Thursday, July 1, 2010

Want To Be Disturbed?

Professor Kenneth Anderson over at Volokh Conspiracy said something that ten years ago would have been so common sense that no one, except perhaps a devout fundamentalist Muslim, would have disputed it:

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued perhaps the single most appalling statement of official multiculturalism I have read with regard to the United States in many years.  It called for de-criminalizing what might be called a softer, gentler form of clitoral mutilation — allowing for a “ritual nick” of a girl’s clitoris instead.  The fundamental argument was that if the US did not relax its criminal laws against  “any non-medical procedure performed on the genitals” of a girl, families committed to the practice would take them elsewhere for a much more thorough mutilation.

This ritual drawing of a drop of blood from a girl’s clitoris — and that is on the generous assumption that, over a decade or so, that’s all it turns out to be, rather than the stalking horse of the very thing that led to the change in policy — performed in a doctor’s office by, presumably, a pediatrician or nurse following the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice, would therefore save American girls from a worse mutilation elsewhere.  So.   The laws of the United States and the norms of American society in a deeply fundamental matter are to be held hostage against the possibility of what might happen to an American girl taken to Somalia or elsewhere.  Nowhere in the Academy’s logic did anyone discuss the possibility that relaxing a norm under the threat of its worse violation might count as, well, reward behavior and you’ll get more it.  If you give a mouse a cookie, if you give a moose a muffin, and if you give the American Academy of Pediatrics a girl’s clitoris to nick ...

The Academy, under intense pressure from advocates against female genital mutilation, has withdrawn its statement.  The advice, of course, is important, because among other things it offers a “best practices” defense against claims of malpractice or abuse or what have you.  One of the striking things about the Academy is that it has offered controversial counsel to pediatricians before — such as its advice several years ago about pediatricians interviewing their young female patients alone to solicit the possibility of sexual abuse.  Generally its views have trended toward “helping profession” interventions into the family.  What therefore makes the Academy’s now-withdrawn view particularly striking is how it essentially opts for “multiculturalism” over conventional feminism.  Nor would I assume that this proposal is gone for good.  It would be better understood as the Academy and its ideological supporters floating a trial balloon, with an long term advocacy goal of accustoming the public to the idea.  Rust never sleeps.
What is disturbing are the comments, many of them from lawyers and law students, essentially arguing that Anderson is being narrow-minded, stuck in traditional Judeo-Christian views, etc. And yet me emphasize: many of those making these arguments are people whose comments I have followed for a long time in other threads, and who have repeatedly made clear their positions. They are progressives, liberals, and homosexuals. Yes: because a cultural practice that is associated with Islam (although not required by it) is under threat, they must defend it--even though it is the worst form of barbarism.

A few of the attacks on Professor Anderson's concerns:
People make this sort of deal all of the time. Parents allow their kids to drink, as long as they do it in their presence. Nevada allows prostitution, as long as the brothels follow certain rules that make the practice more safe. Etc. Etc.

Of course, whether this sort of trade off makes sense in this case is a separate question. But the mere fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics is considering it shouldn’t be abhorent to you, unless you always object to this sort of trade off. (Do you?)
Is there any evidence that the ritual “nick” has any negative impacts? Or more negative impacts than, say, ear piercing or tatooing?

The right grounds for legalization is that drawing a drop of blood is a reasonable religious accommodation that does not deliver any lasting harm to the children involved. The wrong reason is that we want to make a less-evil but still evil substitute for terrible practices elsewhere.
And this is the one that really gets to the heart of why progressives are defending this:
I’ve read through this whole thread, and I haven’t seen anything to convince me that you can oppose this while supporting ritual (NOT medical, which can be done later in life and with consent) male circumcision on any other ground than “our invisible man in the sky is better than theirs”.

