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Survey of women against FGM on circumcision

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  • Survey of women against FGM on circumcision

    ​The problem: ​ We've all come across arguments that female genital mutilation is far different from circumcision and that the two should not be compared. I recently experienced exactly this-- I was arguing with a woman online who was intent on circumcising her son (should she have one) and insisted that FGM is orders of magnitude worse than circumcision. She essentially ignored me once I so much as compared circumcision to the removal of her clitoral hood, which she found horrific.

    The purpose of this post and the project outlined below is not to compare male and female genital mutilation, but rather to give intactivists ammunition against the "FGM is worse" argument.

    My proposed solution: We so often just see one side of the narrative: westerners and Europeans against FGM. It appears that westerners so often decry FGM but we rarely hear the opinions of FGM victims and activists on circumcision in America. Perhaps the most powerful voices to add to our side are those of women who were denied their rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination and yet still say that circumcision of males is worthy of opposition. My suspicion is that FGM victims are overwhelmingly against circumcision as well (I have some evidence for this, which I will share below).

    I've been toying with this idea for a while and I'd appreciate your input and assistance. My plan is to write a very formal, neutral email to prominent anti-FGM activists requesting their opinion on circumcision in America. A rough draft follows:

    "Dear [recipient's name],

    My name is [my name] and I am writing to you because of your activism against female genital mutilation. I would like to inquire your opinion on circumcision in America. Could you please take a few minutes to answer the following brief questions?
    1. Should Americans stand in opposition to male circumcision? How does your experience with female genital mutilation influence your opinion? One or two sentences will suffice, although you are welcome to expound your answer as much as you wish.
    2. May I officially post your answer to the above questions unedited on certain websites? I will not post any excerpt of your email without your permission.
    3. Can you provide email addresses for other activists against FGM so I may send them this same survey?

    Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

    [my name]"

    Here are some qualities that I strongly advocate for the final draft of the email and the publication of results:
    • Neutrality - I believe it undermines the premise of the exercise if the email leads the recipient to answer in a particular way. I don't think it should contain any references to intactivist websites or refer to circumcision as "male genital mutilation". If the recipient wishes to speak out in favor of circumcision, they should be free to do so.
    • Brevity - I would assume that anyone reading the email is very busy and I don't want to use too much of their time.
    • Transparency - Some here may disagree, but I would like to publish the responses of ​all respondents (provided they say yes to question 2), regardless of whether they are against or for circumcision. I think this will be a moot point and all respondents will be against circumcision, but in the event that one or more of them speaks out in its favor, I believe that it does our cause more harm than good to cherry-pick answers that support our narrative. Let people see a complete, unedited, unabridged emails from people against FGM so they can’t accuse us of only publishing content that benefits us.
    After putting all of the responses together, we should have a powerful document that can shut down arguments that claim circumcision is trivial compared to FGM. We can link to that website and say, “Look! Look at all these women who are advocates against FGM and victims of FGM and look at how they stand with us, not with you, against male circumcision in America!” It completely dismantles their argument.

    How you can help: This project is still in the planning phase and there are many ways to help:
    • Additional questions – You have a unique opportunity to ask any question to someone who is either a victim of female genital mutilation or at least is campaigning against female genital mutilation. I do not wish to compromise the succinctness of the email, but I believe that it could reasonably support two or three more questions. Remember that they should be neutral in tone and not hint at our “agenda”.
    • Editing – The above email was a decent stab at a first draft. Are there any weaknesses or things that should be changed? Two issues come to mind. First, I don’t have a subject yet. And second, the phrase “certain websites” sounds a little ominous.
    • Official channels – Do you have the email address of anyone who is an anti-FGM activist? On our end of things, are you connected with anyone who would like to send these emails (I don’t have to be the sole person to spearhead this campaign)? Can you put me in touch with authors of intactivist websites who might be willing to host the responses we compile? I’m not really prominent in the community, so I think it would be very beneficial to have the help of people who have a lot of experience reaching out to others.
    Women to contact: My research has been limited to Wikipedia at this point. What’s nice is that it offers a list of especially prominent women within the anti-FGM movement at the bottom of the article on female genital mutilation. Within the female genital mutilation template one of the subcategories is “People”, from which I compiled this list. (I also noticed that they have a whole category page for “Activists against female genital mutilation”, which I will research in greater depth at a later date.) Do not consider the following list comprehensive:
    • Ayaan Hirsi Ali (known to be against circumcision)
    • Waris Dirie (known to be for circumcision, perhaps not worth contacting)
    • Gerry Mackie (male)
    • Molly Melching
    • Layli Miller-Muro
    • Comfort Momoh (Londoner, likely against circumcision)
    • Nawal El Saadawi (known to be against circumcision)
    • Gloria Steinem (known to be against circumcision)
    • Nahid Toubia
    • Alice Walker
    Please feel free to propose more names for the list.

