Even after understanding why a society mandates certain cultural practices, there are certain acts, like female genital mutilation, that should still be highly protested against. Female genital mutilation is the removal of all external female genitalia, for non-medical purposes. In other words, the outer vagina is cut completely and stitched up, leaving a small hole for urination. This procedure is usually done without anesthesia, where the girl is held down and blindfolded, conforming to her family and neighborhood’s expectation. After the procedure, she will bleed and stay on bed rest for up to fifteen days, believed by all that she is now come to womanhood. Once impregnated, for the purpose of childbirth, the vagina is cut open for delivery, then sewn back together after. Some villages complete this procedure during infancy, not giving the girl an option to her fate, others before menstruation, and some once menstruation occurs. As horrific as this act sounds, it is crucial to understand why it is still being practiced before imposing any type of theology onto a culture where this is still being practiced. First, it is imperative to understand that it is not only small villages that are still practicing female genital mutilation, but the greater part of north Africa as well as some parts of the Middle East, with millions being effected every year, and that those who still complete the unsterile operation believe it is a part of their religion. In Islam, it requires that men be circumcised; however society in some areas has transformed this so that female genital mutilation is seen as a circumcision for females. Not to be mistaken with Islamic scripture, the Quran does not state anything about the necessity for female genital mutilation. Myths have been spread generation to generation for the sake of acceptance and continuance of the mutilation; for example, one myth states that if a women is not cut, her clitoris will grow so long it will hurt the baby during childbirth, while other myths claim that if a women is not cut, then her body will not fill out properly, remaining childlike for the rest of her life. These are all believed as to dilute the act when in fact, due to some women dying from blood loss, many of the countries where female genital mutilation is still occurring in have made the act unlawful. The cutting is usually administered through an extensive ceremony, possibly the only one the girl will be recognized for. Family members gather and celebrate while the surgery is performed, without anesthesia, usually with nothing more then a razor or kitchen knife. In some cultures the girl is not even able to squirm or scream, or else she will be branded a coward, adding humiliation to her anguish.
So why is female genital mutilation still being practiced? Even more so, why is it that women and mothers are imposing this onto their daughters, continuing the cycle of disfiguration? It comes down to what generations have classified as tradition. This tradition may vary from city to city, each conforming to there own set of standards. Those women, who choose not to partake in the mutilation for themselves or daughters, risk being discriminated or even seen as an outsider by the rest of the village members. They will watch her constantly, afraid that she will go off with one of the other men, and if she does so, they will all claim that it is purely because she was not circumcised. Primarily, this is because women who have undergone the mutilation procedure no longer experience any sexual pleasure, and thus as a conclusion the myth is created that those women who are not cut must be promiscuous prostitutes or whores, sleeping with multiple men in the village. Due to the ideology of men feeling the need to have some way of controlling their wives, female genital mutilation is not only accepted, but also encouraged, even though it is not religious. No matter what the religion states, if a women undergoes the mutilation, it will insure her future husband that she has not slept around, and that she will not have the desire to ever cheat on him in the future, making sure that all of his children are his own. Chandra Mohanty writes in Under Western Eyes, that claims of third world women do not fit into western feminism is evident because their cultural surroundings vary so vastly. While millions of women undergo such procedures as described above, it is not something that women in the United States may relate to, and thus there cannot be one umbrella of feminism that accounts for all women. Mohanty goes further to deconstruct the belief of some feminists who claim that female genital mutilation is completed purely for the reason of dissatisfaction of women, and the creation of dependency on men, but that there are also other factors for this cultural practice that need to be understood.
The concept of women as technology is constantly portrayed in this culture, with the use of women’s bodies as having a function of reproduction and that’s it; there is no more value in the community other than this. This same concept is exemplified clearly in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, where the women hold no identity, other then mechanisms of reproduction. In what is very possibly a SyFy future of our current environment, women are hired to be used as tools to bear children, living in shame and oppression against the rest of society, even forced to limit their wardrobe to the color red, so that they may be spotted by everyone for who they are. In cases of female genital mutilation, girls who are not cut are segregated much in the same way as the women in The Handmaid’s Tale. Through the removal of any freedom women can have, they are used merely as an empty vessel, for the function of fertility and reproduction. This eerie connection ties together a hypothetical science fiction novel to our society in a very real way that is quite terrifying.
Without a doubt the families who are continuing female genital mutilation onto their daughters are not doing so maliciously, but in fact are trying to protect their daughters from their prospects of being married. Recently there has been a shift with few percentage of men, who claim that they do not enjoy sexual encounters with women who have undergone the procedure, claiming that there is no real emotion there as there is no pleasure for the woman. Mohanty recognizes this culture shift and clarifies that it is of importance that these women do not get put into the category of “victim,” and that by doing so actually cripples them. When third world Middle Eastern women are viewed as victims, they are considered incapable of depending on themselves, and this is where male dominance steps in; in essence they are bound by their circumstances at that point. Instead, feminism needs to allow for differences between cultures, and that there is no theory that encompasses all women. Overall the grouping of these philosophies is wrong, not only creating a dependency on men, but also creating a theory that claims to represent all women, leading to high inaccuracy through the placement of social binaries. Nonetheless it is proven that once the people of an inflicted area are educated of the risks and why female genital mutilation is still operated, the percentage of procedures significantly drops. In the end it does not matter where women live along northern Africa and parts of the Middle East, without proper knowledge on this topic, the number of casualties will only continue to rise.