I understand that the American Academy of Pediatrics recent decision to support a doctor-performed ritual ‘nick’ of female genitalia is a form of harm reduction for girls in the U.S. Surely, a nick, or a scratch, or shallow cut performed in a sterile environment is a far better option than having the clitoris and/or labia minora removed, or infibulation.
Amanda Marcotte agrees: “Doctors offering a relatively harmless, ritualistic alternative to more severe cutting could go a long way towards encouraging the view of it as merely a ritual, and not something that has to produce long-term damage to count.”
I do think it’s wonderful that girls may not be sent abroad to their parents’ homelands to undergo barbaric, dangerous, and sexist procedures. But accommodating what is essentially a tradition of sexual violence against young girls still doesn’t sit right with me. On the most basic level: forcing young girls — girls for whom this becomes the first introduction to sex and sexuality — to think of their vulvas as places that are under the purview of a larger, sexist, society is deeply troubling.
And I don’t buy that turning sexism into a ‘relatively harmless’ ritual is much better in the long run. It just seems like a complete failure to address any actual problems, and instead, it codifies sexual violence into medical treatment. Like I said, I know it’s a form of harm reduction. But physical harm isn’t the only harm that matters, is it?