The Cutting Tradition: Heather Hastie on FGM

Reader Heather Hastie continues her investigations into female genital mutilation (FGM) with a 47-minute movie on the practice, narrated by Meryl Streep, posted on her website. I urge you to watch it, though bits are not pleasant to watch, like the slicing off of a clitoris with a non-sterile razor blade.  This is often done by old ladies whose vision isn’t so great! The video should be required watching for anyone who condones FGM as a “cultural practice.” Most of it is solid information, not graphic gore, but do be aware. .

As Heather notes:

I found one particularly good video I want to share with you now. It was commissioned back in 2012 by the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (FIGO) and produced by a group called Safe Hands for Mothers. Their vision is one where no women die in pregnancy or childbirth. As FGM markedly increases the risks for women during childbirth, their work includes campaigning against it.

The Cutting Tradition is narrated by Meryl Streep and, as stated on the YouTube page, was “Filmed in Ethiopia, Egypt, Djibouti, Burkina Faso and the UK, [and] … looks at the reasons for female genital mutilation in Africa today.” Note: This video includes graphic content of FGM being performed and FGM being surgically corrected.

36 Comments

  1. Petrushka
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid this video holds the same allure for me as standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, with no rail. Not gonna click.

    • peepuk
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      me too, sorry

  2. rickflick
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I started watching it…then had to stop. Just too painful. What is it with these people anyhow?

  3. Cindy
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Egyptian girl dies from FGM in hospital…

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/31/egyptian-girl-dies-during-banned-female-genital-mutilation-operation

    Some SJW feminists have stated that FGM should be legal in the West provided it is done in hospitals because it will be “safer” than taking the girls abroad for FGM

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the link Cindy. Another woman dying needlessly because of either a culture or religion that cares more about its own dominance than the people it supposedly serves.

    • pali
      Posted June 2, 2016 at 3:33 am | Permalink

      Well… from a purely pragmatic view, they may have a point. In many ways it would be similar to providing clean needles to drug addicts – if they are going to do it anyway, if we’re going to have to deal with the fallout anyway, why not make it a bit easier on us and them?

      The difference, of course, is that a drug user is only directly harming themselves through drug use (though often with indirect harm to others), while FGM is a often good deal more complicated on the “who wants it done to who” line. There’s also the question of whether doctors would be required to perform the procedure or if they could opt out, and I suspect most would choose the latter – making the legality nearly pointless.

      So while I’m not on their side here, I don’t think this is necessarily a black-white issue that the SJWs you refer to are absolutely on the wrong side of either. I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of them are approaching the issue with more of a damage-mitigation angle than one of respect-all-cultural-practices, though of course I’d need to see their own words to get a better read on that.

  4. Paul S
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    With apologies to Heather, I only made it to 4:19.
    “We used to stitch up their genitals, but now we only cut off the clitoris”

    That’s as far as I could go.

  5. Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Relatedly, here’s a recent article in the journal Evolutionary Psychology proposing and testing a hypothesis for the prevalence of FGM, “Female Genital Cutting Restricts Sociosexuality Among the Igbo People of Southeast Nigeria”:

    Abstract
    Female genital cutting (FGC) involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and causes detrimental effects on woman’s physical and psychological health. Estimates suggest that 130 million women and girls have experienced FGC worldwide. A frequently cited reason for performing this procedure is to restrict female sexuality. To test this idea, we examined women’s willingness to engage in uncommitted sexual relations (sociosexuality) among the traditional Igbo community in Southeastern Nigeria, a region in which FGC is prevalent. Women with FGC reported more restricted sociosexuality in all three domains (attitude, behavior, and desire) compared to women without FGC. Our results suggest that FGC significantly restricts female extra-pair behavior. We provide evidence that this practice is partially attributable to sexual conflict over reproduction by decreasing paternity uncertainty and increasing the reproductive costs to women

    http://evp.sagepub.com/content/14/2/1474704916648784.full.pdf+html

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      That’s a reason given by some in the film for carrying it out. Women who have not undergone FGM are “not trusted” by the others. Once it’s done, the woman is described as trustworthy.

      • Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, the hypothesis is that FGM reduces a woman’s interest in and actual engagement in extramarital affairs, thus also reducing the probability of getting pregnant from someone other than her spouse. For men, the proposed evolutionary psych advantage is that FGM makes cuckoldry (unknowingly investing in offspring that aren’t genetically theirs) less likely.

        They also propose a secondary hypothesis about FGM possibly acting ancestrally to prevent mortality from sexually transmitted disease. I don’t think this holds up, though. Though a modern-era issue, FGM would increase risk of HIV by facilitating tissue damage and tearing during sex and need for transfusions due to hemorrhaging. Another serious complication of STD, pelvic inflammatory disease from bacterial infection, would be higher, too, for women with FGM, possibly leading to infertility. But female infertility could be a favored artifact in a culture acting to minimize cuckoldry.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          Yes to all. Another risk it exposes women to, and which is still a big issue in Africa, is tetanus. Several governments have tetanus vaccination programmes but several organisations (including, FFS, the Kenyan Catholic Doctors’ Association) warn women against the vaccinations because they say they are surreptitiously sterilizing women. There is, of course, no cure for tetanus and it’s an agonizing death.

