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a girl's clitoris to nick ...The Academy, under intense pressure from advocates against female genital mutilation, has withdrawn its statement.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 What therefore makes the Academy's now-withdrawn view particularly striking is how it essentially opts for "multiculturalism" over conventional feminism.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.
I suspect we haven't heard the end of this controversy. Count me among those who believe that an absolutist stand against female genital mutilation is the proper approach.