Posts Tagged female genital mutilation
All I have to say is, thank God for this Saturday’s Muff March in London. This morning’s Guardian reports that tomorrow morning, wielding signs like “Keep your mitts off our muffs!” and “I love my vagina!” protesters will march to raise awareness of the wrongness of this type of surgery. I know everyone should make their own choices about how they want their labia to look, but this is scary. The Muffia, organized by UK Feminista and a group of performance artists, ask a good question on their Facebook page: “Tired of cosmetic surgeons profiting from body hatred? Want to speak out against a porn culture that is driving more and more women to the surgeon’s table to get a ‘designer vagina’??”
Surgery on a woman’s privates (now apparently also called muff surgery) as I have said many times before differs substantially between surgeons. The operation I perform in this area is labiaplasty (most commonly the reduction of the inner vaginal lips.) A problem in the anti-labiaplasty movement is exaggeration and inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between forms of surgery in the region. They tend to simply vilify all who operate on the female genitalia.
This summer, Atlantic Monthly described the surgery, part of a burgeoning field of cosmetic gynecology, this way: “the labia minora are completely amputated” in order to “improve the appearance” of women’s private parts.
I personally do not completely amputate the Labia minora. Approval of appearance is relative to the patient’s aesthetic desires within reason. Most of my patients have both cosmetic and functional concerns. In some women the operation I perform alleviates discomfort.
In some parts of the world, a variant of this type of surgery is called a clitorectomy, where the clitoris and part of the labia are removed, but in this part of the world we call that torture and it’s not the same thing.
Clitorectomy is not a variant of labiaplasty. It is a part of Female Genital Mutilation, a cultural mutilation of sorts practiced in areas of the Muslim world. Surgeons perform labiaplasty. Surgeons like myself do so to improve a patient’s situation. I do not see parity between Female Genital Mutilation and reduction labiaplasty. Neither do my patients.
Now, to be sure, there are women who, particularly after childbirth benefit tremendously from surgery that addresses physiological problem, but that’s not labiaplasty, it’s generally vaginaplasty.
This is the most ironic portion of the article actually as vaginoplasty is one of the more dangerous forms of female genital surgery. These patients who are referred to as the women who might benefit by the operation are the ones at most risk. External genital surgery (such as Reduction labiaplasty) is widely believed to be the safest form of female genital surgery. It is the only form I personally perform.
John Di Saia MD
But, says Marge Berer, editor of the medical journal Reproductive Health Matters, these procedures, which are aimed at “beautifying” the labia, are tantamount to female genital mutilation – the shockingly primitive surgery performed on women in places like Africa and the Middle East for religious and cultural reasons. Hysterical overstatement? Berer says no.
This Marie Claire opinion piece is pretty laughable. The idea that elective surgery (in this case conservative reduction labiaplasty) aimed (and often succeeding) at enhancing a woman’s sexual experience and/or alleviating discomfort should be equated to female genital mutilation (FGM,) a procedure that does the opposite can only be a joke. I will not argue that elective female genital surgery is performed in a multitude of different ways in different hands and some are (in my opinion) too invasive and maybe even dangerous. But the Fem Nazi types who promote the extreme hyperbole of equating any female genital operation with the butchery of FGM merely provide diametrically opposed contrast to the real mutilating that occurs in the Middle East and Africa. As is typical of extremes, neither of these two radical viewpoints is reasonable.
John Di Saia MD
Originally posted 2006-06-03 21:29:00.
Marie Claire features a bit from an interview with Marge Berer, editor of the medical journal Reproductive Health Matters, who believes that
these procedures, which are aimed at “beautifying” the labia, are tantamount to female genital mutilation
In brief, she wants labiaplasty banned because it violates her belief system and she really could care less that many women find the size of their labiae uncomfortable for any of a number of reasons. Comparing female genital mutilation to reduction labiaplasty is pretty ridiculous but not uncommon.
John Di Saia MD