Circumcision And Connotation

Decent Essays
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…
In the case of female circumcision, most readers may bring very little previous knowledge on the subject; therefore, readers may make up for this informational disadvantage by using initial assumptions and impressions to define their uninformed opinion. While previous knowledge and initial assumptions are vital in developing an opinion, news articles have the advantage of presenting new information that challenges or encourages these maturing opinions. Examining the titles of both the local and the national news articles, “Minnesota Somalis see chance to lead fight against female genital cutting” and “Female Genital Mutilation on the Rise in the U.S.” respectively, presents the reader with two different analyses on the same issue. Looking at the title’s name for female circumcision alone promotes different ideas about the practice. The difference between “genital cutting” and ”genital mutilation” captures distinctive connotations. “Cutting,” while still violent, is a more neutral term. On the other hand, “mutilation” is much more extreme in its violent imagery. Consequently, a reader with little to no previous knowledge on female circumcision could be significantly influenced solely by the name of the cultural practice that the journalist uses in the …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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