Fiona Green. 2005. From clitoridectomies to ‘designer vaginas’: The medical construction of heteronormative female bodies and sexuality through
female genital cutting. Sexualities, Evolution and Gender, 7(2): 153–187.
2. What is female genital cutting (FGC)?
• Female genital cutting is also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) as it often used in international meetings and documentation
purposes. The author uses FGC in order to avoid “the sound of disgust” (p. 154).
• When addressing the practice and issue of female genital cutting (FGC), most people think of the brutal and harmful practices of
clitoridectomy and infibulation that take place in African countries, in specific areas of the Middle East and Asia (p. 153-154).
• The term female genital mutilation (FGM) carries ‘moral outrage’ with ‘‘the implicit assumption that parents and relatives deliberately
intend to harm children’’ (p. 154).
• The purpose behind FGC is to enhance the ‘‘beauty or cleanliness of women’’ or making “conception and child-bearing easier” (p, 156).
3. Green criticizes FGC based on medical and health reasons
• Often health and hygiene are not considered, which leads to fatal moments (p. 155). Many women suffer from poor conditions during the
procedure, which lead to:
– Severe pain, bleeding and infections
– Painful sexual intercourse
– Long-term implications for future fertility
– Complications and safety issues during childbirth
• Example: Sudanese women who survived FGC experience lack of confidence, depressed self-image, and worthlessness. It also led to
emotional trauma resulting from memoirs of painful experiences being severe. Women who had FGC experience constant nightmares, anxiety,
depression and stress. FGC not only cause physical pain, but also mental. (p. 156).
4. Green criticizes FGC based on socio-cultural reasons
• In some cultures, FGC marks their entrance to adulthood as well as the development of a complete woman. She would become a fully
functioning member in society (p. 156).
• In other cases it is about socio-cultural and religious beliefs. If some women decide to avoid FGC then they will never be able to get
married, live full female lives and have an economic security. Therefore, for the proper marriage, the woman has to undergo FGC for the honor of
her family and cultural beliefs
• Gender hierarchy. Some women do not have a choice. Women have to undergo FGC because of power relations. Men tend to play a dominant
role and thus, women are pressured to fit in the society.
• If they do not undergo the procedure, women are considered to be unfaithful and unclean wives so there are low chances that a woman will
5. Victorian era (1839–1901)
• A ‘‘clitoridectomy craze’’ developed in Victorian England because of a number of social and political circumstances, including the rise
of the middle-class, changing social attitudes towards women, and transformations within the medical and healing professions. Middle-class
women, in particular, were viewed as ‘‘delicate, sensitive, frail and emotional creatures’’ who could be easily destroyed (p. 160).
• Then, the subject of masturbation became a general concern. It was considered one of the primary ‘‘social evils’’. Therefore, many
advocates fought against widespread of sexual immorality, doctors started to proscribed clitoridectomies so women do not masturbate becuase
otherwise, it was considered to be unfeminine behaviour and slipping into insanity (p. 161).
• The practice of clitoridectomy to control these ‘‘female afflictions’’ and a host of other ‘‘diseases’’ continued to a lesser extent (p.
• The practice of FGC has been used to contain and control the sexual behaviour and bodies of girls and women.
6. Intersex children (1950–present)
• The most common intersex surgeries offered to children were used to make virilized girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) so
they can appear less like boys by amputating the clitoris and enlarging the vaginal opening (p. 164).
• Hormonal treatment and surgery were used to alter children’s genitalia when it was determined that a girl’s clitoris looked too much
like a penis.
• Usually girls undergo the surgery, but less commonly, are boys who are changed into girls [because their penises are deemed too small]—
in an attempt to give them what doctors believe will be a better life’ so they can look normal and feel comfortable (p. 165).
• Two-sex-gender system is about deciding what gender newborn is going to have. All bodies must be recognized either to be a male or
female. It is about ideological commitments and “genital surgery is, therefore, fundamental to ensuring ‘intersexed children perceive themselves
as seamless, singularly sexed and gendered persons’” (p. 166).
• The majority of the surgical procedures are not performed for life saving or for functional reasons, but for aesthetic affect so girls
look like girls (p. 166).
7. Designer vaginas (1985–present)
• Elective plastic surgery to remodel their labia and vaginas to a standard of feminine “perfection” (p. 170).
• Procedures used to tighten the vaginal muscles and support tissues after giving birth.
• “As millions of women inject Botox, reshape noses, augment breasts, lift buttocks and suck away unwanted fat, a growing number are now
exploring a new frontier, genital plastic surgery” (p. 171).
• Many undergo the surgery or laser treatment for “a tight vagina might help you keep your man from running after younger women’’
• Body embarrassments. Over time women started to make their own decisions and if they do not like something about their bodies they can
undergo a surgery. If women think that their vagina is too big or too wide they can change it.
• However, there are situations with a negative outcome. Genital cutting is dangerous and genital cosmetic surgery is not an exception.
This leads to negative physical complications such as: painful intercourse, loss of sensitivity, scarring and excessive bleeding. Ironically,
healthy women risk their good physical health and satisfactory sexual functioning when they elect to have cosmetic genital surgery to change the
appearance of their genitalia or the size of their vaginas (p. 175).
8. Issues with FGC
• The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) explains that FGC is a serious
public health problem which endangers the life and health of women and children, which still exists (p. 156).
• *‘‘no one has ever found or cited a single case to support the long-term physical and psychological success of this surgery’’ (p. 170) –
this is about intersex children and their surgeries
• Even some adults who have received ‘‘successful treatments’’ claim ‘‘a loss of their quality of life’’ and a ‘‘loss of self ’’ because
of the ‘‘loss of sexual sensation they have experienced before
• What are the strategies to end FGC?
– Health education is another strategy that proves useful in eradicating the practice of FGC
– Community supported
• Should international organizations help to end FGC even though it is happening due to cultural or religious reasons?
• What strategies can be taken in order to end FGC?
• Should we intervene or try to stop practices that we see as immoral?
• Are the problems associated with FGC “cultural”?
• Should there be a universal law to protect women from FGC or would it be complicated due to cultural differences?
• What do you think about Green’s statement “[a woman] has the correct genitalia only when her body passes visual inspection by a person
in authority” ?