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What the fuck, American Academy of Pediatrics. What the fuck.

May 7, 2010
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The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement entitled ‘Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors’ in April encouraging “federal and state laws [to] enable pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ‘ritual nick'” of girls’ clitorises.  What the fuck is this bullshit?  They even try to dodge the FGM debate by euphemistically calling female genital mutilation “female genital cutting”.  YOU HAVE NOT TRICKED ME, AAP.

Here’s a quote from the AAP’s frothingly rage-inducing statement:

Some physicians, including pediatricians who work closely with immigrant populations in which FGC is the norm, have voiced concern about the adverse effects of criminalization of the practice on educational efforts. These physicians emphasize the significance of a ceremonial ritual in the initiation of the girl or adolescent as a community member and advocate only pricking or incising the clitoral skin as sufficient to satisfy cultural requirements. This is no more of an alteration than ear piercing [emphasis mine].

To be fair, they frame this recommendation around concerns that FGM practices will be worse and more unsafe without dialogue between communities that practice it and their doctors.  But pardon me if I think permanently disfiguring my sexual anatomy, potentially crippling my sexual pleasure, causing chronic agony, and leading to gynecological problems in pregnancy, childbirth, and day-to-day life is NOTHING LIKE AN EAR PIERCING.  Condoning FGM is not okay.

In short, go to hell, AAP.

Feel free to share your rage in the comments.

*Edited June 13 2010: So, ages after the fact I was thinking about how I really need to go back and address this post again. So, here goes!

I should qualify this rant—my intention wasn’t to state that the AAP is advocating for full physical FGM—but that their statement condones a practice which, however symbolic and (under their proposed standards) potentially non-harmful physically, is designed around destroying women’s sexual agency and perpetuating the notion of women’s bodies as public property. Rape culture, people!

My apologies to women who have had any sort of procedure performed on their genitals—you are not any less of a woman than those who have not undergone FGM or genital surgery, and I respect what you choose to do with your own body. My rant did not respect you, and that was wrong of me. If you have unwillingly undergone FGM and reclaimed your vagina as whole and beautiful, your self-definition is what matters, and I have no right to impose my own. If you have willingly chosen to modify your genitals, that’s none of my business either.

However, FGM continues to trouble me when it is performed on those who are unable to make independent decisions about their own bodies—babies and children, who it is the human duty to protect until adulthood—and women who choose the procedure under threat of being rejected by their families, friends, or communities should they not do so. Every individual should have the right to make choices about their own body without censure or reproach—until then, our bodies are not entirely our own. And that sucks.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2010 2:38 PM

    What they describe sounds nothing like the “traditional” mutilation. If a family, about to take a kitchen knofe to their daughter’s genitals can be appeased by a doctor making a small, sterile cut in the relative safety of a doctor’s office, I can’t see this as equal to the gouging, removal orpermanent loss of a body part. It isn’t the most awesome of soultions, but rarely are thousands of years of traditions wiped out in a generation.

    The women I’ve. Known who are survivors of this type of ritualized mutilation

    • Norma permalink
      June 13, 2010 6:11 PM

      I understand that the alternative that the AAP has in mind isn’t ‘traditional’ or ‘complete’ FGM, but I have to take serious issue with even the symbolism of approving the procedure– it’s spitting in the face of US women’s efforts to gain sovereignty of their own bodies and their own sexuality. You’re 100% right that tradition can’t (and in some cases shouldn’t) be eliminated immediately, but I’m shaky about a US medical institution approving a procedure that sets a precedent of giving approval to rituals, practices, etc that contribute to systemic oppression.

      Hasty post slightly edited now– FGM’s tough to address and is going to be even tougher to eliminate as a cultural practice, but I really don’t like the idea of giving it any sort of legitimacy.

  2. erin permalink
    May 7, 2010 3:17 PM

    omg this makes me want to punch people. Does america not realize how different FGM from circumscicion? maybe if we explained its like cutting off the head of your dick, the men of our world would wake up.

  3. May 7, 2010 5:22 PM

    “[P]ermanently disfiguring my sexual anatomy, potentially crippling my sexual pleasure, causing chronic agony, and leading to gynecological problems in pregnancy, childbirth, and day-to-day life” are results of FGM. But are they results of the “nicking” procedure the AAP is advocating as a replacement? My understanding is that the answer is no — indeed, the whole point of “nicking” is to do something that replaces the cultural significance of FGM but does none of the damage of it.

