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Lisa Wade - "Female Genital Mutilation" in the American Imagination

Lisa Wade - "Female Genital Mutilation" in the American Imagination

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There is one thing that most Americans know about female genital mutilation… that it is very, very bad. In this talk I take apart the logic by which we demonize female genital mutilation. I do so not to question whether we should oppose all or some of these practices, but in order to explore how we decide what bodily alterations count as good, bad, or neutral. I ask two questions: (1) How do Americans articulate their opposition to the practice? And (2) What are the consequences of opposing it on those bases and not others? I show that the dominant framing of "female genital mutilation" in the U.S. aims our condemnation very carefully at the practices of others, ensuring that American genital cutting practices stay out of range of our outrage. I conclude by asking us to use our feelings about "mutilation" to think again about male circumcision, surgery on children with ambiguous genitalia, sex reassignment surgery, and cosmetic surgery.

More at www.lisa-wade.com

There is one thing that most Americans know about female genital mutilation… that it is very, very bad. In this talk I take apart the logic by which we demonize female genital mutilation. I do so not to question whether we should oppose all or some of these practices, but in order to explore how we decide what bodily alterations count as good, bad, or neutral. I ask two questions: (1) How do Americans articulate their opposition to the practice? And (2) What are the consequences of opposing it on those bases and not others? I show that the dominant framing of "female genital mutilation" in the U.S. aims our condemnation very carefully at the practices of others, ensuring that American genital cutting practices stay out of range of our outrage. I conclude by asking us to use our feelings about "mutilation" to think again about male circumcision, surgery on children with ambiguous genitalia, sex reassignment surgery, and cosmetic surgery.

More at www.lisa-wade.com

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Lisa Wade - "Female Genital Mutilation" in the American Imagination

  1. 1. Female Genital “Mutilation” in the American Imagination Lisa Wade, PhD • Sociology • Occidental College
  2. 2. Questions How do Americans articulate their opposition to “female genital mutilation”? What are the consequences of opposing it on those bases and not others?
  3. 3. Types of Female Genital Cutting • Circumcision proper • Pricking or cutting • Trimming • Shallow or deep clitoridectomy • Infibulation
  4. 4. Reasons for Genital Cutting • Aesthetics • Health/Fertility • Religion • Gender Differentiation • Reduction of Sexual Desire or Ability
  5. 5. Questions How do Americans articulate their opposition to “female genital mutilation”?
  6. 6. Women’s Oppression [The] chief purpose [of FGM] was to kill a young girl's self-will so she could be remolded into a self-sacrificing and obedient woman… the perfect complement to [men’s] desires, wishes and whims. – New York Times (Sept. 4th, 1994)
  7. 7. Sexual Repression …health officials say female circumcision is variously an attempt to suppress sexual appetite, to ensure monogamous behavior or to prevent rape. – Houston Chronicle (May 13th, 1993)
  8. 8. Child Abuse Female circumcision has no reason to persist… because of the torture through which children, innocent children, have to go through. – Washington Post (Nov. 22nd, 1992)
  9. 9. A Violation of Human Rights In some places in Africa, genital mutilation of young girls is the cultural norm… It's an issue of human rights and constitutional rights. – Los Angeles Times (Dec. 22nd, 1996)
  10. 10. Bodily Integrity [FGM] is the violation of the physical integrity of a woman’s body… – Washington Post (Sept. 6th, 1995)
  11. 11. Harmful to Health [Female genital mutilation] permanently scars women, at best, and can lead to hemorrhaging, difficult childbirths, and, in rare instances, death. – Boston Globe (Dec. 28th, 2001)
  12. 12. This court attempts to respect traditional cultures… but this is cruel and serves no known medical purpose. It's obviously a deeply ingrained cultural tradition going back 1,000 years at least. – Los Angeles Times (Mar. 27th, 1994)
  13. 13. Female genital mutilation - a label as grisly as it is accurate - happens only in places where ancient ritual still overwhelms reason. – Boston Globe (Oct. 19th, 1995)
  14. 14. Us Them Modern Primitive Rational Irrational Free Culture-Bound Women’s Equality Inequality Sexually Liberated Repressed Good Bad
  15. 15. Questions How do Americans articulate their opposition to “female genital mutilation”? What are the consequences of opposing it on those bases and not others?
  16. 16. U.S. Genital Cutting • Male Circumcision
  17. 17. U.S. Genital Cutting • Male Circumcision • Intersex Surgery
  18. 18. U.S. Genital Cutting • Male Circumcision • Intersex Surgery • Sex Reassignment
  19. 19. U.S. Genital Cutting • Male Circumcision • Intersex Surgery • Sex Reassignment • Cosmetic Surgery “Down There”
  20. 20. BUT! Doesn’t it makes a difference that U.S. procedures occur in hospitals?
  21. 21. AND! Doesn’t it matter, too, that it’s an adult who chooses to have the procedures?
  22. 22. In Sum • U.S. talk about FGCs draws on a modern/primitive binary.
  23. 23. In Sum • U.S. talk about FGCs draws on a modern/primitive binary. • This allows us to feel outrage about “them”… while leaving “our” practices unquestioned.
  24. 24. In Sum • U.S. talk about FGCs draws on a modern/primitive binary. • This allows us to feel outrage about “them”… while leaving “our” practices unquestioned. • This is not to draw conclusions about any given procedure.
  25. 25. In Sum • U.S. talk about FGCs draws on a modern/primitive binary. • This allows us to feel outrage about “them”… while leaving “our” practices unquestioned. • This is not to draw conclusions about any given procedure. • But maybe we’d like to spread some outrage around.
  26. 26. Questions? Lisa Wade, PhD www.lisa-wade.com twitter: @lisadwade facebook: /lisawadephd Image credits: • www.srsmontreal.com www.genitalautonomy.eu • www.me.com www.bayareaintactivists.org • www.who.int www.emedicinehealth.com • www.worldpulse.com

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