FGM – The Price We Pay for Religious Tolerance?

Female Genital Mutilation is an issue which has come to the forefront in Britain over the past few years; and so it should. When I myself started to research FGM I was shocked to find out how ineffective our laws are in the U.K; in comparison to the efforts made in France to counter FGM, Britain falls far short. Repressive measures, like the ones carried out in France, are by no means a simple solution; however, in this case, are they the right one?

In 1985 the U.K introduced the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act, and since it has witnessed a total of two prosecutions. It is true that in the past the law was limited and difficult to impose: there was little publicity of the crime, certainly no education, and very few mechanisms as a means to report it. It is also true that the law has since been reinforced to include U.K nationals committing the crime outside of U.K borders, and that we’ve seen a steady increase in anti-FGM campaigns and education.

How can it be then that despite the progress we’ve made we’ve still only just experienced our first prosecutions, almost 15 years after FGM was made illegal? It’s not as though prosecutions aren’t happening elsewhere; in fact, France, a country which made FGM illegal in 1983 under a section of its penal code, has witnessed around 100 prosecutions. This difference is startling, and it essentially comes down to differing attitudes towards multiculturalism.

There is no denying that France is a multicultural country. However, when this multiculturalism comes into contact with the state’s policy on secularity, tension is created. Indeed, France’s tough policy on secularity takes the separation of church and state to a whole new level. Essentially, wherever you find government money being spent in France, you will not find religious expression.

The most controversial piece of secular legislation was passed in 2011, which bans females from covering their face for religious reasons in public places. This law, along with many others in France, has come under fire for supressing freedom of expression and legitimising Islamophobia. However, when France’s legislation on secularity also includes the recording of FGM, or absence of FGM, in mothers and children, as well as a ban on religious symbols in schools, I can’t help but find myself supporting it.

Although awareness is increasing in the U.K, we still lack a mechanism for recording and reporting FGM. There are countless reports of pregnant women who have suffered FGM in their past, passing through the NHS without being asked any questions. This isn’t a failure by the NHS, it’s simply part of a culture of religious tolerance. There’s no doubt that religious tolerance is something a people and a country should be proud of practising. But if there is a limit to this tolerance, which surely there always is, it must be at the point where human rights are breached.

Jack Vettriano – The Necessity of Misogyny

Game OnA love of art comes with a love of exhibitions, in their many forms. However, I have a terrible tendency to leave going to art exhibitions to the very last minute. So, in traditional fashion, a couple of weeks ago, one week before it closed, I visited the exhibition Jack Vettriano: A Retrospective at Kelvingrove Art Gallery on a very, very busy Saturday afternoon.

I went in with an open mind, having never been exposed to much of Vettriano’s work. Nonetheless, the first bay of paintings proved to be very familiar, most depicting scenes of windswept couples or groups on the beach in 1940’s/50’s clothing. Moving quickly on, having been fairly un-enthralled, the next bay seemed to focus more on portraiture, in claustrophobic, dimly lit settings. I would say the paintings were sultry, sometimes verging on the seedy. However, as I came to realise on moving into the next room, the ‘red room’, this was merely meant as preparation for Vettriano’s most controversial and erotic work.

I felt like I was entering some kind of brothel, an experience which provoked some excitement, an excitement which certainly didn’t fade on deeper observation of the paintings which surrounded me. All of the works within this room consisted of either couples involved in sexual play, or nude females prior to or after such action. One of the most controversial paintings, entitled ‘Game On’, pictures a female pressed up against a wall by a man, whose has one hand holding her wrists while the other strokes her inner thigh.

Suddenly, from being fairly un-enthralled, I was exhilarated. What a fantastic and very real display of the heterosexual relationship today. For me the paintings exhibited the reality of male domination in sexual pleasure, and of the female role as supplement. So, I left the ‘red room’ and I continued wandering round the exhibition, still feeling extremely excited but also satisfied with the effect of Vettriano’s work and what I saw in it.

You can imagine then how disappointed I was when I came to watch a video interview, a few rooms later, in which A.L Kennedy insisted that Vettriano was in fact not a sexist, despite what his critics say, because the women in these paintings are sexy and want to feel sexy. How is it possible for Kennedy to see sexual empowerment in these paintings, when all I see is the reality of ingrained societal misogyny?

Now I wouldn’t go as far to say that Vettriano was a misogynist or a sexist. He very evidently doesn’t hate women, or hold any contempt for women kind; on the contrary, he idolises them. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that, more often than not, his erotic paintings depict scenes of male domination in terms of sexuality and sexual pleasure. In my opinion, to label these depictions empowering for both the women in them and the women observing them, is to simply veil a harsh reality.

And it is for this reason exactly that I believe the critics are wrong in dismissing his work. Indeed, Vettriano’s most provocative paintings are an example of the necessity of art in societal discourse. He has painted scenes which have provoked his male counterparts into calling him a sexist, and his female contemporaries into denying the sexist nature of his work. The art itself reveals so much about the reality in which we live, but so does the peoples’ reaction…

“The Death of the Moth” — Virginia Woolf

I love Virginia Woolf, her narrative style gives such pleasure.

Biblioklept

“The Death of the Moth”

by

Virginia Woolf

Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy-blossom which the commonest yellow-underwing asleep in the shadow of the curtain never fails to rouse in us. They are hybrid creatures, neither gay like butterflies nor sombre like their own species. Nevertheless the present specimen, with his narrow hay-coloured wings, fringed with a tassel of the same colour, seemed to be content with life. It was a pleasant morning, mid-September, mild, benignant, yet with a keener breath than that of the summer months. The plough was already scoring the field opposite the window, and where the share had been, the earth was pressed flat and gleamed with moisture. Such vigour came rolling in from the fields and the down beyond that it was difficult to keep the…

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