Euphemisms can be helpful but Weasel words can be dangerous

What’s the harm of using euphemisms? People use euphemisms to avoid the “emotionally loaded” precise terms for things that make them feel uncomfortable. For example, we say “passed away” instead of died. Euphemisms are milder and less direct ways of saying something that is shocking or upsetting in order to avoid upsetting or shocking people.

While euphemisms can be helpful they become weasel words when they are used to downplay or reduce the severity of something that needs to be exposed for what it really is. For example, pedophilia is both shocking and upsetting but if we downplay its impact on the victims and romanticise it by using weasel words like “boy love” we are helping make it socially acceptable.

Currently, media outlets like The New York Times are using Weasel words in a misguided attempt to be culturally sensitive. Words that they consider to be ” culturally loaded” are not being used because they do not want to offend the culture that is doing the shocking and upsetting thing.

To put what they are doing into perspective imagine that the West has welcomed in immigrants with a totally different values system as they are cannibals. Some, of these immigrants but not all are content to integrate and eat what we eat. Laws against cannibalism are put in place and while very few people are actually caught when they are caught they are prosecuted. The Media is concerned that reporting on the cannibalism is culturally insensitive. Editors decide that ‘DNA harvesting’ is less ‘culturally loaded’ than the term ‘cannibalism’ and its use will help to bridge a gap between those who practice cannibalism and those who campaign against it.

Some academics argue that when the person isn’t killed but DNA has been harvested that it is culturally insensitive to refer to the practice as ‘cannibalism.’ They say that by referring to it as cannibalism people are unfairly demonising ‘important cultural practices’ which is culturally insensitive.

Authors from a Journal of Medical Ethics argue that ‘ partial DNA harvesting’ is a less harmful type of cannibalism and should be tolerated by liberal societies.

The recent news that a grand jury in Michigan has indicted three people, including two doctors, for female genital mutilation is a welcome development. As the first ever prosecutions of this crime in the United States, the case shines much needed light on an underground human rights abuse that has been going on for too long. Female genital mutilation has been deliberately covered up by those practicing it here or sending their daughters overseas during summer break to be mutilated outside of the law.

Yet, ham-fisted attempts to appear culturally sensitive by the likes of the New York Times reporting on this story will push these issues underground once more. The newspaper’s Health and Science Editor wrote that referring to female genital mutilation as ‘genital cutting’ is less ‘culturally loaded’ and will help to bridge a gap between those who practice FGM and those who campaign against it. In her eyes it’s a case of Africa vs. the West.

As an African who was subjected to FGM, now living in the West, allow me to help bridge that gap by explaining what we’re really talking about beneath the weasel words ‘genital cutting’.

There are five types of female genital mutilation performed on girls from as young as five years of age. Four of them are unarguably mutilation, and the other is designed to symbolize mutilation. I will start with the mildest.

1. The ‘nick’: The girl is held down, her legs pushed apart and a needle is used to prick her clitoris. The incision is similar to a finger prick test for diabetes, blood comes out and the girl is considered ‘cleansed’. Often there is a ritual with a little party to celebrate the procedure.

2. ‘Female circumcision’: The second method in terms of severity is often compared to male circumcision. The hood of the clitoris is cut off, in some cases the tip of the clitoris is cut off, known as clitoridectomy. In this form, an otherwise normally functioning body part is sliced off and thrown out. Disfiguring a little girl’s genitals in this way cannot rationally be considered anything but mutilation.

3. Intermediate infibulation: In the third form of FGM, as much of the clitoris as possible is dug out and removed. The inner labia are cut off and the outer labia are sewn together leaving two small holes for urination and menstruation. In places where this is done without ‘medical intervention’ girls have been known to bleed to death. After infibulation is done it is imperceptible what has taken place when the girl stands up with her legs together, but in the obstetrician’s position it is clearly visible that parts of her genitals have been removed and sewn up…

4. Total infibulation: In the fourth type of FGM the clitoris and inner labia are cut off and the outer labia are cut or scraped off too, then sewn up. When the girl stands, even with her legs closed, her genitals clearly look different.

5. Vaginal fusing: In the fifth type of FGM, which is rarely discussed, all of the fourth type is done and then the inner walls of the vagina are scratched to cause bleeding and the sewing is again done. The girl’s feet are tied together in an effort to fuse the two sides of the vagina with scar tissue to close it up. Children can die undergoing this.

…The aim of FGM in all its forms is to control female sexuality. The clitoris is removed to take physical pleasure from sex and reduce the libido. In its more severe forms, involving sewing the genitals up, the aim is to ensure the girl is a virgin on her wedding night. Many women must be surgically re-opened (or simply with a pen knife or razor blade) in order to consummate their marriage.  The consequences of FGM are ongoing psychological and physical harms from infections to fistulas and even death.

Even in its most mild form, the ‘nick’ procedure involves a young girl being held down by her loved ones and a needle poked into one of her most sensitive body parts. The moment this is done the child becomes sexually aware, she can now be a temptation to men, she can destroy her family’s so-called ‘honor’ and must now behave in certain ways around boys to demonstrate her modesty.

The debate around nicking, which had been previously settled, was revived again last year by an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The authors argued that nicking the vulva or cutting out the hood of the clitoris (FGM forms 1 and 2 above) are less harmful and should be tolerated by liberal societies. These practices, they suggest, are ethically acceptable and not contraventions of girls’ human rights.

Indeed, like the New York Times, these academics argue that referring to modest forms of FGM ‘mutilation’ is culturally insensitive and demonizes ‘important cultural practices’. Yet the meaning of those ‘important cultural practices’ is not examined beneath their ‘ethical lens.’ Notoriously academics and politically correct apologists like them assume any claim of ‘culture’ is by rights a good thing and trumps other considerations.

Seeing as they are so reluctant to critique cultural practices, other than those of ‘powerful, white men,’ I will do it for them. The ‘nick’ symbolizes and communicates to little girls that their natural state is unclean and that pain must be inflicted on their genitals to make them acceptable to their communities.

FGM is the symptom of harmful cultural beliefs that girls and women must be sexually pure, modest and that their bodies exist to breed. Whether it’s justified by being a Muslim, Egyptian, Indian, Jewish, black, a woman or any other category venerated in the identity politics pantheon, these beliefs are not compatible with liberal societies that profess to ensure the human rights of their citizens.

I encourage anyone interested to stop this barbaric practice happening in the United States to contact us

www.ahafoundation.org.


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