As discussed in lecture in Week 1, the Feminist Theory focuses on how gender impacts a situation. Feminist theorists concern themselves with the answers to questions like if there is inequality present specifically due to gender, if inequality might exist at the individual or household level and if it exists at the national or international level. Regarding medical-related issues, some examples of questions feminist theorists might ask are if there are gender inequalities about having access to and receiving healthcare or healthcare information, whether medical researchers testing the efficacy of drugs on just men or if they’re including women in the research as well, and whether one gender has worse outcomes than the other in an area of medical concern.
The article from the University of Alabama on the feminist theoretical approach to anthropology explains that the Feminist Anthropology subfield “emerged as a reaction to a perceived androcentric bias within the discipline.” Regarding principle concepts, Feminist Anthropology originally focused on explaining the subordination of women, which was perceived to be universal and cross-cultural. The article goes on to explain that the “unifying aspect of Feminist Anthropology is that it focuses on the role, status, and contributions of women to their societies.”
It was upon reading this article from the University of Alabama that I knew that the feminist anthropology theory would be the theory through which I would analyze the health issue – female genital mutilation (FGM) – in Somalia. While a cultural or sociological approach would also be an adequate way of looking into this issue, I think it is very important to recognize and analyze how FGM is specifically related to the inequality of women and their inherent subordination in a country like Somalia. While FGM is considered a rite of passage and it is important to acknowledge that aspect, a main reason behind the practice is to ensure that women are “pure” and maintain their virginity until they are married. There isn’t this kind of pressure or expectations on boys or men in the society, yet, as I’ve stated in a previous activity post, mothers and grandmothers of these girls who will undergo FGM (generally by the time they’re 11 years old) genuinely think that it is not right for a girl not to be cut and that FGM will ensure their proper place in the community and that they will be clean for their future husband.
In a previous post I’ve also talked about how approximately 76% of girls and women aged 15-49 believe that it’s okay for husbands to hit their wives for numerous reasons – even something as small as burning the food or refuses sexual relations. This statistic also made me think that the feminist approach is the proper route to take in analyzing FGM in Somalia. I think that using the feminist theoretical approach will enable me to look closer at how the oppression and subordination of women in Somalia contribute to the largely prominent role that FGM plays as an integral rite of passage for girls and women in the culture.