Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

“Mutilation” creates unfair stigma

<r all Carletonian readers,
I would like to start this by applauding all the work and effort that went into the Vagina Monologues. Sitting in the audience on Saturday night, I was amazed at the performance and inspired to audition next year. However, I would like to take the time to comment on the only part of the show that I was not thrilled with.

The “Not-So-Happy Fact” regarding vaginas that was announced to the packed chapel was about the practice of “female genital mutilation.” I completely support and believe that there is great value in the contribution that the showing of Vagina Monologues made to the proliferation of knowledge about female genital cutting. Yet the way in which this knowledge was portrayed – through the term “mutilation” – is detrimental to the efforts of those who work to eliminate this practice.

The practices of clitoridectomy, infibulation, and others of the same sort are wrong to the utmost degree and should be stopped. Such practices do have immediate complications such as tetanus, severe pain, and hemorrhaging, which can lead to shock and death. It is a devastating fact that between 100 million and 130 million females have had their genitals cut.

However, to characterize all of the practices of female genital cutting as “mutilation” is to disregard any contextualization and to create harsh judgments without adequately understanding the full depth of the matter. The term mutilation is akin to torture. To imply that the parents and societies of all girls who endure genital cutting are torturing their daughters is to create a horrendous stigma about these communities without recognizing the cultural and historical factors that go into these practices.

In order to effectively convey the practice of female genital cutting – to raise awareness that will help to dismantle these practices – one must work together with the people that practice them, and not create harsh boundaries between the imaginary ‘us’ and ‘them’ by using highly stigmatized words such as mutilation.

In the United States genital cutting exists in the form of the surgeries that are performed upon infants with ambiguous genitals immediately after birth. Using the term mutilation with regard to the practices of genital cutting in nations aside from the United States ignores this hypocrisy.

I am in no way condoning female genital cutting.

It is very important for feminists and people everywhere to work against practices such as genital cutting. But I believe that the only way to effectively do so is to work together with the communities that practice female genital cutting. This cannot be done when terms such as mutilation are used, for the only reaction that a community can have when it is implied that they torture their young is a defensive one. And that is not what we want. What we want is to create a better world for all of us.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *