by SAFY HALLAN FARAH
Recently a double suicide attack in Mogadishu, Somalia killed more than a dozen people and injured 20 others. This is par for the course; the lucky few are arbitrarily exempt— by god(s) or circumstance or inherent privilege — from the maladies plaguing Somalia, maladies which manifest tenfold worse for women.
Al-Shabaab — or as my friend and former BBC producer Fatuma Abdullahi calls them — Al-Kabaab (because they’re meatheads), allegedly orchestrated the attack. That’s their thing. They exist to oppress Somali people, specifically Somali women, by any means necessary. They’ll bomb, they’ll pillage, they’ll rape and they’ll torture to maintain a flailing status quo because they’re coercive dicks who are only well-endowed with regards to the sheer enormity of their persecution complexes; in some convoluted way, they think their actions are just.
For Al-Shabaab, and other Somali men who suffer from the affliction for which there is no cure, dumbass-ed-ness, Somalia’s new constitution explicitly bans FGM, stating, “Circumcision of girls is a cruel and degrading customary practice, and is tantamount to torture. The circumcision of girls is prohibited.” So, boo, no country for old men.
One hundred forty million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to the cruelty of FGM and are living with its effects. In Somalia alone, nearly 100% of women undergo this inhumane practice. We know FGM predates Al-Shabaab and Islam; but where we run into the chicken or the egg paradox is exactly now, at this juncture. Does terrorism, as in “the systemic use of terror,” predate FGM? Ancient Egypt, where the practice of genital cutting originated, was no utopia; the origins of our modern-day patriarchy can be traced back to it. Considering this context, one might say FGM and terrorism go hand in hand because terrorism and FGM are both patriarchal tools of oppression.
When I was little there was no such thing as terrorism and there was no such thing as FGM. I lived an oblivious, suburban life up until 1999 when I moved to Minneapolis, where I still reside today. I’ll never forget the day when my cousin and next door neighbor Zuhar asked me if I was circumcised. “Have you been cut, like, down there?” she asked, pointing to her hoo-ha. If I wasn’t black, I would have blushed at that moment, but instead I rolled my eyes into the back of my head because vagina claptrap never gets old but it doesn’t get better, either.
A couple years later when I told Zuhar how she’s the reason I even know what FGM is, she jokingly remarked, “Damn, man, you’re one of the untouchables,” and mentioned how our cousin Aala taught her what sex meant. Aala taught me what sex meant, too. We bonded about grrrl-cousins dropping knowledge on that ass, I made a reference to George Orwell’s 1984 — specifically the concept of ‘goodsex’ versus ‘sexcrime’— and then we never spoke again because our vaginas, which bear little resemblance I’m sure, are all we had in common to begin with.
This thing, me not being circumcised, differentiates me from nearly every other Somali women in my age group residing in the diaspora; it differentiates me from young girls in my father’s hometown, Buuhoodle; it differentiates me from notable Somali feminists, Ayaan Hirsi and Waris Dirie; it differentiates me from my own mother. My pussy is privileged over my people’s pussies because I’ll never have to deal with the long term implications of female genital mutilation like incontinence, anterior perineum tearing during childbirth or sex that is less Fuck! and more What the Fuck?! Is this what I signed up for?
Weris Dirie, the woman who pioneered the FGM memoir once said, “If a white girl is abused, police break down the door. If a black girl is mutilated, no one takes care of her.” Remember when Fatima Said of Cycle 10 of America’s Next Top Model cried in the audition room about having been mutilated? Whether or not the producers egged her on to present herself as a victim, the fact remains: FGM is traumatic.
Still, there are those who are stoic, almost indifferent, about their experience. My mother is one of those people. She never processed FGM as a traumatic event, though intellectually she has always regarded the practice as unnecessary at best, inhumane at worst. My father, whose politics were radically different from my mom’s (he disliked Somalia’s late socialist dictator Siad Barre while my mom had his posters plastered on her walls like he were the umpteenth member of KC & The Sunshine Band), agreed with my mom long before they were properly acquainted. In fact, their meet-cute was patently feminist: my mom walked up to my dad’s group of friends and asked to play a game of cards with them and my dad’s friends were like, “No, sorry, you’re a girl.” And my dad, being the forward-thinking nonconformist (read: laissez faire capitalist, feminist), told his dudes that girls can do anything boys can do.
Being the token Somali girl with Privileged Pussy like most of my peers is bittersweet and tinged with a lot of liberal guilt. I’m one of the lucky few, the 4 percent arbitrarily exempt from this antiquated tradition. The dual hermeneutics, the cognitive dissonance of this, puts me in an interesting position. On the one hand, I have almost zero authority on the matter. On the other hand, I’m by default more qualified than most Western feminists to talk about the practice. (For starters, unlike a sizable chunk of them, my objective isn’t to tar Somali women with the label “oppressed.”)
However, there are Somali women, millennials even, who harbor a lot of internalized oppression. A cousin of mine, Fathi, who is similarly privileged, is a prime example of the archetypal self-hating women. She argues in favor of FGM (or at least she did a couple years ago when I unfriended her on facebook because I’m not about that life), citing the hadiths—the supplemental texts of Islam — as the basis for her argument. Not only is there no medical basis for FGM, the Quran doesn’t even endorse FGM. Moreover, the Quran stresses that men should be able to sexually pleasure their wives — FGM greatly complicates that.
And yet, so many women who can easily opt out of the self-hate and rationalize the hadiths as irrational don’t because inferiority is etched in their consciousness. Women like this exist in all cultures, most notably in American culture; their identities are far more marred and fractured than the most victimized of us all. They’ve resigned themselves to the broader power structures bringing broads down. They’re pawns in the patriarchal system. They are the Fathis of the world, blind to the fact that they’re in possession of Privileged Pussy.
The forces which seek to torture and terrorize us can only win if we don’t recognize that it is in our best interest — and infinitely less complicated — if we can help ourselves and others exist as we are.
Safy Hallan Farah is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Minneapolis. You can find her website here.
Photos of Somalia from here.
"Earth Turner" - The Luyas (mp3)
"Crime Machine" - The Luyas (mp3)