Can Music Change the World?:
Arts and People’s Protests
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony resonates still as the international anthem of hope. It buoyed the protesters in Tiananmen Square, provided solace to Berliners tearing down the Wall and to those struggling for freedom in Pinochet’s Chile. The acclaimed documentary Following the Ninth (Kerry Candaele, 2013) traces Beethoven’s final work to cultures around the world telling the story of the music’s impact in countries at critical turning points in history. The film thus gives rise to a broader and – with the numerous recent and ongoing revolutions around the world – more pressing question, in which our panelists will engage: Do the arts and humanities have a role in stimulating or promoting social change? This evening will be the culminating event in the campus series marking the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1989 transformations in Central and Eastern Europe.
See the Film Trailer here:
Wednesday, November 19th, at 5:30pm-8:30pm, in Hendrix Theater
Welcome by Dr. Susanne Lenné Jones, German Program, Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literatures ECU and Opening Talk by Dr. Amy Carr-Richardson, School of Music, ECU: “Compositional Process in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”
Film Screening: Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony (Kerry Candaele, 2013). Panel Discussion: “Can music change the world? The Arts and People’s Protests.” Scholars from the arts and humanities discuss the role of art in social change.
This is a Wellness Passport event and free of charge!
For information please contact Dr. Susan Pearce (firstname.lastname@example.org or 252.328.2544) or Dr. Susanne Lenné Jones (email@example.com or 252.737.2390). Individuals requesting accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) should contact the Department for Disability Support Services at least 48 hours prior to the event at (252) 737-1016 (Voice/TTY)).
We thank the Depts. of Sociology , Foreign Languages and Literatures, the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, the Student Activities Board (SAB), the SAB Film Committee, as well as the Schools of Music and Art and Design for their generous support.
By Regina Dooley
How would you feel if your best friend or sister told you that her husband raped her? You would probably be outraged. You would certainly encourage her to contact the police and you would definitely insist that she divorce her abusive spouse. Do you think you would feel differently if your husband raped you too? Would you band together or rise against the abusers or would encourage each other to endure it to hold together your marriages and be good wives? How would you react to this news if you knew that your father was abusive to your mother? Or if you knew that your aunts and neighbors endured similar exploitation?
It may seem preposterous to think that anyone would be capable of brushing something so sever under the rug, but this is the dilemma that many women all over the globe are facing. In many part of the world violence is so prevalent that people become desensitized to it. If you are raised witnessing the abuse of your mother, sisters, aunts, and neighbors you are likely to begin to expect that you will go through this kind of battering as well. If your culture as a whole views spousal abuse as a natural part of marriage, you too are likely to turn a blind eye if a sister or friend confides in you.
Many governments do not view wives as independent human beings, but instead as property belonging to their husbands. This practice is especially common in cultures that expect the groom to provide a bride wealth (a generally informal exchange of goods or services from the groom or his family to the brides family for the bride). When governments to not recognize the rights of citizens there is sure to be a rise in violence against those citizens. And those who are not being represented are not likely to speak out against their oppressors. If a woman reaches out because her husband raped her and she is told that it was her fault or that he could not control himself, it is doubtful that her peers will come forward too.
Women are being abused emotionally, physically, and sexually on an international scale. All women should be able to feel safe and protected, even if the perpetrator is their own husband. To create a world where all women have the right to be protected from abuse those of us who already have these rights are responsible for raising awareness. Talking about these less than palatable topics puts pressure on our representatives to work for the rights of women everywhere. The United States has made great strides for women’s rights, but it is still considered distasteful to talk about marital rape. A husband CAN rape his wife and this dirty little secret needs to be dragged out into the daylight and torn to bits it is ever going to end.
Regina Dooley is an anthropology major at East Carolina University.
