I’m Not Laughing

Ever have one of those moments where someone you consider a friend says something, adds a LMAO or a Haha to the end of it and you find yourself scratching your head wondering if it’s pure ignorance, poor taste, or if they realize how they’re coming across or if maybe they’re not the person you thought they were?

So what triggered this outrage in the normally quirky, laid back Kitt?

A couple of days ago, an old friend (father to a young girl whom he adores with his whole heart) posted on his feed…. “LMAO! Ask Siri what holiday it is today. You’ll thank me later.” I wondered for a moment what holiday he was talking about until I saw this in his feed…

Gen Mut

I couldn’t understand the humor.  Maybe he hadn’t heard of the plight of young girls, usually between the ages of 5 and 10, and mostly in Africa? Did he think it was some sort of joke? But the responses that were coming in had that same “LOL” style answer, too….and my blood started to boil.

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in other countries. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of an activist for women and a sex positive message, but I knew what happened to these young girls and it was more than I could take to watch all the laughter without saying something about the plight of these mutilated children. So I said something. Do I know if it sunk in? No. I don’t. But I did what I could there to educate, then brought up my frustration on my Facebook page.

The cool thing is, it got an open dialogue started.

For those who don’t know, Female Genital Mutilation is where young girls, usually between the ages of 5 and 10 are held down by several village women and their external privates, clit hood, clit, labia, and often the tissue at they entry of the vagina are cut off by the local midwife using an unsterilized blade and without anesthesia.

This is funny?

And the “whys” for this are even less humorous. As it turns out, one of my Facebook friends lived for an extended amount of time in Botswana, so she shared some of what she’d witnessed while she was there. The primary purpose of such brutality (and this, I already knew) is to prevent feelings of sexual arousal in their women. But it’s also more than that. They are under the misguided belief that destroying a woman’s privates will make her more desirable for marriage. That she’ll be more faithful. That it will maintain her virginity.

But my friend, Shabby, had more to share. She stated that she’d gotten to know several young ladies while living in Botswana with her husband for business, and the pain and brutality didn’t end with the mutilation. According to what she’d learned, no woman was safe from rape. The biggest targets were usually between the ages of 13-14, and that she’d seen 15 year olds pregnant. They were often beaten, left pregnant, with no alimony.

Their struggle was not what we consider a struggle here. No job, no car…. Their struggle was the rape the night before, the possibility that they now had AIDS, that their third child was on the way and they didn’t have enough money to get past the week. They had no marital prospects because maybe they weren’t deemed “desirable” enough or their last boyfriend left them the night before with no money and no way to fend for themselves, or they were robbed of their last five pula (their currency).

In fact, she said that her maid walked 5 miles to and from work daily and was robbed at least once a month and that all the women she’d gotten to know died before the age of 35. She cried every time. My heart ached.

Here my friends were, joking about something I’m pretty sure they didn’t even think truly existed because  it didn’t directly touch their lives or anyone they loved, yet on this very same planet are women hurting. Most of you know I’m all about empowerment and a sex positive message, but this goes so far beyond that! This is simple human kindness and decency.

The reality is, overall, we’re spoiled here in the States and thank God for it. But that doesn’t mean we can turn a blind eye to other people’s suffering. Or that we shouldn’t try to make the world a better place by opening ourselves up to understanding some of the hardships the rest of the world battles.

And by the way, this is impacting us here in the States, too! One of my nurse friends chimed in to tell me that the percentage of young girls in this country that this happens to is also climbing. She said that there are many Somali women who come to the hospital having been in this condition most of their lives, and when they get pregnant with baby girls, the pediatricians often know that these women are going to send their daughters out of the country to have the process done to their children. Because in their culture, this is a thing to be desired. They truly believe it’s the only way to guarantee the purity and desirability for marriage of their little ones.

Again, where is the humor in any of this?

As I was thinking about what to say, I found that lack of knowledge on the subject is actually not that uncommon….

So I guess that’s where we start, right? Educate? Share? Open the lines of communication up? From there, there are several charities and advocacy groups where one can choose to take their dedication a step or few further.

So tell me… Are you one of those people who didn’t know about this? Now that you do, what are you going to do with that knowledge?