Men telling women what to do with their bodies, from FGM to lunch

By Caitlin Kelly

Al Araibya reports that women in Iraq now face the prospect of FGM — female genital mutilation:

The al-Qaeda-Inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has ordered all girls and women between the ages of 11 and 46 in and around Iraq’s northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, the United Nations said on Thursday.

“It is a fatwa (or religious edict) of ISIS, we learnt this this morning,” said Jacqueline Badcock, the number two U.N. official in Iraq.

The “fatwa” would potentially affect 4 million women and girls, Badcock told reporters in Geneva by videolink from Arbil.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said, according to Reuters.

Tired of feeling trapped by sexist, misogynist assholes!
Tired of feeling trapped by sexist, misogynist assholes!

And here’s a story from The Guardian about how men feel completely comfortable telling women they do not know personally what or how to eat:

That so many women have reported this frankly quite incredibly patronising experience, is testament to the strength of the myth that a woman’s physical form exists, above all else, to titillate men. It’s the same mistaken assumption that lies behind the command to “give us a smile”, or the belief that a woman in a low-cut top must be looking for male attention.

As incredible as it seems, some women actually experience moments in their lives when their entire sentient being isn’t focused exclusively on providing men pleasure. They might wear a strappy top because they are hot, for example; eat a burger because they are hungry; or drink a diet soda because they quite like the taste. Explosive revelations, I know.

You might laugh, but for some, the belief that a man has an automatic “right” over the body of any woman he encounters in a public space is worryingly ingrained.

Should we laugh, cry, get angry — or start an MGM movement in reply?




29 thoughts on “Men telling women what to do with their bodies, from FGM to lunch

  1. I would never dream of telling a complete stranger how she should eat! Or anything else for that matter! I wouldn’t even do it to someone I know really well unless I thought their health was at risk or something! And this fatwa thing, if it is true, is disturbing. FGM may have religious implications in some parts, but it is very dangerous and can lead to infection, painful sex, and other horrible complications!

    We seriously need to do a two-front campaign: one to teach women that the only person who should have any say over their diet is them and their doctors, and that they are more than a man’s viewing pleasure; the other to teach men that they do not have a say or hold over every woman they meet and that women are to be respected just as much as any man.

      1. Nobody except themselves and the few people who could cause them some serious headaches. So basically anyone who can give them more money, take it away, or their wives and mistresses and exes.

  2. We should get angry. There is male genital mutilation too, but clearly FGM is worse. This activity seems to be, as the late Christopher Hitchens used to say, the exclusive activity of the religious. Perhaps offering asylum to all Muslim women in sharia-governed lands would resolve the overall problem. No more women to mutilate means no more extremists born after a generation. Of course, the problem is that for those who are in power, they believe it is their divine right to do this. Islam never had a reformation, or a counter reformation. As such, medieval nonsense like this pervades. Try as we may, Change has to evolve from within the culture, as campaigns by the west will be met with resistance. Perhaps at some point, the extremists will have backlash, as reform can happen. I’m not hopeful though, as things are worse now than they have been in a generation.

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  4. Change will have to come from within or the West will rightly be seen as interfering again. It’s wrong that such a fatwah could be conceived let alone carried out by these religious bullies but it’s something Islam will have to sort out.
    Over here it’s not just men who make assumptions about women based on the way they dress, but women have for years been making decisions about male attire, the style of clothes, the colour of clothes. I didn’t realise I’d been dresssing myself so badly until I got married and half my favourite clothes went missing.
    I don’t want to trivialise the problems a woman faces though. I’m well aware of the stupidity of some men who decide a woman dresses for him and not for herself so that sexy clothes must be a ‘come on” to one and all.Fortunately I think those attitudes are dying out, as they need to.
    I’m truly sorry for the women of Iraq but until that society decides that Church and State are separate entities and that the Church does not rule them things like this will happen. It’s up to the men and women to make those changes themselves. Fathers for the sake of daughters, husbands for the sake of wives and women for their own sake.
    xxx Huge Hugs Caitlin xxx

    1. David Prosser, this travesty (the new FGM fatwa in Iraq) has nothing to do with Islam. Nor separation of Church (Mosque) and State, for heaven’s sake. It has everything to do with outlawed renegade thugs who use the sexuality of women to perpetuate their subjugation. In their twisted, depraved minds they believe that chopping off a woman’s clitoris ensures chastity and minimizes her sexual appetite so that she won’t stray. Female genital cutting violates the basic precepts of Islam. FGM was never practiced in Iraq, or only in tiny, remote areas, until the arrival of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) only this year.

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  6. themodernidiot

    Eve was given a choice: stay subject in a patriarchal fantasy, or make your own reality. She left.

