Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Definite Difference

A man in Georgia was convicted today for mutilating his two year old daughter's genitals. Khalid Adem from Lawrenceville in Gwinnet County, is believed to have removed his daughter's clitoris with a pair of regular scissors. Adem maintains that while someone has mutilated his daughter, it was not him.

The United States State Department estimates that 130 million women and girls have suffered genital mutilation since 2001 alone. We often think of this practice as being a third world phenomenon, and to discover it in our heartland is jarring to say the least. It will no doubt result in someone deciding to labeling it an immigrant issue; yet another reason to kick them all out. I am more interested in how frequently this sort of genital mutilation is called "female circumcision."

Circumcision is "the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis," according to Meriam Webster. While some believe that circumcision shouldn't be preformed on all healthy male infants, it remains that removal of the foreskin doesn't deny the child of anything. Nothing about this definition suits the reality of the tradition of removing a female child's genitals.

Firstly, the removal of a girl's (or in some cases, a woman's) clitoris denies her of sexual sensation, of pleasure, and sexual identity. It is a concrete step to strip a female body of what makes it female, as well as a move to turn the female body into a tool; sex with a body that cannot feel pleasure is sex with a body that is just a receptacle in which to plant offspring. Secondly, rarely is this process "surgical," surgery being a optional procedure done in a clean and safe environment which continues to regard the health of the patient after the procedure. Genital mutilation is often carried out on the floor of living spaces, using tools (small knifes, scissors, broken razor blades) that are used on more than one girl in a session. Those who carry out the mutilation, frequently local women, are not doctors, and the "patients" frequently are not willing participants. Thirdly, the ceremony doesn't always just entail the removal of the clitoris. It's not uncommon for the entire process to include sewing closed the vaginal opening, the outer lips of the labia are cut off, and the remaining labia sewn shut, often resulting in serious infection and death. Lastly, whereas male infant circumcision only happens once, many women undergo repeated procedures: if the woman gets pregnant, the stitches will be cut open, only to be re-sewn after the child is born, again often resulting in serious infection and death. Really, any step in the whole procedure can result in infection and death. It's a death-centric thing.

In summary: It's not a fucking circumcision. It's butchery.

I'm aware that there's an issue of First World feminists rushing into Third World countries and pronouncing cultural mainstays wrong (even the terms "first world" and "third world" are problematic.) (By the way, has anyone heard of a Second World country? If you have, do you have an example?) But surely there's a difference between an upper class agnostic American feminist commenting on Arab women wearing the veil, and anyone talking about what's happening to these girls. Leave your comments, thoughts, poems.

I'll refrain from adding a dinner recipe.

You can read about the case in Georgia here.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Food for Thought

When consumed with fear that the world is racing towards an era of pseudo-fascism, that the differences between the people we're supposed to be fighting and the people gabbering on our television sets us are becoming harder to distinguish every day, when it all seems to be just a smidgen more than you can bear, it always helps to have some people over for dinner.

After a day of work that was inter-changable with any other day at work, I hopped on the train home and starting planning what I wanted to cook for three of my closest and best friends. Groceries purchased, I swung by the little market down the street and picked up some flowers -- they round out any table nicely. I'd decided on Shepherd's Pie (my recipe for which I'll include below) which can require some time, mostly for boiling the potatoes, and as I was chopping and peeling and all that goes into making a meal, I thought about how domestic this all seemed. How traditional, to any casual observer, my evening and even myself would seem.

I enjoy cooking for several reasons, none of which are rooted specifically in the fact that I am a woman. Firstly, I grew up in a house where meals weren't particularly regular, and when we did have them, they were usually a tense affair and were spent in silence. Secondly, I don't like crowded, loud restaurants where you can't really talk with the people you're eating with, so I'd rather have the people I like over to mine, so we can talk without having to labor over it. And thirdly, it's cheaper than going out. While all of this may be true, when I cook, I'm decidedly acting out a "female duty" and am playing at domesticity the same way that little girls play at femininity when they put on their mother's high heels and smear lipstick on their faces. Maybe I enjoy flirting with traditional gender roles because it subverts what people usually perceive me as -- a staunch feminist who has no trouble showing her colors in even the most un-hospitable of rooms. Maybe my desire to be enigmatic supersedes my desire to resist convention.

