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Feminism Friday: SotBO (Statements of the bleedin’ obvious)

Rational people often assume that some opinions and judgements are so obviously part of their worldview that they really don’t need to be said. Unfortunately, some maliciously disruptive people take delight in assuming that if something has not been clearly stated then they are safe in assuming the worst of others, even when such assumptions are logically perverse and deliberately inflammatory.

It seems a transparently clear expectation that if a person already knows that one supports issues A and C and opposes issues X and Z, then they ought to conclude that one is likely to also oppose issue Y and also support issue B. Indeed, it is a textbook example of logical inference.

However, some folks, for ideological reasons, are so invested in performing a gloating gotcha dance that they ignore all the precepts of logical inference and triumphantly announce that they have caught one out, oh yes indeed, in not jumping through the denunciation hoops with sufficient spangles and spotlights that they couldn’t possibly miss it. Silly feminists, we forgot to drumroll the denunciations.

So, just for the benefit of ideologues (and you know who you are) here is a non-exhaustive list of things that feminists denounce/decry/despise:

Oppressions, Cruelties, Exploitations and Harms:

    e.g.

  • murder
  • concentration camps
  • torture
  • kicking puppies
  • liars
  • theft
  • kidnapping
  • child sexual abuse
  • genocide
  • unjust wars
  • coercion of any kind, but specifically
    • forced marriages
    • forced sexual intercourse
    • forced childbirth
    • forced surgery
      • forced abortion
      • forced female circumcision of any degree
      • routine maternal episiotomies
      • routine caesarean sections
    • forced mental health “treatments” used as social control of non-violent people transgressing social norms [Reference (pdf)]
      • ECT (electro-convulsive therapy)
      • involuntary “commitment” to mental institutions
      • compulsory drug regimes under threat of institutionalisation for non-compliance
  • cosmetic Western vaginal labiaplasty
  • female genital cutting more damaging than W.H.O. Type I)
    • i.e. radical clitoridectomies
    • i.e. clitoral excision
    • i.e. infibulation
  • non-evidence-based obstetric practises
  • rapists
  • paedophiles
  • terrorists
  • authoritarians
  • executions for adultery
  • prison rape
  • restricting female autonomy
  • threatening women’s safety
  • despotic dictators

Irritations:

    e.g.

  • anti-feminist trolls

Believing that the above practises, persons and systems are dangerous/harmful/wrong and need to be eliminated does not of course mean that feminists therefore favour a military solution as the only or best elimination method, mostly because of the huge unlikelihood that armed intervention could possibly be the least harmful course for women caught up in these oppressive and harmful situations. How is a woman in a forced marriage helped by a bomb dropped on her village that kills her?

This list above is not a comprehensive list, seeing as feminists generally denounce/decry/despise most oppressions, cruelties, exploitations and harms that a rational and compassionate person would denounce/decry/despise. Sometimes, some feminists deeply involved in partisan politics might denounce/decry/despise some practice/cause/person that other feminists support/admire. This happens because feminists are not the Borg Hivemind.

P.S. Feminists are generally in favour of rainbows, ponies and fluffy kittens.

P.P.S. In the specific case of FGM, feminist and broader Western denunciations have been shown as counterproductive compared to the proven gradual effectiveness of culturally sensitive education programmes. As most feminists would rather see communities and generations educated away from the tradition than seek personal plaudits for loud denunciations which impede proven programs, feminists instead donate money and volunteer time to the organisations which are performing educational outreach and support.

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28 comments on “Feminism Friday: SotBO (Statements of the bleedin’ obvious)

  1. Thanks for that link. On reading it, I’m against Type I FGM too. Why would anyone do that?

    In favour, however, of gradual educational programs, as you say. But feel strongly that said programs should educate communities against performing surgery with no conceivable positive value, plus the obvious negative that it will make orgasm (even) more difficult, or impossible, for women to achieve

  2. Type I genital cutting is often a simple nick/notch of the labia as an initiation into womanhood, or a trimming of the clitoral hood (simple clitoridectomy).

