Sunday, May 30, 2010

My father's insightful commentary on genital cutting

In response to my blog post Maternity, abuse, and genital mutilation, my father wrote the following (posted with permission):

My awesome dad had the following to say on this post:

Why is [circumcision] a celebration?

I agree and disagree with your blog. I don’t think women's genitalia should be cut ever!!! Not because of culture or religious reasons but I also don’t understand why they do it. If it has a legitimate medical benefit then maybe and only maybe, but absolutely not for some ritual that is outdated because they did it hundreds of years ago out of shear "cave man logic" ignorance. I guess there is a smegma issue with women and extra skin but I cant comment on that since I have no vagina to base an opinion on. [As a man, I am] not in a position to have an opinion on the female issue really.

As far as men go though, I am a man and have been around many other men who are and are not circumcised. I'm no expert and don’t claim to be, but I just cant imagine what benefit or why someone would want to leave the foreskin on a man's penis and I have no religious or other agenda behind my belief. The foreskin hangs and lays over the end of the penis, so much so on some men that it totally engulfs the end of the penis so you can't even see it. All that foreskin hanging over the end and closing shut for the better part of the day is nothing more than a smegma collection center, allowing germs to build up. When a man pees he merely shakes it and that is it, leaving the end the large majority of the time wet with pee. It's not shaken dry right after peeing. So, the [head of the penis] retracts wet and all that piss collects in the foreskin cave festering till shower time. Not too mention the men who probably take a shower and don’t bother to go out of their way to pull the foreskin back to wash it. I was never traumatized as a child because I simply had no mental clue what was going on when the circumcision was complete and I am so thankful not to have to deal with a foreskin all my life. One can also pee by the way and not even pull the foreskin back to do so and men do it, I've seen it done. I think some men go through childhood not being reinforced and taught the importance of foreskin management also. Anyhow, overall, it just makes decent common sense to remove it right at the time of birth and it's over forever. Waiting, I am definitely not a proponent of, at all.

I believe there are a gazillion men like me who have absolutely zero religious agenda and support no foreskin if given an option at birth. Don’t cut it later, do it before [the baby] comes home from the hospital for the very first time. Waiting would create a more stressful situation and then we have a whole new set of circumstances to deal with.

Of course, opinions are like butt holes, everyone has their own. With regards to men, I don't think there is a right and a wrong choice but I do firmly believe that eliminating foreskin at time of birth is a very good idea.

Again, not having a vagina and that whole experience eliminates me from being able to make a common sense judgment or opinion on what women should or shouldn’t do.


Oh that everyone without a vagina would leave vaginal decision-making to the vagina bearers. Thanks for sharing dad!

Where in the world I am (physically and intellectually)

My last blog post came just before I attended an amazing conference in Fes on integrating marginalized women into society in Morocco. The presentations were informative, often infuriating, and provoked some rich insights for my own dissertation research. That fortuitous trip to Fes brought me to the 2nd excellent, concrete example I need that proves my research assumption. Since then (it was in March), I embarked on a 2 week trip with my fellow Arabic-pedagogy-reform enthusiast, Alaina, where outside of a 3-day Easter holiday bonanza in African Spain (or Spanish Africa?), all of our activities were Arabic only—including an excruciating (but politically-charged and opinionated) 3-hour monologue between our grand taxi driver and me while the others slept in the back seat.

This brings me to today, the last weekend in May. Fieldwork is a lot of fun, frustration, and relationship building. Morocco is still an amazing place to be, and I have been flourishing intellectually and personally while here. I have said goodbye to some great roommates and house-warmed with some new ones (I miss you!).

Meanwhile, the first 4 months of my stay here saw a great of my time being consumed with funding applications to continue my work. These final 4 months see me faced with rejections of all of the 6 applications. Nonetheless, I am fully prepared for whatever September and beyond has in store for me on the North American continent (I can think of some fun to be had in Boston or Gulfport or Harrisburg or even (heaven help me) Norfolk).

The real point of today’s post is to put some perspective onto the odyssey that is learning Arabic. When my Arabic teacher asked us to choose among a list of topics in our textbook to prepare and consequently deliver a short talk to the class, I chose the history of French occupation in Algeria. Unfortunately, doing Arabic homework in Rabat is nowhere near as fun as doing Arabic homework in Tangier was when I was there in 2008. Thus I get distracted easily, by anything—the cat, the 14 browser windows open, the 73 unanswered emails…I did try to prepare the talk. I got one juicy tidbit about the French occupation of Algeria in 1830 resulting in the revival of complete texts of Ibn Battuta’s travelogue. But soon I was thinking about how to draw accessible parallels for people who have never and will never study Arabic. How can I explain how silly and difficult studying ‘Modern Standard Arabic’ is? So then I started reading about the English language in the 800s CE. I call upon you native speakers of English.

Can you understand this? (start at 2:56, listen for a few seconds, then skip to 5:03)

This is what I sound like when I try to use Modern Standard Arabic in casual conversation. Fun! What's more, imagine if the English we know weren't a written language. Imagine that it were only a spoken language, and that the written language looked like this:

That's pretty much what I'm working with here. It's going pretty well speaking and reading an 8th century language.