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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Anthropology For Dummies

"The freshly created space where once there had been a joint was now a gelatinous infinity of torture."

That sentence is taken from early in Lisa See's 2005 novel "Snow Flower & The Secret Fan". Since reading her book months ago, I've been unsuccessfully trying to understand how cultural practices that torture women continue to exist. Lisa See asserts the custom of footbinding has still not been totally abandoned in parts of rural China. When the author described agony seven year old girls endure to meet an ideal of beauty that includes having feet that never get beyond a size two, I squirmed. And I was only reading a book; I'm incapable of imagining that kind of pain.

Yet as agonizing as footbinding is, women in other parts of the world endure worse. To any reader who majored in anthropology- Is there a culture where men are subjected to intentional mutilation? Creating eunuchs through the castration of young boys is part of an ancient past. Yes I know I'm being culturally insensitive so take your pick of epithet - narrow American, clueless Westerner, hopeless ethnocentrist. Guilty, guilty, guilty. But I still don't get how intentional mutilation of women persists in our modern world. In this particular instance, throw whatever epithet you want at me; I'm comfortable being ignorant.    

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