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118 Responses

  1. Lauren
    Lauren April 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |

    The cake isn’t actually “shaped like a black woman” as it is “shaped like the naked, disembodied torso of a [terrible, alarmingly racist stereotype of a] black woman,” with Linde’s head sticking out the top.

    Fixed.

  2. mim
    mim April 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |

    i read a bit more on the link and while i think that the art piece was very poorly executed, i found the idea of the artist screaming as if he was in pain while the cake was being cut very powerful- i think if the cake wasn’t a racist caricature of a black woman, but an installation of a woman’s body which screamed as it was cut into, you would have an artistic performance that drew attention to the horrors of fgm. i think the fact that it was cake (which implies the consumption of a woman) and the racist caricature that the artist chose as decoration were incredibly offensive. also, how creepy is the swedish minister’s line? was that part of the performance?!

  3. Alice
    Alice April 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |

    Wtf. That is all kinds of messed up and, as a Swede, makes me feel really embarrassed.

  4. hmm
    hmm April 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm |

    It sounds terrible but I’m also confused about what actually happened. This was a cake? Or a person hidden inside a cake? Who screamed in pain? Was everyone involved in on it from the start? Was anyone ambushed or surprised by what was happening? Was anyone hurt, even on purpose? Was it part of a prepared script to say that her life would be better after this?

    Assuming the best case scenario, that it was all a pre-planned spectacle that everyone was in on, it still sounds pretty awful and insulting.

  5. Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic)
    Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic) April 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |

    I honestly just don’t know how to respond to this. There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin.

    1. The degrading racial caricature of an African woman

    2. The disembodiment, objectification and disfigurement *in jest* of something depicting an African woman’s body

    3. The utter cultural insensitivity and arch-colonial patronizing toward women who actually have had FGM

    4. That this is a male artist who joked about getting his “vagaga” mutilated. Wonder if he would think this was as funny if it was something humorous depicting his own genitalia being mutilated.

    5. That the freaking minister of culture went along with this.

    6. Oh and in case you missed it (and I don’t recommend seeing this is you are sensitive) the interior of the cake was dyed blood red. There are pics of it on the artist’s FB page. It looks like they were trying to depict a woman being sawed in half, like something out of the imagination of a violently rabid misogynist. It made me queasy.

    7. None of this seems to suggest *anyone* involved understands how genuinely painful, scarring and traumatic FGM can be for many women or how in some regions, women are forced to undergo FGM against their will and even violently, and too often without proper medical care afterwards, leading to infection, further pain and even death. Why would you think this is an appropriate way to address such an issue? What next? A rape victim cake?

    I’m just horrified.

  6. Clavis
    Clavis April 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

    According to this link, it was actually performance art and was supposed to be a statement about FGM. http://www.mediaite.com/online/appalling-swedish-racist-cake-video-contains-no-actual-racist-cake/ I believe the Swedish minister was asked by the artist to perform her part in the event.

  7. gratuitous_violet
    gratuitous_violet April 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

    Q: “Yo, Is This Racist?”
    A: *splode*

  8. Terri
    Terri April 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm |

    @mim – In my opinion, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth destroyed any chance of her supposed art being anti-racist when she, a white woman obviously oblivious to her privilege, decided to don black face. It seems like pretty blatant racism to me.

  9. Mxe354
    Mxe354 April 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

    Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

    I’m nearly speechless. That is simply vile.

  10. x
    x April 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |

    Cade:

    regarding point 4, since he’s swedish I doubt he was subjected to it, but in the US millions of men have been subjected to genital mutilation from circumcision. However it’s essentially ignored rather than given serious ethical debate. Even worse unfortunately, in cases of men being mutilated to the point of amputation, entire audiences of women erupt in cheers, laughter, and applause, such as the Sharon Osborne on The View instance regarding Catherine Becker cutting off her husband’s penis.

  11. Jadey
    Jadey April 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm |

    Performance? Yes. Artful? No.

    A cake like this would (maybe) work if it were survivors of FMG forcing FGM proponents to eat it and reflect on the horror of the scenario, not the hilarity.

  12. Andie
    Andie April 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm |

    What the ever loving fuck?

  13. Carla
    Carla April 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |

    This is absolutely horrifying.

    Somewhat relatedly, we were actually just discussing FGM in one of my classes. My professor assigned Richard Shweder’s “What About Female Genital Mutilation?” You can find most of the piece on Google Scholar or the complete piece on JSTOR.

    Shweder argues that it’s racist/ colonial/ problematic to be a Western person against the cultural practice of FGM. I don’t know if I wholeheartedly agree with his argument, but it was interesting. I would be curious to see if anyone else has read the piece and if so what people think of it.

  14. Jadey
    Jadey April 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |

    @mim – In my opinion, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth destroyed any chance of her supposed art being anti-racist when she, a white woman obviously oblivious to her privilege, decided to don black face. It seems like pretty blatant racism to me.

    To be clear, the person wearing black face in this instance is an Afro-Swedish man and the author of the spectacle. Liljeroth, a white Swedish woman, is the culture minister. That doesn’t make it okay and it doesn’t make the anyone else in that room less awful for playing along, but just so the details are straight.

  15. Terri
    Terri April 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

    @ Jadey – I misread part of the article (obviously), thank you for correcting me. Indeed the details don’t make it much less unsettling, but they are significant.

  16. Alexandria
    Alexandria April 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |

    This is one of the worst things I have ever seen. Also, it’s incredibly ironic that this was exhibited at the “Stockholm” [Syndrome] MOMA.

