Female Circumcision And Cultural Connotation

1578 Words 7 Pages
Female circumcision, genital cutting, and female genital mutilation all describe the same cultural practice, but each has its own connotation. When journalists attempt to inform readers upon this practice, there are personal assumptions and connotations that, if not addressed properly, perpetuate an ethnocentric point of view. In this paper, I compare and analyze two American newspaper articles: the daily Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune’s “Minnesota Somalis see chance to lead fight against female genital cutting” and the weekly Newsweek’s “Female Genital Mutilation on the Rise in the U.S.” In analyzing these articles, I apply Claudie Gosselin’s discussion on cultural relativism to the practice of female circumcision as mentioned in her article, …show more content…
Ethnographic research offers a contextualized lens through which to view female circumcision. As Gosselin argues, “decontextualized and ahistorical presentation” leads to ethnocentric impressions of female circumcision (49), the opposite of what is needed to address the issue in a way that does not alienate nor villainize those who practice it. The national article did not use ethnographic methods as a basis for information. Instead, the journalist concentrated on international and national data samples and statistics in addition to the opinion of one demographer from an international organization. While facts can be helpful, by only looking at the numbers with incredibly limited context, it is much easier to misunderstand what the numbers say and, more importantly, why. In contrast, the local article used information gathered from interviews with Somali American women and observations of these women speaking publicly about female circumcision and their own …show more content…
In the national news article, the agents of change and betterment are the American and international institutions and organizations working to solve the African ‘problem’ of female circumcision. The article mentions a list of about ten international organizations, NGOs, interest groups, and American politicians as the agents working against the practice of female circumcision. From Wainaina’s criticism, these groups are involved because without foreign intervention Africans are ‘obviously’ “doomed.” On the other hand, the local news article emphasizes the Somali Americans’ role in addressing female circumcision through creating educational organizations, bringing the issue to political figures, and talking to various personal connections about ending the practice. The local article by the Star Tribune emphasizes the Somali Americans women’s role as “cultural ambassadors” and the “driving force in stamping out the practice” (Koumpilova). These Americanized women, as featured in the top photograph in “smart jackets and long skirts” (Koumpilova), are the in-between for the Somalis who practice female circumcision and the Minnesotan public who do not understand it. While Wainaina would be happy that the Somali American women are presented as powerful, “well-adjusted,” and professional agents, the underlying assumption is that these women

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