    Simple clitoridectomy actually increases sexual sensitivity, rather as penile circumcision increases sexual sensitivity is very similiar to typical male circumcision (which has its own controversies, see ballgame’s comments below). Radical clitoridectomy starts excising clitoral tissue rich in nerve ends, which is why the distinction is made. It is problematic that WHO’s definition of Type I appears to not make a distinction which is very important to some of the cultures involved.

    (Edited to reflect better information from commentors – new text in italics)

  3. … penile circumcision increases sexual sensitivity.

    It does no such thing. Writing in the British Journal of Urology, C.J. Cold and J.R. Taylor examine the neurological impact of circumcision:

    Surgical amputation of the prepuce removes many of the fine-touch corpuscular receptors from the penis and clitoris. In males, circumcision is essentially a partial penile mucosectomy. The residual exposed glans mucosa becomes abnormally keratinized with an increase in the number of cell layers in glanular mucosal epithelium. [Note: in other words, the skin on the penile head thickens and becomes less sensitive. --ballgame]

    Although the circumcision scar has not been thoroughly studied, there are several different theories as to what happens when the nerves of the sensory receptors of the prepuce are transected during circumcision. Some have speculated that after circumcision, these nerves regenerate and develop new encapsulated receptors [92]. According to this theory, there would be a significant loss of penile sensitivity after circumcision, but this loss would not be apparent 6 months after the circumcision [92]. This notion is in direct conflict with human and animal studies that show when a nerve is transected, and the distal tissue is amputated, the proximal nerve undergoes acute axonal swelling [93-95]. After acute injury, the axon begins to sprout and branch at the injury site. Without the distal nerve, this frustrated attempt at re-innervation results in a bulbous, disordered tangle of axons, Schwann cells and fibrous tissue. Histology of the male circumcision scar shows amputation neuromas, Schwann cell proliferation and the bulbous collection of variably sized neurites. Amputation neuromas do not mediate normal sensation and are notorious for generating pain. Animal studies show that extirpation of the external genitalia results in acute retrograde degeneration of the nerve axon back to the spinal cord [96]. Therefore, the changes in circumcised male sexual behaviour [81] may be related to a central nervous system alteration by retrograde axonal degeneration, or to peripheral nervous system damage by loss of the prepuce ridged band and amputation neuroma. It is assumed that amputation neuromas also form at the female circumcision scar, although we are unaware of a formal histology study.

    Although foreskin restoration cannot regenerate dartos muscle or encapsulated sensory receptors, it appears that the residual stump of prepuce could be stretched to provide partial covering of the coronal sulcus and corona. This re-covering of the corona, combined with a reversion of the epithelium to the normal squamous mucosa of the glans, may account for the improved sensitivity reported by men who have nonsurgically restored their foreskins [97].

    I’m sorry that’s so long, but I suspected anything short of a direct quote from a medical journal might be dismissed out of hand. For the record, I think cutting the genitalia of underaged boys and girls is injurious and should be opposed. Yes, most forms of FGM are significantly worse than male circumcision, but they’re both bad.

  4. Thanks for the cite, ballgame, and I’m interested to see better information than I had. I’d hoped to avoid the male circumcision controversy but I was obviously over-optimistic.

    I’m not a fan of (non-therapeutic) male circumcision either, but that’s my personal view and not necessarily shared by all other feminists (or non-feminists or anti-feminists). It’s a hugely fraught area, much like FGM. It’s important to understand what procedures are and are not entailed in variations.

    Bottom line: I don’t see why simple Type 1 (female) genital cutting should be outlawed if male circumcision is not outlawed. Outlaw both (in childhood) or neither.

    As for voluntary adult genital cutting, it’s on a par with genital/nipple piercings, non-therapeutic labioplasty and breast implants etc as an adult autonomy question. I can criticise someone’s choice to have such procedures as harmful, and point out the risks of medical complications, but should they be legally constrained? Coercion is the problem to be addressed.

    (Edited for clarity, inserted text italicised in brackets)

  5. I don’t see why simple Type 1 genital cutting should be outlawed if male circumcision is not outlawed. Outlaw both or neither.

    My knee jerk reaction would be to outlaw both (for those underage), but some Jews might see the criminalization of male circumcision to be highly threatening to their cultural identity. Other approaches are probably needed.