      • somer
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        It also coincides with a vast amount of the concerns of many religions, but most starkly in Islam,which is obsessed with ensuring security of paternity,and control of the woman as any decent and mildly intelligent person should be able to see. In fact according to my Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence book, Lineage is one of the 5 attributes that need to be upheld as part of the public good element of Islamic law.

        • somer
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          I also have a problem with religions making it obligatory for boys to get circumcised especially where there is no widespread access to good clinical care – although of course AIDS may have changed that equation

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

          Interesting. I didn’t know that.

          • somer
            Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:53 am | Permalink

            Mordacious pulled me up on something incorrect I said re criticising male circumcision on
            Facebook Page promotes female genital mutilation
            https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/facebook-page-promotes-female-genital-mutilation/#comment-1350629
            I read and made notes more carefully and put a summary on that thread in response to his comment. the sources are
            Male circumcision: why its done
            http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/e756 (report concludes its got no purpose)
            Male Circumcision WHO/UNAIDS report
            http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/43749/1/9789241596169_eng.pdf

            Joshua Thom responds with one medical source
            from Kaplan but it isn’t national level, let alone international
            http://norm.org/lost.html and another similar source. Thom says I am advocating male circumcision which is not the case at all. The WHO report is very thorough and the issue is complex and I do point out the dangers and that 30% of men have it done – 2/3 are Muslims. There have been reports on the medical costs benefit analyst of this every year for some time and now national bodies (i.e. American assoc of paediatrics) that formerly weighed against male circumcision say on balance its a medical net benefit. But thats in America. However WHO findings are somewhat different for outside advanced technology countries (see my comments on thread 30 May 11.32 am, May 31 4.52 am; May 31 8.31 am.
            Thom keeps equating male circumcision with FGM – giving the odd source. But NUMEROUS international bodies including WHO, UNICEF, Internat AIDs bodies, International NGOs and Govt Bilateral aid bodies are UNANIMOUS in condemning all forms of female FGM or circumcision and stating NONE of them have medical benefits.

            • Joshua Thom
              Posted June 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

              Clearing up a few misunderstandings.

              First, I do not claim that you are supporting cutting boys. I was making light that society on the whole is silent and indifferent when boys are cut. But then are completely outraged when girls are cut. This sex discrimination makes me very upset. I have only in the last year gotten the courage to start talking about this. I started off very timid and holding back a lot.

              I am not saying to read this whole paper in the next link below but search for (Stallings) and read the paragraphs before and after. (I am sorry I can’t find the actual Rebecca Stallings and Emilian Karugendo 2010 paper) You cited medical benefits for male genital cutting and weighed them to risks. I tried to point out that there are shown HIV reduction with FGM. That still is not an reason to cut a girl. Just as HIV is never an excuse to cut a boy even if it were true. It is not by the way. The 3 South Africa studies showing that MGM reduces HIV transmission are a very flawed. Just one of many reasons that they are flawed is that circumcised men were given medical checkups, safe sex instructions, and condoms. The non circumcised men were not brought back into the clinic and given condoms. There are also studies that show no effect on HIV transmission and more that show MGM increases HIV transmission rates.

              https://www.academia.edu/10270196/Female_genital_mutilation_and_male_circumcision_Toward_an_autonomy-based_ethical_framework

              I keep comparing FGM with MGM because there is a lot of similaties. Both boys and girls have a prepuce, glans, meissner’s corpuscles, ect. In early embryonic development they were exactly the same. I know it bothers people that this comparison is made but I think that it needs to be made.

              I still stand by what I said that a RIC is worse than TYPES I, II, and IV FGM. And a TYPE III FGM is worse that a RIC. I came to this conclusion based on what is done, what is removed, and what are the functions of the tissues in question. There is a lot of criticism of the AAP position on MGC (I won’t list it here to try and not be any longer than I already am.) I have a question. If all the reasons listed on the Pro FGM Facebook page were scientifically valid would you support FGM? I would not. The same goes for boys. If all the excuses given for it were true (they are not) I would still be against it.

              If you are interested in learning more about what circumcision actually is and reject the previous videos I linked. Here is a video produced by a doctor affiliated with http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/

              In America it is illegal to cut a girl but in the next year more than 1 million boys will be cut. And all I hear and am told when I speak is how we need to focus on girls. It bothers me very much every day that this was done to me, that it continues to be done in our western societies, and that so many people are indifferent.

              Thank you

              P.S. Please look at this book and read the description and the reviews.

              P.P.S. If you are interested in learning how male circumcision harms his female sex partner check out http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com/

              Again, Thank you.

            • Joshua Thom
              Posted June 3, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

              You mentioned the American Academy of Pediatrics position on circumcision. Doctors Opposing Circumcision has a very good Commentary on American Academy of Pediatrics
              2012 Circumcision Policy Statement.

              http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/pdf/2013-04-24_Commentary.pdf

  6. Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Relatedly, here’s a recent article in the journal Evolutionary Psychology proposing and testing a hypothesis for FGC, “Female Genital Cutting Restricts Sociosexuality Among the Igbo People of Southeast Nigeria.”

