Cut, but cut not too much
Cut, cut, cut
Then close it up and let God weld the whole.
Then cut again, reweld, and cut again.
Allah wishes it
Khatin, Tahara, Khatin.
Through most of the 1900’s a loud uproar has reached the ears of American men. This is the cry of their suppressed women, wives and daughters. Women cry for equal treatment in the workplace, in the home and in every aspect of society that notices a gender difference. Our cries are heard, slowly. Men stop opening the doors and begin sharing the computers the top floor offices, and when husbands and wives go home at night they lie together as equals. This is no so in many parts of the world, for millions of women every day.
The word excised is the name of a certain form of female circumcision. The word circumcision seems a misnomer here for it is much closer to mutilation. There are three types of female mutilation practiced today: Sunna, excision, and unflibulation. Sunna or circumcision is the removal of the clitoral prepuce and the tip of the clitoris. Sunna means tradition in Arabic. Excision or Clitoridectomy is the removal of the entire clitoris, usually with the labia minora, and sometimes all of the external genitalia, except parts of the labia majora. Inflibulation or Pharaonic circumcision is the removal of the entire clitoris, The labia minora and parts of the labia majora. The two sides of the vulva are scraped raw and then sewn together, the entrance to the vagina is obliterated except for a tiny opening to allow urine and menstrual flow to drain. (Accad) The last of these processes is the most common.
Female genital mutilation is a practice performed on approximately 6,000 girls per day around the world. In Egypt it is estimated that 70 to 90% of the women have been circumcised. Today female genital mutilation is common throughout the Middle East, Egypt, Iraq, and parts of other countries.
This process seems to foreign to a Southern California girl, yet the ideas behind it hit home. The man wants control of his women. What kind of man would do this to his children and expect it of his wife? Most circumcisions are performed on girls before puberty, between the ages of eight and ten. Evelyne Accad states in her preface of The Excised, “The practice came about when men felt the need to control women’s sexuality -i.e. when they moved from gatherers to hunters.” I believe that every women has felt controlled or suppressed by a man at some point in their life, but the women of these countries must carry their suppression with them, a nasty scar to remind them of their place in society. It is society that had cultured these accepted practices. Many believe that this practice is related to the religion of the countries, but this is completely untrue. Countries of Islam, Christianity, and other aboriginal religions practice female genital mutilation. Since the practice is not customary to a singly religion it is explained by culture. Men of the countries, which practice female circumcision, encourage the furtherance of the custom by preferring wives who have been circumcised. “It’s tradition. Men wouldn’t marry them else. They would not be accepted if they were not excised. Don’t think about it. Don’t be so sad” (Accad).
The cultures that practice this barbaric ritual give many substantiating reasons for maintaining the practice. These reasons seem petty to the western mind. The one reason I find most preposterous is the belief that the excised female will refrain from pre-marital intercourse. Not to be sarcastic, but if one was to destroy my sexual organs I believe I would abstain from further pain as well. The true effect of this belief lies in the strong cultural beliefs of preserving virginity. This means female virginity , for male virtue is not defined by his virginity (a contradictory concept). Often times it is the duty of the brother or closest male relative to kill a female who had so disgraced the family ( Jabra). It is also said that the clitoris is a dirty organ that may infect a male or a baby that touches it, therefore it should be removed. The western world had proven this theory wrong every day. It is also believed that the female is more beautiful if she is circumcised. If God thought that the female was not beautiful as is, why would He create her in that form?
Without question this custom is simply an extravagant form of female suppression. Many feminists within these countries have devoted themselves to the termination of this barbaric practice. The first step of this journey is educating the people of the societies. Nawal El Saadawi is a Middle Eastern woman who wrote the book Woman at Point Zero. This book focuses not only on the suppression of women by circumcision but also the complete suppression of the society. The main character becomes a prostitute because she feels she is finally in control of her own body. Although Saadawi is accused of much exaggeration to prove her points the idea is extremely valid. The women are forced to be one step below the men whether by wearing a covering veil or being placed in the rut of societies role for women. The societies of the Middle East have come a long way in the last fifteen years, but. . . After all who actually has reached the point of perfect equality? The question remains whether the men and women will continue with tradition or find the much-needed reasons to drop the old ways.
Accad, Evelyne. The Excised. The Continents Press, Inc. 1994.
Jabra, Jabra I. Hunters in a Narrow Street. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 1997.
Lightfoot-Klein, Hanny. Prisoners of Ritual. Harrington Park Press, 1989.
Saadawi, Nawal El. Woman at Point Zero. Zed Book