Category Archives: Culture

What is Female Genital Mutilation and How Do We Stop It?

By Giuliana Davis

            Let’s examine the average 12-year-old girl. Having just starting understanding how men will a play a role in her life, she spends her time day dreaming over the boy she met in school. She enjoys playing with her friends, and experimenting with makeup. She shouldn’t have a care in the world, unless you consider finding a dress for her first formal to be serious business. But this is not the reality for many girls around the world. In many parts of Africa and Asia, the 12-year-old you imagine, is actually spending time preparing herself for a very invasive procedure. She can’t scream, or cry. She’ll bring shame upon herself and her family. If she doesn’t have the procedure, she’ll become a social pariah and men will discard her like a piece of garbage. Every woman she has ever known has been forced to have the procedure. It’s tradition. She’s going to be circumcised. She’ll have her labia majora, minora, and clitoris removed while fully conscious and aware. Depending on where she lives, she may also have her vaginal opening sewn shut, allowing only a small hole for urine and menstrual fluids.

This is a shocking, but very real, glimpse into the lives of thousands of girls ages 12-16 throughout 29 different countries on Earth. And while their cultures consider it to be a necessity, there is absolutely no medical benefit for this procedure. On the contrary, it often causes infection and pain that can be deadly. The most common and severe complication that occurs due to female circumcision is known as obstetric fistulae. Obstetric fistulae occur when a woman is giving birth, but the blockage caused by her sewn vaginal opening causes her to be unable to push. Labor often goes on for days, and the newborn is almost always stillborn. Due to the pressure caused by her attempts to push, and the resistance due to a sewn vaginal opening, the baby’s head presses against the soft tissues inside of the birthing canal, causing a tear between the canal and the bladder or anus. Once she has finally pushed out her stillborn baby, she’ll fall into a deep, exhausted sleep, only to wake up to the realization that she has wet the bed. Thinking it to be a one-time accident, she’ll quietly wait for it to dry, but it never will. She has completely lost control of her bladder, and will forever be incontinent.

In this culture, the incontinence caused by obstetric fistulae is worse than death. These women face a life of shame ahead of them. They are isolated and treated as pariahs, and are forced out of society. They are the Untouchables of Africa. Their husbands want nothing to do with them, and they end up living out the rest of their lives in small huts on the edge of their villages, with virtually no contact with any members of their previous cultures.

But there is hope. Many organizations are taking active roles in the fight against female genital mutilation, and aiding in the recovery of those who have undergone it and may be suffering health consequences:

  • “28 Too Many”- this organization helps on 3 levels. First, they educate those in places like the U.S., who have likely never heard of the practice. Second, they educate influential members of the societies in which FGM is practiced, and encourage them to take a stand against it. And finally, they equip local people and organizations with the tools they need to oppose the practice. https://www.28toomany.org/
  • “The Day of Zero Tolerance”- this is an international day introduced by the UN in an attempt to globalize the fight against FGM. Education is key, and this day makes it possible for people around the world to become educated. http://www.un.org/en/events/femalegenitalmutilationday/
  • “The Desert Flower Foundation”- started by a model who escaped the world of FGM and came to the United States, the Desert Flower Foundation strives to educate people and encourages governments to pass laws that ban Female Genital Mutilation. http://www.desertflowerfoundation.org/

So while the outlook may seem bleak, there is always hope for the future when people take a stand for what they believe in. But it is essential that we don’t just watch other people do the work. Each and every person needs to become part of the fight, because as Desmond Tutu so accurately put it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Giuliana Davis is a double major in Criminal Justice and Anthropology with a minor in Forensic Science. She hopes to go into the field of forensic anthropology, and her dream is to work with the Smithsonian Institute.

 

Veganism does not mean cruelty free

Someone Explained Why Veganism Is Not Cruelty Free, And It Might Make You Think Twice Before Going Vegan

I found these article which I found to be pretty interesting. The article talks about the misconception that being vegan means that you are living cruelty-free. The author explains how even though vegans are not consuming animal product the foods that they are consuming comes from overworked workers which means that there is a lot of cruelty involved. Many crops are being harvest by migrant workers who work up to twelve hour shifts with no bathroom or lunch breaks. In addition, they work live in poor housing with often no ventilation or heating systems. In places like South America, main crops like Quinoa are being imported into the US to provide for western diet while the population is being left without much food.

