Wed, 11 May 1994 13:58:33 PST

>OKeefe writes:
>" Infibulation is a means of controlling a resource, namely
>sexual access to women, ..."

I did not mean to imply that braces were exactly the same as infibulation, but
only to address PART of the problem. There is no need to find an exact parallel
in American society if examples can be found to refute all the arguments against
it one by one (sorry that isn't very clear). Someone (I forget who) had argued
that infibulation was bad in that it caused pain to children without their
I had an example of Americans doing that and thinking it was normal. I
did not mean to ridicule infibulation. Different people are making different
arguments here as to why infibulation is bad. The number
of arguments presented suggests to me that people are first thinking that it is
bad and then trying to find arguments to support their position. This is not
the stuff of which objective scientific thinking is made. Remember that
the question is not really whether it is bad, but whether it is
any of our business. Here are some of the arguments:

1) It causes pain so it is bad and we should stop bad things whenever we come
across them; anything that causes pain is bad. [Braces cause pain].

2) A modified version of 1): It causes pain without any beneficial effect, so it
is bad. [Braces do have a beneficial effect, but so does infibulation or people
would not do it: it allows people to fit in better to their society, be thought
of as respectable, and so forth. Who are we to say that these are less
important than straight teeth? Facelifts cause pain and have a similar effect.]

3) It causes pain to children who are not in a position to say no [so do braces;
I do not see an argument that infibulation causes more pain as relevant; where
are we going to draw a line here?]

4) Women are coerced into doing it [women are not being tied up by men and
forced to do it (not that I think we should necessarily interfere with that
either); therefore they are doing it of their own free will. I don't see any way
in which facelifts are less coerced.] (see,you can use more than one example,
both facelifts and braces, to get a complete picture.)

I can't think of any other arguments that have been made right now. But the main
point still seems to me to be that it is none of our business. I could see
helping other people with problems they see as problems and ask for help
with. I could see trying to convince them that infibulation is a problem.
But to just tell them that it is a problem seems patronizing.
Karen Eva Carr
History Department
Portland State University
Portland Oregon 97203
(503) 725-5472