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Talle, Somalia - description
- most extreme form of circumcision - infibulation
- removal of inner, outer labia and closure of vulva
- done without anesthetic and antiseptic
- performed young (8-10)
infibulation - gender
- dramatises difference between male and female organs - constitutes gender
- "hard" parts carved away
- = clarity to female/male distinction
- propagates gender identity
infibulation - gender not dependent on sex
- surgery reinforced a primordial, genetic dichotomy
- that biology is in fact "partly constructed"
- example how gender is not dependent on sex
infibulation - personhood
- as women become more feminine, become more human
- women "created" as females and gendered persons
infibulation - purification
- to leave a girl uncut is disgusting and unnatural
- virgin = high bride wealth
- better marriage prospects and social mobility
infibulation - pressure
- constant pressure on uninfibulated girls
- many initate own operation earlier
- persuade parents or do it themselves
- aspect of choice
- Western indignation against FGM misguided and misinformed
- lacks a sense of cultural pluralism and understanding
Shweder - Western argument inc health
- Western view points out "disastrous health effects" combined with social injustices it perpetuates...
- ...constitues as a barrier to african development
- WHO condems FGM
- "domineering patriarchs and brainwashed matriarchs"
- Obermeyer -argues no evidence of devastating health effects
- points out to many methodological flaws and quality control of examining health practises
Shweder ethnographic example
- Kono girls, Sierra Leone
- feel empowered by initiation/gender identity ceremonies
- cutting makes women more admirable/courageous/mature/womanly
Shweder - different notions of beauty
- Kono men and women find circumcised genitals cleaner/more beautiful
- Western - emphasises patriarchal oppression
- BUT similar beauty practises also seen in the West!
- eg breast augmentation
- braces - parents forcing children to undergo pain yet considered a healthy practice
- done for asethetics/childs benefit
patriarchal dominace - most societies practise both female and male or just male - by practising on both closes gender distinction
Shweder conclusions on different notions of beauty
- instead of assuming our own perceptions of beauty are universal..
- ...we should consider there is a real cultural divide between aesthetic and moral reactions to cutting
- we need to bracket out emotional/automatic responses
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