  17. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil April 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm |

    Oh look, we made it to comment 10 before someone brought up male circumcision. Please. Don’t.

    This popped up on my Google reader feed earlier today and I mostly sat there with my mouth hanging open for several minutes.

  18. roymacIII
    roymacIII April 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm |

    regarding point 4, since he’s swedish I doubt he was subjected to it, but in the US millions of men have been subjected to genital mutilation from circumcision. However it’s essentially ignored rather than given serious ethical debate. Even worse unfortunately, in cases of men being mutilated to the point of amputation, entire audiences of women erupt in cheers, laughter, and applause, such as the Sharon Osborne on The View instance regarding Catherine Becker cutting off her husband’s penis.

    Maybe a post about a racist performance about FGM isn’t the best place for a comment about how men got it bad, too?

  19. hmm
    hmm April 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

    I’m not sure I can blame her for laughing when she was surprised to find out a fake-looking head was a real person’s head. People laugh when they’re startled and the situation is awkward. I don’t think its that she finds it hilarious. What I can blame her for, though, its agreeing to participate in this whole thing in the first place, and/or not refusing to participate once she saw what it was like.

  20. tholbrook
    tholbrook April 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm |

    Maybe a post about a racist performance about FGM isn’t the best place for a comment about how men got it bad, too?

    x1000. Because really, #10? You thought THIS was the appropriate place to bring that up?

  21. JetGirl
    JetGirl April 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm |

    Du och jag, Alice. Me and you.

  22. igglanova
    igglanova April 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm |

    It seems likely that the grotesque spectacle which is the fallout of his work was engineered by the artist deliberately. It’s quite illustrative of the easy indifference with which white Westerners treat the suffering of African girls and women – the fact that he’s posed himself as a cake to be eaten seems, to me, symbolic of the way FGC is used as a political football by Westerners who could really give less than two shits about the actual, lived, vivid suffering of the victims of violence. The issue of FGC is consumed for the Western body’s own use.

    In other words, I would hesitate to malign the artist, who used the offensive imagery in service of a greater point. (And yes, there is a lengthy established history of Black artists appropriating racist imagery for use in social critiques such as these.) The people who have damned themselves are the minister and audience.

  23. igglanova
    igglanova April 17, 2012 at 7:13 pm |

    And now I think I’ve gone and done the same sort of shit I just described above, intellectualizing away the harm caused by such blatantly racist spectacles in service of some abstract point that could have been made much less obliquely. Meta. And dammit.

  24. seisy
    seisy April 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm |

    @Carla : I went and found the article, and found it to be itself problematic. The justification of FGM (or at least the justification of “it’s just culture! Don’t judge!”) seemed to come down to this:

    “[M]any women in places such as Mali, Somalia, Egypt, Kenya, or Chad indeed are repulsed by the idea of unmodified female genitals, which they view as ugly, unrefined, undignified, uncivilized and hence, not fully human.” (This point was repeated in modified format through out the document)

    Which to me isn’t so much an argument of “this goes beyond feminism” as “wow, this is exactly the kind of thing feminism exists to address!” At least the attitudes and institutionalized and internalized misogyny that gives birth to it. (Like one’s humanity, beauty, and worth being determined by your genitals).

    By the standards of those arguments, even Western feminism shouldn’t exist because there were and are plenty of women who argue(d) quite strongly that women (say) *need* to be subservient to men, that anything else is disgusting and mannish, so on and so forth.

    I think there could be a pretty strong argument from not approaching FGM from the “shock, horror, other cultures!” perspective, but you know, listening to the women activists from those cultures, but…yeah. Just because not every woman is an activist doesn’t mean it’s copacetic. It’s still part of the misogyny that pervades the whole world.

  25. the_leanover
    the_leanover April 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm |

    Somewhat relatedly, we were actually just discussing FGM in one of my classes. My professor assigned Richard Shweder’s “What About Female Genital Mutilation?” You can find most of the piece on Google Scholar or the complete piece on JSTOR.

    Shweder argues that it’s racist/ colonial/ problematic to be a Western person against the cultural practice of FGM. I don’t know if I wholeheartedly agree with his argument, but it was interesting. I would be curious to see if anyone else has read the piece and if so what people think of it.

    Without having actually read this, I’m generally inclined to agree with seisy above, but I’d also be much more inclined to take it into account as a serious anti-colonial argument if it was made by an actual feminist woman from a place where FGM is practised, rather than by a white male anthropologist… (if anybody knows of any such critiques I’d be quite interested in reading them!)

  26. EG
    EG April 17, 2012 at 7:32 pm |

    Seconding seisy. I’ve never had much patience for that argument, because:

    1) It seems to me to be the height of patronizing racism to say oh, sexual and reproductive rights are massively important to us, but those brown women don’t need them–their culture is so different.

    2) Feminism runs counter to every cultural tradition, and I have no respect at all for the misogynist aspects of any culture. I am in favor of supporting any culture’s feminist activists and following their lead and advice in terms of priorities and tactics, but that’s a very different thing.

    When it comes to OP…it’s almost too disgusting for words. In my wildest nightmares, I would not have come up with this.

  27. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm |

    Umm…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  28. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm |

    the comment above is me being speechless.

  29. Emolee
    Emolee April 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm |

    Feminism runs counter to every cultural tradition, and I have no respect at all for the misogynist aspects of any culture.

    Agreed, and thirding seisy and EG. Culture, no matter whose, is not an acceptable excuse for violent misogyny. Respect for differing cultures should inform the way we interrogate and approach instances of misogyny, but I cannot agree

    that it’s racist/ colonial/ problematic to be a Western person against the cultural practice of FGM.

