What is discrimination (across societies and cultures)?

This week, we read and spoke about surgeries that have been done in order to fit individuals into accepted gender norms or within one standard deviation of ‘normal’.  Enlarged clitorises were cut down and gender was created based on the ability to reproduce and have penetrative sex.   As I study international development at Penn, I was reminded of my previous studies about Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is considered a “violation of the human rights of girls and women” (WHO 2012).  According to the World Health Organization, “FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.  The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.” (WHO 2012).  These practices, however, occurring in advanced nations, are not considered to violate and human rights.

Furthermore, the google search for elective Vaginal Reconstructive Surgery returns three highlighted advertisements and more down the side of the page. Even on a less drastic scale, women today now shave, Brazilian wax, and have laser hair removal in their genital region.  In thinking about discrimination, how can we say that FGM is so terrible in Africa, but in New York Dr. Dix Poppas can experiment on young girls?  In addition, how do we draw a line in saying how much is too much?  For example, waxing is almost encouraged amongst young girls in America, yet I am not quite sure what health benefit it has proven to have either…

World Health Organization, FGM : http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

Google search for “vaginal cosmetic surgery” : http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=surgery+for+women+vagina&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8#hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&sclient=psy-ab&q=Vaginal+cosmetic+surgery&oq=Vaginal+cosmetic+surgery&gs_l=serp.3…6404.10263.0.10498.…1c.1.iwOSS0HNV1c&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=a79d1d8e37542dc6&biw=1026&bih=652

WebMD of Vaginoplasty: http://www.webmd.com/healthy-beauty/guide/vaginoplasty-and-labiaplasty-procedures

Note: “to tighten up a vagina that has become slack”

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One Response to What is discrimination (across societies and cultures)?

  1. jenyoon says:

    From what I understand, FGM is done at a very young age to reduce sex drive. Dr. Dix Poppas uses his procedures, ethical or not, with a purpose to improve sexual health. That is why I believe people are more willing to accept Dr. Poppas than FGM, even though both procedures are quite similar. Dr. Poppas uses science as a cover to reason his experiments, while an ethnic traditional practice may be looked down upon in a western and modern country. Personally, after learning about the troubles of inter-sex individuals, I believe that sexual health/ identity decisions are best left to the individual. In the same line of thought, I do not think we can ever tell when vaginal alterations (vaginoplasty, waxing) is “too much”. Whether an individual wants to get their genitals waxed, tightened etc is their own decision. Therefore, there can never be too much.

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