    Follow her lead.

  7. “Should we laugh, cry, get angry — or start an MGM movement in reply?”

    And we could have Lorena Bobbitt lead it.

    Seriously, until women are educated at the same rates as males the world will continue to suffer this inequality of life.

    Lack of knowledge, or manipulated information (men are dominant, to be feared) creates the conditions where this can happen.

    Get Lorena and let the enlightenment begin!

    1. But education isn’t enough if women are “honor killed” and mutilated for failing to meet men’s definitions of worth. I find this issue disgusting and disheartening beyond measure.

      1. True words… that humans can do many of the things they do to other humans-whether race to race, religion to religion, gender to gender (not just males to females- what about the treatment of homosexuality throughout history) is beyond comprehension. I too am saddened, disgusted and angered. Also fairly powerless to effect change as a single person.

        However, by writing about and exposing others to thIs horrific activity you’ve taken a big step. We can take the next step by applying pressure on our leadership, and supporting NGO/PVO groups whose mIssion it is to protect females and push to criminalize FGM activities.

      2. I am jaded enough (sorry to say) that I think all the well-meant NGO/PVO pressure in the world means little when so many girls and women are uneducated, married off before puberty and treated as chattel by the men in their villages who will continue to rule their daily lives.

        But, in principle, yes. 🙂

      3. That’s what many people think about clean water too. .. and yet as the saying goes, “Drop by drop, you have a whole ocean”.

        Every person saved becomes a multiplier.

      4. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. I felt that a lot in Azerbaijan, trying to build an economy on uncorrupt free market policies. I got burned out by the sheer scope of trying to “hold back the tide” and yet. ..

        I look back now on what we accomplished in those 10 years and I see 42 changes to the country’s labor code, protecting workers; I see a whole tax code enacted that protected businesses and outlawed “advance payment of taxes” (read bribes); I see a judicial system created on western rule of law whereby real people have their day and corrupt officials are sent to their own jails.

        This is a Muslim country bordering Iran where people said change would never happen. Is it perfect today? Certainly not, but are women safe? Very much. Are people making progress? Many are.

        So, be disillusioned if you are, but keep telling the truth and inspiring others to go make a difference like you did in Nicaragua.

      5. At the time it felt small compared to the work to be done.

        But in retrospect, I feel like those accomplishments- speaking to the president on national television, calling out corrupt practices; teaching young people business skills and language to get good international jobs and support their entire extended families- I can say I tried, I made a dIfference.

        And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about isn’t it?

        If each one helped one, drop by drop as the saying goes.

        You make a difference so despair not.

  8. Regarding the FGM point, I suggest reading this UNICEF report on FGM, specifically Figure 6.8 on page 62. A majority of men in many countries where FGM is prevalent SUPPORT DISCONTINUING FGM. In fact, in many countries, men are MORE LIKELY to support discontinuing FGM than women are! Yes, both women and men need to be educated about this and both women and men are guilty of perpetuating this practice. With the goal of eliminating FGM, it would make sense to start in countries where there is a groundswell of support for eliminating the practice by both men and women, and help them organize to make it happen.

    Regarding the food issue, women are also guilty of shaming others regarding eating choices, as mentioned by many in the comments section of the Guardian article you shared. When I was young, mothers were notorious for criticizing their daughters’ food choices regarding a fear of getting fat – not sure if that is still common today. But the issue is more complex than that blogger’s assertion a comment about someone’s food choice is because the commenter believes the purpose of a woman’s body is to titillate men, and I don’t think her rant against men is going to change anything for the better.

    These are both important issues, but I believe the conversation is most effective when the focus is on positive treatment of both women and men by both women and men, whatever the specific issue may be. Too many of these articles become diatribes against men, which is not always reflective of the full cause of the problem and is rarely the effective solution.

    1. Good points, all…and thanks for sharing.

      I agree that men and women can both be to blame to in the food issue. My larger point is the dismay about anyone of any gender telling women what to do with their bodies. If it is legal behavior, it is none of your business. If it is a medical issue of obesity, that is between a woman and her physicians (if she is lucky enough to have access to one.)

      For me, it is a question of agency and self-determination. The endless endless endless dramaaaaaaaaaa over women and what we do with/do our bodies wastes a truly shocking amount of energy and intelligence — every second of every day.


  9. I normally don’t meddle with affairs of non-catholic countries but I think this practice really needs to be stopped (or not started in this case). I’ve read a few articles about it in the past and I just can’t fathom why they are doing it. All the more that I cannot understand why iraq would want to start doing it now when there are movements against it in the other muslim countries.

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