You may never have heard of Sheryl Nestel for anything she's written or said. But recently she has become infamous as the academic supervisor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the notorious Jenny Peto Hate Thesis and a similar one alleging collective Jewish guilt.
Now it appears Ms Nestel is going for the bizarro trifecta with a new Master's thesis she supervised that alleges "knowledge produced around female circumcision perpetuates discursive and material violence against Kenyan Maasai communities" and "this violence has persisted in neo/colonial eras as part of the white western feminist ‘care of self’ technique of displacing female abjection through the pleasure of whiteness." Its author also writes, "these western feminist constructions of sexual liberation rely on depicting racialized women as primitive and degenerate."
Are you following this so far? The thesis' author is saying that focusing attention on the practice of female circumcision is a way of perpetrating violence against Maasai communities that practice it. As far as I can make out, she's proposing that attention drawn to this issue is really because a bunch of western, liberal feminists are trying to feel good about themselves by making non-whites out to be primitive barbarians.
But it gets even better. Nestel's student doesn't just say that western, liberal feminists are racists, colonialists and cultural imperialists, but they also have a prurient obsession with genitalia! Or as the author of "KNOWLEDGE IS MADE FOR CUTTING: GENEALOGIES OF RACE AND GENDER IN FEMALE CIRCUMCISION DISCOURSE" puts it: "It is precisely through the preoccupation with genitalia and the ‘primitive’ practice of female circumcision that the ‘sexually liberated’ western feminist comes to know herself as a ‘civilized’ and viable subject."
The practice of female circumcision is nothing like male circumcision, which merely removes the foreskin, has hygienic advantages and does not interfere with sexual pleasure. Female circumcision is a clitorectomy (i.e. the complete removal of the clitoris). It's practiced by some tribal, patriarchal cultures for the purpose of removing a female's ability to experience sexual pleasure. The rationale for this brutality is that it will supposedly make a wife more likely to remain faithful to her husband.
In contrast to the Hate Thesis, "Knowledge is Made for Cutting" (despite the ill-advised pun in the title) is actually a well-written, well-researched thesis and its author certainly appears to meet the academic qualifications for her degree. But the bizarre conclusions reached under Ms Nestel's tutelage seem indicative of the fanatical, one-sided politicization occurring at OISE.
The University of Toronto's OISE presents odd notions of "oppression" to the extent of trivializing the word. To illustrate that point, one need look no further than the case of an OISE M.Ed. who claimed that by being ignored in a hardware store, she was a victim of "sexist oppression."
For most people, few things could be more accurately described as real sexist oppression than being forced to undergo a clitorectomy. But thanks to OISE's Department of Sociology and Equity Studies, we now know better. Western feminists should refrain from objecting to female genital mutilation and torture, lest they be accused of being lascivious, racist imperialists only intent on enjoying "the pleasure of whiteness." Alternately, they should probably consider sending themselves and their children to somewhere other than OISE's Department of Sociology and Equity Studies to get an education.
UPDATE: anyone wishing to comment on male circumcision is welcome to do so by clicking THIS LINK. I will be relocating all further comments on that subject left here to it. If you want to add to the comments on the subject this post is actually about, go ahead.