a cause that is religiously motivated but culturally. In some countries, girls who have it can get married, those who don’t can’t. Female relatives will perform the surgery believing that it is in the best interest of the child. Remember that these are all women who had it done to them. They honestly believe that they are benefitting the child- as a child abuser who was abused believes and passes on that belief, generation to generation. There are serious efforts out there to break the belief cycle but it is slow work. It is pervasive enough that it will persist in immigrant families after they have arrived in Western countries.
    As has been noted by others, we ourselves are not that far from the same sort of belief cycle.

  34. belledame222
    belledame222 October 28, 2006 at 4:53 pm |

    I’m still boggling over the Blue Cross business myself. i hate to even ask, but is there a link…?

    i mean, i thought the insurance racket was fucked up before, but DAMN

  35. Jill
    Jill October 28, 2006 at 5:59 pm |

    FGM has nothing to do with religion. It’s a cultural practice that gained religious backing only after Westerners tried to advocate against it and assumed that it was related to Islam.

    How do we stop it? We fund local groups that educate their own communities about this practice. The worst thing we can do — and the thing that has been astonishingly unsuccessful in the past — is to strut into other cultures and other countries and accuse them of being backwards.

  36. Dennis
    Dennis October 28, 2006 at 6:03 pm |

    Lauren,

    FGM has no religious basis/origin, but as you point out religion is regularly trotted out as a justification. That is all I meant to indicate.

  37. Sally
    Sally October 28, 2006 at 6:31 pm |

    How do we stop it? We fund local groups that educate their own communities about this practice. The worst thing we can do — and the thing that has been astonishingly unsuccessful in the past — is to strut into other cultures and other countries and accuse them of being backwards.

    Ok, but when you’re talking about things that are going on in the U.S., I’m pretty comfortable saying that there are laws here and that everyone is obligated to follow those laws. I absolutely think that education within the community is vital and that merely arresting people won’t stop the practice. (For one thing, people will just take their daughters to visit their countries of origin and do it there, if it’s outlawed in the U.S.) But I have no problem with arresting people who abuse their kids, and I have no problem saying that child abuse isn’t permissible in the U.S. There are limits to my cultural relativism, and my limit is when you start tolerating violence. It’s important for a society to make it clear that some things will not be allowed.

  38. Sophie
    Sophie October 28, 2006 at 9:08 pm |

    I just have a quick question – and it may have already been answered somewhere. I’ve seen a lot of references made to FGC and to “female genital CUTTING” of late – but when did we stop calling it Female Genital Mutilation? I think that word carries a whole different level of horror value, which the practice needs to incite… Is this just a matter of choice of words, or is it a semi official swing in the way the anti-FGM movement is speaking on the subject?

  39. Natalia
    Natalia October 28, 2006 at 11:22 pm |

    Actually, there is a hadith that talks about the Prophet tacitly allowing FGM, as long as the woman doing it does not remove too much.

    The reliability of said hadith has been debated, and it is considered a weak hadith, but it is out there, and I myself have gotten into a heated debate with a Muslim woman who claimed that it was perfectly OK and that she would have no problem doing this to her future daughter. I sincerely hope she never has a daughter.

    Yusuf al-Qaradawi has also spoken about acceptability of FGM, if the parents choose it for the girl to protect her “chastity” it today’s “corrupt modern world,” or some bullshit like that.

  40. magikmama
    magikmama October 30, 2006 at 11:58 am |

    As far as I know, there is only a very small number of medical reasons for a male circumsision to be necessary – one of which is the failure of the foreskin to be able to retract, which can be excruciatingly painful and can lead to infection (because it becomes impossible to clean.)

    HOWEVER, this generally doesn’t happen until the male in question is at least a toddler/early childhood arena – and generally not until late childhood/early teens. So generally there isn’t a good reason to do it proactively, because it isn’t an emergency by any means.

    There is no medically indicated reason to remove any part of the female genitalia except for cancerous growth. Which almost never happens in childhood (i couldn’t find a single case through a quick internet search, but until doing something more thoroughly, I won’t say never.) It causes SEVERE complications throughout life – not just pain and infection and a lack of ability to orgasm, but the more extensive versions can actually increase the rate of maternal death by large amounts. That’s why FGM and MGM are not analogous. They are certainly both wrong, but one can cause a permanent life-long inability to have an orgasm at minimum, and make reproduction difficult and much more likely to involve disability or death. The other can cause difficulties with sex, and can in rare cases lead to disfigurement or destruction of the penis, thereby preventing orgasm and normal sexual function.

    Personally, I think that should both be illegal, with exceptions for medically required reasons (such as mentioned above.)

  41. Regina
    Regina October 30, 2006 at 12:48 pm |

    response to #34 (belledame222) re: Blue Cross:

    I found it as the result of a wikipedia search under “clitoridectomy”– the search automatically redirected me to the wiki page on FGM.

    My only point in bringing it up is that the practice has previously been considered within the main such that it was a sugery that insurance companies would cover. I don’t think it has anything to do with insurance as a “racket”.

  42. everstar
    everstar October 30, 2006 at 1:14 pm |

    I would say something if I could think of anything over the screaming in my head.

  43. Myca
    Myca October 31, 2006 at 12:27 pm |

    Personally, I think that should both be illegal, with exceptions for medically required reasons (such as mentioned above.)

    Agreed 100% Magikmama.

  44. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred October 31, 2006 at 1:26 pm |

    Not to sound too much like some sort of robotic feminist spambot, but Equality Now has been fighting this battle for ages now and their page on the subject has tons of really interesting resources on the subject.

    Take extra special note of the tanzania appeal also, because it’s current.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.