Taking Sides Essay
Discussion Points Assignment: Issue #18 Should Female Circumcision be Banned? Summary: The main issue being discussed in the Taking Sides article is that of whether or not it would be right for anthropologists to work to eliminate the practice of female circumcision.
This culturally debatable topic was discussed by professor of the history and philosophy of science Merrilee H. Salmon and Professor of anthropology Elliot P. Skinner; Both taking on very different sides in their discussion on the topic. Salmon argues that Anthropologists should work to eliminate such practice due to her argument that “…clitoridectomy (female genital mutilation) violates the rights of the women on whom it is performed. ” Also, Professor Salmon brings up the possibility that genital mutilation could very well be a way for males to control women within their society and promote the practice of inequality.
On the contrary, Professor Skinner believes that such cultural practices should not be eliminated and “…accuses feminists who want to abolish clitoridectomy of being ethnocentric. ” Professor Skinner attempts to cover the cultural aspect of this issue, implying that African women themselves volunteer to perform clitoridectomy and decodes the cultural meaning behind such practice. Such cultural meaning is that of male initiation (later on in marriage) and the transformation of girls into adulthood.
Textbook Concept: An example from the book that most closely could relate to this TS article begins on page 313 with the constructing religious justifications for violence; this section gives examples of massacres and wars being justified by religion, as in Professor Skinner’s argument which implies that these practices are to be culturally justified. Ethnographic Example: The article gives a very clear explanation that in some African culture (Kenya, Kikuyu Tribe) “no proper kikuyu would dream of marrying a girl who has not been circumcised” (Kenyatta 1938).
And although the medical dangers of such rituals are evident, this practice is still performed amongst African cultures. My position: After reading and researching more about this topic, I found it difficult to side with Professor Skinner and his argument on trying to understand the cultural meaning behind this ritual. Nonetheless, the process through which girls are put through is painful and almost inhumane.
Young girls are lied to in order to perform this type of ritual and then held down or sometimes even tied down to perform this procedure without any type of anesthesia. Culture or not, I believe there must be another, healthier way to help such a process. Instead of banning it, the process could potentially be modified for it to be medically correct as long as the women are still willing to be put through such a horrific procedure.
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