That said, I think it’s perfectly fine to make a slippery slope argument here– there really is a danger that once you start compromising medical ethics for procedures that are “culturally” supported, you start on a road that ends in a very bad place. But I would argue that’s true of Judeo-Christian male circumcision too– indeed, if that were illegal, we wouldn’t even be arguing as to whether a mild form of female circumcision should be legalized.
 Got that?  Because male circumcision (which has been demonstrated to have significant health advantages from the standpoint of infections and STD transmission) is part of the Judeo-Christian Western tradition, therefore any practice performed in Muslim countries that can be compared to it by false analogy is therefore okay.  And at the core, what drives the progressive and liberal love of not just Islam, but a barbarous practice like female genital mutilation, is fury that Christianity has refused to roll over and play dead on the homosexuality issue.

Reading comments like the ones in that thread is part of why I am becoming increasingly convinced that homosexuality--at least, open, widely accepted homosexuality--is incompatible with civilization.  Progressives are turning into apologists for female genital mutilation because it makes homosexuals feel better about themselves.  And Volokh Conspiracy commenters are so thick in lawyers, law professors, and law students (the people that will, as they advance their careers, tell legislators what they are allowed to pass) like these monsters.


  1. I am aggrieved, in every sense of the word, by that post at that site. I have read that site, on an almost daily basis for a long time initially due to an interest in law, logical reasoning and especially for the comments from lawyers.

    I have noticed a change over a period of time, in a field that I did not believe would be susceptible to changes in values, as I expected adherence to principle, not shifting evaluations of whatever becomes politically correct and therefore, mandated.

    The SCOTUS is well on its way to becoming irrelevant in regard to the Constitution, led and fed by Congress and those in the legal profession. I am beginning to have serious doubts about the sanity of this country....

  2. Clayton: FGM is not an "Islamic" practice. It is not mandated by either the Koran or the Hadiths. (The only reference is a caution that it should be performed lightly.)

    It has been denounced by many eminent Moslem clergy and scholars. It has been prohibited (at least nominally) in many Moslem countries. It is not practiced at all many Moslem countries, and is commonplace only in a few.

    Nearly all of these are in Africa, where it is a "tradition". Some non-Moslem African cultures do it. Why? Because they've always done it, and no goddam outsiders are going to make them stop.

    Wiki sez Kenyan nationalists revived it during the Mau-Mau rebellion as a rejection of the white missionaries who had suppressed it.

    Clitorectomy as a quasi-medical practice is common in Egypt, where it is fostered by the misogyny of Islamic cultures, as a desexualizing act. Allegedly, young middle-class women often come to doctors requesting clitorectomy to become "purer".

    Islam itself is not that misogynist/male-supremacist, but it has inherited a strong tinge of that from Arab culture, and Islamic institutions and scholars are very reluctant to challenge the culture's ingrained attitude.

    Thus laws against FGM are often unenforced (the victims are female, so the authorities don't care).

  3. I actually made the point above that FGM is "associated with Islam (although not required by it)." There are a lot of fiercely misogynistic practices associated with Islam that are not part of the religion. (Others, however, are, such as allowing rape of females taken as captives in warfare, are specifically allowed by the Koran, and requiring four Islamic male eyewitnesses to prove rape is mandated by the Koran.)

  4. "Reading comments like the ones in that thread is part of why I am becoming increasingly convinced that homosexuality--at least, open, widely accepted homosexuality--is incompatible with civilization"

    I don't see the connection. My guess is that those who practice FGM also think homosexuality is uncivilized.

  5. Just a quick note:

    From my (admittedly less) readings of history, male circumcision is not really a "Judeo-Christian Western Tradition", it's more of a Jewish Tradition that was instituted in this country.

    I've got no qualms with Circumcision, I was born in the 60s in a catholic hospital and lost my foreskin there. I think anti-circumcision (male) activists ought to be convinced to work for something more important--say ferret legalization, or something, I just think calling it "Judeo-Christian" is a stretch. However I'm willing to get proven wrong.