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Anatomy of an Outrage: Female Genital Cutting and the Challenge of Building Multicultural Democracies

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Anatomy of an Outrage:




                             Lisa Wade, PhD
lisa-wade.com • @lisawade • facebook.com/lisawadephd

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   In the name of justice, multiculturalists advocate
    tolerance of differences between groups.

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   In the name of justice, multiculturalists advocate
    tolerance of differences between groups.

   But they often pa...

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Anatomy of an Outrage: Female Genital Cutting and the Challenge of Building Multicultural Democracies

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In response to requests from Somali immigrants to “circumcise” both their daughters and their sons, doctors at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle considered offering a procedure in local clinics. The “nick” would consist of a one-centimeter incision in the clitoral hood of girls. This lecture tells the story of this provocative idea and the battle between feminists and physicians that ensued. In addition to being fascinating in its own right, the tale has important lessons. In particular, it illuminates the power of and problems with politicizing “culture,” with important implications of interest to anyone who cares about building multicultural democracies.

In response to requests from Somali immigrants to “circumcise” both their daughters and their sons, doctors at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle considered offering a procedure in local clinics. The “nick” would consist of a one-centimeter incision in the clitoral hood of girls. This lecture tells the story of this provocative idea and the battle between feminists and physicians that ensued. In addition to being fascinating in its own right, the tale has important lessons. In particular, it illuminates the power of and problems with politicizing “culture,” with important implications of interest to anyone who cares about building multicultural democracies.

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Anatomy of an Outrage: Female Genital Cutting and the Challenge of Building Multicultural Democracies