    I completely agree with your last point. What adults do to their own bodies is their business AFAIC.

  6. some Jews might see the criminalization of male circumcision to be highly threatening to their cultural identity

    Muslims also follow God’s injunction to Abraham about male circumcision, as do many Christians. It’s a broad African tradition outside the Abrahamic religions as well (animists etc). There are many, many groups who would find a prohibition on infant male circumcision or puberty rite male circumcision very threatening to their cultural identity.

    So many people are automatically very respectful of issues surrounding male circumcision because of its Judeo-Christian heritage, even though it is a much broader tradition than just Judeo-Christian. Hardly anyone is advocating punitive interventions to restrict male circumcision practises. Yet advocating punitive intervention is the first response of many people to the FGM issue. Why is it assumed that punitive intervention is inappropriate for eradicating male circumcision but totally appropriate for eradicating female circumcision?

  7. Ballgame, just to be clear, my last question wasn’t aimed at you (or L. Bowman) but at the broader group of people advocating eradication of FGM as justification for current military ventures.

  8. P.S. Feminists are generally in favour of rainbows, ponies and fluffy kittens.

    Eh, I like ‘em all but I wouldn’t say I’m in favor of them. Kittens are adorable, but kittens are a sign that mommy cats aren’t getting spayed. This feminist is in favor of spay and neuter programs, and sorry to say it, but I’m also in favor of cat abortion. We have too many homeless pets. Far too many to be ooing and ahhing over cute little kittens who will grow up to be neglected, abused, or homeless cats.

  9. Elaine, does this mean you’re resigning from the Hivemind? :)

    Your point just goes to show the problem with simple soundbite solutions. Even fluffy kittens are a more complex issue than they first appear.

  10. I knew the idea of this post wasn’t original, but I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it before. PunkAssBlog has a Permanent Liberal Condemnation Checklist which is more politically partisan. (Not all feminists are leftist.)

    Punkass Marc clearly failed to condemn running with scissors though, so what does he know?

  11. YOU FORGOT PORNOGRAPHY!!!

    Check out MY BLOG, if you have any doubts about why feminists should care about pornography.

  12. I think “pornography” falls under coercion of any kind :p Although it might be argued that while porn is a feminist issue, clearly not all feminists “denounce/decry/despise” pornography, which is why it’s not on the list.

  13. Exactly why I didn’t include it. Not every feminist issue is a matter of universal condemnation.

    It would be fair to say that most feminists are extremely skeptical of the sex-industry because of the general trend of coercion of the workers involved as well as women-as-sex-class issues, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to all possible forms of pornography/erotica.

  14. “It would be fair to say that most feminists are extremely skeptical of the sex-industry because of the general trend of coercion of the workers involved as well as women-as-sex-class issues, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to all possible forms of pornography/erotica.”

    Yeah, that’s a pretty fair assessment of my opinion. I have oodles of criticism for the pornography industry as it exists today (not to mention the rough female equivalent in the romance novel department), but the basic concept of sexual entertainment doesn’t bother me, as long as everything is safe, sane and (most importantly) consenting.

  15. [...] disgusted by the cluelessness and miles to go before you take the first step. Final straw was this post at Feminism 101, detailing all the bleeding obvious feminist denunciations like female [...]

  16. some Jews might see the criminalization of male circumcision to be highly threatening to their cultural identity

    So? Religion is not a get out of jail free card.

  17. [...] not. For future reference about the basic belief system of feminism, here’s a link to “Statements of the Bleedin’ Obvious” over at the Feminism 101 blog. Included in the list of things and people that feminism and [...]

  18. [...] FAQ: SotBO (Statements of the bleedin’ obvious) « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog “Silly feminists, we forgot to drumroll the denunciations. So, just for the benefit of ideologues (and you know who you are) here is a non-exhaustive list of things that feminists denounce/decry/despise.” (tags: feminism blogging ideology) [...]

  19. Forgive me for going back to circumcision, but, as you said, you don’t have to be for banning a practice to be against. So why not just go ahead and list ALL female circumcision (before a reasonable age of consent) as something that feminists are against, even if they disagree on whether it should be banned? I think it would be an accurate statement; would you not?