So what are your thoughts on Veganism and Cruelty free?

Singing to Freedom: Op-Ed 2

Singing to Freedom

“I like to sing and write songs and poems and dance (badly).
I also like to talk about things that are uncomfortable, because they are usually important.” – Mary Lambert from marylambertsings.com

On March 19, 2018, East Carolina University students and faculty members were fortunate enough to witness bold, beautiful, and talented Mary Lambert perform about topics such as LGBTQ, body image, mental illness, self-love, and acceptance.

Making Light of Heavy Situations

Lambert freely and vulnerably spoke of her life experiences that helped shape the woman she is today. Starting with stories of being a Christian lesbian, she shed light on what it was like being in her shoes as a young woman attending church. She frequently experienced situations where she felt unaccepted, leading to her questioning herself and her identity. Lambert also began feeling depressed and started secluding herself from the world.

In many readings we have come across in sociology this semester, including that of Lennox and Waites (2013), we learned how acceptance is not an issue merely Americans in the LGBTQ community deal with, but people all over the globe. In many countries, LGBTQ individuals face marginalization, generalization, stereotyping, and are subjected to jail-time. It is those types of cruel behaviors that stigmatize and dehumanize LGBTQ individuals and individuals they feel do not fit their norm.

Many of Lambert’s songs also consisted of lyrics covering the topics of body image. One of her songs used a metaphor of fitting into a prom dress to describe the stigma’s women feel about having to look a certain way for society. Not only that, but society also tries to shape the behaviors of women, including trying to obtain a level of perfection that does not exist. Although we do not specifically talk about body image, Cathryn Goodchild (2017) discusses society in her article about abuse. She discusses how perpetrators are made and not born; they are shaped by society. I think that is one point Lambert was getting at. Society has shaped people to be accepting or un-accepting of factors that benefit society, rather than individual people.

Free From the Chains of Society

By the end of the show, Lambert performed songs emphasizing being comfortable in your own skin, embracing flaws, and sharing secrets with the world. Unfortunately, the world may always be filled with discrimination. At the end of the day, people must decide when to stop letting society control their happiness or unhappiness. Society will always want you in chains. Sometimes we just need to sit back, laugh a little, realize that “they tell us from the time we’re young, to hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves, inside ourselves, I know I’m not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else,” but “I’m over it” and scream..

“I don’t care if the world

knows what my secrets

are, secrets are- I don’t

care if the world knows

what my secrets are,

secrets are- So-o-o-o-o

what”

 

Sources:

Goodchild, Cathryn. 2017. “Why Does He Abuse? Why Does She Stay? Social and Cultural Roots of Domestic Abuse.” Pp. 221-238 in Women, Law and Culture: Conformity, Contradiction and Conflict, edited by J. A. Scutt. London: Palgrave-MacMillan.

Lambert, Mary. 2010. “Secrets.” Retrieved from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/marylambert/secrets.html.

Lennox, Corinne, and Matthew Waites. 2013. “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in the Commonwealth: from history and law to developing activism and transnational dialogues.” Pp. 1-59 in Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in The Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change, edited by C. Lennox and M. Waites. London: Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Cultural differences and stereotypes

With regard to the topics that we are discussing in class, I find this image very appropriate to describe what happens with cultural differences and the stereotypes that are created around them. I think the point here is to respect cultural differences and understand that conceptions of freedom are different in each culture and therefore there is no justification for a country to try to impose its values and customs while ignoring those of others.

“Inspiring Women”: Mattel’s Release of New Barbies

Mattel has announce the release of three new Barbies available for purchase as a part of their series “Inspiring Women.” These new dolls are created to look like Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, and Katherine Johnson. The anticipated release of these dolls is beneficial because it continues to recognize the accomplishments of women as well as takes more steps towards positive inclusion in popular culture. As we progress as a society, it is important to maintain diversity and support positive inclusion of minority groups within popular culture. What are your thoughts on these dolls? Do you believe that Mattel has taken the appropriate steps into becoming a more inclusive corporation? How can other corporations that contribute to popular culture also become more inclusive?

 

LINK to article for more information.