By Antionque Penny
A lawyer was just waking up from anesthesia after surgery, and his wife was sitting by his side. His eyes fluttered open and he said, “You’re beautiful!” and then he fell asleep again. His wife had never heard him say that so she stayed by his side. A couple of minutes later, his eyes fluttered open and he said, “You’re nice!” Well, the wife was disappointed because instead of “beautiful,” it was “nice.” She asked, “What happened to ‘beautiful’?” His reply was “The drugs are wearing off! “ There an ongoing issues that many adolescent girls and women face around the world. As more and more countries become industrialized and are exposed to the Westernized concept of beauty and attractiveness they start to abandon their cultural concepts of beauty. Is success defined by a Westernized standard of beauty? What is beauty really? Why must this abstract concept be confided in a simple concrete mold?
In this technologically advanced world, it is so simple to see or to be exposed to Westernized beauty from ads on the social media websites, music albums covers and songs right on down to products that that we buy. We have accepted this concept and it seem as if we have influenced many other nations as well to adopt our standards of attractiveness.
Traditionally, in Fiji and parts of Africa and China beauty was depicted as being plump or thick yet as these nation were exposed to Westernized television they began to associate being beautiful as being thin and underweight. Many women began to develop eating disorders as a result and to experience psychological problem about their self-worth and beauty. They start to associate being thin as a way to success yet not realizing that they are harming themselves.
This is a huge problem. I feel that in order to change this route of self-destruction, we must first change what we consider beauty. Instead of showing ads of what seem like perfect models show us the beauty within the flaws of the person. Instead of plastering this one concept of beauty we could focus more on abstract ideas such as personality traits. Yet to get to this level and change how beauty is perceived, it must come from the individuals too. You must truly love yourself and love the skin that you’re in; to be a trendsetter and not a follower of the ideals of others.
I also believe another way of helping women and young girls is to maybe start a movement or have a women are beautiful conferences that would make a statement to the world that beauty comes in all different forms. In order to be beautiful you must first learn how to love yourself and love every single flaw and begin to change, not necessary your outer beauty but your inner beauty. As Maya Angelou says “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty” Beauty isn’t your appearance but who you are as a person. In conclusion what is your definition of beauty? How will you stop this implicit idea of what beauty is in the media?
Antonique Penny is a Sociology major with a concentration in Family and Marriage at East Carolina University.
by Jenna Raleigh
In the past few decades Iran has progressed immensely in the area of family planning. It has been said that Iran has, perhaps, the best family planning program world-wide. The program’s merits include making contraceptives free and readily available, requiring pre-marital counseling in order to be granted a marriage license, and has greatly improved maternal and child health and outcomes nationwide. With no more than a quick search on the internet you can see plenty of articles and interviews that feature comments of praise for the program, and it is fair to give it praise since it has accomplished so much and succeeds in many ways. However, there are serious problems that have fallen through the cracks and do not get the attention they need. One in particular is the program’s lack of ability to accommodate women who wish to induce abortion. This is due to the Islamic government’s ruling that abortion, when not medically advised, is illegal.
According to the Qur’an, which Islamic law follows, life is a sacred gift and to abort a fetus after “ensoulment” is sinful and unacceptable. The idea of ensoulment is constructed around the belief that, after 120 days from the moment of conception, a fetus becomes ‘ensouled’ by angels sent from Allah. Through this action it is believed that the fetus becomes a person. Therefore, they believe that from that moment the fetus has rights and the choice of abortion is no longer up to the parents. Despite this, the Islamic government has taken into consideration the life-threatening complications that can arise from pregnancy. Many efforts were made to address this problem but for several years the legal system and the medical community have struggled to create an understandable list of diseases, factors, and requirements that can fall under the category of medically advised legal abortion, which has led to a lot of confusion and many overlooked possible factors. An additional hurdle to overcome is that the law requires a diagnosis from three experts and confirmation by the Legal Medicine Organization, which greatly increases the difficulty of obtaining an abortion. Furthermore, since only 1% of induced abortion is for medical reasons, the majority of women who induce abortion are not being accommodated.