  • #2
    As far as comparing FGM and MGM, this article is the probably the most up-to-date piece you will find. It is by far the best that I have read.
    Female genital mutilation and male circumcision: toward an autonomy-based ethical framework Brian D Earp Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK Abstract: The non-therapeutic alteration of children’s genitals is typically discussed in two separate ethical discourses: one for girls, in which such alteration is conventionally referred to as “female genital mutilation” (or FGM), and one for boys, in which it is conventionally referred to as “male circumcision.” The former is typically regarded as objectionable or even barbaric; the latter, benign or beneficial. In this paper, however, I call into question the moral and empirical basis for such a distinction, and I argue that it is untenable. As an alternative, I propose an ethical framework for evaluating such alterations that is based upon considerations of bodily autonomy and informed consent, rather than sex or gender. Keywords: FGM, circumcision, gender, sexuality, autonomy, consent


    • #3
      Originally posted by Student24601 View Post
      As far as comparing FGM and MGM, this article is the probably the most up-to-date piece you will find. It is by far the best that I have read.
      ​I have seen that article before. While it plays very well to our crowd, it suffers from horrible problems that render it almost useless when debating against someone who believes FGM is unjustifiable but encourages circumcision:
      • ​Dove Press is not reputable, to my knowledge. Publications in the New England Journal of Medicine or the Journal of the American Medical Association would carry a lot more heft.
      • The author is not notable. His word against circumcision will sway far fewer minds than, say, Sanjay Gupta or even Dr. Oz.
      • The author is British. That's going to introduce accusations of bias.
      • The author is a man. I don't think there's any evidence from that article that he has any experience whatsoever with FGM (even if he actually does).
      • It's a scholarly article. I would guess that incidence of circumcision is much lower among the well-educated than the ignorant. If I get into an argument with a random person online or someone at a party, "Please read this long scholarly article," is not going to be met with enthusiasm.

      No, what we really need are perspectives from women who have had their bodies violated or at least who have witnessed FGM and actively campaign against it who still say circumcision is worth fighting against. Who's some yokel from Iowa to argue against a woman who endured genital mutilation herself? I've been known to be wrong, but I fail to see a path forward for the pro-circumcision camp against that line of attack.

      Anyway, there may be some scholarly articles and other works that delve into what I'm looking for. My research so far has turned up this book, which isn't quite what we're looking for, but may lead to better resources. Pages 14 and 15 of the introduction mention that there is a "fearful symmetry" between male and female circumcision, but goes on to say that a strict comparison will be avoided in that book. It strikes a nearly sympathetic tone, then drastically diverges from that angle.


      • #4
        Here are some articles and a video I have collected so far condemning male circumcision from a mutilated woman's perspective.

