Empowered Circumcised Women - Yes, "crazy as we want to be"! Five good reasons to read SiA Magazine:
How crazy can someone be to start a magazine for "empowered circumcised women"? Who does that? Aren't circumcised women supposed to be "mutilated"? What on earth could be so "empowering" about female circumcision?? Well, about three weeks ago I completed and posted on my website the first issue of SiA and the Shabaka Stone Magazine, a new African feminist and women's lifestyle quarterly designed to give voice to the "silent majority" of circumcised women globally who oppose anti-Female Genital Mutilation campaigns and the war being fought by feminist activists on our behalf. Given my erratic schedule, I only had time to quickly post the promo video on Facebook with a link to the website and digital magazine. The magazine had nearly 1,000 unique views in just a few days. My lead interview first published in NewstimeAfrica (read here) has registered on its own website over 250,000 views since February 6 (International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM). Clearly, SiA Magazine is not such a crazy idea!!! But, the question remains, why should circumcised women care to read SiA Magazine? Ladies, here are five good reasons to embrace yourself:
1. To know the “other side” of the debate on female circumcision.
Many of us come from societies that practice both male and female initiation and circumcision. While on the one hand we are taught that male circumcision is a “good”, hygienic and religiously grounded practice, on the other hand we are told that female circumcision is “bad”, that it is “mutilation” of perfectly “healthy” genitalia and interferes with sexual functioning. We are told further that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of extreme patriarchal control over women and that it must be eradicated with self-righteous, robust anger and urgency. And so, like me, many of you have asked yourselves: How is that my mother, aunties, grandma and other women in my family have been participating in this great crime against women and girls and even subjected me to it? Are these women really acting out of ignorance, shame, oppression, and hopelessness? Why were all the women celebrating and rejoicing during my own ceremony or others I attended?
2. To understand that different women experience different forms of female circumcision in different ways.
Many of us are bombarded with horrific media representations of the most extreme (yet comparatively rare) forms of female circumcision. We don’t recognize ourselves in those images and our experiences are taken completely out of context. According to anti-FGM activists, we supposedly cannot enjoy sex or we have “reduced” feeling. We are said to have all these intractable health problems yet uncircumcised western women are increasingly seeking so-called "vaginoplasties" or "designer vaginas" that look very similar to our supposedly mutilated vaginas. Clearly, these "crazy" women also see and experience the health and aesthetic benefits for themselves!
3. To know the real origins of female circumcision and how it relates to male circumcision in our African religious and cultural contexts.
Unfortunately, the dominant western feminist discourse on female circumcision defines this practice as a (most insidious) form of patriarchal control over female sexuality. This patriarchy narrative has been repeated so often that it seems to be an obvious fact. But, many of us feel intuitively that this doesn’t make sense of our own experiences. Yet we can’t ask our mothers or female elders – many of them don’t know either; they say it’s “tradition”. What circumcised women need to keep in mind (and the media and western feminists will not tell you) is that most African societies that practice female circumcision also uphold subversive ideologies of female empowerment.
4. To be able to hold your own and maintain your self-esteem in the midst of anti-FGM hate campaigns and negative media stereotypes.
Many people see terrifying youtube images of African women and girls being forced, coerced, kidnapped, tricked, held-down and savagely "mutilated" by either eerie looking, cross-eyed men or witch-like, toothless old women. It never occurs to the everyday person going about his or her business in western societies that you - the polite looking African female neighbor, housekeeper, nursing assistant, professor, doctor, scientist or coworker - might be a circumcised woman. While it’s not anyone’s business either way, it is important for you to keep their prejudices in perspective: In the eyes of the enlightened western world, female circumcision or “FGM” affects poor, illiterate, despondent and oppressed African women in some random rural village oceans away. According to this worldview, a woman cannot conceivably be both empowered and circumcised.
5. To appreciate that there are so many options that stop short of “zero-tolerance to FGM” slogans and anti-FGM hate campaigns.
Our more powerful and morally superior western detractors need to take a lesson from the history and experience of homosexuals in their own countries – you simply cannot continue to hate and legislate against the preferences of adults and adolescents who have reached the age of majority to decide for themselves what to do with their own bodies – African women included. You don’t get to legislate your feelings of disgust or apprehension about the practices and preferences of others. This doesn’t mean that as a global society, we (including circumcised African women who are also human beings with free will) should not concern ourselves with the protection of innocent children. What this does mean is that we have to treat all children as equals – irrespective of sex, gender, culture, socioeconomic class, ethnic origin, religion and so on. This means we don’t get to use terms like FGM or MGM or any kind of “mutilation” in order to insist on an age of consent for all non-medically indicated genital surgeries on children.
So, my circumcised sisters, just like much of the western world is only now coming to grips with the humanness of homosexuality and the need to embrace different lifestyle choices, I believe that good-minded, well-meaning people will come to accept that grown African women have the right to choose to uphold whatever forms of female circumcision we may desire for ourselves - whether as a cultural tradition or aesthetic preference, within traditional initiation settings or in hospitals and clinics - and not be judged by those who choose differently. SiA Magazine supports above all the principle of equality - our equality as circumcised women with other adult women and men in the world as well as the equal (not special) treatment of our daughters vis a vis our sons and other children worldwide.
If you are a circumcised woman, you are by African definition empowered and SiA Magazine is especially for you!!!!!
Contact Fuambai Sia Ahmadu:
4/30/2014 10:42:50 pm
I think your objectives are commendable, especially the second. There is a huge difference between an excessively tight infibulation, performed by someone with no formal training and unsterile instruments, in a mud hut (the Western stereotype of female circumcision) and a clitoridectomy, perhaps with removal or trimming of the inner labia, performed by a medical professional in a sterile clinic environment (the reality of the tradition for most girls and women today).