Increasing numbers of Iranian women wishing to pursue higher education, struggling with financial issues, and desiring to have smaller families means that more and more of these women are choosing to have abortions. In addition to that, the trend of Iranian couples using the withdrawal method during intercourse, despite access to contraceptives, makes unwanted pregnancies a frequent occurrence. Worryingly, about a third of these women opt for dangerous methods through which to induce abortion; methods which range from puncturing the fetal sac with sharp objects via the cervix to using strong herbal medicines. If abortions are performed by individuals, not specifically trained to perform abortions, risk for serious complications are very high. Even if these abortions are carried out in safe and clean environments and through use of methods routinely used by obstetricians, such as injection of prostaglandins.
A study conducted by Anzar Ranji, MS, in which 2,705 Iranian women were interviewed and surveyed, revealed that of those 2,705 women, 495 (17%) had experienced illegal induced abortion and most of these women (84%) experienced complications that required hospitalization. Bleeding, infection, menstrual disorders, chronic pelvic pain, necessity of blood transfusions, infertility, and resulting in hysterectomy are among these complications. Obviously this study could not account for the women who actually died from complications, but death is also associated with these unsafe abortions. One of the big reasons for complications is due to the fact that many of these abortions are incomplete, which can lead to infection and painful delivery of the partially aborted fetus. This study alone reveals that induced abortion being illegal is a big problem. These women should not have to feel as though they need to seek risky methods, especially since it means that they will not receive post-abortion care which is offered even when the abortion was illegal.
Ideally, the solution to this problem would involve removing Islamic law from the government and the legal system, which would most likely lead to the legality of all induced abortion. This, however, is not a viable option presently and will not, most likely, be in the near future. Alternatively, I think it is important for Iran’s family planning program to make it a priority to teach Iranian couples about the importance of contraceptive use, the probability of contraceptives failing, particularly with the withdrawal method. I also think the program should encourage the women who have abortions to make sure they seek post-abortion care even, and maybe especially, when the abortion was performed illegally.
Probably the most detrimental force acting against these women is the lack of attention to this problem. Some people may say that the numbers are small or that it is a minimal problem in Iran’s flourishing family planning program, but it definitely is not a minimal problem for any woman facing serious medical and familial consequences. The physical, emotional, and psychological suffering these women endured will undoubtedly have had a huge impact on their quality of life and this should be unacceptable. This is what happens when the strong beliefs of certain individuals and groups, which can be potentially harmful, infiltrate institutions which govern and protect a population.
Jenna Raleigh is a double major in Anthropology and French at East Carolina University
by Mary Pettengill
An eating disorder occurs when an individual manipulates his or her eating habits to drastically change the appearance of the body, usually to fit the social norm or socially idealized body type of their culture. In America we usually associate these concepts with anorexia and bulimia where the goal is to lose weight and keep that weight off. However, this only occurs in Western Nations and predominantly among causasian populations in these nations. These diseases did not exist in the Eastern World until American and European advertisement began influencing Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, and even still the actual numbers of those suffering are extremely small compared to the number in Western Nations.
America is home to 24 of the 70 million individual with eating disorders worldwide, a huge number when you consider that this is over a third of the world’s sufferers of such diseases. Of the individuals struggling with anorexia and bulimia in the United States, they are predominately white. In 1985 there were only five cases of bulimia in African Americans, showing a huge cultural split. Numbers take a leap in Asian minorities living in Western cultures where in the same year there were seven girls found suffering of bulimia and one with anorexia.
More recently, as Japan has had huge economic growth and is being more and more influenced by the Western World, the numbers of those suffering from eating disorders have grown rapidly. Second in the world to America and Europe in eating disorder statistics in Japan are the world’s highest, but still in 1986 only 1312 individuals were found with eating disorders, and in surrounding counties they are still less than ten. These numbers alone speak a lot for Western culture and for the countries that Western culture continues to influence with economic growth and advertising.
It also becomes obvious that the internet and social media has a lot of influence on eating disorders, where people are constantly being bombarded with advertisements and pictures of other people. Countries in the East with out a large Internet presence clearly would not have this issue because it simply does not exist. While numbers continue to increase in the Middle East and China as Western globalization continues to expand these countries still have very small numbers they still continue to be almost insignificant compared to numbers in America, Europe, and now Japan because of the pressure Western advertisement continues to put on individuals. The most vulnerable group in all three of these nations are girls and women fifteen to twenty-four years of age.
