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Female Genital “Mutilation”
   in the American Imagination




Lisa Wade, PhD • Sociology • Occidental College
Questions
How do Americans articulate their
opposition to “female genital mutilation”?

What are the consequences of opposing it
on those bases and not others?
Types of Female Genital Cutting
•   Circumcision proper
•   Pricking or cutting
•   Trimming
•   Shallow or deep clitoridectomy
•   Infibulation
Reasons for Genital Cutting
•   Aesthetics
•   Health/Fertility
•   Religion
•   Gender Differentiation
•   Reduction of Sexual Desire or Ability
Questions
How do Americans articulate their
opposition to “female genital mutilation”?
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)
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)
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)
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)
Bodily Integrity
[FGM] is the violation of the physical
integrity of a woman’s body…

     – Washington Post (Sept. 6th, 1995)
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)
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)
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)
Us                   Them
Modern               Primitive
Rational             Irrational
Free                 Culture-Bound
Women’s Equality     Inequality
Sexually Liberated   Repressed
Good                 Bad
Questions
How do Americans articulate their
opposition to “female genital mutilation”?

What are the consequences of opposing it
on those bases and not others?
U.S. Genital Cutting
• Male Circumcision
U.S. Genital Cutting
• Male Circumcision
• Intersex Surgery
U.S. Genital Cutting
• Male Circumcision
• Intersex Surgery
• Sex Reassignment
U.S. Genital Cutting
•   Male Circumcision
•   Intersex Surgery
•   Sex Reassignment
•   Cosmetic Surgery “Down There”
BUT!
Doesn’t it makes a difference that U.S.
procedures occur in hospitals?
AND!
Doesn’t it matter, too, that it’s an adult who
chooses to have the procedures?
In Sum
• U.S. talk about FGCs draws on a
  modern/primitive binary.
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.
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.
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.
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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Lisa Wade - "Female Genital Mutilation" in the American Imagination

  • 1. Female Genital “Mutilation” in the American Imagination Lisa Wade, PhD • Sociology • Occidental College
  • 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.
  • 4. Types of Female Genital Cutting • Circumcision proper • Pricking or cutting • Trimming • Shallow or deep clitoridectomy • Infibulation
  • 5.
  • 6. Reasons for Genital Cutting • Aesthetics • Health/Fertility • Religion • Gender Differentiation • Reduction of Sexual Desire or Ability
  • 7. Questions How do Americans articulate their opposition to “female genital mutilation”?
  • 8. 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)
  • 9. 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)
  • 10. 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)
  • 11. 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)
  • 12. Bodily Integrity [FGM] is the violation of the physical integrity of a woman’s body… – Washington Post (Sept. 6th, 1995)
  • 13. 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)
  • 14. 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)
  • 15. 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)
  • 16. Us Them Modern Primitive Rational Irrational Free Culture-Bound Women’s Equality Inequality Sexually Liberated Repressed Good Bad
  • 17.
  • 18. Questions How do Americans articulate their opposition to “female genital mutilation”? What are the consequences of opposing it on those bases and not others?
  • 19. U.S. Genital Cutting • Male Circumcision
  • 20.
  • 21. U.S. Genital Cutting • Male Circumcision • Intersex Surgery
  • 22.
  • 23. U.S. Genital Cutting • Male Circumcision • Intersex Surgery • Sex Reassignment
  • 24.
  • 25. U.S. Genital Cutting • Male Circumcision • Intersex Surgery • Sex Reassignment • Cosmetic Surgery “Down There”
  • 26.
  • 27. BUT! Doesn’t it makes a difference that U.S. procedures occur in hospitals?
  • 28.
  • 29.
  • 30.
  • 31.
  • 32.
  • 33.
  • 34. AND! Doesn’t it matter, too, that it’s an adult who chooses to have the procedures?
  • 35.
  • 36.
  • 37.
  • 38. In Sum • U.S. talk about FGCs draws on a modern/primitive binary.
  • 39. 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.
  • 40. 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.
  • 41. 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.
  • 42. 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