egy for women’s empowerment! Previously, before the Jola adopted Islam and female circumcision from their Mandinka neighbours, it was only through mar – riage/motherhood that women could achieve ritual status. But now, with a new form of female secret society connected to Islam and to female circumcision, women are no longer dependent on their relations to men for ritual distinction. Dellenborg points to the fact of the increase in Western interest in and critique of female genital mutilation coinciding with the growth of the Western women’s movement in the 1970s, with its focus on sexuality and especially on clitoral orgasms. One may thus speculate, as Dellenborg does, if it is the Western women’s movement’s focus on the clitoris, which creates FGM as a paramount problem, more than the situation of African women as such?
In interesting and apparently contradictory ways the Western feminist concern with FGM is re-working a colonial/missionary trope: in the type of AIDS discourse, to which Thabo Mbeki is referring, African men and women are driven by uncontrollable passions and unconquerable devotion to sin and lust, and as becomes evident in Caldwell’s arguments (Caldwell et al. 1989) it is the lasciviousness of women, which is the decisive factor. In Caldwell’s vision of the world, female chastity is a precondition for civilization (cf. Arnfred’s chapter). The feminist protest, as far as FGM is concerned, takes as its point of departure a very different valorization of female sexuality: in the FGM campaigns it is not too much sexuality, which is the problem, but rather too little. The issue, which has been able to rouse such concern among Western feminists, is that African women through FGM are being deprived of their possibilities for sexual fulfilment. This does appear as a contradiction—but on a deeper level maybe it is not after all. The similarities between the two positions are apparent: a) in both cases othering processes are at work: whether lascivious or deprived, African women are perceived as ‘others’; and b) in both cases the focus is—once again—on the sexuality of African women.