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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Global Feminism

 For our first assignment for Women’s Studies, we read about half of a book called Feminism is for Everyone by bell hooks. There were SO MANY things that caught my eye and have made me think over the past few days, but the topic I’m choosing for my first blog post is from the chapter “Global Feminism” and has to do with sexism and body image, something that I am extremely interested in.
The specific quote that I put a star next to in my book was:
“A decolonized feminist perspective would first and foremost examine how sexist practices in relation to women’s bodies globally are linked. For example: linking circumcision with life-threatening eating disorders (which are the direct consequence of a culture imposing thinness as a beauty ideal)…would emphasize that sexism, the misogyny, underlying these practice globally mirror the sexism here in this country.”
We are told constantly, even by so-called feminists, that American (as well as Western European) women in the “luckiest women in the world,” because we do not have to deal with “barbaric” sexist practices such as female circumcision. But is this truly a good thing or is it more like being the best house on a bad block?
Having struggled myself with anorexia and bulimia in high school, this is a topic that is very close to my heart. A recent goal of mine is to go to graduate school for music therapy and use my music to help those with eating disorders regain their lives. I feel that developing my own feminist perspective is crucial for this goal. While I believe that unrealistic body image is just a part of this lonely, scary illness, I do believe that sexism is a huge factor.
I wanted to know more about this so I looked up some statistics, first from the World Health Organization website about female genital mutilation:

Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
·      Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
·      An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
 and then from the National Eating Disorders
 ·      In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder. The incidence of bulimia in 10-39 year old women tripled between 1988 and 1993.  ·      Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness
·      Only one-third of people with anorexia in the community receive mental health care and only 6% of people with bulimia receive mental health care.
Perhaps if American women will look at the sexism in our own country and how it can fatally effect women, we can work globally to create a culture where people are valued for their individual selves and not on the basis of gender, race, creed or orientation.


  1. I first found out about female genital mutilation from Christopher Hitchens' book "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," and while the book wasn't a pro-feminist work (I sincerely doubt one could call Christopher Hitchens a feminist), I was instantly struck by the kind of severely backwards sexism and misogyny that would provoke that kind of action. One thing I think is great about Bell's book is that she manages to connect the more modern Western eating disorders with a more...let's say, medieval form of misogynistic oppression.

    But I also agree with your point about those thinking of those different forms of sexism being somehow distinct or of one being worse then the other in spite of both being sexist. I especially like your best house in a bad neighborhood analogy, and I think part of elevating the consciousness of feminist and pro-feminist people to a global scale also entails making them realize that the lesser of two evils is not somehow more acceptable.

  2. http://www.replacefgm.eu/content/international-fgm-zero-tolerance-day-%E2%80%93-6th-february-2011-0