And yeah, I know that that very title is angering lots of Western feminists. Here's why I'm using it today.
Yesterday, I had a long conversation with a Somali woman I work with. She told me that she is opposed to circumcising girls (her words) and that she gets very angry when Westerners talk about what are a number of different practices (from a token cut, in a hospital with anesthetic, that does not remove or harm the clitoris but rather a bit of skin in order to satisfy the parents, to full on excision and infibulation without anesthetic in some rural communities) as if they were all the same. She feels that the language Westerners use about this practice is very insulting to women. And she feels that these two tendencies hurt, rather than help, African women's efforts to end the practice.
Further, she told me, among Somali people, the practice has dropped from over 80% to about 30%. The reason will surprise you: it's because, she said, during the war, Somali people turned to Islam. And while some people claim that there is a verse in the Koran that prescribes this practice of cutting daughters, she tells me that when she contacted religious leaders, they said there was no such verse.
I thought this was an interesting counterpoint to much of what we in the West hear about the practice - and about Islam.