Get access

Culture and Cutting


  • Elizabeth Reis


The two provocative essays in this issue of the Hastings Center Report should stimulate debate not only about female genital cutting, fetal dexamethasone, and clitoral reduction surgery, but also about our fierce commitment to particular cultural norms about the body. Under what conditions may adults irreversibly modify a child's body because they think the change is in her best interest? Certainly, parents who opt for female genital cutting or for surgical reduction of an enlarged clitoris in a girl with congenital adrenal hyperplasia want to make choices that will contribute to their child's potential happiness. If cutting in Africa—or mitigating CAH symptoms here—upholds a girl's gender identity, which will translate into a fulfilled life as an adult, some argue that a parent's refusal to abide by social prescriptions does the child a serious disservice.