On Cultural Relativism and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

4 April 2015
A critical analysis of the interaction of Western culture’s social values and the practice of female circumcision.

This paper discusses the theory of cultural relativism as it relates to gender and sexuality from an anthropological cross-cultural perspective. It discusses how the Western perspective, as the dominant culture, defines the experiences of women who have experienced FGM in certain ways, namely in terms of Western medical discourse. This definition neglects to address the subjective experience of the women and how they define themselves and their own experience, thus giving an incomplete picture of the socio-cultural framework in which FGM takes place. Included also is a discussion of the problems of applying sociological theory to the intricacy of real-world human affairs.
From the paper:

On Cultural Relativism and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Essay Example

Cultural relativism states that what is morally good and bad is collectively defined by the people in a culture, and therefore there is no objective way to judge between cultures. Thus, an act in one culture that seems barbaric to an outsider such as female circumcision cannot be thus judged, because the outsider has his own value system that is not relevant to the culture. In this paper, I will examine the theoretical and ideological underpinnings of this perspective, the problems that arise when it is applied to actual cultural diversity, and alternative ways of looking at the space between cultures. I will specifically investigate the controversial topic of female genital mutilation, and explore the problems involved in approaching the practice from outside the culture it is practiced in.

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