Video: Comparing Male Circumcision and FGM
Links & citations from the video plus a full transcript after the jump!
Video to which I’m responding:
PZ Myers on how these conversations often go:
Hosken, F.Â (1993). The Hosken Report: Genital and Sexual Mutilation of Females, fourth edition. Lexington, MA: Women’s International Network; pp. 3.
I stumbled across a video the other day by tosheatower. He was talking about circumcision, which is a topic that’s been coming up a lot on the internet lately, I think because of the recent statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics saying that they supported a certain type of female genital mutilation (or FGM) that is a ritual nick on a baby girl’s genitals. You can’t really talk about FGM) on the internet without usually men coming in and redirecting the conversation to male circumcision, probably because they think it’s related and that subject is related to FGM but a bit closer to men’s hearts, and by hearts I mean cocks.
So the video I saw was comparing FGM to male circumcision directly. tosheatower claimed that it was hypocritical for someone to be against FGM but support male circumcision. I think that’s debatable, but what he went on to say is not debateable at all. He claimed that the number of men dying due to circumcision in Africa is equal to the number of women dying in Africa due to FGM. He then suggested that FGM wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were done here in the US in a sterile environment with doctors. He concluded by comparing circumcised penises to “circumcised vaginas” and pierced ears as all being choices that a parent makes that he does not support. And to just get this out of the way I agree that male circ is pointless at best and at worst quite harmful.
In the comments on the video, I asked him to provide data to back up his statements, but he never responded. A person named drealgrin responded asking why it matters, a question that completely blows my mind. Why would the truth matter? This is the internet! It matters a great deal to me.
User freedom0f5speech did respond and sent me what data he had to support tosheatower’s claims. And thank you very much for that, freedom0f5speech I appreciate that. But the data in fact ended up supporting the opposite of tosheatower’s claims.
I’ll go into that a little bit. First let me explain for those of you like tosheatower who don’t know, the difference between male circumcision and female genital mutilation. We don’t call it female circumcision because it is nothing like what you know of male circumcision, in which some or all of the foreskin is removed from the penis.
FGM actually comes in four different flavors:
Type I involves partial or total removal of the clitoris. The clitoris isn’t like a foreskin . . . it’s actually an entire sexual organ. It’s like a tiny penis. So if it help you to see the difference, imagine that you have a very small penis, and then imagine that someone scrapes the entire thing off your body with a dull razor blade.
That’s type 1. It’s going to get worse.
Type 2 is partial or total removal of the clitoris plus removal of the labia minora, and sometimes removal of the labia majora as well. Those are the folds around the clitoris.
Type 3 is the narrowing of the vaginal opening, using the labia minora and/or majora to form a covering seal. And then when the lucky lady is raped on or before her wedding day, that orifice must be sliced open. Type 3 can also include the removal of the clitoris as well.
Type 4 is anything else, which can include the ritual pricking that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended. And for the record that pricking is the only thing on this list that is less invasive and less damaging than male circumcision.
So let’s get back to the actual data on the number of deaths in Africa. The data that freedomofspeech sent me suggested that there are 200 deaths per year in Africa due to male circumcision and that was according to the South African Medical Journal. So if tosheatower were correct, we could expect let’s say anywhere from 100 to 300 deaths caused by female genital mutilation.
Evaluating all the stats for Africa is a bit tough, so instead let’s narrow it down to one part: the Sudan.
There are 20.4 million women in the Sudan. 90% of all women in the Sudan are estimated to be mutilated, which makes 18.35 million. Of those, according to the World Health Organisation, 1/3 die. That’s more than 6 million women.
But wait! That’s not the only way FGM can kill. Remember that type III FGM that I told you about in which the vaginal opening is narrowed…well, it’s not just that FGM can kill by blood loss or infection at the time of mutilation, it can also kill you later in life when that opening is sliced open, and particularly when a woman gets pregnant and has to give birth to babies through that opening.
Looking at the figures for women who have had FGM and had to give birth, postpartum haemorrhage during childbirth is 70% higher in women with FGM III, and it can also kill babies born to mothers with FGM. The death rate among babies born to FGM I mothers was 15% higher, 32% higher in those with FGM II, and 55% higher in those with FGM III. Altogether, a total of 10 to 20 babies per 1000 die because of FGM.
100 to 140 million women are living with FGM. If each of them attempts to have just one child, that means there will be 10,000 dead babies thanks to FGM alone.
To get back to drealgrin’s question, does it matter? Both boys and girls are hurt by mutilation, and neither male circumcision nor fgm can be supported by anything other than cultural or religious dogma. Both should be ended. But yes, it matters that we recognize the difference, because every time you falsely compare male circumcision to fgm with zero facts to back you up, you are not just making a case for ending male circumcision. You are belittling and undermining efforts to end a much more terrible problem.
I support the end of male circumcision, but not at the expense of people writing off the mutilation of millions of women.