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Looking back on my days as a labor and delivery RN, deliveries of babies to Middle Eastern couples were the hardest.
There was the husband who tried to order me not to let his wife have an epidural.
And there was the 30-something-year-old married to his 15-year-old first cousin who was aborting their (not surprisingly) handicapped baby.
Then there was the laboring mother who had been the victim of female genital mutilation.
FGM is a custom found primarily in Asian and African Muslim countries, “far more tied to religion than many Western academics and activists admit,” according to The Middle East Quarterly, although FGM is also committed in some non-Muslim African cultures.
And it is coming to America.
There are four types of FGM, according to the World Health Organization:
- Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris)
- Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (The labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina.)
- Infibulation: Removal of part or all of the labia minora, with the labia majora sewn together, covering the urethra and vagina and leaving a small hole for menstrual fluid, with or without removal of the clitoris.
- Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
You can see diagrams here. FGMs are supposed to curb sexual appetite, thereby increasing the odds of virginity until marriage and fidelity afterward. Understandably, FGM often renders sexual intercourse painful.
Also understandably, victims of FGM often suffer from “recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths, and the need for later surgeries,” according to the World Health Organization.
“For example,” states WHO, “the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening [infibulation] needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. Sometimes it is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing … both immediate and long-term risks.”
The mother I was delivering had been maimed by infibulation, so her delivery was somewhat of a perennial massacre. It was awful.
Traditionally, feminists have strongly opposed FGM, along with all of Western civilization.
But in this new age of cultural sensitivity, attempts are being made to bridge the divide, not necessarily end the barbaric practice of FGM.
For instance, there is a call to stop using the offensive term “mutilation” in favor of “female genital cutting” or “female circumcision,” both utterly inaccurate.
There is also the recent suggestion by the American Academy of Pediatrics to barter a compromise, recommending that pediatricians offer the gentler, kinder form of FGM, Type 4: pricking, piercing, or incising. In a new policy statement on April 26, AAP recommended:
Some physicians … advocate only pricking or incising the clitoral skin as sufficient to satisfy cultural requirements. This is no more of an alteration than ear piercing. …
[T]he ritual nick suggested by some pediatricians is not physically harmful and is much less extensive than routine newborn male genital cutting. There is reason to believe that offering such a compromise may build trust between hospitals and immigrant communities, save some girls from undergoing disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native countries and play a role in the eventual eradication of FGC.
I should note this recommendation is currently illegal in the U.S.
And it is the morally relativistic response to FGM, seeking to ameliorate the practice and not end it.
Physicians offering to inflict this painful and completely unnecessary medical procedure on a female child would legitimize FGM rather than stigmatize it. They would also undermine attempts by mothers to end FGM with their own generation.
What flummoxed me was the response by some feminists like Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, who wrote, “I have to say that I don’t really see the problem with the AAP advising doctors to offer a ‘ritual nick’ in lieu of the more serious forms of female circumcision.”
Of all groups I would expect feminists to fight hardest against misogynist practices of all forms at all levels. This is cultural sensitivity run amok.
But these are the same people who endorse abortion, and well over half of those aborted are girls, sometimes because they are girls.
Feminists in recent years have also taken up the cause of “sex workers,” formerly known as prostitutes, to freely ply their trade … well, not “freely,” but you know what I mean.
So I don’t pretend to understand feminist logic.
I just know their logic always seems to end up hurting women.