This page is not intended to deny or minimise in any way the shocking pain and harm of FGC.
Many people emphatically deny any similarity between Female Genital Cutting (FGC) and Male Genital Cutting (or Mutilation) (MGC, circumcision). Here is a comparison:
|Of the genitals?||YES||YES|
|At parents' behest?||YES||YES|
|Removing erogenous tissue?||YES||YES|
|Justified by aesthetics?||YES||YES|
|Justified by supposed health benefits?||YES||YES|
|Justified by religion?||YES||YES|
|Justified by sexual effects?||YES||YES|
|Justified by custom?||YES||YES|
|Justified by conformity?||YES||YES|
|Effects minimised by its supporters?||YES||YES|
|Performed by its adult victims?||YES||YES|
|Can cause harm?||YES||YES|
|Very severe damage?||USUALLY||SOMETIMES|
|Can cause death?||YES||YES|
|Legal in Western countries?||NO||YES|
Anthropologist Kristen Bell has written an important article analysing why it is hard for people in circumcising cultures to make the link between FGC and MGC, in terms of our construction of gender:
Ultimately, the message is clear: genital mutilation is gendered. These male and female genital operations are not merely seen to differ in degree, they are seen to differ in kind. Thus, despite the heterogeneous voices speaking out against female circumcision, a common thread unites many: all forms of female genital cutting are seen to constitute a sexual mutilation and violation of bodily integrity, and male genital operations are dismissed as benign.
Another table listing similarities, compiled by Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, a notable campaigner against FGC and MGC, can be found on the FGC Education and Networking pages.
An article defending FGC using many of the above arguments, written by a Nigerian doctor in the US, is on another page. It is NOT posted to defend FGC but to illustrate the indivisibility of our cause.
A website promoting Malaysia has a page beginning "Among Muslims, circumcision is a must for both male and female." The rest of the page is an admiring description of male circumcision only.
FGC is practised only where MGC is practised, with one exception (an African tribe that has recently abandoned MGC). There is a good reason for this. It takes typically over 14 days of vicious trying for an African man to make his new bride fit him, according to a Somalian (infibulated) lecturer at the 7th Symposium on Genital Integrity, in Washington, D.C. in April 2002. This would not be possible if the groom had an intact penis.
Historically, FGC was known as "female circumcision" when it was regarded as a foreign custom of no particular interest. The change in name to "Female Genital Mutilation" has been one of the greatest levers in making people understand the full atrocity of it. Now Intactivists are attempting to do the same with Male Genital Mutilation.
FGC is not only tribal:
"Indicative of the regard in which female circumcision is held is the decision made by the National Blue Shield Association on May 18, 1977, which stated that henceforth they would no longer pay for a number of procedures considered "obsolete or ineffective," such as ... female circumcision."
Wallerstein, Edward, "Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy", 1980, p. 185.
"The same category of diseases having their origin in nerve-waste, caused by a pathological foreskin in the male, may be duplicated in the female, from practically the same cause, and in addition, other diseases peculiar to females."
Benjamin E. Dawson, MD, Kansas City, MO
He claimed to have cured colic in a 3 week old baby, masturbation in a 7 year old, nocturnal enuresis in a 16 year old, nymphomania in a 46 year old, among other "cures".
"If the male needs circumcision for cleanliness and hygiene, why not the female? The procedure is easy. The same reasons that apply for the circumcision of males are generally valid when considered for the female."
C.F. McDonald, MD, Milwaukee, WI
"Redundance or phimosis of the female prepuce can prevent proper enjoyment of sexual relations; yet some modern physicians overlook indications for circumcision. Properly carried out, circumcision should bring improvement to 85-90% of cases - with resulting cure of psychosomatic illness and prevention of divorces."
W.G. Rathmann, MD, Los Angeles, CA
Women’s magazines in the mid 1970s promoted "female circumcision" to enhance women’s sexual pleasure. In October 1973, Playgirl published “Circumcision for Women: The Kindest Cut of All” followed in May 1975 by “$100 Surgery for a Million Dollar Sex Life”.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued separate policies on MGC and FGC. They are contrasted side by side on this site.
Articles like this are common:
Why Female Genital Mutilation Is More Severe
© Brandi Rhoades
Male circumcision still exists in many parts of the post-industrial world while female circumcision does not and is at the center of many inflammatory news articles. Some people argue the practices are the same [Hardly anyone puts it as simplistically as "the same"] and that circumcision done on girls is reviled only because it occurs primarily in Africa. [Or rather, because male circumcision is familiar but female genital cutting is perceived as "alien".] Learning more about the practices will help understand why the two practices are not equivalent.
One of the primary differences in the two practices is that while male circumcision happens around the world but is more common in Western nations, FGM is almost exclusively a phenomenon in Africa. [Wrong: Male Genital Cutting is prevalent only in the Muslim world, the US, the Philippines, South Korea, tribal Africa, Israel, eastern Polynesia and outback Australia. Female Genital Cutting is very common in Indonesia and Malaysia.] Most people in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which includes millions of people in the United States, believe in male circumcision to be done shortly after birth. [Wrong: Christianity has condemned circumcision from its beginnings.] In parts of Africa, FGM is a religious ritual, though its roots most often are cultural.
Male circumcision happens under medical supervision, unlike the majority of female circumcision rituals. [Wrong: male circumcision is widespread under tribal conditions in Africa and performed by non-medical people throughout the Islamic world. FGM is performed by medical personnel in Indonesia and Malaysia.] Female genital mutilation typically occurs in a village where there is no medical care. The girls do not receive any anesthesia, which is rarely the case with male circumcision, and the instruments are not sterilized. FGM also tends to be carried out by people trained as the village’s “circumciser,” but not by someone with medical training, meaning the cuts are jagged an inexact.
Male babies in the United States also receive follow-up medical care and can get treatment should any problems arise from the circumcision while girls who are the victims of FGM do not have this opportunity because of poor healthcare in areas where it is performed. Girls die or face infections each year because of the lack of follow-up care available for complications from genital mutilation. [34 boys died from tribal circumcision in 2008 in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.]
FGM involves the cutting off of entire portions of the female anatomy. For boys, the removal of the foreskin is more about removing an “extra” piece of skin than removing a center of pleasure. [Wrong: The foreskin is not "extra" it is integral to the male sexual system. FGM may involve no more than a token nick.] Removing the clitoris, which occurs in many FGM rituals, is done to help ensure that girls do not derive any pleasure from their sexuality, thus encouraging them to remain pure. The male equivalent of FGM would be the removal of the tip of the penis up to and including the removal of the penis and scrotum. Female genital mutilation is far more severe than male circumcision.
Many in the U.S. argue against male circumcision as well. Because FGM is more severe does not diminish their arguments. Male circumcision very well may not be a good idea and may fade out, but that does not negate the fact that the female version is not equivalent in terms of immediate result or long-term consequence.
[This article ignores any ethical or human rights issues involved in removing healthy, sensitive tissue from a non-consenting person. A pity, because of course it would find the case against Female Genital Cutting very strong on that basis alone.]
The copyright of the article Male and Female Circumcision Basics in Gender Inequality is owned by Brandi Rhoades. Permission to republish Male and Female Circumcision Basics in print or online must be granted by the author in writing. [This is fair use. The original site does not allow comments.]
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