Feminism, Humanism, etc. (fwd)

Bret Diamond (diam9018@TAO.SOSC.OSSHE.EDU)
Tue, 4 Apr 1995 08:35:27 -0700

Forwarded message:
>From diam9018 Mon Apr 3 11:57:03 1995
Subject: Feminism, Humanism, etc.
To: cmtaylor@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 1995 11:57:03 -0700 (PDT)
Cc: rohrlich@circ.gwu.edu
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Dear Chris,

Thanks for responding to my last letter, I know that I asked some
difficult questions, but I believe the difficult questions are often the
only ones worth asking.

One of the problems that I(and I think many other men) have with
"embracing feminist values," is that feminism seems to only care about
women. For example, in my last letter, I made reference to an
anthropological film called "Masai Women" that was made by a "feminist
anthropologist" (I'm not being sarcastic, I just don't know if she agrees
with this label that she has been given) In the film, she lightly
touched upon the issue of female circumscision, as this is a Masai
practice. What she chose to ignore however, is that the Masai men are
also circumscised, at the age of 18! (I shudder at the thought!) Now I'm
not an expert on female circumscision, but I understand that there are
varying degrees, up tp a clitorectomy. I know that outsiders see female
circumscision as an effort to control women, but what about the Masai
themeselves? In fact, when interviewed, young Masai women said that they
looked forward to the ceremony because it marked their emergence into
adulthood. Giving that both male and female circumscision are likely
equally painful procedures, why aren't feminists complaining about male
genital mutilation? Granted, Masai culture is patriarchical, so is the
pain and suffering of young men dismissed as merely the consequences of
the system that they create?
I see three hypethetical ideologies here. Feminists protest the
genital mutilation of women. Humanists protest the genital mutilation of
both genders, and anthropologists protest and etic point of view that
perpetuates cultural relativism. Somewhere in these three theories there
ought to be some common ground, but there often isn't. As a male
concerned with women's issues, men's issues, and indigenous issues, this
is a battle that I struggle with all of the time. Any suggestions/comments?
(BTW, I sent a copy of this to Ruby, because I thought she might be
interested. I've been anxiously awaiting the fem-anth list because these
issues are important to me, but I decided to jump the gun and put my
ideas out there to you and Ruby)

"Not everything that is faced
can be changed, but nothing
can be changed until it is faced."
James Baldwin

Bret Diamond