June 10, 2009
The article is a part of Martha Nussbaum’s work “Sex and Social Justice.” The discussions particularly evolve around the arguments presented towards the subject of the judgment of one culture to another. The article made use of one of the most debated issues internationally, genital mutilation. This paper will be analysing the said article by providing a summary and looking critically at the structure and the way the arguments are presented.
The issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) has been one of the most debated issues from the past years. Nussbaum’s article is an addition to the wide array of literature dedicated to the said topic. The article employed the case of Fauziya Kassindja, a Togo national who tried to apply for political asylum in the United States in order to get away from her relatives compelling her to commit FGM.
The arguments on the said article then turn to specific attributes brought about by the case. First noted by Nussbaum is whether Westerners have a responsibility or even the right to bring this practice to an end. The article basically presented several arguments why the Western countries should not disparage the actions of other cultures, especially if these are considered deeply ingrained and considerably a part of the traditions of the said culture. What Nussbaum see in the said arguments that the notion of culture has been utilised in the sense that there is a set of elements that basically delineate what is right and wrong. To some degree, she claimed that these arguments demanding Westerners to be indifferent to the traditions (hideous or otherwise) of other cultures is rather naïve in a way that it shuns its attention to the fact that other forms of cultures exist. This is further indicated by the indications noted in her argument relating to the fact that within the same cultures mentioned, there is some sort of opposition to the practice (FGM). As presented in the case of Kassindja, her father vehemently opposed of the practice of FGM despite the fact that is considered a requirement for marriage in their culture.
The article even took note of the claims of Tamir specifically on the claims against the practice of FGM is basically anchored on the deep-seated attributes of the Western society particularly related to sexuality of the individual. In the case of FGM, pleasure on the part of the female is removed. Nussbaum argues in this sense that compelling women to mutilate themselves as a part of what is seen as cultural conformity is basically inappropriate. This shows that the arguments presented by the said author are based on the freedom of women to express themselves with regards to their sexuality and their respective behaviours towards it.
Martha Nussbaum is considered in the academic community as among the “liberal perfectionists” of our time. (1998) Basically that means that her arguments are basically leaning towards the doctrine of state responsibility and the sensitive issue of autonomy among individuals. This is shown in the article discussed above. It is shown in such flair that Nussbaum presented it through arguments in feminist ethics and politics. The importance of the freedom of having to choose among individuals is shown in her arguments in such a way that one could in actuality appreciate and understand why such elements are needed in human existence.
Posted by Marivic Butod