    Abstract
    Female genital cutting (FGC) involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and causes detrimental effects on woman’s physical and psychological health. Estimates suggest that 130 million women and girls have experienced FGC worldwide. A frequently cited reason for performing this procedure is to restrict female sexuality. To test this idea, we examined women’s willingness to engage in uncommitted sexual relations (sociosexuality) among the traditional Igbo community in Southeastern Nigeria, a region in which FGC is prevalent. Women with FGC reported more restricted sociosexuality in all three domains (attitude, behavior, and desire) compared to women without FGC. Our results suggest that FGC significantly restricts female extra-pair behavior. We provide evidence that this practice is partially attributable to sexual conflict over reproduction by decreasing paternity uncertainty and increasing the reproductive costs to women

    http://evp.sagepub.com/content/14/2/1474704916648784.full

  7. Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know how anyone could condone genital mutilations, be it female or male mutilation. I do regularly point out, though, that female genital mutation is not a religious practice but a cultural one, practiced by Muslims, Christians and Animists alike, for the same reasons.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      You need to read Heather Hastie’s older post on Islam and FGM. The practice has certainly been condoned, approved, and even recommended by some Islamic clerics, so you’re dead wrong about it having no connection to relgion. And Watch the video at Heather’s place, where people explicitly say they do it for religious reasons. If you want to maintain that non-Islamic view, which is just a way to excuse religion for promoting brutal practices, go over to Heather’s site and say the same thing.

      And yes, people were terrorized by thoughts of hell before the Catholics came along, but they institutionalized the fear.

      • Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Those are relatively recent developments. Among the Christian, Animist and Ethiopian Jews who practice FGM, there is no link to religion.

        Back in the late eighties, in northern Kenya, I was on two occasions invited to assist at the FGM of teenage Samburu girls. It was deemed a great honor granted me. Happily, they only practiced a tiny cut in the clitoral hood. The reason for this procedure is that it is a rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. It is also practiced on teenage girls who are pregnant, shortly before their marriage, because according to them it is wrong for a child (uncircumcised girl) to give birth to a child.

        I have been involved in campaigning against FGM for decades, Jerry. You have nothing you can possibly teach me on that subject.

        • Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          I told you to go make these claims on Heather’s site. You’re citing other religions, not Islam. And so what if it’s a late development? How is that relevant? As I said, go argue with Heather about whether Islam is relevant; she may have something to teach you.

          • Posted May 31, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

            The fact that some Muslim individuals have commented on FGM and encourage it, have brought it into their personal view of Islam, have in some countries incorporated it into Islam doesn’t mean that FGM stems from Islam. It is in that sense that FGM is not fundamentally a religious thing, it is a traditional thing which has been recuperated by certain minority factions of Islam.

            I merely pointed out that among the Christian, Animist and Ethiopian Jews who practice FGM, there is no link to religion – which means that I did not say that it has no link to Islam.

            FGM most likely stems from Ancient Egyptian customs dating thousands of years ago.

            • Posted May 31, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

              Umm. . . did I ever say that FGM stems from Islam? It’s been incorporated into the religion as part of its religious dictates, by some imams, and so you are not disputing my contention. Terrorizing children was around well before it became part of Catholic practice, but that doesn’t exculpate religion. And, of course, many cultures have tales that terrorize children.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I do not understand how this butchery is comparable to male circumcision. Lots of people get their baby boys circumcised and it’s not just religious.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      Would excision of the clitoral hood not be comparable?

      The essential issue is the genital mutilation of children by parents. They may not wield the razor but they are responsible for it happening.

      It should not be happening.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Consent is the issue with boys, but it is much wider than that with girls.

        There is actually a lot of evidence that male circumcision has many positive health benefits as long as it’s performed by a properly qualified person in a suitable setting. However, the best time is when the child is too young to remember it and therefore consent is an issue.

        There are some minor forms of FGM where, again as long as performed by a proper person in a proper setting, there are no long-term problems. However, there are no benefits either so it’s completely pointless and there’s still the consent issue.

        Most forms of FGM though have the potential for a lifetime of risks, complications, pain, and other problems and there is no justification for it whatsoever. Girls have died having it carried out even in hospital, though it is rare in that setting.

      • Posted June 2, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        The clitoral hood does not contain up to 20,000 nerve endings of the foreskin which is the most sexually sensitive and pleasurable part of the penis, so it is not quite comparable.

    • Joshua Thom
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Here is a video showing what male circumcision is.

      In development the genitals of male and female are the same in the very early stages. Both male and female have glans, prepuce, erectile tissue, ect. There are a lot of similarities between genital mutilation of male and female.

      • somer
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:35 am | Permalink

        That does not have any international or national medical organisation credentials and contradicts the current state of knowledge on the matter. Its factually wrong on a number of counts re postings a on male circumcision a few days back from both myself and Mordacious.

  9. Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    The solution is difficult, but simple: we have to get all their female children away from them, as soon as they stop nursing.


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