Tuesday 19 November 2013

For International Men's Day: "Like FGM, cut foreskins should be a feminist issue"

To mark International Men's Day today, here is a piece I published yesterday entitled, "Like FGM, cut foreskins should be a feminist issue":


In the piece, I explain that though comparing male and female genital cutting is usually dismissed or condemned, my research suggests the situation is more complex. Leading medical ethicists, historians, and legal scholars think that FGC and MGC overlap in ways that question the distinct labels and laws applied to them. For example, along with the serious harm that both FGC and MGC can cause, both occur without the consent of the child, and irreversibly violate the child’s human right to physical integrity. In so doing, FGC and MGC both prioritise the cultural or religious beliefs of parents over their child’s right to self-determination and an open future.

Despite these overlaps, the two been treated differently, partly because of the difference in harm, but also because of misperceptions about the contrasting settings and ages at which the procedures take place, and due to sexism and ethnocentrism. Specifically, male bodies are constructed as resistant to harm or even in need of being tested by painful ordeals, whereas female bodies are seen as highly vulnerable and in need of protection. In other words, vulnerability is gendered. And little girls are more readily seen as victims than little boys.

I conclude that it’s time to re-examine our gender and cultural assumptions about genital cutting, and take a non-discriminatory, intellectually consistent approach. 

I am grateful to The Conversation for publishing this article. The Conversation "is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public." For more information, click here: https://theconversation.com/uk/who_we_are

I hope you find my article thought provoking.