Thursday, August 30, 2018
Understanding Female Genital Mutilation On Reading Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves And Hymens
I’m reading Headscarves and Hymens, Mona Eltahawy’s book on Muslim misogyny.
She has a long part on female genital mutilation, fgm, which is of course a poisonous, vicious, unspeakable practice rooted in the hatred of women in the name of putative Islamic law on it.
What she particularizes is horrible and has no real relation to male circumcision.
But in a kind of spontaneous personal thought test I started wondering why I felt so strongly about any son or grandson getting circumcised, why I would have been so aghast if they hadn’t been. My grandsons were. So it was never a real issue. But I would have been tremendously put out if they hadn’t been. I wondered why, given my deracinated Judaism.
My conclusion is it’s (at least in big part) a combination of tribalism and the intimate power of our genitals in our individual self and tribal self definition. A Jewish friend of mine from when I was in university wasn’t circumcised. I said nothing to him about it but it seemed grotesque to me.
All of that leads me to think I get a bit of understanding of the drive towards and insistence on fgm by those who demand and impose it.
That bit of understanding— a kind of perverse empathy, feeling in oneself another’s emotion—doesn’t by a micrometer mitigate my sense of the horror of fgm nor my unshakeable and absolutist view that it should be wiped off the face of the earth. But it does layer in the beginning of a certain dimension of further understanding of what lies behind it.