On International Women’s Day at Harvard’s W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, we offered men of good will a special welcome. After all, Undoing FGM is so compelling because, while featuring patients’ voices, the book is also the joint effort of men — the author, the subject, and Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors without Borders, who, in the introduction, condemns indifference. “Can we merely look on as traumatized girls become unfulfilled women?” he asks.
No, he insists, with Prolongeau and Foldes, “urologist, physician and humanitarian, [who] from his earliest assignments in Africa … witnessed ravages due to FGM.” At first, Foldes didn’t see the horror but instead “another’s custom that his respect and tolerance led him to accept. But soon he recognized the immensity of suffering that this attitude obscured, the pain that he had always found unbearable. … [Thus] welding handiwork and genius, he discovered how to repair the damage of excision, to return a clitoris to those from whom it had been snatched, to restore the right to pleasure and … the confidence of renewed integrity. It’s enough to hear a patient talk about all that his simple gesture has given her (going well beyond sexual satisfaction), to see her eyes light up when saying his name. Then you would understand that a fundamental change has occurred in her life and that the new turn she has made is merely at its start.”
l. to r: Harold Weaver, Susan McLucas, Dale Smoak, Hubert Prolongeau, Jasmine DeCock, Abby Wolf, Tobe Levin, Marianne Sarkis, Krishna Lewis