It is not clear whether or not other Eastern World Nations that have not been so heavily touched by Eastern culture have eating disorders of a different manner, where perhaps instead of starving themselves they do otherwise, but it is very clear that diseases such as bulimia and anorexia are Western social diseases caused by our culture and effecting primarily our Caucasian population.
Mary Pettengill is majoring in studio arts-metals at East Carolina University.
by Cushundra Williams
Joyce Warimu began working in the commercial sex trade after she graduated from elementary school. Her family, like many others in western Kenya, was stricken by poverty. Her father, a meager coffee bean farmer, was no longer able to support his family, and it was up to Joyce to find a job that would supplement her father’s income. Her next door neighbor, Margaret, was a known pimp, and was happy to supply a home and clientele for the young girl. Her initial rate was 20 Kenyan shilling (KES) per session, which was more than what her father made in a week. For Joyce and many other Kenyan women, becoming a commercial sex worker (CSW) was the first step towards success .
This story was released over 20 years ago during the height of Kenya’s sex trade. The agricultural sector, which then comprised 75% of Kenya’s working population was failing, and women were turning to other forms of work in order to support their families. Laws in Kenya prohibit women from working at the industrial level between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. and occupying higher positions is simply unheard of. Their only option was to turn to the service sector.
In 1999, 6.9% of Kenyan women admitted to exchanging sex for money, and today those numbers have almost doubled. Now, 11.6% of Kenyan women admit to being a sex worker. Over 88% work in bars, hotels, bus stations and clubs; another 17% report being assaulted, 35% have been raped and 86% admitted to having at least one abortion. The risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is extremely high for these women, and condom use is not enforced. Surprisingly, the majority of CSW’s are knowledgeable of the risks associated with their behavior, but there is nothing that they can do. No other job fits their needs.
For decades many have wondered how the economy changed in such a short amount of time. Now, it is clear that the government is to blame. Corrupt government officials began using poverty as a means of financial gain. Coffee was the number one economic source in Kenya up until 1991, when coffee sales and production costs increased and farmers’ wages decreased. Government officials began “rewarding” themselves with pay raises, taking most of the profits for themselves. They then turned their attention to the service sector and began investing in tourism, which led to the increase in CSW’s and disease. By the early 2000s, it was impossible for one to support a family in the agricultural sector and the majority of women in urban Kenya were CSW’s. Compared to a farmer’s pay of 15 KES per hectare (0.07 U.S dollars per acre), with the average farmer owning 0.2 hectares of land, female sex workers can make up to 700 KES (7 U.S dollars) per session. Annually, the average farmer makes $176 U.S dollars, while most female CSW’s are averaging $8000 U.S dollars. Tourism now leads the country’s economy and sex tourism thrives in the western and coastal regions of Kenya. These two CSW hotspots have the highest concentration of HIV positive adults than any other area.
Percaca (1991) quoted DE Zalduondo in her journal article, stating, “It is important to recognize that both entry into commercial sex on the part of [female sex workers] on the part of [female sex workers[ and their patronage by male customers is societally driven.” Therefore, when the environment is negatively influencing ones decisions, reform must begin with the government and the economic sectors. Simply promoting safe sex is not going to end the problem. If women are becoming prostitutes because they aren’t being paid enough to work a “normal” job then the pay rate must be increased. If they can’t find work because of the time restrictions, remove the time restrictions and advocate women’s rights. Why has the government been skimming off the top of the agricultural profits for over twenty years? Because no one has tried to stop them. Only after the government corruption is eradicated will changes take place. The trickle down effect caused by this corruption is enormous and the health of Kenya is at stake. Africa is known as the AIDS inferno of the world, and the majority of HIV positive individuals are from western Kenya. These women deserve a new start and a positive outlook on life.