    However, to be clear, this particular “art installation” is horrific and jaw-droppingly racist. I mean, my jaw literally dropped when I saw the picture in the linked article.

  30. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig April 17, 2012 at 8:14 pm |

    Dear fucking lord.. I know Europeans like to point at the United States and laugh, but I think even the Daughters of the American Revolution, one of the whitest organizations that ever whited, would be appalled.

    By the way, anyone notice that it was tagged with ‘daaammnn’ on the source blog? Says it all, really.

  31. Sonya
    Sonya April 17, 2012 at 8:19 pm |

    I think that this art piece had the right idea. I mean, you watched the video, you were horrified, right? I believe that was the reaction it was trying to get to bring note to how bad of a situation this is. The problem with this is not the piece itself (although maybe a less racial-stereotyped version would have been way better), but it is the reaction of the people who are watching the performance piece. They seem to find it hilarious, unlike what I would consider to be a decent human who finds it revolting. Who laughs at that? Seriously. I hope it was just nervous “oh my god what is this” laughter, but I doubt it..

  32. EG
    EG April 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm |

    although maybe a less racial-stereotyped version would have been way better

    Gee, y’think? Yeah, you know what? Any time you have to say “maybe a less racist version would have been way better,” you are already so far gone that you should just scrap the idea and start over.

    I was horrified by the pictures, indeed–at the fact that numerous people thought that this art piece was acceptable. So sure, if that’s the reaction the artist wanted…good job, I guess?

  33. Li
    Li April 17, 2012 at 9:09 pm |

    “According to sources Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was invited to declare festivities open by performing a clitoridectomy on the cake, which she did by removing the cake woman’s labiums,” [emphasis added]

    Also? The clue is in the name, folks.

  34. Marwa
    Marwa April 17, 2012 at 10:59 pm |

    As an Egyptian woman, articles like that Shweder piece REALLY upset me. There are significant local movements within countries where FGM is present that are mobilizing against the practice, and most are happy to have allies or supporters in the West. In fact, arguing that it is colonialist for a Westerner to be against FGM is privileging entrenched, misogynist traditions in our countries and holding up one very harmful view of supposed authenticity and culture over others. It tells me that as an Egyptian woman against FGM, my views are not representative of the dominant cultural paradigm in my country and should thus be discounted. When in reality, our cultures are layered and diverse and represent various interwoven histories, identities, ethnicities, opinions, and experiences. Shweder’s arguments diminish and discount Kenyans, Egyptians etc working to reduce FGM. Also, culture is not immutable. It changes over time, and practices which go against basic human rights are or should be the first to go. At one time, slavery was culturally acceptable in much of the world too.

  35. yes
    yes April 17, 2012 at 11:34 pm |

    Yes everyone, let’s not derail a thread about racism and callous disregard for the seriousness of genital mutilation by pointing out that cultures dominated by whites also practice a form of genital mutilation. That’s so inappropriate for this discussion.

  36. Azalea
    Azalea April 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm |

    Saraa Bartmaan is ( from reports on facebook) the woman whose image was used to make the cake. They did NOT do a good job. This is disgustingly racist.

  37. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig April 18, 2012 at 12:03 am |

    Making the cake more realistic wouldn’t have worked. Actually, I think that’d be worse.

  38. Wendy
    Wendy April 18, 2012 at 12:15 am |

    I’d also be much more inclined to take it into account as a serious anti-colonial argument if it was made by an actual feminist woman from a place where FGM is practised, rather than by a white male anthropologist… (if anybody knows of any such critiques I’d be quite interested in reading them!)

    See “A Statement on Female Genital Mutilation” by the Association of African Women for Research and Development, in Miranda Davies (ed.), Third World-Second Sex : Women’s Struggles and National Liberation (1983) at 217.

  39. outrageandsprinkles
    outrageandsprinkles April 18, 2012 at 1:23 am |

    I’ve seen a few comments pop up here and there along the lines of “Well it got people’s attention, so job well done?”. The thing is, all the attention this has been getting, that I’ve seen anyway, is about how horribly racist it is. If I try to make a point about the cruelties of puppy mills by punching people in the face, it’s not a success if everyone expresses outrage at my face-punching.

  40. paula woods
    paula woods April 18, 2012 at 1:27 am |

    Gets the talking about FGM, that can’t be a bad thing?

  41. paula woods
    paula woods April 18, 2012 at 1:30 am |

    Apologies that should have read ‘Gets the world talking about FGM’.

  42. Natalia
    Natalia April 18, 2012 at 2:22 am |

    In theory, I suppose an idea like this could work as an art installation of some kind – and could be powerful if done right – but considering the context, it just strikes me that an important health issue that was co-opted for shits and giggles in a really grotesque way. And yes, I suppose the grotesque nature of the event is supposed to make us think – but it’s only addressed at the people who haven’t been subjected to FGM, innit?

    I’ve already been told that I’m “just not edgy enough” to understand “the artist’s intent” – but so what? If you’ve just debased an entire group of people, your intent gets lost. And perhaps, just perhaps, as an artist, you should try to speak to *more* people with your art – including, you know, actual women who have actually had FGM performed on them.

    This entire stunt seems to assume that the only real audience an artist like this may have is white folks who have only heard of FGM in news reports. That’s really fucking stupid and demeaning.

