Female Reproductive Mutilation

Glosswitch wrote a horror-struck post yesterday about teenage girls and breast-binding.

I’m not supposed to call them young women. They’re non-binary individuals or trans men and that, we are supposed to think, is what makes the binding okay. Whatever the risks – “compressed or broken ribs, punctured or collapsed lungs, back pain, compression of the spine, damaged breast tissue, damaged blood vessels, blood clots, inflamed ribs, and even heart attacks” – binding is justified because of the psychological benefits. There’s no other way, you see.

I look at arguments such as these and I literally want to scream.

You know, women used to bind their whole torsos. Remember that? Lacing? Corsets? Corsets crushed internal organs, and prevented women from breathing properly. It was impossible to draw a deep breath while wearing a corset. I posted about it a few months ago, via Elizabeth McGovern saying how awful it was wearing them on Downton Abbey:

‘There is no way,’ she says, speaking heavily and with the conviction that can be born only of bitter experience, ‘that I can convey to you what a profound experience it is not to be wearing a corset. In the series, we’ve been through the years leading up to the First World War, the years during it, and now we’re in the years after it, and I have actually physically inhabited the clothes of each era in that I have not only tried them on but spent the major part of my days wearing them.

‘Corsets are so uncomfortable that they drive me mad, and it is incredible how much it changes your world view to be out of them. You can move around so much more freely, and the passage of air is not constricted – you have more oxygen making its way to your brain so you have much more ambition, much more desire to achieve things and connect with the outside world…’

So isn’t it…something, that we’re back to mutilating women, and that that’s being portrayed as progressive.

Back to Glossy:

We need to call the rise of binding, puberty blocking, mastectomy, testosterone prescriptions and hysterectomy for girls and young women what it is: Female Reproductive Mutilation. Just as with FGM, it is a practice in which females are complicit not because they are foolish, nor because they are morally weak, but because they are trying to survive in a culture which does not respect the full humanity of a female body that grows freely, intact and unharmed. The feelings of a girl who wishes to take a knife and slice off her own breasts are absolutely valid. She is not faking it. We should be listening to her, respecting her suffering. But this complicity? This acceptance of the hatred that has been growing in her year on year?

I think more highly of women and girls than that. I will not accept the racist Western bullshit that decrees that when others remove the clitorises of girls, they are barbaric, but when we bind their breasts and cause their uteruses to atrophy, we are merely respecting their true identities. We are not. We are turning away from their pain, concluding that if they are willing to take it on themselves, who are we to stop them? It’s a horrendous abnegation of responsibility.

I know what it is like to want to disappear. I know what it is like to reject femaleness. I also know that you can reach a point of wanting to grow, of finding a way through it, even though the discomfort never fully leaves you. We are denying girls the chance to make that choice later in life and we are endorsing their suffering now. It is unforgivable.

Foot-binding. Corsets. High heels. FGM. Breast-binding. It’s all the same shit.

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