Re: Relativism and Rights (fwd)

Cliff Sloane (cesloane@MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU)
Sat, 7 May 1994 00:43:35 -0500

One aspect to this issue that I have not seen being articulated is the
issue of powerlessness. One reason why female genital mutilation provokes
such response is that the people who undergo this operation often occupy
lower rungs on the power hierarchy. One reason why I tend to sympathize
with Ray's postings is that power comes into play. It is not just that we,
as individuals with a sense of morality, find certain practices
objectionable; it is also that we, as trained observers (anthropologists)
of social processes, can also see that these practices are sometimes
thrust upon those who cannot say no.
Neither Ray nor other posters have objected to the various forms of body
adornment practiced within, say, warrior societies. The objections seem to
me to coincide with a moral sense (yes, culture-bound) that it is an issue
of powerlessness as well as the specific aspects of the given practice.
Forgive the less-than-clear language; it's quite late. I hope my point is

Cliff Sloane