  43. Shigekuni
    Shigekuni April 18, 2012 at 3:51 am |

    From a book forum I’m a member of, a Swedish friend offers insight into this culture minister:

    Our minister of culture, ladies and gentlemen, give her a big hand. The woman who wants to replace the word “culture” with “entertainment”, since she’s never gotten anything more out of a book than “the butler did it.” The woman who doesn’t mind if all bookshops close on her watch since “you can always buy paperbacks at petrol stations.” The woman who wants all museums to be run by volunteers working for free. The woman who goes to see brilliantly harsh movies about gender roles and claims she can relate to them “because there was a horse in it, and my daughter loves her horse.” The woman who cancelled state support for literary magazines if they bring up politics, since she cannot see why brainless entertainment would ever have anything to do with politics. The woman who’s happy to cut up cakes shaped like racist stereotypes since hey, it’s just a cake, and what’s racist about a cake?

  44. Athenia
    Athenia April 18, 2012 at 9:18 am |

    Saraa Bartmaan is ( from reports on facebook) the woman whose image was used to make the cake. They did NOT do a good job. This is disgustingly racist.

    WHAT THE FUCK?!? Why?! Just WHY?!

  45. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated April 18, 2012 at 9:33 am |

    Females, working class people, and colonials routinely are viewed as consumables by the boys at the top. Such an incident doesn’t surprise me at all: predators get off on their prey’s pain.
    It does make me wonder if and when such people plan to butcher and eat the unemployed/unemployable.
    These people display the type of culture and sensitivity more often found on a Petri dish, or in historical documents from the Hitler era.

  46. Azalea
    Azalea April 18, 2012 at 10:47 am |

    Athenia, my sentiments exactly!!

  47. Jadey
    Jadey April 18, 2012 at 11:06 am |

    Gets the talking about FGM, that can’t be a bad thing?

    Right, because this is a little-known issue that isn’t already being discussed. Also, because right now this spectacle has people talking about FGM, rather than the racism, misogyny, and poor taste of the execution of this exhibit. OH NO WAIT.

    Actually, “awareness raising” done poorly can do more harm than good. There is a standard to be applied here, efforts can be criticized and found wanting, intentions aren’t sufficient, “talk” is too vague a criterion to be useful. Talking about what, how, where, and with what results?

  48. tmc
    tmc April 18, 2012 at 11:14 am |

    I like how so many people are trying to dismiss the hideousness of this cake by referencing the artist’s race. He’s a dude living in a wealthy country; he’s coming at this from all sorts of axes of privilege regardless of his race. I can’t see how this can be any sort of statement made in genuine solidarity when it so obviously excludes the voices of those who have actually been affected by the practice.

    And yeah, you can be against FGM without being colonialist about it…but it seems to me that a lot of people fail to do that (and I’m not talking about anyone in particular in this thread, I’m just speaking generally). If all of your efforts to “spread awareness” or whatever completely ignore the people who are actually LIVING this and working on making cultural change from the inside out, if you attempt to reinvent the wheel by dismissing and/or obscuring the past and ongoing efforts made by those who have been directly affected, if you make the assumption that folks in wealthy coutries are the only ones who realize that This Shit Is Not Right when it comes to FGM, then yes, you’re a colonialist asshole. Solidarity should absolutely be paramount in these efforts.

  49. tmc
    tmc April 18, 2012 at 11:15 am |

    @Jadey: Bingo!

  50. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua April 18, 2012 at 11:18 am |

    This is from The Onion, right, with some Photoshop trickery involved? Tell me that it’s a bizarre hoax. Please.

  51. Donna L
    Donna L April 18, 2012 at 11:20 am |

    Not to denigrate men’s experiences, but they aren’t the same.

    Exactly. Not remotely. The comparison is horrifyingly inappropriate as a matter of substance (like equating someone with a pierced ear with Van Gogh), and problematic for all sorts of other reasons I won’t get into (viz. that notorious anti-circumcision comic book that came out before the San Francisco vote). Wholly apart from the “what about the men” nature of the derail.

  52. Julia
    Julia April 18, 2012 at 11:56 am |

    I agree — #10, there are huge differences between circumcision and FGM. I’m not saying circumcision makes any sense, because it doesn’t. But how about you shhhh for a minute while we worry about someone else’s (non-male, non-white, non-western) problems?

    I think this was an interesting concept for a piece — literally dividing up a woman’s body and then actually consuming it and deriving pleasure. But it feels undermined by the male voice screaming – he should have had a woman do it. And the minister of culture is a moron. What bothers me are all the regular joes who keep coming back to slice more cake — I felt sickened.

    And while I am not Scandi, isn’t there a Christmas tradition of a black character that looks like his makeup? I think there may be a part of the blackface that doesn’t translate to an American – though that doesn’t make the Christmas character any more acceptable, I’m just saying there is potential for cross-cultural confusion.

  53. Jadey
    Jadey April 18, 2012 at 12:08 pm |

    And while I am not Scandi, isn’t there a Christmas tradition of a black character that looks like his makeup? I think there may be a part of the blackface that doesn’t translate to an American – though that doesn’t make the Christmas character any more acceptable, I’m just saying there is potential for cross-cultural confusion.

    Yes, there is a history of blackface elsewhere than the US. There is also a history of racism elsewhere than the US. There are also people who live in these non-US countries with histories of blackface and racism who link the two and oppose both. It’s not about just what Americans think. The Afro-Swedish organization in Sweden has condemned this installation (as stated in the article) – I don’t think there’s cross-cultural confusion there.

  54. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil April 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

    And while I am not Scandi, isn’t there a Christmas tradition of a black character that looks like his makeup?

