Cultural Celebration Without Discrimination

Let me open for apologizing greatly for how long I am taking to respond to comments over the past few days. Last week I had five interviews over three days and two more interviews which took up most of my time yesterday. I’m amazed I’ve even been able to put a blog post up every day. None of that is an excuse for ignoring comments. Please have patience as I have every intention of responding to each and every one of you lovely people (hopefully later today).

…and now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.


Per the request of Totally Trips, I attended Japan Fest this weekend. I’m forever grateful to her for that suggestion because I had a blast. While I was watching the Midwest Buddhist Temple Taiko Group play the traditional Japanese drums, I couldn’t help but wonder who composed the music we were hearing. Were they new songs composed by a modern musician, or were they old tunes that they used to play hundreds of years ago in Japan. Were women allowed to play the drums back then like they were in the show? Would spectators have been allowed? What about non-Japanese spectators?

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As I walked through all the different displays and events, I couldn’t help but be overcome with the culture. It was all so rich and unique. You could tell the how seriously the people there took their ethnicity. Their culture thrived and all the specifics about how certain people were or weren’t historically treated were set aside.

Sometimes, you’ll hear countries or groups of people demand the right to discriminate in the name of their culture. My senior project in college was on female genial mutilation and that was one excuse I came across for the practice. That’s what it is at the end of the day – an excuse. Saying you have the right to mutilate your daughter’s genitals because it’s part of your culture is like saying you have the right to own slaves because of culture. No matter how much history can be dug up, it doesn’t change how wrong it is.

Likewise, eliminating harmful practices doesn’t have to attack or destroy a culture. Polygamy comes to mind as an example of something that tends to be very harmful. The idea of plural marriage isn’t a problem as much as forcing women into marriages they don’t want, often at too young of an age. The removal of choice and the rape of children are the true problems that need to be addressed. Eliminating those practices would still allow any culture that practices polygamy to thrive.

In the case of female genital mutilation, many NGOs are trying to replace the practice with one that has the same meaning without causing harm. No one is cutting up their daughter’s genitals for no reason. Often, it’s used as a way to define and/or celebrate womanhood in the same way boys have a right of passage into men. That idea is at the heart of the practice and it can be transformed into a celebration that doesn’t harm anyone’s rights.

The issues of polygamy and female genital mutilation are much more complicated than I’ve made them sound. The changes I propose will never happen over night and anyone trying to change them will be accused at least once of ripping apart culture. It just struck me as I watched smiles break across the faces of he men and women playing the Japanese drums that they had figured it out. They had found a way to celebrate their culture, to share it in an untarnished form, without also enforcing the discriminatory practices that may have been a part of the drum performance hundreds of years ago.

I wonder how many other cultures could be equally celebrated even though some practices in their history are harmful. With the harmful aspects removed, why can’t a culture be celebrated? A friend of mine once explained to me that the Confederate flag was all over the place in the South as a symbol of pride in their culture. Having spent most of my life in the northern half of America, I associate that flag with something much different. Many may even be offended if  they see the flag in someone’s yard. Yet, don’t those who live in the southern United States have just as much right to be proud of their home as anyone else? Stripped of any discriminatory meaning, maybe it’s okay to fly the Confederate flag in the same of Southern pride.

What of the practice of wearing burka or arranged marriages. Both of these practices are related to cultures are related to harmful and sexist ideas about women. I wonder if that always has to be the case. Certainly a culture can keep the burka as one of its aspects without needing to include all the restrictions on woman it tends to come with.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic. Do you think cultures can be left in tact after the removal of harmful and discriminatory practices? Can they be celebrated and handed down without enforcing sexist or racist ideas that may have once been a part of its practice? Perhaps the true question is, does a culture which, in its original state, had harmful of discriminatory practices deserve to be celebrated at all?

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52 thoughts on “Cultural Celebration Without Discrimination”

  1. Culture is not an excuse for hurtful practices. I believe it is for everyone in the culture to be heard about a practice and whether or not it requires change. So often it is the power contingent of a culture who protests change.

    1. Yes, and they are the ones who say the culture will be destroyed without those harmful elements. That’s just not the case, though. A culture – any culture – can be respected and celebrated without incorporating any kind of discrimination.

  2. Cultures have to evolve and the people with it. It certainly should be possible to celebrate a heritage without continuing harmful and destructive traditions.

    The question then becomes is that what the culture really wants? Are they willing to change for the common good? To maybe give up their traditional power / domination? Or will they hold rigidly to tradition out of the fear of change?

    Too often it seems to be this fear that prevents real progress in repressive societies

    1. I agree with Chris on this. No culture sprang into being fully formed. It grew, it evolved, which is a process that continues. No segment or time period is “right” for it. Change is not destruction, it is growth.

  3. I’m so glad you had a great time and were inspired. Also, great shot of the drummers! I do think cultures can be left in tact after the removal of harmful and discriminatory practices. My favorite, if you can call it that, example of just such a thing is Chinese Foot Binding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding. This was a horrible practice that left many women permanently disabled. Luckily, it died out in the early 20th century partly from changing social conditions and partly as a result of anti-foot binding campaigns. Even with this ever popular trend gone, China still has a very rich culture with many positive aspects to be passed down through the generations.

    1. This post also had me thinking about footbinding. Emily Prager’s story, “A Visit from the Footbinder”, is very powerful, particularly in that it raises the point that often the “victims” of a destructive cultural practice are its strongest proponents. We’re very quick to condemn men as the most powerful members of most cultures, but I wonder how quickly change might come if only enough women – mothers, grandmothers, the old lady down the street – said, “Oh hell no – you did it to me, but over my dead body will you do it to this girl.” Remember the suffragettes were a minority even among their own sex.

      1. That’s usually how it goes. Most of these practices are way more complex than we give them credit for. For example, FGM is ‘necessary’ in some areas because a girl won’t be able to find a husband and/or earn a living without the practice. It’s not that the woman want it ti happen, but that it’s seen as necessary for survival. That’s what made issues like footbinding so intense. It was so much more than the practice. There was a whole system built around it.

  4. You are right that sometimes people who have more control use culture as an excuse to keep that control. If Asian women had gotten the right to vote in before the US, I can easily imagine a bunch of patriarchal people insisting that women shouldn’t have the vote here because that would be going against our culture.

    Some people will argue that hurtful things are not hurtful. Then ask questions like this: if you had a 50-50 chance of being born into the world in a privileged position or an underprivileged position (slave/master, Jew/Nazi, male/female who will quite likely be crippled or dead with FGM — and almost certainly find sex painful) would you rather make the world egalitarian or leave the power differentials the way they are?

    And, there is certainly no reason why an entire culture should be destroyed just because a hurtful practice is changed. Surely the culture is large enough and rich enough to survive.

    If the culture isn’t large enough and rich enough to survive, Maybe it shouldn’t. Southern slaveowners have argued that Northerners should stay out of their business. Large parts of the culture did end. And large parts kept intact. The parts that ended needed to go, or where unnecessary price to pay for ending the practice.

    I actually think the best way to deal with this, generally, is to have a dialogue with people in that culture such that you are learning from each other instead of lecturing them on how they should change.

    You can start by appreciateing certain things about them and talking about how we can learn from them. And then you get into questioning whether certain practices may be hurting people and consider how they might use their own cultural ways of being to do something different.

    1. True. No one is going to listen to a person who rushes in and says “how evil and wrong you are! Change this immediately.” There needs to be some give and take so both people are heard and understood.

  5. Where would any one of us be without culture? Nowhere! I am not advocating any of the practices that harm, induce any form of slavery or character that would impose anything upon another to make them less than their ability to be as great as they can be or to achieve all that they can. However culture is deeply rooted into or being. You can not remove it without losing such identity. There are many practices in every age in which can be regarded by one culture as harmful or destructive. These terms are ambiguous. Harmful in what way? Destructive how so? What we need to do is to identify the precise aspects in which inflict it upon one another. What is culture? It is the The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
    These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.
    Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
    These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression.
    religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
    The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.(source: https://dictionary.search.yahoo.com/) Culture molds us and unfortunately we are brought up in culture and when we become empowered to rise above those particles that are damaging we should change it as we can. Yet as we see culture when it is changed also changes and evolves; which it does constantly anyway. Our culture in the US as with any nation is changing whether that is for the good or worse history will evaluate. syncretism is the blending of one religion with another. Culture whether we like it or not, for good or ill shows who we are and how we are responsible for where live in it.

    1. This is all true. Perhaps the removal of harmful cultural practices is just a natural part of cultural evolution. The people who resist, who insist those harmful practices should continue, are working against the natural evolution of culture.

      As for a benchmark of what is and isn’t harmful, I usually default to the Declaration of Human Rights.

      1. If this were a social networking site, I would +1/Like/ReTweet/Give you a Gold Star for your deference to the Declaration of Human Rights. I find it a document/movement far ahead of its time, and sadly so. There is no reason not to have every citizen of every nation memorize that Declaration, and yet most are woefully ignorant even to its existence. I was ashamed of myself for not looking around enough at International Movements, when in Spanish Culture class in college, I first read the Declaración DDHH (Declaration of H.R.) at age 20. If only this sort of “global community” mindset, and the pursuit of its constant betterment, and vigilance toward protecting each human on the planet, was instilled in every culture!!!

        1. My international studies major in college was focused on human rights, so I know a good deal about the Declaration. I personally think it should be a part of school curriculum all over the world. People should memorize those rights like they memorize presidents and state capitols. That said, a person has human rights even if they don’t know what they are. I remember sitting in a class where they explained how a person or a child understands when their rights have been violated even if they don’t know what exactly they are. If you are beaten, sexually assaulted or forced into a marriage against your will, there is a feeling of violation. That’s what I think is so fascinating about human rights. Whether we learn the UN declarations or not, we know there is a way to treat people and to not treat people.

          1. Absolutely! And I like the idea of putting it in early curriculum, but since I (a Geography AND History buff in my spare time) STILL have the worst time with our own presidents and state capitals (I am inexplicably bored by my own country…..), I wonder if we would get very far! :-p

  6. The judgments you are making about the cultures of other civilizations and peoples are entirely based on Western ideas of morality, Western ideas of justice, and Western ideas of society as a whole. It is entirely possible that we are wrong about everything, and other nations are right to disagree with us.

    Now, do I actually think Western civilization is wrong? No. I just think it’s kind of funny that inherent in your idea of “progress” is the assimilation of Western ideology into other cultures. It’s like saying “you can keep your hijab if it makes you feel ‘arab’, but you need to get rid of that silly theocratic reasoning that justified its existence, because we in America find it quite outdated and discriminatory.”

    Ironically, due to our own Western philosophy of freedom and sovereignty, we don’t have the right to make that call.

    1. More accurately, jszigeti, her main example of a harmful practice derived from cultural tradition was female genital manipulation, most prominent in some African cultures. The simple act of disfiguring and scarring a woman’s vagina cannot be defended morally/logically by claiming that we are just too narrow-minded in America to see it from the point of view of those African tribes. Fact is, that practice has indeed maimed and sometimes killed women in those cultures. Check out what the World Health Organization (a multi-cultural organization) says: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

      That being said, I was under the impression that TK wasn’t saying these cultures were bad, simply that certain practices can be objectively proven to be harmful to certain members of a society. Should the KKK have had a constitutional right to lynch people in the 1800’s and 1900’s? Of course not, because murder and maiming are evil practices, no matter who you are. Should the KKK members themselves have been legally required to change their beliefs? Of course not! TK is saying that the practice is the problem, NOT the “silly theocratic reasoning that justified its existence,” since a person’s personal beliefs and freedoms should be protected. Admittedly, though, it is hard to protect certain beliefs when those beliefs single-handedly lead to the injury or death of innocent people.

      1. Murdering and maiming are only evil practices when you live in a society that cherishes humanity in all of its forms. You’ll find that massacres on large and small scales have enjoyed popular support throughout history in civilizations not as “advanced” as our own. Indeed, those living in the Middle East would say that the United States perpetrates numerous murderous campaigns through the region with seemingly little resistance at home. It has been said that WE are the ones with a culture of death. If, however, we are to take as a given that murdering and maiming are to be forbidden, where do we draw the line after that?

        The question posed by TK concerned “harmful and discriminatory practices,” which extends quite a bit beyond physical violence. I did not dodge her example, I rather provided a more subtle instance in which correcting the practices of other cultures might be seen as offensive.

        To your example, the KKK were part of our own Western culture, and we (mostly) decided to progress past that mindset. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of introspection and self-improvement. However, I ask you if the United States should be permitted to force the same vision of progress (OUR vision) upon other countries, and if so, how exactly?

        1. Those are valid points and fair statements, and in retrospect, I think I missed the whole “Devil’s Advocate” aspect of your original reply to the OP. Perhaps we should be drawing the line for morality’s sake between endangerment of citizens’ well-being, and discrimination. We certainly did progress, as a U.S. society, to believe that everyone in our country should have the right to vote, and to live free from fear of lynch mobs, but of course that doesn’t stop loads of our citizens from continuing to perpetuate discriminatory practices, especially in the business world (which is supposed to be the great equalizer, isn’t it? A system based solely on merit and ability is in fact controlled by subjective people with prejudices?), for example.

          I won’t argue that our country has a pretty dark history of its own, which it follows to this day, of meddling in the affairs of other countries and peoples, especially in ways that kill their citizens and sometimes whole villages/towns. That being said, I think we can all agree that as a race, as the human race, the right to life and security must be protected across the globe. So what about equal rights in other things?

    2. I do understand what you are saying, but I feel like you misunderstand my meaning. I view the hijab similarly to the burka. They are fine things to wear if the woman chooses to wear them. She can wear them because of her religion, because of how she was raised or for any other reason out there. The reason that she wears those items does not matter so long as it is her decision to wear and believe what she wants.

      It’s kind of like racism. You have the right to be racist, but you can’t be discriminatory. You can think and act as you like so long as you are not taking away someone else’s freedom of choice in the process.

      1. I think there is a bit of a grey area about “freedom of choice,” as well as other “freedoms.” It isn’t clear in the burqa/hijab case, because those are personal choices that have no impact on others.

        However, what about the choice of an Indian or Chinese factory owner to not regulate their carbon emissions, despite US scientists indicating that humanity is put at risk by climate change? The risks of pollution have no direct consequence to the factory owner, or potentially even anyone alive today. It is simply speculated that it will harm our children one day. It is a “harmless” free choice, for them.

        That said, it seems to me that not only should this freedom of choice be rejected, but potentially military intervention could be necessary to stop them before they destroy all life as we know it. And yet that is hardly fair to them, because before they even built their factory, the US had been polluting the atmosphere for years (and benefiting from it).

        It just feels like we are admitting to a degree of US Exceptionalism if we have the ability to decide for other cultures how much of their freedoms they are allowed to exercise.

        1. I admit, the idea that you should be free to do something so long as it doesn’t harm someone else is not a perfect statement. I can think of many situations where there would be grey area. There are situations where we’d be force to ask whose rights are more important. I just haven’t found something else that works better yet. I know… not a great explanation. I’m still developing that idea.

          I do think that carbon emissions and pollution in general would work with that idea, though. There proof of increased cases of asthma and such due to polluted air. Some cities actually have pollution ratings warning people who may be sensitive to it to stay in doors. That seems to be affecting the right of a health of people right now. At least, you could argue that’s the case in a court of law.

          I can’t help but think of freedoms within the context of American laws and values. I don’t know enough about international laws and cultures to expand that. I don’t think the exact same system can work for every culture or country. Sometimes I think all those pollution regulations should stay in place regardless. Just because current industrialized nations grew up on heavy carbon emissions does not mean that’s the only way. Perhaps the leading country hundreds of years from now will be the one that invested heavily in green energy. I don’t know that it’s fair for the international community to force any given country to find success in one way or the other. Aside from international treaties and declarations, there isn’t anything legal I can point to here. I guess all I could really say is that I can understand a country trying to grow in the same way that has worked for other counties as much as I can see a country starting a war because they view another as that serious of a threat.

          I don’t think this cleared up anything. You gave me something very interesting to think about. I’ll have to reflect on this more.

  7. It’s a tough question, especially considering white privelage and cultural appropriation and that sort of thing.

    Perhaps there’s too much focus on ‘celebration’, instead of education. We should learn all we can about different cultures, and not shy away from the bad as well as acknowledge the good…

    Overall it seems strange for white people to celebrate another’s culture. Celebrate your own. Observe others celebrating. Don’t be condescending about it. Meanwhile, be aware of human rights abuses and speak up no matter who it is.

    If that makes sense, still hard to say.

    1. For the record, Japan Fest was hosted by people of Japanese decent. There’s a large Japanese population in that particular part of Chicagoland. So, this wasn’t an event where white people were celebrating Japanese culture… unless you count the audience…. but a lot of people in the audience were Japanese as well.

      I guess I mesh celebration and education together. A lot of the events were about educating people on that particular part of the culture. For example, they are a tea ceremony event where they had people making tea for guest, all in traditional Japanese clothing and using traditional Japanese utensils and furniture. Off to the side, there was a woman explaining each action, why it was done and it’s cultural significance. That was as much a educational experience as it was a celebration of the tea ceremony.

  8. Here’s my two cents – You mention the Confederate Battle Flag (proudly and loudly displayed all across the South) flown as a “symbol of pride in [one’s] culture,” but of course many people in the South, even a few with light skin tones, are offended by (or wary of) such implied racism. Did you know that even the Georgia state flag until I think 2001 was just a Confederate Battle Flag, next to the state seal of Georgia. Google it! When Georgians put up a fight and demanded that such a “racist symbol” be removed from such a government-endorsed standard, the politicians in Atlanta simply changed the flag to match the old Confederate States of America government’s flag — certainly a more racist symbol, since the one was flown only by those in the Civil War who were fighting for their homeland, and the second was flown by the government institutions and politicians who actively passed laws to keep slavery in effect!! People who fly the “Stars’n’Bars” (battle flag) today usually do it out of a cultural tradition, as you said, but this unfortunately coincides with blatant racism in many cases, Sure, the Jim Crow laws aren’t there, but there ain’t a single black person with a Confederate Battle Flag on anything! Ironic then, that GA and many other Southern states retain a flag that is either exactly patterned or very closely patterned after the CSA National Flag!!

    1. I have to admit, I find the Confederate flag offensive. I always thought of it as offensive until I spoke to someone from the south about what the flag meant to her. So… I guess I’m not 100% set on any give opinion with that specific issue. If a person flies it for southern pride, I have no problem. If a person flies it to support racism, then I am against it. But how do we know if it is positive or negative. Maybe it’s one of those things that should be erased just because of the discriminatory history it invokes. It’s like black face. These days, a person could wear black face with no intention to be racist, but we have essentially erased the practiced because of the history of racism black face symbolizes.

      I imagine that idea would be a tough pill to swallow for people who are passionate about southern pride and the flag.

      1. Interestingly enough, I love living in a state entrenched on opinions about that flag. For one side, the bitter pill is seeing the flag anywhere, for they see only the racism it *can* represent. For others, and I lean slightly toward this side, of course, they refuse to see it as anything other than heritage, pride, history, and freedom, even if a few still use it as a symbol of racial supremacy, etc. – there is also the freedom of expression card, as well. So while I will always defend your RIGHT to fly that flag, and to believe whatever you want about it, I will only support personally the idea of remembering that your ancestors fought to try and defend their homeland. Any other meaning for those stars and bars is offensive to me. It’s literally a situation where a large group will be “up in arms” either way you go, censure or freedom of expression.

        Honestly, this is an issue I take case-by-case, specifically. Backwoods rednecks who assume that their skin color means they are better than all other races, and that there are physiological inferiorities in black people, are astoundingly ironic to me. My best friend, who grew up in the mountains with me, has almost no non-white friends, and who is often just slightly racist, still voted for Obama, because he wants to see change, no matter how he actually feels about social situations. He can see the big picture, because he is an educated, down-to-earth boy from the Dirty South.

        There’s my soapbox! Sorry, I will stop hijacking your post now. :-p

        1. You are welcome to hijack my posts. You say a lot here but my response is rather short: I agree. When it comes to that flag, I’m not sure where my opinion lies. However, I would never argue against a person’s right to fly it. It’s like that post I wrote on polygamy. Even though I think a practice is often wrong, so long as one’s action don’t interfere with another’s human rights, I figure they can do what they want.

  9. I think it’s worth pointing out that the people reinterpreting tradition as in your example are not the same people or the same generation that would have used tradition in a discriminatory way. I think it’s wonderful if people can achieve the kind of celebration-without-negative-connotations you’re describing, but it would be insanely hard to get people who are CURRENTLY doing something discriminatory and harmful to transform that into a nonharmful practice and still feel like it was functionally equivalent.

    1. Well, like anything, getting rid of a harmful practice would not happen over night. It would be a process… and probably a slow one. In that way, the people who make up the culture can kind of change their culture themselves based off of their further education and understanding of equality and human rights. Obviously just forcing a large group to stop anything will create a lot of resistance. Even with really bad practices, like FGM, I don’t think that’s the way to go. It would just force the practice underground.

      1. Yes, quite so. I actually worry about this in general, especially with fundamentalism and the American South… Culture is slowly becoming more mainstream and less fundamentalist, but I worry about the groups that just clamp down and make things worse for their members. That’s a really great point that we need more education and awareness of concepts like human rights to actually convince people instead of just banning things legally.

        1. I once attended a panel about women in religion. They had a female representative from the Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Athiesim beliefs talk about how women were treated in their belief system and how that can or should change. One of the things one of the speakers mentioned is that if those who are less fundamentalist leave a religion, then the original religion becomes smaller but more radical. I suppose the same can be said for culture…. since it’s been my running example, take FGM. As more and more people decide that’s not for them and abandon the practice, those who still believe in it will ‘go underground,’ becoming more radical and perhaps more harmful. Maybe that’s the natural way of things. Eventually, the group of radicals becomes so small that they are ignored or – if society sees their actions as so radical they are criminal, the practice is outlawed and the radicals incarcerated.

          1. Yep. That comes up a lot being LGBT+ in the South… Do we leave and go somewhere not horrible to us, thus making the place even worse for those who stay, or do we stay and try to improve it?

            I don’t see any way around that group of leftover radicals, although with something like FGM, I do hope it becomes illegal and prosecutable, thus eventually all but exterminated. I really do like and appreciate your suggestion that these blatantly harmful practices can be replaced by something equally meaningful and culturally relevant!

            1. It was something that came up in my study of FGM. There were organizations who succeeded in eliminating FGM from communities that used to practice it heavily by replacing it with a different celebration of womanhood. It was literally a celebration, like a party held when a girl reached a certain age. I don’t remember all the specifics anymore. The point is, they did get it to work. Now, every culture who practices FGM may not be open to the same kind of celebration, but it does show that cultural meanings placed on harmful actions can be transferred to harmless activities.

  10. FGM, footbinding, and sati (the custom of a widow immolating herself on her husband’s funeral pyre) are all patriarchal practices. So is the burqa. Would women be perpetuating any of these customs if they had the power to do otherwise? Doubtful.

    Our own culture has plenty of comparable examples. Whoever criticizes the burqa should look at how women were expected to dress in our society until fairly recently. The bottom line is that in patriarchal societies women are expected to dress “modestly” in order not to turn men on. Over the decades we’ve come to expect men to control their own urges — but if a woman dresses “immodestly” and gets assaulted or raped, an awful lot of people say “she asked for it.” No, sorry, she didn’t ask for it. To say so is to suggest that men can’t control their sexual impulses.

    Women inflict FGM on their daughters, nieces, and granddaughters because otherwise the girls aren’t considered marriageable, and in many societies (including ours until fairly recently) a girl who doesn’t marry has no future. If men are willing to marry women who haven’t been mutilated, and if women have alternatives to marriage, FGM will die out and the culture that currently supports it will survive. But be warned: Patriarchy is tenacious. It doesn’t relinquish power easily. All the proof you need is in the U.S. politicians and religious leaders who are determined to curb women’s rights whenever they can.

    1. I agree that all those practices are rooted in patriarchy and gender equality. Legally, those things should not be forced. However, a person – any person – has the right to freedom of religion. If a woman chooses to follow a religion where she must wear a burqa, fine. I’m not saying I approve, but that she has the right to her choice. It’s also not a practice that is physically harming someone or removing someone else’s rights (again, I am assuming the woman is chooseing of her own free will to wear a burqa). Now, if women were given that freedom, perhaps most would choose not to wear it and that’s fine too. It all comes down to choice.

      At the end of the day, simply making these practices illegal will do little. We’ve seen it do little. It has more to do with a culture change. Like you mention, we have to work t build a culture of equality so women will have the power to do otherwise if they so choose.

  11. FGM-i once asked this as a health query in a website when i red a news story from bbc website.jesus christ what is wrong with these people?i also believe too much infection risks are also there.it is very sad that a guy like me living in a village in south india have more sense than these so called civilised people.you write well tk.and i have noticed the likes you gave me for my silly poems.it is a big compliment for me.keep writing stay in touch and god bless 🙂

    1. FGM is so complex. You may have been surprised at some of the things I suggested in my report. For example, should these cultures be provided the ability to carry out this operation and avoid infections (they usually use crude instruments, like a piece of glass, to do it. That’s where the main risk for infection comes from). Could we convince them to do a less harmful version with the idea being that eventually it could all end? It’s really fascinating to see all the different arguments.

  12. The problem is complex. If we start by being completely NOT ethnocentric, and believe all cultures are equal, just different, then the contemporary world is changing almost all cultures via hand held computers and phone,s and media has more influence than any small group of people has ever had before. Thus propaganda, and a a bias toward big business threatens not just diversity of cultures, but genocide of cultures (the USA started with 3,000 cultures being wiped out by greedy Europeans) but a universal culture built on materialism. Oh it’s a big hit for genuine spirituality. Tibet is a prime example. Here’s one more take:

    http://dougstuber.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/genocide-slavery-greed/

    1. There’s nothing wrong with cultures changing. Change is normal. I think equality comes down to respect and understanding, even if that understanding is that you can’t understand.

      1. I figure I’m a world class Luddite and stick in the mud,but when one culture pushes its way onto another,I don’t see that change as good. As an armchair anthropologist I figure diversity is good, and indigenous ways would have left the planet livable forever. I live as close to indigenous ways as I can, but that’s not saying much. Of course indigenous ways means about 1.5 billion people on earth too. Wildly sustainable, but most of us wouldn’t be here. I love your blog

        1. One culture pushing it’s ways on another is not good, I agree. However, it’s natural for cultures to interact, influence each other and change. For me, it comes down to why a culture is changing. Is it happening naturally or is it being forced.

          1. In the case if the materialistic capitalist fir profit culture it is being forced by the World Trade Organization and multiple free trade agreements. These allow big business to take natural and Hunan resources to the devastation of local communities. Note the 1,000,000+ west Papuans murdered in order for the Indonesian government and others to steal minerals. The chance that an entire country no less culture can avoid this or turn it around is becoming more slim. It all began when Europeans genocided 300 entire cultures in north and South America. It wasn’t good that cultures changed or ended that way and to me it is just as bad that the rich capitalists at the top impose their ways because those ways include wage slavery throughout Asia and South America and close to that in Mexico too. Many Hollywood movies and all major news services perpetuate this via very effective propaganda. However, small groups of people can prosper outside the auspices of globalization. For now.

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