        Nawal El Saadawi: 'I ​am going to carry on this fight for ever'
        She equally opposes male circumcision. "As a medical doctor, I don't separate cutting children from a physical, social point of view – cutting a female is more dangerous. People are now very aware of the dangers. They are not aware of male genital mutilation," she says. "It is a piece of an organ, it prevents infections."
        Female Genital mutilation
        As a medical doctor I have known the physical, mental, and social problems of both MGM and FGM. It is common sense that a child (male or female) should not be cut into by knife under any religious or cultural or identity slogans. Never in my life did I perform an operation for a female or male child. I felt it is a crime against a newly born child (8 days for the male child and 6 years for the female child).
        Today in Egypt , FGM is condemned by the government and by NGOs as well as many doctors and religious men and women. But MGM is not condemned. When I wrote to the Minister of Health (in 1999) about the dangers of MGM, I was attacked by government people, and by most medical doctors and religious men and women (both Muslims and Christians “Copts”).

        These are the kinds of resources that should be close at hand when arguing with someone who is pro-circumcision but anti-FGM. I'll keep trying to assemble resources while I decide whether or how to continue with the email project.


        • #5

          Hey, thank you so much for the input. I'd love to see more


          • #6
            I heard Debra Norville (anchor of Inside Edition) today up in arms because 3 children per year have been variously dragged by a school bus after being caught in the door while disembarking. Many are not even hurt. We might ask her what she thinks of up to 100 fatalities of US boys per year from an unnecessarily imposed cosmetic surgery that boys could just as easily choose for themselves at a rational age.
            -Ron Low
            [email protected]
            847 414-1692 Chicago


            • #7
              Originally posted by admin View Post
              I heard Debra Norville (anchor of Inside Edition) today up in arms because 3 children per year have been variously dragged by a school bus after being caught in the door while disembarking. Many are not even hurt. We might ask her what she thinks of up to 100 fatalities of US boys per year from an unnecessarily imposed cosmetic surgery that boys could just as easily choose for themselves at a rational age.
              I second this, although we should provide evidence to back up that statistic. I'm questioning if the statistic is even necessary.


              • #8
                Item from BBC (UK) news pages.

                The first ever FGM figures show nearly 6,000 new cases in England

                Not a mention of male genital mutilation. Time to get my pen working.
                Exclusive music news, big interviews, entertainment, social media trends and video from the news people at BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra.

                Some of you may have had occasion to run into mathematicians and to wonder therefore how they got that way - Tom Lehrer


                • #9
                  Since there is a new post on this thread and I know tempers run high here, I'd like to remind everyone that we stand with women who have had their genitals mutilated. This is not a competition. Make certain that anyone you talk to (in person, on the internet, wherever) understands that as well.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Immortan Joe View Post
                    As far as comparing FGM and MGM, this article is the probably the most up-to-date piece you will find. It is by far the best that I have read.
                    Just read the article. I really love the calm, logical professionalism of the author.


                    • #11
                      For what it's worth (editing is always the place to start):

                      1."I would like to inquire your opinion on circumcision..." Change to: "I would like to ask your opinion". (issue of syntax, makes it simpler, and it puts the inquirer more clearly in an open, listening position)

                      "on circumcision..." Change to: "on male circumcision". (makes your question clearer, appeals to your intended neutrality, and places "male" and "female" on an equal level).

                      2. "I would guess that incidence of circumcision is much lower among the well-educated than the ignorant."....

                      You're wrong; bad guess. This is a typical intactivist misunderstanding. It's actually just the opposite, so anything which refers to this misunderstanding, either directly or indirectly, has to acknowledge the facts, not a bias (this would cater to two biases, and, you want to appeal to neutrality, and your own education/familiarity on the subject). You have to be informed to wage war, especially if you prefer a scholarly approach, or it's lost before you start.


                      • #12
                        women are usually for circumcision because of the "benefits" that are always stated:
                        >"it's cleaner"
                        >"it looks better"
                        >"he'll look like his father"
                        >"it prevents HIV"
                        >"all the other boys are circed"
                        >bla, blah, blah, the bs list goes on and on

                        The way to get women on our side is to continually debunk these myths until they listen and take notice (It probably wouldn't hurt if they got to experience an intact penis so they know what they're missing ;p)

                        just my $0.02