Hidden or hypervisible? : Mapping the making of a moral panic over female genital mutilation/cutting

Käkelä, Emmaleena; Boyle, Karen and Berridge, Susan, eds. (2023) Hidden or hypervisible? : Mapping the making of a moral panic over female genital mutilation/cutting. In: The Routledge Companion to Gender, Media and Violence. Routledge, London, pp. 116-126. ISBN 9781003200871 (https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003200871-13)

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With the rise of Islamophobia, the so-called “refugee crisis” and persistent intercultural tensions within European societies, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) has re-emerged as a pressing public concern over the last two decades. While evidence about the continuation of FGM/C after migration is limited, there has been a persistent representation of these practices as an ongoing, hidden problem among migrant communities in Europe. This chapter problematises the hypervisibility and hypervigilance which characterises the treatment of FGM/C in the political and media discourses in the UK. The chapter begins by outlining the main discursive strategies that the Western news media has employed in depicting FGM/C and the affected communities in terms of backwardness and “Third World” otherness. The chapter then goes on to illustrate the instrumental role that these sensationalist representations have played in shaping the parameters of the progressively more punitive anti-FGM/C approach in the UK. In analysing the dominant representations of FGM/C which have been perpetuated across the political spectrum, the chapter demonstrates how these practices have been harnessed for the purposes of defining the British nation in increasingly exclusionary ways. In doing so, this chapter argues that FGM/C has given rise to a moral panic – but one which is more telling of the politicisation of concerns over migration than a societal shift in approaches to violence against Black minority women.