In any case, I set aside my inner-monologue as my friends arrived for conversation, food, and wine. I like meals that are casual, healthy and long. We talked about our jobs, our fears that we don't do enough, our loathing for people who are mere months older than us and have two book deals at Random House, and the War. We talked about that Superman comic that wonders what would have happened if Kal-El dropped down in Soviet Russia instead of Smallville, and why dogs are so good for the heart. We toasted to a good winter, and hoped that we all would make it through the cold months without the depression that grabbed hold of all of us the last time around. While autumn is in full swing, and the weather is still more brisk that anything, I'm more than happy to just let the winter wait in the eaves, and think about what I'll cook next time.


Recipe for Shepherd's Pie (About 45 Min./Hour)
6 Carrots
5 Celery stalks
2 cloves of Garlic
6-8 potatoes
Butter/Milk (or soy margarine/soy milk)
2 packages Quorn/Faux Meat (I have no idea what this would be in actual meat - probably just one thing of hamburger ground meat)
Red Wine
Olive Oil
Garlic Salt

(1.) The trick to cooking is to time everything right. Start by bringing a large pot of water to boil. While that gets going, wash and peel your potatoes. Add those and a little salt to the boiling water. Let them brew for 20-30 minutes. (2.) Chop (not dice) your carrots and throw those into a frying pan with a little olive oil. Carrots take forever to soften, so let them sit a while while you chop your celery and garlic. (3.) Add the celery and garlic to your carrots, adding a little olive oil and salt and pepper, once they're all nice and soft and the carrots are just beginning to brown, (4). Add the faux meat to the mix and bring the heat up a little. Most faux meats/quorn can be really dry, so add a touch more olive oil, and red wine to bring some taste. Add salt/pepper/garlic salt as you see fit. Move that around in the pan for about 10 minutes, making sure that it doesn't dry out. Then, bring the heat down low while you, (5.) drain the potatoes in a strainer then replace them in the pot. They should be nice and soft by now, and fall apart under a wooden spoon. Depending on how many potatoes you have, add about 3/4 cup of milk and 3/4 of a stick of butter. Mash until desired level of lumpiness. (6.) Put your oven on broil to warm up. Using a pyrex/casserole dish, do a thin layer of the meat mix, followed by potatoes, and repeat until you run out.
(7.) Stick the dish in the oven for about 15/20 minutes, until the top layer of potatoes is slightly browned and crispy.

For Dessert:
Shepherd's Pie is uber-filling so it's best to follow it with something light, like slice apples or other fruit. I like desserts to be small but to have lots of options, so I usually just throw a bunch of things onto a wooden chopping board and let people choose. Last night the options were: chopped pieces of dark, sugarless chocolate (just from the corner market), some cut up pepperjack cheese, a bit of brie I had left over, slices of green and gala apples, triscut crackers, walnuts, and fresh strawberries.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An Introduction

"Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way."
-Jane Austen, Emma

Well! While I can only guess whether or not I am a truly sensible person, I feel as though I can say that blogs are, without a doubt, silly. I enjoy the idea of a free democracy of ideas and the immediacy of this new communication, but I'm also aware that a kook with a blog is an even harder kook to ignore than one without. Now that we've settled that, I'd like to go on record and say that I in no way intend to make the blogosphere a better place thanks to my presence, or mean to say that it will be less silly with my contribution. On the contrary, I'm probably going to make it a tad bit more ridiculous than it was before I came into it. I just like to think that among the utter nonsense, there will be the occasional moment of clarity. Emphasis on the occasional, of course. Also, impudence will abound, so really the quote works quite well, no?