    And further to the point, it seems to me that the vast majority of discussion on infant male circumcision, when it’s actually about that and not about comparison to FGM, is against the practice. See the comments on these posts from Jill and Ampersand. There’s always heated discussion about criminalization and where religion fits into it (see this very thread), but as a PRACTICE, the consensus seems to be that it’s harmful, and I would argue, rooted in teh Patriarchy.

    The only blogger I’ve seen as “pro-circ” is Hugo Schwyzer, who’s entire argument seems to be “It worked for me!”. And then there’s ginmar, who seems to be of the opinion that discussing male circumcision, at all, necessarily detracts from discussions of FGM. Both arguments are discussed in Jill’s post.

    As a side note, I think the FGM/Male Circ issue would be great FAQ fodder, if the tongue-in-cheek title of Jill’s post is any indication of how much it comes up.

  20. Calessa, that is a mischaracterisation of ginmar’s stated position, as anyone who follows your link will see.

  21. I agree with Lauredhel regarding ginmar’s post – that’s very much a mischaracterisation.

  22. You’re right, that particular statement was unfounded, and I apologize. The bigger mistake may have been trying to characterize someone else’s view at all, but I was looking for a dissenting voice. I invite ginmar to correct me. :)

    I don’t want that to kill the discussion though. Am I correct in observing solidarity of the hive-mind against minor female circumcision/male circumcision? As it turns out, i’ve been wrong before. :)

  23. Calessa, in my experience most feminists object to body modifications performed on non-adults, particularly procedures that are painful and/or mutilating and whose function is to show that the child conforms to gender roles/religious roles.

    Of course, some tribal practises in some parts of the world have puberty rites that include some external genital nicking, often for both sexes, that is no more traumatising or mutilating than piercing one’s ears (provided no sepsis sets in). Hard to get too worked up about that sort of cutting.

    I’ll note that while working in hospitals I have been aware of more than one case where an adult male had a penile condition which was improved/healed by undergoing a circumcision.

  24. particularly procedures that are painful and/or mutilating and whose function is to show that the child conforms to gender roles/religious roles.

    Thank you, this is an angle I hadn’t really considered. With most of the more radical female genital cutting, the purpose is to show that the child conforms to her gender role. When this is not the case, and the harm is small (the rites of passage you mentioned), I can accept the practice. Hell, I’d say it makes a lot of sense even, as rituals go. I don’t think most people enjoy their rites of passage much anyway, but having an everlasting symbol of coming into sexual maturity, rather than some pictures of a party, might be a good thing.

    As for infant male circumcision, the outcome (for the boy) is not really a statement about how he conforms to his gender role, at least in a secular family/community. That may be a source of all the outrage when FGM is compared to male circumcision, and rightly so. Men are not defined by their cut-status. (and of course there’s the horrific difference in pain and suffering)

    But, as ballgame pointed out, IMC is painful to the child and damaging to the adult he will become. It is not cosmetic and harmless like I assume these rites of passage are. In the US at least, it is done at alarming rates, for stupid reasons (non-evidence-based health claims, boys can’t clean themselves, intact penises look gross), and is something that girls aren’t expected to go through.

    A final note: IMC has plenty of vocal detractors, and it’s in decline largely because of them. Baby boys don’t really need feminists to protect them from this practice. My only wish was to recognize that we’re actually largely in agreement on the issue, since it seems to be the case, and I believe the recognition would reduce the incidence of FGM thread jacking.

  25. [...] Feminism Friday: SotBO (Statements of the bleedin’ obvious) « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog Believing that the above practises, persons and systems are dangerous/harmful/wrong and need to be eliminated does not of course mean that feminists therefore favour a military solution as the only or best elimination method, mostly because of the huge unlikelihood that armed intervention could possibly be the least harmful course for women caught up in these oppressive and harmful situations. How is a woman in a forced marriage helped by a bomb dropped on her village that kills her? (tags: feminism intersectionality feminism101) [...]

  26. [...] (Statement of the Bleedin’ Obvious, which useful acronym I lifted from here): Most men with sick partners do not leave their partners. About 80% of men with sick partners stay [...]

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