How The Handmaid Tales Made Me Think About Female Circumcision

I'm pretty sure I am the last person to watch the Hulu series, "The Handmaid Tales." As usual, I am late to the party and wished someone told me about it sooner because it is actually very good. "The Handmaid Tales" left me feeling so many different things about being a woman and a feminist. 

This series is set in a totalitarian society in the United States. The society is ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state. 

There was a scene in the show that I can't get out of my head, and it involves female genital mutilation, which is also called female circumcision. In the show, we meet Ofglen, a Handmaid who is secretly rebellious. She is taken away by the secret police because she’s a lesbian. Being gay — or a “gender traitor,” as it’s called on the show — is a death sentence.

 However, since Ofglen is one of the few women able to bear children, she’s spared. Instead, she’s forced to have her body mutilated and wakes up with stitches on her genitals. 

Female genital mutilation is widely practiced all over the world. According to The Guardian Health, female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the removal of the clitoris, inner-and-outer lips of the vagina, and the sewing or stapling together of the two sides of the vulva. Which only leaves a small hole for women to urine and menstruate. This procedure is normally done when girls are young as part of a ritual. Unlike male circumcision, FGM has no health benefits.  FGM can lead to severe bleeding, pain, and complete loss of sensitivity, complications during childbirth, infertility, and severe pain during sex, recurring infections, and urine retention.  

As seen in "The Handmaid Tales" FGM is done to control women. The goal is to make sex not pleasurable for women in an attempt to get rid of their sexuality and preserve their purity. 

Photo taken from Hulu

Photo taken from Hulu

NPR states that 200 million women and girls have undergone genital cutting as a coming-of-age ritual, typically under age 15. FGM is mostly done in African countries, along with Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Yemen. There is a growing number of FGM cases in America. One of those cases took place in Detroit where three people were indicted in the first federal female genital mutilation case in the country. 

To learn more about this issue and how you can help end the practice of FGM you can go to UNICEF 

I'm pretty sure you weren't thinking about this when you were watching "The Handmaid Tales."