5/4/2014 08:13:19 am
Thank you Zeinab for your excellent and sensible comment. Would some of your friends also be willing to show their support for Fuambai ? She can lead, but she cannot do this alone.
5/26/2014 08:26:46 am
Hello Fuambai, I have come across your website and I can say that you are very reasonable. Getting circumcised voluntarily should be allowed for every woman. It shouldn't matter where she comes from or to which ethnic group she belongs to. Female genital reshaping is nothing to be ashamed of. The main issue is that there should be a trained person who will do this kind of surgery. Then even an infibulation is not a bad way of genital reshaping. I hope that there is a way to support you in your struggle for acceptance and the fight against intolerance.
7/10/2014 06:54:07 am
Cutting female and male genitals are similar. 1) It is unnecessary and extremely painful. 2) It can have adverse sexual and psychological effects. 3) It is generally done by force on children. 4) It is generally supported by local medical doctors. 5) Pertinent biological facts are not generally known where procedures are practiced. 6) It is defended with reasons such as tradition, religion, aesthetics, cleanliness, and health. 7) The rationale has currently or historically been connected to controlling sexual pleasure. 8) It is often believed to have no effect on normal sexual functioning. 9) It is generally accepted and supported by those who have been subjected to it. 10) Those who are cut feel compelled to cut their children. 11) The choice may be motivated by underlying psychosexual reasons. 12) Critical public discussion is generally taboo where the procedure is practiced. 13) It can result in serious complications that can lead to death. 14) The adverse effects are hidden by repression and denial. 15) Dozens of potentially harmful physiological, emotional, behavioral, sexual, and social effects on individuals and societies have never been studied. 16) On a qualitative level, cutting the genitals of male and female children are the same.
7/10/2014 10:33:51 am
Female and male circumcision have many similarities. 1) They are seen by their proponents as beneficial and, if performed under medical conditions, they are safe and relatively painless. 2) Claims of adverse sexual and psychological effects, usually made by those without direct experience, are grossly exaggerated and largely untrue. 3) Children brought up by loving parents in circumcising cultures usually see it as a positive and valued rite of passage. 4) Local medical doctors understand the cultural context and are enlightened enough to ensure that it is performed safely. 5) The biological changes are seen as positive where procedures are practised. 6) It has positive connotations such as tradition, religion, aesthetics, cleanliness, and health. 7) In some cultures it is seen as helpful in controlling excessive sexual urges, whereas in others it is considered not to affect sexual pleasure, or even to enhance it. 8) Male circumcision, and some forms of female circumcision, have insignificant effects on normal sexual functioning. 10) Those who are cut experience the effects as positive, and consider it beneficial for their children to continue the tradition. 11) The choice may be motivated by underlying social and psychosexual reasons which are positive, but are not understood by those without direct experience. 12) Public discussion in cultures which do not practice the procedure is dominated by extreme campaign groups led by those with no direct experience, and based on gross generalisations, exaggerations, and direct untruths. 13) If carried out under medical conditions the procedures are extremely safe, and even under traditional primitive conditions complications are the exception rather than the rule. 14) Claims of universal adverse effects are highly exaggerated and largely untrue, and are made by those with no direct experience and no understanding of the culture, who seek to repress and deny any opinion which does not coincide with their own. 15) Claims of potentially harmful physiological, emotional, behavioural, sexual, and social effects on individuals and societies, made by those with no direct experience or understanding, are generally incorrect, and soundly-based research studies which refute the claims are suppressed in the public debate. 16) On a qualitative level, cutting the genitals of male and female children are very similar and, if performed appropriately, have positive effects.
1/12/2015 09:25:11 am
I appreciate the necessity of different viewpoints, but cosmetic surgeries on kids are a separate issue from cutting consenting adults. I wouldn't allow kids to get tattoos - genital surgery is far more serious. And cutting children has more harmful effects than cutting adults, along with the consent issue. I believe that circumcising adult men does not have such severe complications because the results are more precise. Circumcising boys causes more damage than circumcising men and does adversely affect sensitivity for many. It is more dangerous to silence those who have problems than it is to critique those who do not. Any ethical questions from this can be eliminated by simply having an age limit.
3/24/2018 07:05:55 am
Unfortunately for this viewpoint in traditional societies people are considered adults, if "junior" adults, when they arrive at puberty.
2/21/2015 03:33:38 am
Any (spiritually-cosmetic) surgery is embedded in a context, which decides, whether this surgery is a sacred blessing or a curse.
4/7/2017 10:33:44 am
I want to find any doctor to perform a clitorodectomy. I believe my body is only for my husband. I believe that my clitorous is nothing but a problem and I can enjoy being intimate with my partner without it. Please give me some type of recource.
4/7/2017 02:50:53 pm
Hello, it is Ha We Ha again, who commented earlier. As a man I KNOW and I do not just generalize my own world view, namely that the majority of men do not want to have a clitoridectomized spouse. They rather want to excite all facets of your sexuality. If you despise your clitorus, then this makes sense but for yourself, not your husband. You decide for yourself, not in respect to what you merely assert about your husband. Kindest regards from GERMANY
8/4/2018 10:27:06 am
HaWeHa, I wonder what your opinion is based upon. If I had learned before I married that my gf and then fianceé had had her clitoris removed (the external part) either as a child or as an adult, with or without her free consent, it would have made not the slightest difference to me. Reject a woman because a small bit of nonfunctional, superfluous flesh has been removed? Nonsense.
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