abusharaf - rogaia mustafa abusharaf Virtuous Cuts Female...

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A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 12.1 (2001) d i f f e r e n c e s : rogaia mustafa abusharaf Virtuous Cuts: Female Genital Circumcision in an African Ontology The only basis of power is “virtue.” Bourdieu (194) M uch has been written on gender violence in Africa. In this burgeoning literature, African women are repeatedly painted as downtrodden, forlorn, helpless casualties of male dominance. Their con- F nement i n ant iquated customs and cu ltu ral pract ices is v iewed as pu issant testimony to their eternal vassalage to patriarchy and, consequently, of their subjugation within both the so-called “public” and “private” spheres. This view is exempliF ed in the following passage from the Hosken Report: Genital and Sexual Mutilation of Females : [Africa] is a region where absolute patriarchy is the rule, where women are deprived of property and land rights, where polyg- amy and wife abuse are the rule and where male domination is absolute both in the village as well as in national governments. It is, therefore, clear that men are responsible for the worsen- ing conditions in Africa: women and children are the abused and voiceless victims. The time to blame colonial powers is long since over—but the time for African men to take a look at
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difference s 113 themselves as persons and human beings in our modern world is long overdue. (Hosken 69) When the report discusses female circumcision, it treats it as the violent sexual mutilation of females and contends that the operation has been perpetuated by the male-dominated tribal societies of Africa to suppress women’s sexuality. To readers of Fran Hosken’s Report , Esther Hicks’s Inf bulation: Female Mutilation in Islamic Northeastern A±rica , or Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar’s Warrior Marks: Female Genital Mutilation and the Sexual Blinding o± Women , the tyranny of patriarchy and the oppressive nature of gender relations in African cultures are evidenced most dramatically in the cultural practice of female circumcision. These representations stress a notion of patriarchy in which the African woman is seen as wholly subservient, passive, “voiceless”: someone whose sexual and reproductive potential is controlled by men and whose genitals are mutilated in silence and without protest. However, as the narratives below make clear, African women, not men, insist on circumcising their daugh- ters. Through ritual performance, these women ensure the transmission of cultural ethos within their lifetimes. As philosopher Diana Meyers argues, “many Euro-Americans might doubt that there is any basis for The women of Douroshab.
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114 Virtuous Cuts ascribing autonomy to women whose cultures mandate [female genital mutilation]. Yet, the feminist literature on the [practice] provides ample evidence that many exercise effective agency with respect to this practice.
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abusharaf - rogaia mustafa abusharaf Virtuous Cuts Female...

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