STATEMENT ON JULIA FOX: “FGM is not a costume”

Last week, actress Julia Fox sparked criticism from campaigners working to end female genital mutilation (FGM), after she posed for photographs in Los Angeles wearing a hiked-up white dress that exposed parts of a flesh-coloured bikini showing an image of a sewn-up vagina beneath the words “closed”, which looked similar to “type 3” FGM or “infibulation” – the medical terms used to describe FGM.

It is not clear what Fox’s intention was in wearing the outfit, but for Savera UK and many other FGM campaigners have branded it “horrific” and “triggering”. 

“FGM is not a costume”

Afrah Qassim, Savera UK CEO and Founder, said: “While the intention of this outfit may not have been to imitate or mock FGM and those who have been subjected to it, it is a thoughtless action that is offensive and harmful to those who are survivors.

“Julia Fox is a woman who appears to consider herself a feminist and has spoken in support of many issues affecting women, yet she failed to consider the impact of this outfit. She has effectively ‘dressed up’ in the pain of hundreds of thousands of women and girls. FGM is not a costume and unlike Julia, those affected are not able to just take the outfit off. They live with the physical and mental scars everyday of their lives. 

“The fact that Julia wore this outfit and that the photo was published on a news website that claims to be ‘woman-focused’ is a clear indicator of the lack of awareness and education around FGM, its forms and its impact on women around the world.

“We would urge Julia, her stylists, and the journalists and editorial staff who published this content without thought, to first apologise to survivors of FGM and secondly, to educate themselves on this horrific form of abuse and use their significant platforms to work to end rather than glamourise it. Ignorance is no excuse where there are so many campaigners and organisations working tirelessly to educate and campaign to end FGM for good.”

Khatra Paterson, Savera UK ambassador and FGM survivor, added: “I’m all for women having the freedom to express themselves, however Julia Fox’s flesh-coloured bikini that appears to depict a mutilated Type 3 vulva shows lack of sensitivity and insight for woman like myself that have gone through FGM.  

“It’s triggering and sadly FGM represents the control of a woman’s body and sexuality – the extreme opposite to what it appears Julia was intending to portray. Maybe if she could see the mental and physical struggles FGM survivors go through then she would of had a little more compassion rather than sensationalising it.”

Savera UK Survivor Ambassador, Payzee Mahmod, has also spoken out about Julia’s actions, as has survivor and activist Shamsa Araweelo, who has worked with Savera UK Youth on campaigns to raise awareness of FGM.

About FGM

“Type 3” FGM is often considered to be the most extreme form of this harmful practice, which narrows the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering “seal” formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching. It may also involve the partial or total removal of the clitoris.

FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights. It reflects deep-rooted gender inequality, and constitutes an extreme form of gender discrimination. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. However, it can also be carried out on women, particularly in preparation for marriage or after giving birth. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture, cruelty, inhumane or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. 

To learn more about FGM read our recent blog on FGM and Healthcare or download factsheets from the Savera UK Learning Hub