Cushundra Williams is a double major in anthropology and exercise science at East Carolina University.
by Almira Salic
Imagine a young girl who is lacking in reproductive education seeing blood come down her legs for the first time. Such an event could be very confusing and frightening to an unsuspecting and uneducated girl. Now imagine what would happen if no one explained, in detail, what was happening before or after the event. In addition, for every proceeding month, that aforesaid girl would use the same rags to contain her menstrual blood, risking herself to infection and death. A similar situation may be hard to picture occurring to a young girl in a developed country, but such an event looks to be all too common in certain parts of India. In rural parts and slums, where poverty prevails, women are suffering through reproductive tract infections that are highly preventable, among other health conditions. Due to the predominant beliefs and taboos that tend to see menstruation as a stain upon women, these vast numbers of girls are not given vital education or access to hygienic products and practices.
In such a country of high diversity, menarche may be perceived on the one hand as a symbol of sexual maturity and in marked contrast on the other, as a hygienic crisis. The country, as a whole, may not have a strictly negative view on menstruation, but the ideals that certain parts of the country hold are putting women at risk. This idea that menstruating is anything but natural is all too common in certain communities and societal structures. In fact, numerous beliefs have established a foothold even when they did not have any strong scientific explanation or backing. In India, some of these prevailing taboos are based on seeing the blood itself. Even the cloth that the women use to catch the blood flow has an active taboo upon it. Because there are such rules that define menstruation as dirty, women are seen as dirty. With established taboos governing the way women practice menstrual hygiene, it can be presumed that the majority of such women would unknowingly put themselves at greater risk for health issues.
Even worse is the knowledge that a large amount of women in India are using pads that they made themselves over and over again. These cloths often have to be shielded from their male family members and the children. They also wash and dry these cloths in unhygienic conditions, such as underneath other drying items, and when they are not using them, store these cloths in unhygienic locations. Despite the fact that sanitary napkins are available for purchase in India, they have a very low rate of use. This is due to a lack of awareness, high cost, and shyness in purchasing sanitary napkins from shops run by men.
These unsanitary practices, and lack of knowledge, expose women to infections of the reproductive tract. Even though RTI’s affect women in industrialized and developing countries, the major difference is the access to health care. Those who are able to obtain medical care are far more likely to be treated and survive. For those women who get RTI’s, they may not even notice that anything is wrong until the infection has gotten much worse. Left untreated, reproductive tract infections can lead to death. Unfortunately, in such poor communities, this is often the case. In turn, it deprives the community of women who play an important role in all aspects of society.
If India as a country continues to ignore the health of their women, or fails upon educating both sexes on menstruation, then women will continue to suffer. Preventable menstruation health issues will continue to skyrocket, and the women in question will continue to be afraid of their own bodies. Sanitary napkins cannot just be pushed upon young women, especially when they cost four rupees, which translate to about seven cents out of a dollar. It may not be much in the United States, but with limited money, sanitary napkins do not trump food. These sanitary napkins, or materials that are far more hygienic, need to be explained and normalized. Indian women need to understand that sanitary napkins, and other hygiene related products for menstruation, are available to them at any time without the stigma that is usually associated with it. The issue arises when one realizes that the mentality of the country has to change in order for sanitary napkins and diminished fear to be in every household. If the use of sanitary napkins impedes on the beliefs of the woman, or the price is too high to guarantee regular use, there need to be better materials available. Materials that are cheap to produce, sponsored by the government, and available in every community. If enough research is done, there is surely a better option. The government needs to step up in the education and implementation, even if it is minor. Surely, some part of the budget can be set aside to save women from suffering needlessly.
Of course, India is diverse in its people and diverse in its beliefs. Different communities are going to have slightly dissimilar beliefs on menstruation and the menstruating woman. Although this is important to acknowledge, communities that inspire the fear of menstruation will also inspire more menstruation related health issues. It is perfectly okay to have and to hold on to specific beliefs, but those beliefs that endanger the lives of individuals are not fair to those individuals. Reproductive education is important in that regard. The people who deal with such issues should be educated and provided with such information so that they may make that choice themselves. One can still hide their menstrual cloths from prying eyes, but simply step up the care to ensure better hygiene. One can still believe that menstruation is negative, but still be educated before it occurs to them. One can still live with a specific religion or governing authority, but be inflicted with less preventable health issues. Menstruation is a natural occurrence that affects all women of the world. It is also an occurrence that affects all men of the world. The women of India should not have to suffer through their menstruation or be afraid of it.
