September 13, 2004

Female Circumcision, Part Two

In many Middle Eastern cultures, female circumcision as a tradition continued until the early 1900s. In some areas it is still practiced today.

Female circumcision was a necessary part of a female’s social status, as no Arab male would marry an uncircumcised female. Islamic women would have the clitoris removed as well as having the vaginal opening partially closed. This was in lieu of a chastity belt, and she would be surgically reopened when she married.

The Middle East was not the only area to practice modern mutilation of the female genitalia, however. Up until the late 1950s in America and Britain, there were arguments for removal of the prepuce. In 1958 a medical journal suggested this was a way to decrease female arousal, while another journal advocated the procedure to increase female arousal in wives who could not reach orgasm. Obviously there was a great deal of ignorance about female sexuality in the male-dominated medical community. Women’s liberation in the 60s and 70s cleared away the confusion.

Earlier than this, Victorian-era doctors prescribed the more invasive surgical removal of the ovaries for a wide variety of female complaints—from overeating to irritability to insanity. By 1906, approximately 150,000 American women had their ovaries removed for these types of reasons. Of course, until very recently, many women had hysterectomies unnecessarily. Medical knowledge is always progressing and changing the accepted treatments of various diseases.

Posted by Jennifer at September 13, 2004 03:54 PM


I don't get it. Islam wants to make the whole planet an ideal Islamic state which, by definition, means they want to crap on more than half of the worlds' population in the manner which you describe, yet it's not nice to say there's a little something wrong with Islam. Until I read your post I hadn't realized that this sort of practice existed outside of a few tribal cultures in Africa. So, I'm now less ignorant thanks to you.


Posted by: Rashputin at September 13, 2004 05:05 PM

That's not entirely fair. Islam is as diverse as Christianity. There are groups of Muslims who are highly oppressive towards women. There are groups where women are doctors, lawyers, etc. Suffrage is a different matter.

And female circumcision is by no means widespread in the Islamic world. Just want to clarify that.

Posted by: Jennifer at September 13, 2004 05:30 PM

Well, thanks for clearing it up then. Now I'll just have to ponder the marginal things like seeming to find slavery OK rather than outright mutilation while mulling over the "Religion of Peace".


Posted by: Rashputin at September 13, 2004 08:04 PM

Indeed. :-\

Posted by: Jennifer at September 13, 2004 08:33 PM

Yeah, good thing Christian societies never practiced the objectification of women or other groups. Social status derived through body modification is a complicated enough discussion without unnecessarily dumbing it down with prejudice or introducing unrelated side issues.

Posted by: M at September 14, 2004 01:42 PM