Sweden's Genital Mutilation - This Takes the Cake

Posted May 2, 2012 from Nigeria

You’d think that cutting a cake in another part of the world wouldn’t cause this much of a fuss in other continents. But then, that would have been before you heard about what Black Looks, for instance, has described as racist and misogynistic. Other women’s rights groups called it insensitive, scandalous and cheapening the issue of Female Genital Mutilation. But mostly, that what was done was just wrong.

Wrong, that is, if you happened to be at Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Swedish Artists Organisation on April 15th and applauded with glee at the demeaning spectacle to African women and Female Genital Mutilation victims; wrong if the cake in question happened to be baked by Makode Linde and looked like a truly grotesque caricature of what an African woman supposedly looks like; wrong if you happened to be Swedish Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth and decided that that would be a great day to perform a mock clitoridectomy on the crotch of that same cake to the applause of all who attended.

Interestingly, there were no Africans or FGM victims amongst the crowd. So other than Makode Linde, the artist who is of mixed African and Swedish descent and identifies himself as “Afro-Swede” and therefore, doesn’t count, no one was present to raise an objection to that farce of a celebration.

“According to the Moderna Museet, the ‘cake party’ was meant to problematize female circumcision but how that is accomplished through a cake representing a racist caricature of a black woman complete with ‘black face’ is unclear,” Kitimbwa Sabuni, the spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association. “One cannot see how it benefits those people to degrade them in this way with racist caricatures in this kind of mocking spectacle.”

I understand that it was done for the sake of art, art being the tool of choice to challenge views and break boundaries. But in this case, I think this was done to bring Makode Linde quite a good deal of publicity to his work.

Call me a pessimist? No, I think I am more of a realist. The incident created an international backlash at the very event itself, more so for the Minister of Culture who has had calls from the National Afro-Swedish Association and offended people all over the world for her resignation. Her involvement showed poor judgement for someone in her position. “Her participation, as she laughs, drinks, and eats cake, merely adds to the insult against people who suffer from racist taunts and against women affected by circumcision.” Sabuni said. “We have no confidence in her any longer.”

Whereas the artist, who has received an equal amount of contempt and insults and has apologised accordingly, still comes out of the fiasco relatively better than when he entered. The publicity! Something a lot of creative people only dream about.

But what is female genital mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as female Female Genital Cutting (FGC), involves the cutting or alteration of the female genitalia for social rather than medical reasons. Such cutting of the female genitalia has been grouped into four categories by the World Health Organisation in 2007. And they are:

Type 1 or Clitoridectomy: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the clitoral hood.

Type 2 or Excision: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.

Type 3 or Infibulation: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and placing together the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris.

Type 4 or Unclassified: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterization.

Judging from the size of the piece of the cake the good Minister has on that plate, I don’t think that what she performed a clitoridectomy. It definitely looked like a lot more than the remains of a clitoris in her plate, doesn’t it? You be the judge.

According to the 2010 report of the Population Reference Bureau, an estimated 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation and more than 3 million girls are at risk for cutting each year on the African continent alone.

Why they thought making a mockery of this problem was a good idea, I don't know. But rest assured that this will be only the tip of the iceberg.

Comments 4

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  • Shirley Clark
    May 03, 2012
    May 03, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this outrageous story. You pointed out the ignorance and insensitivity in such a powerful way. Keep writing!

  • udoka29
    May 04, 2012
    May 04, 2012

    It just seemed appropriate. Especially when the major parties involved don't seem to be contrite.

    Thank you again for your comment!

  • Breese McIlvaine
    May 04, 2012
    May 04, 2012

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on this! I too was shocked by the incident...

  • udoka29
    May 04, 2012
    May 04, 2012

    I felt it was an obligation to touch the subject at the very least. Its ridiculous that the Minister and the artist insist that the incident was "misinterpreted".

    Thank you for reading it!