Almira Salic is a psychology major and a women’s studies minor at East Carolina University
Here is a project that was started in Brooklyn that addresses street harassment. I find it an interesting tactic in combating the problem and thought it was complimentary to what we discussed in class and the Snickers commercial from Australia.
by Victoria Wagner
As my mom and I walk across the street, my eyes follow two men walking
down the same road to where we are headed. Maybe it is the fast pace of their walk,
the silence between them or the way they look as if they are on a mission that draws
my attention. They turn into an alley a few moments before we pass by it. And
suddenly I hear a scream. My mom and I – shocked for a moment – have paused
to see the source of the cry. A woman runs out of the same alley screaming and
cursing. I have no doubt that it was those two bastards; they must have done some-
thing to her. She is crumbling, rage and tears jumping out of her eyes. This all happens
so fast, paralyzing me in agony and fear. I’m waiting for my mom or anyone to
approach her to help, but in my shock my mom only pulls my hand so we move
away faster. The woman composes herself and also walks away in silence. People get
back to their work, not that they had interrupted it for more than few seconds. I can
feel my mom is painfully pleased that I finally got to see what she had warned me
about. None of us, however, acknowledges what just happened. It is not to be brought
up, ever. No one approaches the woman, I think, for the same reason.
Sexual harassment is defined as harassment in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. The following excerpt is from a woman’s experience in Iran on an average day. The woman in the alley has been sexually harassed by the two men, but their society says that it is the woman’s fault and that the women brought it on themselves. In the young girl’s eyes she realizes that it is wrong for the woman to be treated this way because her society hasn’t brain washed her yet, teaching her that it is her fault men make lewd sexual comments and it is okay for them to make these remarks. This passage even shows how the mother is almost proud that her daughter has witnessed first-hand the dangers that she has warned her about. Instead of speaking up for the woman or even checking to make sure that the woman is okay, the mother and daughter pair walk on and the rest of the street crowd go back to whatever they were doing. Studies have shown that the less power a woman has in a country then the higher the sexual harassment rate. The woman has no power in the society and is even blamed for the sexual harassment that she has no power to avoid or stop without fear of her own reputation being jeopardized. In places where women wear full hijabs, they still face criticism when they are harassed and many are told they brought it on themselves when the very few did come forward to report to the police.
The fear of being sexually harassed or assaulted also creates a geography of fear among women all over the world. Women in parts of Iran are afraid to go into many public spaces, even fully covered and during the day. Many women in the US are also afraid to go out at night or alone into many public arenas. This type of fear is paralyzing, puts women at a disadvantage in many areas of life, and can be psychologically debilitating. Yes to remove the geography of fear that surrounds many women, it is necessary first to stop sexual harassment.
While this problem rages on worldwide surely there is some way to fix it. I propose we start with education. A video was just done recently with a role-reversal affect where a woman went around yelling sexual comments towards men and asking them for sexual favors or well sexually harassing them. What is sad is that the comments that were used in the video were all scenarios taken from a survey of women who had reported incidents of sexual harassment. Educating men and even doing this to boys at a young age, showing how it feels to have assumptions thrown at you left and right all due to your gender, will help decrease the amount of harassment. I am not saying that harassment in any type of form is okay but, I believe that if we show boys how it feels to be harassed then they will not do it as much and possibly not as violent. I understand that this is not a permanent or even a complete solution, however; you must start somewhere to make a change. Also, I believe that when it is brought more to the public eye, then people may start to stand against sexual harassment more.
Sexual harassment is wrong and needs to stop. There is no excuse for it. A woman should be treated with respect and compassion the same way a man should. It is time for women to take a stand instead of remaining in an oppressive bubble that constricts their very movements.