    I think you’re thinking of
    the Netherlands. (Warning: more racist imagery at the link).

  55. Ornytus
    Ornytus April 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

    Please stop with the fake expressions of outrage. The entire spectacle was meant to be shocking and was an attempt at showing the horrors of FGM. It was rather humorous in its absurdity, I think.

  56. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm |

    Please stop with the fake expressions of outrage. The entire spectacle was meant to be shocking and was an attempt at showing the horrors of FGM. It was rather humorous in its absurdity, I think.

    If it was meant to be a shocking attempt at showing the horrors of FGM, then the cake would have showed a realistic depiction of a perfectly healthy looking pre pubescent girl.

    Your second point cancels out the first one. There is nothing humorous or absurd about pointing out the horrors of FGM

    As the young people say…DOUBLE FAIL

  57. roymacIII
    roymacIII April 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

    Yeah, maybe I’m weird, but I don’t actually think that FMG is ha-ha funny.

    Also: I like to save my fake outrage for pop culture.

  58. Angel H.
    Angel H. April 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

    @ Ornytus:

    Please stop with the fake expressions of outrage.

    Stop assuming that everyone here is white.

    @ tmc:

    I like how so many people are trying to dismiss the hideousness of this cake by referencing the artist’s race.

    Exactly. The way the woman is depicted is an example of sexualized racism. The fact that it came from an Afro-Swede doesn’t diminish this; it makes it more painful.

  59. Ornytus
    Ornytus April 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

    The shocking and the humorous often go hand in hand. The effectiveness of the artist in getting his point across here is shown by the amount of press his work is receiving. I’ve heard him interviewed and I think he is very satisfied with the impact he has made.

    What puzzles me most is that many people seem to be more outraged by the perceived racism here rather than the act of FGM itself.

  60. Angel H.
    Angel H. April 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

    The effectiveness of the artist in getting his point across here is shown by the amount of press his work is receiving.

    Bullshit. The reason he’s getting so much press is because of the racist cake. Because of it, as Jadey already pointed out at #48, that’s all people are talking about.

    I’ve heard him interviewed and I think he is very satisfied with the impact he has made.

    Wrong.

    What puzzles me most is that many people seem to be more outraged by the perceived racism here rather than the act of FGM itself.

    First of all, there is no “perceived” racism. It is what it is. Secondly, this goes against your first point, that he was effective in conveying his message.

  61. groggette
    groggette April 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm |

    What puzzles me most is that many people seem to be more outraged by the perceived racism here rather than the act of FGM itself.

    Then you haven’t been paying attention.

  62. Athenia
    Athenia April 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm |

    The shocking and the humorous often go hand in hand. The effectiveness of the artist in getting his point across here is shown by the amount of press his work is receiving. I’ve heard him interviewed and I think he is very satisfied with the impact he has made.

    What puzzles me most is that many people seem to be more outraged by the perceived racism here rather than the act of FGM itself.

    When people are shocked by the *racism* of the performance art rather than the *sexism* of FGM, he has not achieved his desired goal.

  63. librarygoose
    librarygoose April 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

    The effectiveness of the artist in getting his point across here is shown by the amount of press his work is receiving.

    Oh. So he was trying to make a statement about the racism in the “white savior complex” by disguising it as an exceptionally racist attempt to raise “awareness” about FGM.

    How very meta.

    /sarcasm.

  64. yes
    yes April 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

    My point wasn’t that male circumcision is exactly the same as fgm. FGM causes more nerve damage and is practiced primarily by people with dark skin. That said, they’re both the cultural practice of involuntary amputation of sections of a child’s genitals.

    But I’m sure it’s a deep concern for women’s bodily autonomy that’s really at the heart of the distinction between the two in western society, and not casual racism/ethnocentrism. Because the former is such a strong force and all.

    You can claim that ignoring circumcision is about placing the focus on women, but at it’s heart, it’s just colonialist if you don’t acknowledge what is fundamentally anti-feminist about male circumcision too.

  65. leo stotch
    leo stotch April 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm |

    It seems to me that the cake was a trick in what was really a piece of performance art. Show a (mostly) rich, white audience a disgusting, violent racial stereotype in a context where they think it’s safe to accept it, and watch them gleefully participate in a very grotesque spectacle. The cake wasn’t meant to be an actual statement against FGM, it was a prop Mr. Linde used to make a very dark point. Whether it’s OK for a man living in Sweden to use that iconography to make that point seems like a serious question to me, but I really don’t think the cake was meant to be the art on display. The artwork was the group of white people cutting up the body of an African woman and eating it and laughing, while somehow still under the impression that they were making a statement against FGM.

  66. roymacIII
    roymacIII April 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm |

    But I’m sure it’s a deep concern for women’s bodily autonomy that’s really at the heart of the distinction between the two in western society, and not casual racism/ethnocentrism. Because the former is such a strong force and all.

    On a feminist blog?
    Yes, actually, I suspect that deep concern for women’s bodily autonomy actually is a pretty strong force here.

    You can claim that ignoring circumcision is about placing the focus on women, but at it’s heart, it’s just colonialist if you don’t acknowledge what is fundamentally anti-feminist about male circumcision too.

    Thinking that this post isn’t necessarily the right place for a conversation about male circumcision isn’t the same as “ignoring” it. The belief that not every conversation about women’s health issues needs to center men’s health issues isn’t necessarily colonialist, either.

  67. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig April 18, 2012 at 4:19 pm |

    Ornytus: Please stop with the fake expressions of outrage.

