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Last week Lena Dunham announced via social media that she had been inspired — by a Beyonce song — to stop using the word “sorry.”
“So many of the women I know apologize like it’s a job they were given by the government (we’ll save the whys of that for a massive sociology text)” she said. (Of course if you’re familiar with Dunham’s work you might wonder why she isn’t apologizing more often)
In any case this is not the first time a feminist movement in the U.S. has zeroed in on the use of a word. In early 2014, Sheryl Sandberg launched the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign which sought to convince people to stop using the ‘b-word’ when speaking to young girls.
Maybe it’s just me, but both movements seem a tad superfluous, and to be honest, self-indulgent. I can’t help but wonder if some of that gung ho girl power wouldn’t be better directed at a far more pressing issue affecting women around the world.
On Wednesday, CNN and other outlets reported that an Egyptian teenager had died following ‘genital mutilation surgery.’ (Progressive college students: this is where your trigger warning would normally go…or does it belong with the headline? I have no idea, those things didn’t exist when I was in school.)
Anyway, per CNN:
After Mayar Mohamed Mousa’s twin sister finished her operation, it was the 17-year-old’s turn to go under the knife. But this was not a medical operation to provide treatment — it was mutilation to remove her clitoris.
A registered doctor administered a full anesthetic to the teenager in a private hospital in Egypt’s coastal Suez province, according to Dr Lotfi Abdel-Samee, the health ministry undersecretary in the province, and then began surgically removing part of her sexual organs.
Mousa did not survive.
She died of complications Sunday caused by female circumcision, Abdel-Samee told CNN. It is a common procedure in the region known as female genital mutilation (FGM). The practice has been illegal in Egypt since 2008 but remains a strong tradition in Egyptian society where families see cutting as a way to “calm” or “purify” young girls.
For a practice that the Egyptian government claims is illegal, the surgery appears to be quite commonplace.
Ninety-two percent of married Egyptian women aged 15 to 49 have been subjected to FGM, according to a recent government report. Even more alarmingly, 82% of female circumcisions in Egypt are performed by trained medical personnel, the United Nations reports.
This isn’t just happening in Egypt. As of 2013, the procedure was taking place in at least 30 countries, with a prevalence rate of 80 percent in 8 of those countries, according to the World Health Organization.
While the thought of the patriarchy using a word like ‘bossy’ with regard to outspoken young women may indeed be terrifying and disgusting to some, it’s somewhat less terrifying and disgusting than the idea of the same young women having pieces of their genitals removed with a razorblade.
Having the ability to spend time and resources battling innocuous words is the ultimate sign of comfort and privilege. It’s like going to a 5-star restaurant and complaining that the ice cubes are too cold. So in the face of these ridiculous campaigns we have to ask – could this energy be better spent?
Of course it could.
The good news here is that Lena Dunham (@LenaDunham) and Sheryl Sandberg (@SherylSandberg) both have considerable amounts of influence, particularly on the internet.
I for one would love to see these outspoken women pick up a spear and lead the charge to end this disgusting, barbaric practice. If they really want to they can start with any one of these organizations which are fighting to protect women’s bodies around the world:
My sincerest apologies if that suggestion comes off as a tad…bossy.
This contributor is a Marine veteran that has served in the Middle East. Due to the sensitive nature of his current job, he has requested to remain anonymous.