Victoria Wagoner is a psychology major and a women’s studies minor at East Carolina University.
A little over a year ago, I had my most painful experience. After much thought and research, I decided to have the hood of my clitoris pierced. The entire process was quick, but those few seconds were extremely intense and painful. This is the closest I could relate to females that undergo circumcision in other countries. I am not trying to say that the pain is similar, or that the environments are at all similar. I was pierced in a completely safe, sanitary setting with sterile equipment by a trained professional. The piercing was also my choice and was over in seconds. Women in some areas of Africa and Asia are forced into being circumcised, often at an extremely young age. These circumcisions are performed in unclean and unsafe conditions, and the people performing the procedures are not professionals. Many in the United States will refer to female genital piercings as genital mutilation. I disagree. I believe that in order for something to be considered mutilation, it must be done against the person’s consent, in dangerous conditions, and/or by untrained people. In my opinion, if adult women in the United States want to be circumcised, for whatever reason, by a medical professional or trained body modification specialist, they should be allowed to do so. However, female circumcision that is not a choice and that is performed under dangerous conditions which jeopardize a woman’s health should not continue.
Female circumcision is the practice of removing part of, or the entire clitoris, and possibly removing the labia minora and sewing the labia majora together. This is often practiced in areas in Africa and sometimes in Asia as well. It is not commonly practiced in the United States or other higher developed countries. Young girls are often circumcised in unsanitary, unsterile, and unsafe environments. No anesthetics are used during a female circumcision, and it is not uncommon for a female to die after her circumcision. If not immediately due to blood loss, or infection, than she will eventually die of other forms of infection or related health problems. There are several forms of female circumcision, clitoridectomies and infibulations. In clitoridectomies, the women’s clitoris is removed and sometimes her labia minora are removed as well. Infibulations are more complicated. Along with removing the clitoris and labia minora, the labia majora are also stitched together, leaving a hole so small that menstrual blood and urine often cannot pass through.
Why do men and women in other societies continue this practice? In many of these cultures, people believe that circumcision prevents women from wanting to have sex with other men. Many women believe that circumcision is necessary if they wish to marry. I disagree with the way that these societies treat their women. Just because a woman has anatomically correct vulva, a clitoris, and a vagina does not mean that she will have sex with other men. It just means that she will be able to enjoy the sex she has with her husband. It also means that she will have a higher life expectancy and fewer medical problems, and can produce more children. It makes me sad to read and hear about young girls being forced to go through these dangerous and painful procedures. Procedures that are being done often by the women in their own family, and without anesthetics or medications.
The United States has banned female circumcision on minors, even with the consent of a parent. I think this was a good idea because there have been cases were women from other cultures move here, and want to have their daughters circumcised. Although it would be safer to have the procedure in the United States, I am worried that legalizing female circumcision, even with the consent of a parent, would cause this to become another issue for the U.S. to worry about. Even though I do disagree with the way female circumcisions are being done in poorer, less educated societies, I do not think it is our job to make them stop. Just because the United States disagrees with another culture, we should not try to change it. How would we feel if another culture invaded our country and made us change our customs? This is their way of life. I think we should just help these societies find safer ways to perform the circumcisions. If they took medical classes, had sterile equipment and a sterile environments, as well as medications and anesthetics, then I think everyone would be happier.
I also think that women who are over the age of 18, both in other cultures where female circumcision is common and in the United States, should be allowed to have female circumcision performed on themselves in a safe environment if it is something that they really want to do. I view this circumstance as a body modification. I know people that have bifurcated tongues, surgically removed parts of their ears, removed their navels, split their penis in half like a hot dog bun, and even people that have implanted beads into their genitals. I believe that in the U.S. female circumcision is just an extreme form of body modification, and although I would never pursue having my clitoris or vulva removed, I would not make another female feel bad about herself if it is a procedure that she wanted to have done as long as she was of age to consent.
Tamara Kovacs is a sociology major with a concentration in social diversity at East Carolina University.