It’s [Not] A [Beauty] Secret

The first time I’d heard of Female Circumcision was while reading Alice Walker’s sequel to “The Color Purple”, “Possessing the Secret of Joy.” I could not finish the book. I had nightmares. I was angry with Alice Walker for exposing me to something so evil. It would be more than a decade before I would read Alice Walker again.

The assigned readings for Female Genital Cutting were equally disturbing. I averted my eyes and my mind from the readings several times. I forced myself to attend the readings when I found my mind glazing over. Loretta Kopelman made several compelling arguments most of which I’ve made myself over the years. Of course, I’ve also made the opposing arguments over the years, too.

So here I take my stand, firmly on the fence.

Even as a child watching movies where they sacrificed a young girl to the volcano I thought, “Poor girl. But if those are the rules where she lives then, how dare some outsider come in and disturb it.” So with my left foot, the one closest to the relativists, I would say this is a horrible tradition, an unfortunate part of the culture but it is something that would be corrected from inside the culture and not from the outside.

Can we really force our values on a culture not our own? Can we pass judgement on a cultural tradition and deem it wrong because it doesn’t fit our norm? And, as my right foot argues, Can we sit idly by while millions of young women are mutilated?

In the video clip I’ve included, Alice Walker demands accountability from the “midwife” who performs female circumcision. Demanding answers to the questions: What have you done? and How many have you done it to? To which my right foot screams, “Right On!” The woman attempts to keep her tradition cloaked in secrecy but Walker pushes on, “it’s no secret.”

And how, in heaven’s name, could a mother inflict this pain on her child? Education is key. The debunking of the myths that surround this ritual is vital to it’s elimination. Because when we know better, we do better… but who is to say what’s better?

One of the arguments of the relativists compares the breast augmentation surgeries so prevalent in our culture with the female genital cutting in other cultures. At first read I thought, yeah, no way. However upon contemplation we go to great lengths to achieve what our culture tells us is what a beautiful woman looks like. Could these women be doing just the same?


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