Cornflake Girl, FGM, Shame

This is my very favorite song of all Tori Amos’s songs I encountered, I found her lyrics are especially intriguing to me. After some googling of the song, found out two interesting details – first the song was inspired by Alice Walker’s “The Secret of Processing Joy” and the story was about a woman’s conflict within over FGM (Female Genital Mutilation).


” Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18% of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and the trend towards medicalization is increasing.

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”

– World Health Organization (

Such practice normally found in countries such as Tanzania, Egypt and Ethiopia. Often women would have to go through such practice in their younger self, as part of the “growing up”, women who did not receive such practice or refused to do so would often receive series of discrimination in communities. Despite how this was universally seen as violation to women’s human right, many family remain firm on receiving it in order to secure the daughter’s future such as marriage.

This reminded me a conversation I had with an activist who assist sex workers to voice out their opinions in USA. She and I became well acquainted in twitter over our common goal over sex worker’s right, before we found that there are many similarities between us. The most visible one was that we are from the same culture that value shame in a worrying level (to me), especially when it relates to family honor. In our culture sex workers are the lowest job you can get in life along with cleaners, as their definitions of success only applies in jobs that give you a huge authority power such as doctor.

She and I yet to the surprise and possibly disappointment of our parents, decided to work hard on studying sex worker or help sex workers voice out their rights. While my mother was fine with such study as she know I did them for my dissertation, she often worries how people would view me over this and fear for my suffering. Yet not everyone can be so lucky to have liberal parents, some might often felt ashamed to be known with their own children or family members, purely for their association with sex workers. Unlike the woman in “Possessing the Secret of Joy” who was under the stress for being different, different is something to me to be enjoyed and be proud of. I guess that’s where you find your validation of living in this world?

As for the sex work activism situation become questionable in my future, based on my graduation is due soon. I thought for a while on it, and decided to keep on with it while working on some jobs, you got to have funding to keep your dream living, right?


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