The Patriarchy Continuum – FGM Edition

Published on The Global Sociology Blog, by SocProf, April 23rd, 2011.

But first watch this video, on The Guardian: Kenyan girls fight back against genital mutilation, 32.20 min.

Comment on The Global Sociology Blog: “Female genital mutilation (FGM) horrifies – and bewilders – westerners who find it incomprehensible that a mother would allow her daughter to be so brutally amputated with all the risks of infection, difficult childbirth and deprivation of sexual pleasure. What this film does is to show how custom – even when violent and dangerous – embeds itself in social expectations. These girls are not considered eligible by prospective husbands until they have been cut; their parents need the income from a dowry to shore up precarious family finances. Standing out against such powerful conventions is difficult, dangerous, and costs money. 

But even worse it causes huge emotional conflict within the closest, most important relationships. We see a daughter arguing with her mother over why she refuses to be cut, and a wife arguing with her husband. One of the most poignant moments is when Nancy, an exemplary daughter in every respect, challenges her mother’s authority. She doesn’t want a life like her mother’s, she declares. You can see the bewildered hurt on the mother’s face; this kind of rejection may be familiar to many a western parent but perhaps still a novelty in a culture where the idea of making your own fate in life, particularly for a girl, is completely alien … (full text).

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