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On FGM and culture

July 29, 2012

Trigger Warning: discussion of mutilation for fashion, ‘cultural’ and historical reasons

So, today I went round the Wellcome Collection. We went for the transhumanism, and stayed to look around the permanent collections.

In which there is a pair of shoes designed for Chinese bound feet. They are tiny.

We were on a tour, and the tour guide made comments about how this practice could be seen as similar to modern cosmetic surgery, and I said that it probably had more in common with the modern practices of circumcision for infant boys and young girls. The tour guide tried to downplay this and cast both forms of circumcision as purely a cultural practice without a moral aspect.

I believe that there is a fundamental difference between cosmetic surgery and the practices of foot binding and child circumcision. Cosmetic surgery is the choice of an adult to alter their own bodies.

By contrast, foot binding and child circumcision are surgical acts chosen by parents and enacted upon children before they can make their own minds up. 

This is not a cultural thing.

Not drinking alcohol because you’re a Muslim is a cultural thing.

Not eating meat because you’re Hindu, or pork because you’re Jewish is a cultural thing.

Singing in your throat because you’re Hungarian is a cultural thing.

Liking black pudding because you’re English is a cultural thing.

Cutting up your children’s sexual organs is a mutilation thing, and I for one praise the German courts for their brave decision earlier this month. To say otherwise is not respecting other cultures, but tacitly endorsing the mutilation of children who cannot consent or choose for themselves.

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