One of the biggest problems the world has faced since the beginning of man is the intolerance that many hold toward the diverse cultural and religious beliefs that are practiced by different societies around the world. Some differences are trivial, such as the Indian belief that cows are sacred and should not be eaten, that French women don’t shave their armpits, and the belief in different gods, but there have been few topics as controversial as that of female body modification, or very commonly known as female circumcision. To those brought up being taught that women should always be seen as objects that should not be harmed, female genital mutilation seems a practice too vile to even consider. Many have argued that “FGM has disastrous health effects, combined with the social injustices it perpetuates constitute a barrier to the overall African development” (Shweder) and that it was “devised [as a] brutal means… to curb female sexual desire and response.” There is such great opposition in the United States alone that in 1996, Congress passed a ban of FGM as an amendment to an omnibus appropriations bill (Smith Obolor). It is without a doubt that to many, FGM does seem as a brutal practice that was implemented into African traditions to further subjugate women; however, the anthropological perspective proves otherwise. By definition, cultural relativism is a method which anthropologists use to interpret specific beliefs and practices in the context of the culture in which they belong (Lavenda 22-23), a technique that most of the general public seems to either forget or dub as ludicrous. However, one can’t judge another without at least knowing the historical context or the perception and real intention behind any practice, and at the very least one does not have the right to make assumptions on a subject they aren’t educated on, have never seen it, or have never experienced it.
Female body modification, or female body mutilation as it is called by...
Cited: Lavenda, Robert H. and Emily A. Schultz. Core Concepts in Cultural Anthropology. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
Shweder, Richard A. "What About "Female Genital Mutilation"? And Why Understanding Culture Matters in the First Place." 12 December 2007 .
Smith Obolor, Regina. "Law and Persuasion in the Elimination of Female Genital Modification." 2001. 12 December 2007 .
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