    I’m not seeing any fake outrage here. Mostly I’m seeing actual rage or ‘what the fuckity fuck?’* I’m not sure why you’re assuming we’re all faking this.

    For the record, I’m white.. and horrified.

    Ornytus: The shocking and the humorous often go hand in hand.

    Humorous? I see nothing funny here.

  68. Jamila
    Jamila April 18, 2012 at 4:36 pm |

    Performance art is as much performance as it is art. I get what the artist was trying to communicate (or, at least I THINK I get it). The piece definitely speaks volumes about the denigration and mutilation of black female bodies.

    White people standing around laughing and taking pictures while a black body is being sliced apart. I wonder if the white people who were laughing and taking pictures even understood how they were playing right into the intentions of the artist; by not even recognizing that what they were doing was wrong or even mildly inappropriate, the Swedish people and their actions were a perfect illustration of the detachment and insensitivity that white people have historically had towards the denigration of black people. And now here we are, decades after the Civil Rights Movement and the decolonization of Africa, and civilized white people still thinking cutting into a black body is entertainment.

    I think the piece is brilliant.

  69. Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic)
    Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic) April 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm |

    Just a quick comment about how this is suppose to be performance art, since a lot of people want to evoke that.

    Good art is communication. Tell me, does this communicate anything about the reality of FGM?

    There is good art, and then there is bad art. Be critical and you can figure out easily which one this is.

  70. konkonsn
    konkonsn April 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

    @leo stotch

    Until the artist comes out with such a statement, I’ll have a hard time believing it. Even if that was his intention, I don’t believe he had the right to sacrifice African women like that for his art. If he wanted, he could have done something specific to Afro-Swedish male racism. But stuff like this doesn’t get white people rethinking our casual (and very not casual) racism or prompt discussions about it so much as it just reinforces racist attitudes and causes people to dig themselves deeper in their trenches.

  71. Jim
    Jim April 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

    “Thinking that this post isn’t necessarily the right place for a conversation about male circumcision isn’t the same as “ignoring” it. ”

    Bingo. It’s not ignoring anything, it focus on someother, if related thing.

  72. leo stotch
    leo stotch April 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm |

    @konkonsn

    I didn’t mean to suggest that I agreed with the artist. I just wanted to say that I think he intentionally created that awful scene (and made it as terrible as possible) in order to critique the behavior of the people happily participating. I think you made the most important point: “Even if that was his intention, I don’t believe he had the right to sacrifice African women like that for his art.”

  73. Trudy
    Trudy April 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    That awkward moment when the expressions, behavior and justifications of “allies” and enemies are the same…interesting how OFTEN they completely overlap or Venn diagram versus being polar opposites.

  74. Empress
    Empress April 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm |

    In all seriousness, though, I don’t understand why a feminist discussion of a serious offense against women is always expected to give equal time to a corresponding offense against men. Not to denigrate men’s experiences, but they aren’t the same. That’s not what we’re talking about. This is what we’re talking about.

    Oh, I don’t know, maybe because the offense against men may be practiced in the speaker’s and listener’s culture while the offense against women might not, opening opponents of only the latter to charges of hypocrisy and racism and thereby weakening their argument? Perhaps the critic wishes to see a consistent, and therefore more solid, case made against all genital mutilation? Just a thought…

  75. noexcuses
    noexcuses April 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm |

    if you support the call for Liljeroth’s resignation and higher standards for the Western realm of institutionalized art, please sign this petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/liljeroth-sweden-s-museum-of-modern-art-liljeroth-should-resign-now

    This is artistry and intellectualism at its most puerile and sophistic state. It is low-quality, low-brow, and uncreative. There are many other ways to create a groundswell and gain international attention for fgm and genital mutilation of African women. I’m rolling my eyes at the “genius” of the artist. Nothing about this incites in-depth conversation about the specifics of fgm, the locations of fgm, the inter- and intratextual topography of cultural translation, the complicated issue of post-colonial gender construction in modern-day empires, or the funding of movements to STOP fgm. The only people benefiting from this entertainment are the elite minority who held the show. I doubt any person from the general population knows much more about fgm than they did before they heard Liljeroth’s name. Again, if you support the call for Liljeroth’s resignation and higher standards for the Western realm of institutionalized art, please sign this petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/liljeroth-sweden-s-museum-of-modern-art-liljeroth-should-resign-now

  76. Wonderkitty
    Wonderkitty April 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm |

    they’re both the cultural practice of involuntary amputation of sections of a child’s genitals.

    To say that “FGM causes more nerve damage” (emphasis mine) downplays the vital element: it is meant to do nerve damage. To the best of my knowledge male circumcision is not routinely performed specifically to reduce or eliminate pleasurable sexual sensation to keep men from being promiscuous.

    There are lots of good reasons why FGM and male circumcision don’t fit into the same conversation. I think the other reasons that it really doesn’t fit in this conversation have been more than adequately pointed out already.

    PS: Ornytus, if you are laughing about FGM then you are making the wrong statement.

  77. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm |

    PS: Ornytus, if you are laughing about FGM then you are making the wrong statement

    This is not laughing at FGM. It’s laughing at ‘those silly third world people who look and act different than us.’ They are doing it under the guise of being anti-FGM, but enough people here have pointed out the transparent dishonesty of that.

  78. yes
    yes April 18, 2012 at 11:10 pm |

    It honestly wasn’t my intention to make this about male circumcision. I was content to cringe and just say “ugh… fuck,” but Cade made six really good points and one poor one. When x pointed this out, people jumped on the whole “what about teh menz (or, to be slightly more accurate, the newborn babies)” idiocy and I felt it was fair to comment in that. If you’re going to condemn something monstrous that conveniently happens in marginalized cultures, then perhaps it’s fair to acknowledge something less monstrous (but still fucked up) that happens in wealthy western cultures. Because privilege etc.