    • Norma permalink
      June 13, 2010 6:12 PM

      You’re right– post edited for clarity/correction. I should have been more explicit about this version of FGM as a symbolic tool of oppression in my first post.

  4. May 7, 2010 5:47 PM

    I had vulvovaginal surgery, so I’ve been “Cut” but definitely not mutiliated. I’ve got a cosmetic change in my pants, but Disfigured? Ouch. You know you have at least 1 regular reader who had genital surgery, right?

    But my clitoris remains the same as it ever was. I have zero experience growing up in a culture that condones FGC. It was different…
    But like… Getting surgery downstairs was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Sometimes there’s a reason for surgery or an incision. This is not one of those times, I think. There’s risks with every surgery & I don’t think that there needs to be an intermediate step.

    Plus, I was an adult… I can make that decision on my own. But on a little girl, will she get to think about it like I did? Is there research on a surgical cut vs a not-surgical one? What are the risks? Do we really need an intermediate step?

    I don’t think we need an intermediate step. I sort of get where they’re coming from but this makes me really uncomfortable.

    • Norma permalink
      June 13, 2010 6:16 PM

      It was not my intention to insult your genitalia as ‘lesser than’, and I apologize for that. You have the right to make whatever choice you’d like about your own body, and I would not judge you for that– the onus here is on social structures which make free choice almost impossible for many. Please see my post edit.

  5. May 13, 2010 12:00 AM

    Wow.
    Even though they think they’re doing a good thing, I don’t believe it is.
    Holy Hell people! When are we going to fucking around with little girls. I mean that in both ways.
    Seriously, the rapes, the molestation, the mutilation.
    Leave little girls vaginas alone!!

  6. Maia permalink
    May 14, 2010 1:37 PM

    I am from Seattle, where a hospital proposed this to a local immigrant family. The woman in question was over the age of consent, and the proposed procedure was nicking the clitoral hood (not removing anything) while she was under anesthesia–something with no permanent physical effects. There was public outcry, so they didn’t do it. I can’t help but wonder if the family sent her to a local traditional practitioner or if they would have sent her overseas (as others have done) to have it done traditionally…

    Also, while I agree that FGM/C can be messed up (as when its nonconsensual, etc), what about male circumcision, widespread in the US but rare in many other places? No one seems to care that these male infants have no say in what happens to their genitalia. What about female genital cosmetic surgery, which is available in the US and includes many procedures that are similar or identical to some FGM/C practices?

    (Sorry, I took a class on the subject and it’s a little more complicated than I realized beforehand…)

    • Norma permalink
      June 13, 2010 6:31 PM

      I was thinking about male circumcision the other day and questioned why I didn’t attach the same stigma to it as FGM, and decided that the two reasons I probably lack similar outrage on the topic are: 1) context and 2) function. Although as a principle I disagree with male circumcision in childhood/infancy as a violation of body sovereignty, it doesn’t have the same implications or effects as FGM. FGM takes place to affirm women’s symbolic status as property– her genitalia are not her own and her pleasure is not her own, so it is a society’s right to alter them at great physical cost. That is to say, FGM takes place in a context of male supremacy/rape culture. In addition, FGM (as typically practiced) decreases or destroys women’s sexual pleasure and health, causes pain during intercourse, and makes complications during childbirth– it has a cost of ability, or of function.

      Although I’ve heard that male circumcision can result in some decrease in sexual pleasure (less sensitive than those with foreskin, etc) and can be incredibly dangerous/harmful if practiced in non-sterile conditions, I would argue that its (desired) end result does not irreparably mar sexual experiences, at least to the same extent as FGM. You still have your nerve endings responsible for pleasure in place. Also, the symbolism just isn’t there for male circumcision– it isn’t to keep men oppressed under a matriarchal social system, but is usually performed for religious, normative, or hygiene-related reasons.

      Wow, scary-long response. The long and the short of it is that we should just respect everyone’s body as their own and not modify it for them (and respect whatever modifications they themselves may choose to make). So, even though I’m not mad about it I vote no male circumcision for babies and boys either.

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