Publication - Dina Bader: «Picturing female circumcision and female genital cosmetic surgery: a visual framing analysis of Swiss newspapers, 1983–2015»

Feminist Media Studies, 07 Jan 2019

This article investigates how both the similarities and differences between female circumcision and female genital cosmetic surgery are suggested through images. A visual framing analysis of 278 photographs, published in Swiss newspapers between 1983 and 2015, reveals that three major visual themes—procedure, instrument and people—can be found in both female circumcision and female genital cosmetic surgery, whereas a fourth one—protest—recurs only in depictions of female circumcision. Through these themes, female circumcision is depicted as the product of a “primitive” society, and female genital cosmetic surgery the product of a science-oriented one. I argue that this discrepancy is produced through an intense focus on the medicalisation of female genital cosmetic surgery, which is absent in the visual narratives of female circumcision. I will demonstrate that this culminates in a discourse according to which female genital shaping is problematic only if not performed under medical conditions as defined by Swiss society. The corollary to this is a shifting of the object of criticism from what is done, to how it is done, thereby preventing the conflation of female genital cosmetic surgery with the World Health Organization’s definition of “female genital mutilation” (FGM).


31. Januar 2019




Université de Neuchâtel(Schweiz)