Listen, Patriarchy

Three individuals seated in a large living room on the old west side of town discuss plights that affect the welfare of modern society while enjoying libations and leisure.

[Younger man sips on an adult beverage before handing The Power Elite to the man.]

Man:
“In the standard image of power and decision, no force is held to be as important as the Great American Public. More than merely another check and balance, this public is thought to be the seat of all legitimate power. In official life as in popular folklore, it is held to be the very balance wheel of democratic power. In the end, all liberal theorists rest their notions of the power system upon the political role of this public; all official decisions, as well as private decisions of consequence, are justified as in the public’s welfare; all formal proclamations are in its name. The mass society…”

[The man offers the young man an incense, the young man lights the incense ablaze.]

Young man:
“Yet, in so far as the elite flourishes as a social class or as a set of men at the command posts, it will select and form certain types of personality, and reject others. The kind of moral and psychological beings men become is in large part determined by the values they experience and the institutional roles they are allowed and expected to play.”

[A woman seated on sofa gingerly places the Kitty back on to the floor before speaking.]

Woman:
“In Somalia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, violence is inflicted on women at an abnormal rate. Genital mutilation is a common practice rooted in gender inequality. Somalian households serve as informal clinics, young girls are restrained by mothers as local circumcisers use glass tools to remove some or all of the external female genitalia often without anaesthesia.

Neighborhoods in Somalia are amplifiers of shrills, the young girl’s screams can be heard by merchants and pedestrians passing through townsquare.

Somalian men listen intently to the whaling young girl, as the circumcision signifies that the young girl will be an ideal bride. The power elite fetishsize over genital mutilation, unconcerned with the pain endured, the young girl’s body is deemed lesser.

The young girl’s vagina now circumcised or “sewn closed,” a single hole of 2–3 mm is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid by inserting something, such as a twig, into the wound. The vulva is closed with surgical thread, agave or acacia thorns, or covered with a poultice such as raw egg, herbs, and sugar. The parts that have been removed might be placed in a pouch for the girl to wear. To help the tissue bond, the girl’s legs are tied together, often from hip to ankle, for anything up to six weeks; the bindings are usually loosened after a week and may be removed after two. Somalian midwifes report:

The entrance to the vagina is obliterated by a drum of skin extending across the orifice except for a small hole. Circumstances at the time may vary; the girl may struggle ferociously, in which case the incisions may become uncontrolled and haphazard. The girl may be pinned down so firmly that bones may fracture.”

If the remaining hole is too large in the view of the girl’s family, the procedure is repeated. The vagina is opened for sexual intercourse, for the first time either by a midwife with a knife or by the woman’s husband with his penis. In some areas, including Somaliland, female relatives of the bride and groom might watch the opening of the vagina to check that the girl is a virgin.

The penetration of the bride’s infibulation takes anywhere from 3 or 4 days to several months. Some men are unable to penetrate their wives at all (in my study over 15%), and the task is often accomplished by a midwife under conditions of great secrecy, since this reflects negatively on the man’s potency. Some who are unable to penetrate their wives manage to get them pregnant in spite of the infibulation, and the woman’s vaginal passage is then cut open to allow birth to take place. Those men who do manage to penetrate their wives do so often, or perhaps always, with the help of the “little knife.” This creates a tear which they gradually rip more and more until the opening is sufficient to admit the penis.

The woman is opened further for childbirth and closed afterwards, a process known as defibulation (or deinfibulation) and reinfibulation. Reinfibulation can involve cutting the vagina again to restore the pinhole size of the first infibulation. This might be performed before marriage, and after childbirth, divorce and widowhood.”

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Estimated prevalence of female genital mutilation in girls and women in Somalia: 98%.

[The man and the younger man squirm, gasp, and remain attentive to the woman even after she leaves the room.]