Plain(s) Feminist has a large post on how best to respond to Female Genital....well, a big part of the post is on what we should call it. Mutilation? Excision? Cutting? Circumcision? Surgery?
Thus far, I have not been hesitant to call it Female Genital Mutilation. The term seems to capture the brutality and barbarism of the procedure (and I want to here register my disagreement with the author that such terms can't be employed when the subject is African practices without being "imperialist". For that matter, there is a lot of things in the post I think are a bit off). Stepping back the rhetoric seems often like it is an excuse.
But Plains Feminist makes one very compelling counterargument: the women who undergo this procedure -- including many who oppose it -- don't use the term "mutilation." More importantly, they don't like it when we say they're "mutilated." They don't see themselves as mutilated. That doesn't mean they don't oppose the violation. They just don't want their experience named for them in terms they don't themselves, recognize. And that seems like a legitimate grievance.
Now, I don't have any empirical backing as to whether PF's claim here is true. I suspect some women whom have experienced it would claim that it is mutilation. And furthermore (despite what conservative politicians would have you believe) nobody likes to cast themselves in the role of the victim, so people are always going to be resistant to language that fully expresses the degree of violation foisted upon them. So this "name your own oppression" thing, while tempting, may not ultimately be the way to go. And provisionally, I'm sticking with FGM.
But it was a intriguing argument, and I wanted to throw it out there for comment.
Via Alas, a Blog.