  1. 1. Anatomy of an Outrage: Lisa Wade, PhD lisa-wade.com • @lisawade • facebook.com/lisawadephd
  2. 2.  In the name of justice, multiculturalists advocate tolerance of differences between groups.
  3. 3.  In the name of justice, multiculturalists advocate tolerance of differences between groups.  But they often pay more attention to the differences between groups than those within them.
  4. 4.  In the name of justice, multiculturalists advocate tolerance of differences between groups.  But they often pay more attention to the differences between groups than those within them.  E.g., some groups are (more) oppressive to women (than other groups).
  5. 5.  In the name of justice, multiculturalists advocate tolerance of differences between groups.  But they often pay more attention to the differences between groups than those within them.  E.g., some groups are (more) oppressive to women (than other groups).  Tolerating differences, then, may mean tolerating the oppression of women.
  6. 6.  In the name of justice, multiculturalists advocate tolerance of differences between groups.  But they often pay more attention to the differences between groups than those within them.  E.g., some groups are (more) oppressive to women (than other groups).  Tolerating differences, then, may mean tolerating the oppression of women.  So who’s justice is really being served by multiculturalism?
  7. 7. What is it?
  8. 8. What is it?  Range of genital cutting procedures.
  9. 9. What is it?  Range of genital cutting procedures.  Done for a wide range of reasons.
  10. 10. What is it?  Range of genital cutting procedures.  Done for a wide range of reasons.  Under a wide range of conditions.
  11. 11. What is it?  Range of genital cutting procedures.  Done for a wide range of reasons.  Under a wide range of conditions.  Occurs in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
  12. 12. What is it?  Range of genital cutting procedures.  Done for a wide range of reasons.  Under a wide range of conditions.  Occurs in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Considered “mutilation” and a “harmful traditional practice” by the United Nations.
  13. 13. What is it?  Range of genital cutting procedures.  Done for a wide range of reasons.  Under a wide range of conditions.  Occurs in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Considered “mutilation” and a “harmful traditional practice” by the United Nations.  Why female genital cutting?
  14. 14. “This court attempts to respect traditional cultures… but this is cruel and serves no known medical purpose. It's obviously a deeply ingrained cultural tradition going back 1,000 years at least.” – Los Angeles Times (Mar. 27th, 1994)
  15. 15.  “Bride Burning” in India happens because India is a bad place.  Cultural explanation  Spousal Murder in the U.S. happens because there are some bad people.  Individualist explanation
  16. 16. REIFIED MODEL DYNAMIC MODEL
  17. 17. REIFIED MODEL DYNAMIC MODEL  Membership is  Membership is unclear. straightforward.
  18. 18. REIFIED MODEL DYNAMIC MODEL  Membership is  Membership is unclear. straightforward.  Groups are homogeneous.  Members differ.
  19. 19. REIFIED MODEL DYNAMIC MODEL  Membership is  Membership is unclear. straightforward.  Groups are homogeneous.  Members differ.  Content is unchanging…  Content changes…  … and universally embraced.  …and is contested.
  20. 20. REIFIED MODEL DYNAMIC MODEL  Membership is  Membership is unclear. straightforward.  Groups are homogeneous.  Members differ.  Content is unchanging…  Content changes…  … and universally embraced.  …and is contested.  Culture is superautonomous.  People are reflective about People are cultural dupes. their cultures.
  21. 21.  Harborview Medical Center  Prides itself on “culturally responsive healthcare”
  22. 22.  Harborview Medical Center  Prides itself on “culturally responsive healthcare”  Large population of Somali immigrants  “yes, and my daughter too”
  23. 23.  Harborview Medical Center  Prides itself on “culturally responsive healthcare”  Large population of Somali immigrants  “yes, and my daughter too”  Response  Focus groups  Ethics committee  Formal proposal
  24. 24.  Harborview Medical Center  Prides itself on “culturally responsive healthcare”  Large population of Somali immigrants  “yes, and my daughter too”  Response  Focus groups  Ethics committee  Formal proposal  Opposition Emerges
  25. 25. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS
  26. 26. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”
  27. 27. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  Bridging procedure
  28. 28. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Symbolic change
  29. 29. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Symbolic change  Somali reflection
  30. 30. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Symbolic change  Somali reflection  Gender equity
  31. 31. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  DEFINITELY “mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Symbolic change  Somali reflection  Gender equity
  32. 32. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  DEFINITELY “mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Slippery slope  Symbolic change  Somali reflection  Gender equity
  33. 33. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  DEFINITELY “mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Slippery slope  Symbolic change  Symbolic persistence  Somali reflection  Gender equity
  34. 34. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  DEFINITELY “mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Slippery slope  Symbolic change  Symbolic persistence  Somali reflection  Somali obedience  Gender equity
  35. 35. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  DEFINITELY “mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Slippery slope  Symbolic change  Symbolic persistence  Somali reflection  Somali obedience  Gender equity  Impossibility of consent
  36. 36. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  DEFINITELY “mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Slippery slope  Symbolic change  Symbolic persistence  Somali reflection  Somali obedience  Gender equity  Impossibility of consent A DYNAMIC MODEL
  37. 37. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  NOT “genital mutilation”  DEFINITELY “mutilation”  Bridging procedure  Slippery slope  Symbolic change  Symbolic persistence  Somali reflection  Somali obedience  Gender equity  Impossibility of consent A DYNAMIC MODEL A REIFIED MODEL
  38. 38. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS
  39. 39. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Reproduced ugly stereotypes
  40. 40. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Reproduced ugly stereotypes  Underestimated the Somali women
  41. 41. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Reproduced ugly stereotypes  Underestimated the Somali women  Didn’t listen to them
  42. 42. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Reproduced ugly stereotypes  Underestimated the Somali women  Didn’t listen to them  Trivialized the abandonment of infibulation
  43. 43. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Reproduced ugly stereotypes  Underestimated the Somali women  Didn’t listen to them  Trivialized the abandonment of infibulation  Does this leave any possibility for meaningful cultural change?
  44. 44. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Overconfident; romanticized  Reproduced ugly stereotypes cultural adaptation  Underestimated the Somali women  Didn’t listen to them  Trivialized the abandonment of infibulation  Does this leave any possibility for meaningful cultural change?
  45. 45. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Overconfident; romanticized  Reproduced ugly stereotypes cultural adaptation  Underestimated the Somali  Perhaps undersold cultural women resilience  Didn’t listen to them  Trivialized the abandonment of infibulation  Does this leave any possibility for meaningful cultural change?
  46. 46. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Overconfident; romanticized  Reproduced ugly stereotypes cultural adaptation  Underestimated the Somali  Perhaps undersold cultural women resilience  Didn’t listen to them  Dismissed the input of other  Trivialized the abandonment experts of infibulation  Does this leave any possibility for meaningful cultural change?
  47. 47. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Overconfident; romanticized  Reproduced ugly stereotypes cultural adaptation  Underestimated the Somali  Perhaps undersold cultural women resilience  Didn’t listen to them  Dismissed the input of other  Trivialized the abandonment experts of infibulation  Trivialized their worries  Does this leave any possibility for meaningful cultural change?
  48. 48. PROPONENTS OPPONENTS  Overconfident; romanticized  Reproduced ugly stereotypes cultural adaptation  Underestimated the Somali  Perhaps undersold cultural women resilience  Didn’t listen to them  Dismissed the input of other  Trivialized the abandonment experts of infibulation  Trivialized their worries  Does this leave any  Can a group be socialized to possibility for meaningful a new way of oppressing cultural change? women?
  49. 49. Lisa Wade, PhD lisa-wade.com • @lisawade • facebook.com/lisawadephd

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