Monday, February 26, 2007

Female Circumcision: A First Person Account

Via A Changing Life, a most interesting first person account (French; translation here) from a 30 yo Senegalese woman, living in Paris, who was circumcised when she was 4 years old. This, in particular, surprised me:

I had been circumcised at four years, at the same time as my sister, in my father’s village at the instigation of my mother and my paternal grandmother. My father wasn’t there that day. He had gone to find my cousin at her father’s house. It was done behind his back. When he returned, my cousin told me, he flew into a terrible rage. He said he wanted to divorce my mother. Had it not been for the pleas of my grandmother who claimed all responsibility of our circumcision, he perhaps might have.


At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did it surprise you?

At 5:21 PM, Blogger figleaf said...

Yeah, and it's supposed to be *men* who are imposing it. Yeah, yeah, I know, the grandmother was "sure" her 4-year-old granddaughters wouldn't find husbands if they weren't "tidied up" and so we can still blame patriarchy.

And yeah, I know there are still plenty of men who are as invested in the tradition as the grandmother and wouldn't want an unmutilated partner. But sweet mother of pearl that's a horrific story -- imagine coming home and finding your daughters had been sexually castrated against your expressed wishes? And that your wife and mother-in-law had done it.

But between the father's anger and the mother and grandmother's subterfuge it's kind of clear that a) not all members of the patriarchy are men and b) not all men are members of the patriarchy.

I hope we're not still hearing these stories 26 years from now. I couldn't stand it.


At 5:35 PM, Blogger figleaf said...

Oops! Correction, his wife and mother arranged it, not his wife and mother-in-law.


At 7:16 PM, Blogger ema said...


Because even though she clearly knows that her father was opposed to the procedure (one could extrapolate, because he recognized it as something unnecessary and harmful), she's still not able to talk to him about it. [She mentions it's a taboo subject.]

At 2:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


That makes sense. I thought it was probably what figleaf wrote, but I didn't want to assume. I'm glad I didn't. Seeing stories like this is useful, because society needs to break the shame imposed on those who've had it done.

Figleaf's comment is still valid. The assumption too many times is that FGM is just a tool for oppression by males. That exists, but it's not all that happens. Opposition should be based on what happens, not who does it.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger A. said...

Yesterday was the consultation with the specialist. I have continued to translate the posts - they link from one to the next.


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