    And yes, in a safe, feminist space women’s bodily autonomy is highly valued. And if that were the case outside of such spaces too, then I’d be happy to see the resistance to putting FGM on the same continuum as male circumcision as not having a racist vibe to it.

    But really, I guess my main point is this: The solution to FGM isn’t less cutting, it’s no cutting. And that’s a circle you can’t square without, you know, saying no cutting, period.

  79. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig April 19, 2012 at 12:06 am |

    Empress: On this site, I’ve never seen anyone attempt to have an actual conversation about male circumcision. It’s always brought up as a derail and a distraction. If you want to talk about male circumcision, go find a men’s site. Otherwise, excuse us for being a little tetchy at the sight of yet another bad faith comentator who should go find a bridge to lurk under with the rest of the trolls. Now, on with the on-topic comments.

  80. Lifting As We Climb
    Lifting As We Climb April 19, 2012 at 1:08 am |

    Appalling and misguided. This doesn’t deconstruct FGM, it trivializes it.

    From time to time, I fantasize that like Bricktop and Josephine Baker, I could escape from American racism and improve my quality of life (socialized medicine) by moving to Europe. This reminds me that race and gender issues are global bottom lines.

    No where to run … no where to hide.

  81. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 19, 2012 at 1:43 am |

    This cake spectacle reminds me of Borat, South Park, or the works of Quentin Tarantino, just taken to the next level. There is a trend in the worlds of art and entertainment to present supposedly “subversive” works that supposedly critique prejudice or injustice by depicting them in a “ironic” way. In actuality, these works are left purposely ambigious so that both bigots and more “progressive” people feel free to enjoy them. The goal is to target a bigger market share and therefore make more money while garnering headlines and publicity due to “edginess.” And the real social effect is to normalize and reinforce prejudice and injustice.

    The intellectual defenders of this cake performace art say that the point of it was to show how rich, white Swedish people are insensitive racists who laugh at FGM. OK. So what? We already could have guessed that most rich, white Swedish people were insensitive racists who would laugh at FGM. So this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking or subversive thing to bring to public awareness. Meanwhile, guess who’s laughing, eating cake, and getting their racism and sexism reinforced? Rich, white Swedish people. Guess who’s not being discussed but merely is being exploited as a fodder for a grotesque media spectacle? The women and girls in Africa who are survivors of FGM.

    Anyway I’m not sure if I’d be comfortable saying Makode Aj Linde is a racist, but he certainly is a sexist and a talentless publicity-hungry hack of an performance artist. And Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth is certainly a racist, colonialist, out-of-touch right wing asshole.

  82. Crys T
    Crys T April 19, 2012 at 4:16 am |

    Empress: piss off. No, seriously. You’re talking bullshit and I strongly suspect you know that good and damn well.

    Having ONE FUCKING CONVERSATION that centres women’s experience is NOT TANTAMOUNT to ignoring or minimising men’s experience.

    However, coming into that conversation and demanding that men’s experience be made central sure as fuck is ignoring & minimising women’s experience.

  83. Sweden: Minster creates a racist outrage over female circumcision event. - Page 20

    […] Cake | SternFanNetwork Science &Tech 4 Africa: Strange cake: Is the Swedish minister racist? Swedish minister of culture thinks FGM cake is hilarious Swedish Culture Minister Caught in Racist Cake-Cutting Scandal – COLORLINES […]

  84. Catherine
    Catherine April 19, 2012 at 10:40 am |

    For those interested on varied cultural perspectives on this issue (rather than the “white male anthropologist” mentioned upthread) I’d recommend Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?
    Very intriguing set of back-and-forth essays.

  85. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists April 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm |

    If someone does something super racist and sexist, and then I get angry, and then they say “Ha! My art was meant to make you angry about racism and sexism and it did!” Then that person is an idiot.

    I was already angry about racism and sexism. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten angry about THEIR special racist misogynist art.

    If this was really meant to make audiences “uncomfortable” and “raise awareness” and show how callously white westerners treat the topic of FGM, then that means that the cake itself is meant to be a tool of oppression. This artist is then offering up this cake and performance saying “Here. Use this to be racist. Use this to spread misogyny and violence”.

    How is this subversive? How is this interesting?

    If I had been there, I would have destroyed that cake. I would have destroyed it because it’s racist, and painful to look at, and I would not have been able to stand watching people cut up a visual representation of a woman’s body from the vagina up.

    If an artist’s sole message is to show how racist and sexist people can be by DOING SOMETHING RACIST AND SEXIST, nothing is being subverted.

    Business as fucking usual.

  86. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm |

    Great post doublylinkedlists, and I complete agree. I wish you had been there at the art museum. Someone destroying that cake would have taken a spectacle that was merely nihilistic and demoralizing and actually made it unique and inspiring.

  87. EG
    EG April 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm |

    You can claim that ignoring circumcision is about placing the focus on women, but at it’s heart, it’s just colonialist if you don’t acknowledge what is fundamentally anti-feminist about male circumcision too.

    You know what? Right back at you.

    You can claim that demanding that we talk about male circumcision is about being anti-colonialist, but at its heart, it’s just patriarchal male-centering bullshit when you don’t acknowledge that stomping into a feminist website to demand we talk about men is fundamentally anti-feminist.

