Sunil D’Monte alerted me to this blood-curdlingly horrible article on FGM by a sociologist, Lisa Wade, who wants more “balance” in the discussion of the grand old tradition of carving up the genitalia of very young girls.
While I’m most well-known for my work on hook up culture, I’ve written extensively on a different topic altogether: how Americans talk about female genital cutting practices (FGCs), better known as female genital “mutilation.” While FGCs are passionately opposed by essentially all Americans who learn about them, our understanding of the practices is, in fact, skewed by misinformation, ethnocentrism, and a history of portraying Africa as naively “backwards” or cruelly “barbaric.”
Good start. Put “mutilation” in scare quotes because hey, it’s not really mutilation, it’s just “cutting,” which is another thing altogether. Then present a stupid parody version of opposition to FGM because hey, nobody could oppose FGM for reasons that aren’t ethnocentric or racist.
Using the word “mutilation” is counterproductive.
People who support genital cutting typically believe that a cut body is a more aesthetically pleasing one. The term “mutilation” may appeal to certain Westerners, but people in communities where cutting occurs largely find the term confusing or offensive.
Well of course they do, and that’s the problem! People in China used to think a deliberately deformed foot was a more aesthetically pleasing one, too, and that’s why little girls had their feet systematically broken and crushed, and had to be put at a distance from the rest of the household at night so that their screams of pain wouldn’t keep everyone else awake.
But I’ll let Urooj Zia reply.
Hello from Pakistan. This article has offended me and made me furious enough to leave a rant in response. Here goes:
//but people in communities where cutting occurs largely find the term confusing or offensive//
What the WHAT?! So in one clean sweep, feminist voices from these communities get discounted, while barbarism gets amplified by a feminist? How does that make sense? And this ‘them non-Western women don’t deserve any better’ is racist!
Moreover, how does women controlling these procedures not make them patriarchal and oppressive?! I don’t even know how to respond to this hypocrisy!
//It turns out that people don’t appreciate being told that they are barbaric, ignorant of their own bodies, or cruel to their children//
No shit, Sherlock. Child abusers in ‘western’ societies don’t like being told that either, nor do rapists. Does that stop feminists in those societies from denouncing this crap? I don’t get it, why did you write this article? Why would anyone do this, why?! What makes you think that you sitting in your ivory tower deserve better than us? What are we, lesser beings? What makes you think we deserve to have our bodies mutilated? What is WRONG with you?! Feminists here have a hard enough time anyway; stop making our lives more difficult. If you can’t support our voices, don’t cut us down and don’t you dare tell us that we don’t deserve better. We bloody well do.
I’ve been following Urooj on Twitter for a long time. Urooj rocks.
Lisa Wade continues –
“Only” 10% of FGM includes infibulation. Mostly it’s not so bad really.
Women still have fabulous sex lives after FGM.
Health problems from FGM are the exception, not the rule.
It’s not cruel patriarchs.
It’s not African.
Women in the US get cosmetic surgeries on their genitals.
The obvious is obvious.
It turns out that people don’t appreciate being told that they are barbaric, ignorant of their own bodies, or cruel to their children.
It also turns out that girls of 5 don’t like being held down while someone slices off bits of their genitals with a razor. Next platitude?
I would be more livid, if it weren’t for the fact that almost all of the comments are disgusted. I’ll just repeat Urooj’s observation –
And this ‘them non-Western women don’t deserve any better’ is racist!