Changes In Hair

I saw this post while scrolling through Facebook and it made me think about the times that I’ve done anything significant to my hair and also how much truth there was to this picture. I started to look at person blog post about females cutting their hairs or doing anything drastic to their hair like changing hair colors. Most of the bloggers seem to have agreed on one thing, it was all about their emotions. Most of them said that they decided to cut their hair due to a traumatic breakup. They view their changes in hairstyles as not only a change of look but also as a change within themselves. It was the start of a new chapter in their lives where in which they were interested in getting to know the stranger they saw when looking in the mirror. I can admit there have been many times where I have changed my hair color or done what some people would consider a drastic haircut because of my emotions. Although for me the emotions did not come from a breakup but rather from a desperate need to find my cultural identity and turning a new leaf.

what are your thoughts on this?

For the Greater Good: Abolishing Internal Sexism in the Battle Against FGM

A Brief Foreword

Before engaging in this conversation, we must first understand that the terminology surrounding the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has traditionally presented challenges for those engaging in its discourse. Debates have been hosted in an effort to determine the legitimacy of the term “mutilation” in comparison to the term “circumcision.” It has been suggested that the term “mutilation” implies severity and, therefore, is biased against the practice; in contrast, “circumcision” has been submitted as a term that seeks to lessen the tones of brutality associated with the practice, paralleling it to male circumcision. However, throughout this particular conversation, I will employ the acronym “FGM” (understanding the use of the term “mutilation”), accepting fully its implications and nuances. This is done in an attempt to relay the true severity and violence of the practice. I have contended the necessity of this terminological consideration elsewhere (Beasley, 2014).

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has long existed as an issue of human rights among various communities of the world. Specifically, high prevalence has been identified in countries such as Somalia, Egypt and Mali (EndFGM, 2009). However, research has also identified the prevalence of the practice in industrialized settings, as well (i.e. U.S., U.K., etc.). As the battle to end this practice continues to wage, it has been made apparent that women – more often than not – stand at the front line of the struggle. Various explanations for this occurrence may exist. First, granting consideration to the notion that FGM is largely a product of patriarchal influences on the terms of cultural identity, it is perceptible that men (in those particular settings) have defended such practices as a continuation of cultural identity. Uniquely, FGM has been claimed as a practice existing to readily identify women of certain communities. Scholars have also noted the sexist, (arguably misogynistic) role of FGM as well, functioning as a way for men to control sexual stimulation, pleasure, and infidelity among women. Ethnographic work has demonstrated that, in many instances, FGM varies between ethnic groups and communities within the same regions; this may be in an effort to continue that element of cultural identification. Because of this position, men are often viewed as a hindrance to the processes involved with removing and replacing FGM with safer, healthier rights of passage for womanhood–some communities have introduced educational models to replace the traditional rights of passage (see, Ending Female Genital Mutilation – Why Education Works). 

A recent piece in Reuters, Female Genital Mutilation Is A Man’s Issue Too: Kenyan Maasai Activistnotes that men in some settings are being brought to the front lines of the battle, as well. The significance of such an effort resides in the aforementioned thought–that such practices are rooted in patriarchal influences on culture identity and rights of passage. Speaking out against FGM alongside of women reinforces the necessity of reform for such aged, dangerous rights of passage. As the culture surrounding such ideas shifts, men must remain vocal in their support of such shifts. In societies where patriarchy prevails, men acknowledging the invalidity and danger of such practices further emphasize the need for abolition. Among the Maasai, for example, women who were “uncut” would not be married, and their children would be seen as illegitimate within the community. Men, now showing their support for the abandonment of the practice, implicitly (and hopefully, explicitly) address the legitimacy and acceptance of “uncut” women. Of course, this will help future generations. Yet, we must also consider those individuals who have been shunned or displaced in the past because of their unwillingness to undergo the cutting. I am interested in your thoughts on this: Do you believe that we will see these communities welcoming previously shunned women back into their fold?

 

References

Batha, E. (2018, February 6). Female Genital Mutilation is a Man’s Issue Too: Kenyan Maasai Activist. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-fgm-maasai/female-genital-mutilation-is-a-mans-issue-too-kenyan-maasai-activist-idUSKBN1FQ2QY

Beasley, T.M. (2014). The Station of Female Genital Mutilation in the Yorubaland Belief System. East Carolina University: Greenville, NC. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Wodon, Q., & Leye, E. (2017, February 6). Ending Female Genital Mutilation – Why Education Works. Retrieved from Global Partnership for Education: https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/ending-female-genital-mutilation-why-education-works

 

Firsthand Experience with MeToo

As someone who is considered a leader in the community, I encountered a woman who shared with me that she had been touched inappropriately by a well respected local professional. This took place in a clinical practice, where she works as a para professional. She was prepping this man as a patient for an annual exam and, according to her, he reached out and placed his hand on her hips, giving her a few short pats there. She expressed to me how shocked she was when he did this, clearly recognizing it as inappropriate. She didn’t say anything, but immediately after told the owner of as well as the manager of the practice.

