Wednesday, December 5

:: Ladies, This Is Serious

The New York Times' John Tierney has gone too far.
We know people: let's get them to contact the Times.

Long story short - John Tierney, now posting in the New York Times' science section since he was demoted from the op-ed page, has written a lot of stupid things. But the latest drives right past stupid all the way to evil.

Tierney has posted TWO items defending "female circumcision."

I really didn't think such a thing would be possible in the New York Times, but yes, Tierney has twice devoted his column space to defending "female circumcision" (according to Tierney, "female genital mutilation" is a deliberately inflammatory term dreamed up by radical feminists to "subvert debate").

I'll give you the details in a moment. But first - my point. We know people. These people need to write the New York Times to (1) set the record straight, and (2) ask them what the fuck they're thinking allowing this sort of trash into print.

Now, the details: Tierney's first post appeared on November 30. He called it "A New Debate on Female Circumcision." [I know; don't even get me started with the "new."] It begins:
"Should African women be allowed to engage in the practice sometimes called female circumcision? Are critics of this practice, who call it female genital mutilation, justified in trying to outlaw it, or are they guilty of ignorance and cultural imperialism?"
The impetus for Tierney's post was a panel discussion held at the American Anthopological Society's annual meeting. Tierney approvingly cites one panelist, who is described thusly:
"Dr. Ahmadu, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, was raised in America and then went back to Sierra Leone as an adult to undergo the procedure along with fellow members of the Kono ethnic group. She has argued that the critics of the procedure exaggerate the medical dangers, misunderstand the effect on sexual pleasure, and mistakenly view the removal of parts of the clitoris as a practice that oppresses women. She has lamented that her Westernized 'feminist sisters insist on denying us this critical aspect of becoming a woman in accordance with our unique and powerful cultural heritage.'"
He also quotes some freakshow, Richard Shweder, from the University of Chicago:
"Dr. Shweder says that many Westerners trying to impose a “zero tolerance” policy don’t realize that these initiation rites are generally controlled not by men but by women who believe it is a cosmetic procedure with aesthetic benefits. He criticizes Americans and Europeans for outlawing it at the same they endorse their own forms of genital modification, like the circumcision of boys or the cosmetic surgery for women called “vaginal rejuvenation.” After surveying studies of female circumcision and comparing the data with the rhetoric about its harmfulness, Dr. Shweder concludes that '‘First World’ feminist issues and political correctness and activism have triumphed over the critical assessment of evidence.'"
Oh yes, Richard, please tell us ignorant, hysterical feminists the truth about this minor cosmetic procedure. [I can't wait to look up what else this creep has written].

Tierney concludes with the following:
"If I were asked to make a decision about my own daughter, I wouldn’t choose circumcision for her. But what about the question raised by these anthropologists: Should outsiders be telling African women what initiation practices are acceptable?"
I'm going to keep my critique to a minimum. Beyond the horrible misogyny (I'm not even going to start) there's the horrible racism: Tierney never mentions the African and Arab women and men who oppose FGM, and frames the question as whether the "enlightened" west should be telling the "ignorant savages" what to do.

Then, to my utter disgust and amazement, Tierney excreted a second post on the topic. "'Circumcision' or 'Mutilation'? And Other Questions About a Rite in Africa" appeared today. Tierney makes like he's going to address the critics of his previous post, then pulls a bait and switch and repeats the same argument he made before, but with more detail.

Here's the gist of it:
"My conclusion... is that the harmful practice claim has been highly exaggerated and that many of the representations in the advocacy literature and the popular press are nearly as fanciful as they are nightmarish. A close and critical reading of the much publicized 2006 Lancet publication of the “WHO Study Group on Female Genital Mutilation,” which received widespread, immediate and sensationalize coverage in the press because of its purported claims about infant and maternal mortality during the hospital birth process, suggests to me that again there is not very much to write home about." [....]

"The best evidence available at the moment suggests to me that the anthropologist Robert Edgerton basically had it right when he wrote about the Kenyan practice in the 1920s and 1930s as a crucible in which it is not just the courage of males but also the courage of females that gets tested: “…most girls bore it bravely and few suffered serious infection or injury as a result. Circumcised women did not lose their ability to enjoy sexual relations, nor was their child-bearing capacity diminished. Nevertheless the practice offended Christian sensibilities”. As Charles put it in his comment: 'Personal revulsion is not a good basis for making general policy.'"
In case you didn't catch that - Tierney is saying that (1) FGM is really not that bad, and (2) we shouldn't oppose it. While this "initiation rite" may offend our delicate sensibilities, its not our place to question a practice that most African girls think is just hunky dory.

Along the way, in neither post does Tierney mention that "female genital mutilation" is the term used by the World Health Organization and the United Nations overall; that a number of African countries already outlaw FGM; that FGM, as a custom, has nothing to do with Islam; that there are strong indigenous movements against FGM; and that there are plenty of facts available from experts working at reputable international agencies.

I know I'm repeating myself, but I really can't believe that we're so uncivilized that the most prestigious newspaper in the country will actually publish a "debate" over whether or not one should oppose the partial or complete amputation of little girls' genitals. Is there anything a person can't say about women? Are there no depths to which we can't sink?

I am so sick of this.

No comments: