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Author Topic: Do you have a "job" to do? (your religion and the rest of the world...)  (Read 8347 times)
joshuatenpenny
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« Reply #15: October 17, 2007, 05:45:40 pm »

I've struggled with that question of tolerance lately, too. I certainly believe in allowing people to practice their religions, but there is a limit to what I will tolerate. When it comes to physical violence, mutilation etc. of other human beings in the name of some religion or god... sorry. That falls outside the scope of "tolerance" in my opinion. I don't know exactly what you may have read in National Geographic, so it could be different from what I have read and heard. But what I read is nothing short of institutionalized, ritualized abuse.

In America, circumcision is performed by a doctor in a clean environment, and it's done very early so the child grows up not knowing the difference. What I read was... I really don't want to describe it, but it was basically extreme physical mutilation of children's genitals (ages 4, 5, and 6 I think) in a filthy environment with makeshift tools, observed by strangers, no anesthesia used, and the children are forbidden to cry lest they shame their families. I see that as significantly different from what is practiced here (although I am conflicted about Western circumcision practices as well).

For me, where tolerance comes in to these situations is in approaching the issue with respect and sensitivity for why people are doing these things and what it means to them. It means being willing to engage in harm reduction strategies, like ensuring communities have access to clean appropriate tools and anesthetic. It means helping people who are of that culture institute appropriate forms social change.

Years ago I corresponded with a man from a culture which practiced labial infibulation (closing the vagina) as a means of ensuring virginity in young women. As practiced traditionally, the process severely mutilated the genitals. It left limited ability for sexual arousal and often made any sort of penetration quite painful even after it was "opened" for the husband. THis was considered beneficial, because it reduced the temptation for infidelity. Without this, the woman would not be considered to be fit for marriage. Rather than rail against the practice in its entirety, he was talking to other fathers about a safer "modern" sort of labial infibulation - securing the labia together with a small metal ring. Rather than emphasize the fact that this preserved sexual sensation, he emphasized that it could be easily closed again if the husband was away for an extended period of time. I never found out how much success he had with that project, but I applaud him for trying.

Similarly, I read about an older woman in a tribe which practiced some form of female circumcision. I don't know that I remember the story exactly, but the gist of it was that this woman was the person girls were sent to for the procedure. (It wasn't done publicly.) She confessed to the (female) interviewer that she hadn't performed the procedure in the traditional way for many years. Now she only made a moderately sized cut on each of the labia, bandaged the young woman tightly, and sent her on her way. There'd be some pain and a scar, but no serious damage. Apparently no one noticed the difference, because even if a husband did inspect his wife's genitals closely, which would be considered terribly disrepectful, he wouldn't (or oughtn't) have seen any other "properly" circumcised genitals to compare it to. The girls themselves didn't know they hadn't been cut in the traditional way - they weren't comparing their genitals with girls from neighboring tribes.


There is benefit in making small steps, when small steps are all that can be made.

-- Joshua
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Dania
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« Reply #16: October 17, 2007, 05:51:59 pm »

(intelligently, of course.  not everything is a nail because you have a hammer.  but if you DO have a hammer, and there's a half-built structure and some nails .. you can at least ask if they need help!)

Exactly!!! I do get oh-so-tired of people going around thinking they need to 'help' when their help is most certainly uninvited and unwanted. However I do think that they should at least ask.
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Journey
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« Reply #17: October 17, 2007, 06:41:44 pm »

I know that some spiritual feminists (especially Reclaiming tradition) believe in using magic, ritual or prayer to influence the world in social or political ways. For some, magic is a kind of activism. I'd like to hear how others feel about this.
Personally,  I've never considered myself an activist, but I probably fit the definition of "concerned citizen." But there are times when i feel like magic is perhaps the best or only way to improve on a situation that is to convoluted for mundane handling.
So ... Do you believe it's ok to use magic or prayer for social change? Do you do just that? Why or why not? If it's not ok to do that, how do you respond to problems in the world that you are unable to affect in mundane ways? Or can you suggest a mundane course of action that would have an impact?

Yes, I do a bit of activism mostly of a non-magic nature.

I just rescued two kittens and am now in the process of finding them homes. This was something I could physically do, so I am doing it. As I see it, it would have been rather "chicken" of me to walk away from them and just pray for them or work magic to help them out. Did I really want to do this? I don't know, it sure is a pain and a big inconvienience. But I felt it was something I had to or was supposed to do. However, I am using magic to help with finding them a new home, I have made an offering to Baset for help in the matter.

I have also been fairly active in my community at times, mostly involving recycling programs and working to expand the the awarness of children on environmental issues.

For bigger things, *she sighs* Well I am no Marla Ruzicka  (victims of war helper) So, since I cannot travel the world to work hands on with people, in those circumstances I pray to an appropriate deity for a better day for those suffering. My own piddley magic wouldn't be enough anyway, there are situations that call for a greater power.
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sailor_tech
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« Reply #18: October 17, 2007, 07:37:54 pm »

I believe that if we have the power to do something about it, we should do so.  We are all part of the Divine, and we all need to improve it.

Ya got a tool, use it. Cheesy

(intelligently, of course.  not everything is a nail because you have a hammer.  but if you DO have a hammer, and there's a half-built structure and some nails .. you can at least ask if they need help!)

And also make sure your "help" isn't making things worse in the long run (more than a year or two down the road.)

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Aster Breo
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« Reply #19: October 17, 2007, 08:11:10 pm »

THANK YOU, Moon Ivy! You're doing vital work. It's easier growing up gay now than it was back when I was doing it (the '70s), but it's still mighty tough, esp. in certain parts of the country and the world.

Thanks, Altair and PW, too.  Today was a hard day (the ENDA mess), but I believe in the mission of the organization I work for.  It's really great to know that others appreciate it.   Smiley

To address Dania's point about leaving people the hell alone and wanting to be left alone:  Unfortunately, that's not the way the world works. 

In my experience as a lawyer, a child advocate, and an education advocate (with an LGBT focus), the problem is that people are NOT being left alone or allowed the right to be who they are.  I think this is the same problem with genital mutilation.  Kids are abused (not left alone).  LGBT students are harassed, bullied, threatened, even -- literally -- killed (definitely not left alone).  Young women have their sexual organs mutilated beyond repair and (usually) against their will (again, not left alone).

The bill I'm working hardest on right now is the Safe Schools Improvement Act.  The idea is that all schools in the US would have to have policies -- and enforce them -- to prevent the bullying and harassment of students based on gender, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religion, and any other categories the state or locality wants to protect.  In other words, this is a federal bill designed to get people to leave other people alone.

Granted, sometimes advocates are asking for things other than to be left alone.  For example, child and health advocates are currently trying to get President Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program overridden by Congress.  SCHIP is a program that provides health insurance to kids whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford private insurance.  So, yeah, that's not leaving those kids alone -- because leaving them alone would mean depriving them of access to medical care, which has a host of extremely negative ramifications.

But "advocacy" and "social justice" does not necessarily = interference in people's rights.  Sometimes, human decency requires action.  Take the civil rights movement for example.

And, often postive change is extremely incremental.

Years ago I corresponded with a man from a culture which practiced labial infibulation (closing the vagina) as a means of ensuring virginity in young women. As practiced traditionally, the process severely mutilated the genitals. It left limited ability for sexual arousal and often made any sort of penetration quite painful even after it was "opened" for the husband. THis was considered beneficial, because it reduced the temptation for infidelity. Without this, the woman would not be considered to be fit for marriage. Rather than rail against the practice in its entirety, he was talking to other fathers about a safer "modern" sort of labial infibulation - securing the labia together with a small metal ring. Rather than emphasize the fact that this preserved sexual sensation, he emphasized that it could be easily closed again if the husband was away for an extended period of time. I never found out how much success he had with that project, but I applaud him for trying.

Similarly, I read about an older woman in a tribe which practiced some form of female circumcision. I don't know that I remember the story exactly, but the gist of it was that this woman was the person girls were sent to for the procedure. (It wasn't done publicly.) She confessed to the (female) interviewer that she hadn't performed the procedure in the traditional way for many years. Now she only made a moderately sized cut on each of the labia, bandaged the young woman tightly, and sent her on her way. There'd be some pain and a scar, but no serious damage. Apparently no one noticed the difference, because even if a husband did inspect his wife's genitals closely, which would be considered terribly disrepectful, he wouldn't (or oughtn't) have seen any other "properly" circumcised genitals to compare it to. The girls themselves didn't know they hadn't been cut in the traditional way - they weren't comparing their genitals with girls from neighboring tribes.


There is benefit in making small steps, when small steps are all that can be made.

Those are both excellent examples of advocates who were working withing a specific culture, and framing their messages in a culturally competent, respectful way -- a way that could be *heard* by the people's whose actions they were trying to change.

Can you tell I get passionate about advocacy?   Wink
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Aster Breo
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« Reply #20: October 17, 2007, 08:14:52 pm »

There is an organization around that is actually working on this.

UNICEF and Amnesty International both work on the issue of female genital mutilation.  There's also the FGM Network.
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"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."  ~ George Bernard Shaw
heron
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« Reply #21: October 17, 2007, 08:23:51 pm »


Similarly, I read about an older woman in a tribe which practiced some form of female circumcision. I don't know that I remember the story exactly, but the gist of it was that this woman was the person girls were sent to for the procedure. (It wasn't done publicly.) She confessed to the (female) interviewer that she hadn't performed the procedure in the traditional way for many years. Now she only made a moderately sized cut on each of the labia, bandaged the young woman tightly, and sent her on her way. There'd be some pain and a scar, but no serious damage. Apparently no one noticed the difference, because even if a husband did inspect his wife's genitals closely, which would be considered terribly disrepectful, he wouldn't (or oughtn't) have seen any other "properly" circumcised genitals to compare it to. The girls themselves didn't know they hadn't been cut in the traditional way - they weren't comparing their genitals with girls from neighboring tribes.


There is benefit in making small steps, when small steps are all that can be made.

-- Joshua

Thank you for those stories, Joshua! Part of me is saying, "yes, but they're still being abused. It's still wrong," but it's true that, realistically, we just have to work with what we have, which means talking with people on a level they are willing and able to relate to, making incremental changes, etc.

And it's a good point about being sensetive to other cultures, etc. People who are, at heart, "good people" often practice some very hurtful things because someone has taught them that that's the right way. It's a shame, and it makes things even more complicated. After all, if they were just villains, it would be easy to say they don't deserve compassion. But they're not, are they? They too are victims of misinformation, abuse, control under the guise of religion. So, yeah, there is definitely compassion required.
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Altair
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« Reply #22: October 17, 2007, 10:02:20 pm »

The bill I'm working hardest on right now is the Safe Schools Improvement Act.  The idea is that all schools in the US would have to have policies -- and enforce them -- to prevent the bullying and harassment of students based on gender, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religion, and any other categories the state or locality wants to protect.

Interestingly enough, I think schools may be heading in this direction even without legislation, because of $$$. Several school districts have gotten hammered financially in settling lawsuits by students who were bullied in school for whatever reason, and the school district was liable because little or nothing was done about it. If your district has policies in place, that at least offers you some plausible deniability.
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Aster Breo
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« Reply #23: October 17, 2007, 10:31:40 pm »

Interestingly enough, I think schools may be heading in this direction even without legislation, because of $$$. Several school districts have gotten hammered financially in settling lawsuits by students who were bullied in school for whatever reason, and the school district was liable because little or nothing was done about it. If your district has policies in place, that at least offers you some plausible deniability.

Yes, that's true.  Every suit brought against a school for failing to protect LGBT students from bullying has been lost or settled by the school.  Yet districts STILL find ways to avoid intervening in bullying and prohibiting Gay-Straigh Alliances, etc.

Fifteen Expensive Reasons Why Safe Schools Legislation Is In Your State’s Best Interest:
http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1913.html
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Purplewitch
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« Reply #24: October 18, 2007, 11:14:30 am »

Thanks, Altair and PW, too. 
You're welcome? Smiley

Quote
But "advocacy" and "social justice" does not necessarily = interference in people's rights.  Sometimes, human decency requires action. 

I know I told you one of the stories, Moon Ivy, just seems that your phrase sums up that 'line in the sand' I told you about. It will probably always be one of the greatest regrets I have that I allowed myself to be bullied out of continuing along the path that started with that incident. But I cannot change the past, only try not to repeat it. And hope that someone else took up where I dropped out.
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Oaksworn
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« Reply #25: October 22, 2007, 12:07:52 pm »

Yes, actually, that would be helpful if you don't mind.

I'll do the best I can for you.  I haven't forgotten I've just been very embroiled in physical life stuff lately.

Quote from: heron
In America, circumcision is performed by a doctor in a clean environment, and it's done very early so the child grows up not knowing the difference.

Sadly, mistakes still happen.  I remember reading of one account where a male baby being circumcised with a lazer ended up with his penis being completely removed.  Can you imagine being part of the resulting conversation between the doctor and parents?

Quote from: heron
What I read was... I really don't want to describe it, but it was basically extreme physical mutilation of children's genitals (ages 4, 5, and 6 I think) in a filthy environment with makeshift tools, observed by strangers, no anesthesia used, and the children are forbidden to cry lest they shame their families.

The recipient had just entered puberty, I believe she was 12yrs old.  Her mother had arranged to meet the practioner to prepare her daughter for marriage.  Apparently circumcised females in this culture had a higher selling price as they would be less likely to 'stray' from their husbands.  There was an old, chipped, rusty razor blade that was honed on a rock, her mother, the medicine woman and no anesthesia... yeah, horrific ::shudders::
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"Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. As we have both learned, sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective. " ~ Delenn, Babylon 5

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