The patient was a friend of the owner’s and also a practicing physician. They both practiced in different fields and often patronized one another for an exchange of services. This fact was known, so this patient was viewed as one of the owner’s personal friends. Upon hearing of this inappropriate behavior, as reported by the employee, the owner deeply apologized for this behavior, also denouncing this man as a real friend. He explained that this man was a bit of a jerk and should not have done that. He apologized and expressed how sorry he was that it had happened. The manager, upon hearing the report, also offered a heartfelt apology, expressing how inappropriate this behavior was. The woman who experienced this just cried and the issue was taken no further.

As this story is being told to me, I am becoming deeply bothered. I’m not only upset that this happened, but that no one in leadership took any further action to bring it to this man’s attention – making it so our level of accountability to one another as humans has no chance of being exacted in this situation. By them simply apologizing on this man’s behalf, they excused him from the conversation. I expressed that I thought the man who committed the act as well as the owner and manager needed to all be addressed. I committed to getting involved to ensure that this happened. I took the man’s name and left the conversation to plan my next steps.

The next day a received a message from this woman, asking me to please not do anything. The message included how she didn’t want anything to jeopardize her job and how HIPAA regulations say that she should not have even shared this information with me. Upon reading this, I become more bothered. I began to consider how this system of domination culture is so strong that it hinders a person’s ability to expect and, if necessary, even demand for basic human respect to take priority over social hierarchy. I also realized that this woman had suffered a loss of power and agency. Even in my pursuit to help, if I brushed her fears aside and simply took charge of her situation, I too would be in a sense, taking power from her again – another powerful man taking ownership of something very personal and private to her, and without her full consent. I reached back out to her and let her know that it was not my intention to be overpowering in her situation, that I was glad she shared it with me, and that I’d be here to support if she decided to take any further action. I didn’t quite know what else to do. I really question this entire system though.

There is a deep play culture of pay equity and lack of advancement that induces a long term sense of powerlessness in working class people. Single moms who have taken on the burden of providing for their family, but who have also sacrificed advancement in exchange for stability, are trapped in feelings of powerless. Sexual misconduct in the workplace is sort of sponsored by this larger system of domination culture in the workplace. There are so many ways to challenge it and I don’t feel like we do enough on a consistent basis. We only appear to want to point fingers at the misconduct, but have yet to turn our attentions to the larger system at work.

Anti-Lynching Memorial to Open: What would Ida B. Wells Barnett say?

This new memorial will open in Montgomery Alabama this year, and it has some unusual aspects to it:

https://eji.org/national-lynching-memorial

We have studied Ida B. Wells Barnett’s campaign to end lynching and the stark descriptions of those cases. I wonder how she would respond.

And in case you didn’t know, in 2005, the U.S. Congress did finally apologize for never outlawing lynching. But it still has never passed a law against it. The first bill to outlaw it was introduced in 1918.

Using Fashion To Keep Women From Sex Trafficking

After traveling to India and meeting women who were forced to sell their bodies in order to provide for their families, Shannon Keith decided to invest $25,000 of her own money to make a change. Embracing the beautiful patterns of the culture in India, she created a business model that would employ these impoverished women and give them an opportunity to live a different life. While the original intent was to provide sewing jobs, the company has developed into so much more. Through partnerships, the company, Sudara, has been able to provide training for careers in nursing, IT, cosmetology, custom tailoring, and others. These opportunities has allowed the women to move up in the company and even become entrepreneurs themselves.

 

Without any prior experience in the fashion industry, Shannon Keith created a platform to give women in India an chance to escape the brothels and a second chance to live life. She is an inspiration as a female entrepreneur with a business model aimed at uplifting women in a country ridden with sex trafficking and slavery.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/eshachhabra/2018/01/31/this-female-founder-is-using-fashion-to-keep-women-from-sex-trafficking/#ea75673113e8

https://www.sudara.org

 

Taylor Hilliard

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