Three cheers for the UN: female genital mutilation is male insecurity defined

The UN has rightly called for a ban on female genital mutilation

Related Topics

“If an Ohio punk has the right to have her genitalia operated on, why has not the Somali woman the same right?” feminist author Germaine Greer once asked.

Greer famously refused to sign a petition defending Salmon Rushdie because he was, she said, a “megalomaniac” and “an Englishman with a dark skin” (as if there is any shame in that).

When it comes to FGM, Greer’s mistake seems to confuse female genital decoration with mutilation. For a “feminist” author, she also ignores the blindingly obvious difference between the two “procedures”: the first is a purely aesthetic choice, whereas the second is but one weapon in a much larger and timeless attempt to police women’s chastity.

Fortunately, it’s been reported today that the UN has not listened to the council of cultural relativists, and has instead called for a ban on what it correctly refers to as the “grotesque practice” of female genital mutilation.

About time I say.

Feminist activist and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was put through the procedure herself, describes FGM as follows:

“As much of the clitoris as possible is removed along with the inner and outer labia. Then the inner walls of the vagina are scraped until they bleed and are then bound with pins or thorns. The tissue on either side grows together, forming a thick scar. Two small openings roughly equal to the diameter of a matchstick are left for urination and menstruation respectively.”

However in some quarters, almost every measure that’s ever been devised to control female sexuality, be it niqabs, burkas, the cult of virginity, prudishness about promiscuity and, ultimately, a procedure that literally hacks off those parts of the genitalia that respond to sexual stimulation, are viewed as no such thing, but rather as sort of benign forms of cultural expression. The historical context – i.e. male insecurity about women’s sexual choice - is seemingly redefined as an innate feminine inclination towards modesty and wholesomeness; or in Greer’s case, appears to have been ignored.

Some western liberals are of course fond of comparing the way in which women are treated in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia with the apparently “sexualised” portrayal of women in the west. While it would be foolhardy to say that there is not some way to go in terms of gender equality in the west – there is a significant pay gap and rape is vastly under-reported, to give just two examples – this sort of comparison is curious to say the least, and is especially fatuous when one considers that the “sexualisation” of women in its Page 3-esc manifestation is far preferable to its opposite, of which FGM is just one manifestation.

For until you recognise what’s really going on – what has, in reality, always been going on – you are likely to flounder, and even, like Greer, exonerate the very mindset you ought to be combating. Many men, regardless of their country of origin, are terrified of the degree of sexual choice women have, and in my opinion Martin Amis was correct to describe Islamism, the ideology of splenetic woman hatred, as male insecurity on steroids.

And that, in the end, is what FGM is: male insecurity defined. Until you recognise that, you will utterly fail to understand one of the major fronts on which the battle for sexual equality is being fought: the equal right to have pleasurable sex. 

Three cheers for the UN, then.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London