Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Small Bit of Cultural Progress

Though laws can't change culture, I still find it heartening that Egypt is getting serious about ending female genital mutilation.

Christopher Hitchens also made an intereting point about FGM (and MGM, or circumcision) in his recent book, "god is not great: how religion poisons everything": "As to immoral practice, it is hard to imagine anything more grotesque than the mutilation of infant genitalia. Nor is it easy to imagine anything more incompatible with the argument from design. We must assume that a designer god would pay especial attention to the reproductive organs of his creatures, which are so essential for the continuation of the species. But religious ritual since the dawn of time has insisted on snatching children from the cradle and taking stones or knives to their pudenda."

One of my favorite stories about FGM (if there is such a thing), came from Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues." Ms. Ensler, who had interviewed hundreds of women about the intimate matters surrounding their genitalia, spoke to a woman in an Islamic African country who was responsible for performing the clitoridectomy required by their custom. What she told Ensler was the most heartening, uplifting thing I heard that night in the theater: instead of performing the procedure, she simply pinched each girl's clitoris really hard, so the men outside the tent would hear her scream in agony and be satisfied. Think of the dozens of girls who were not mutilated because of this one woman's bravery and willingness to fight mindless tradition.

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