  88. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm |

    This is how relevance and irrelevance goes:

    If the topic is a new form of stomach flu that specifically targets left-handed naturally red-haired North Koreans, we don’t want to talk about right-handed naturally black-haired Canadians. Shocking as it may seem, we don’t even really need to talk about right-handed naturally red-haired North Koreans, or left-handed naturally black-haired North Koreans! Because the fact that LHNRHNK (left-handed naturally red-haired North Koreans) are being targeted by a new form of stomach flu is enough for a topic of discussion, y’know. We don’t ACTUALLY have to address all those other groups in order to agree that a new form of stomach flu that targets LHNRHNK peeps is a bad thing.

    Oh but I forgot that left-handed naturally red-haired North Koreans are a much more important group than 51% of the earth’s population, women. Unless you’re a LHNRHNK and a woman. Then fuck you, you’re not relevant.

  89. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm |

    But really, I guess my main point is this: The solution to FGM isn’t less cutting, it’s no cutting. And that’s a circle you can’t square without, you know, saying no cutting, period.

    I want my umbilical cord back!

  90. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists April 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

    Time to pull out your bingo cards people!

    From http://hyperallergic.com/50140/controversial-afro-swedish-artist-speaks-its-a-disturbing-picture-but-its-also-a-disturbing-subject/

    In our interview, the artist sounded a little confused by the online outrage. “If people can get this upset from a woman cutting a cake, can’t they use that energy towards the real battle towards female genital multilation,” he says. “I do understand it is a serious subject and when you mix a serious subject with a light topic like cake people can get upset, but I like humor in my work because [the topics are] depressing and something I have to deal with everyday. People drop their defenses when they can joke about something.”

    He also explained that he often infuses his work with a strain of Swedish humor that is very dark and cynical. “From my point of view this humor is a way to cope with horrible facts,” he says. “When I’m trying to tell my friends stories of horrible things I often use some humor to make it palatable.” He says Swedes, though he points out he doesn’t claim to speak for all Swedes, don’t like to take themselves too seriously.

  91. Esti
    Esti April 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

    I’d really encourage people to take a look at the article Caperton linked to in which the artist discusses the piece and his work generally (http://hyperallergic.com/50140/controversial-afro-swedish-artist-speaks-its-a-disturbing-picture-but-its-also-a-disturbing-subject/). I’m still think the cake piece/performance was a giant fail, but I think his Afromantics series sounds interesting and provides some important context (though it obviously does *not* absolve the cake piece).

  92. matlun
    matlun April 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    I see that the male circumcision comparisons has appeared as expected. (Has there ever been an FGM debate where this has not happened?)

    Even if you are strongly against circumcision (as I am), you seriously have to recognize that the vast majority of FGM is enormously worse.

    They may be on the same spectrum in a philosophical sense but in practice the difference of degree is large enough that making the comparison becomes fairly ridiculous.

  93. A.
    A. April 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |

    @88 – If an artist’s sole message is to show how racist and sexist people can be by DOING SOMETHING RACIST AND SEXIST, nothing is being subverted.

    indeedly.
    i am in deep mourning seeing the cut-up and mutilated body of a Woman of Colour in the shape of a cake in an “art-installation” for a “World Day of Art” in Sweden.
    and that body, imo, being cannibalised by a White woman (Minister ! of ! Culture !)
    the unspeakable misogyny and sexism make me despair;
    the racism displayed by this “spectacle” is clearly visible.
    “to raise awareness” about FGM (in Sweden – which as far as i know is indeed a problem)
    clearly, imo, the image Sweden wants projected and its self-image have little to do with reality.
    (for an analysis of racism in Sweden :
    http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2011-10-18-hubinette-en.html
    “When it comes to the discrimination of migrants and their descendants, particularly non-white and non-European groups, Sweden barely differs from any other western country today.”

    the only thing i, as a (privileged white) feminist, can offer is absolute solidarity with all women – and listen to Women of Colour :

    “Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning
    that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.”

    bell hooks 1992 – in her essay Eating the Other
    in : Black Looks: Race and Representation by bell hooks
    (fyi, the complete essay is available online on sribd)

  94. Julie
    Julie April 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm |

    Yes, x, et al.–if you want to talk about the racist and colonialist overtones in Western discourse about FGC, there are much more convincing ways to bring it up than to trot out male circumcision.

    Observe: anyone who argues that male circumcision is remotely as serious as FGC is just being antisemitic.

    See? It’s a frustrating argument, and no one benefits. Notice that your comments sparked zero discussion about racism and colonialism, and 100% discussion of the differences between male circumcision and FGC?

  95. Crys T
    Crys T April 20, 2012 at 6:43 am |

    I see what you’re saying, matlun, but even that isn’t the point. Even if circumcision were as bad as FGM–or even if it were worse*–it still would not be obligatory to include discussion of circumcision into every single goddam conversation about FGM.

    The whiners here are in that camp that says that every single man on the planet must be perfectly healthy and happy before any issue whatsoever that affects women can even be brought up for discussion.

    *which it soooooo is not.

  96. yes
    yes April 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |

    1) Bodily integrity is not a zero-sum game. Neither is talking about it. Making a nod to something related being wrong in western culture isn’t going to erase the victims of FGM any more than acknowledging America’s own history of FGM erases the modern-day victims.

    2) Holy shit, you mean a conversation about the rights of a large group of children to be secure in their sexual health and safety might spark mentions of a different large group of children and their sexual health and safety? And then the whole discussion becomes about how terrible it is to even passingly mention that second group? Who’d have thought this issue would be so derail-intensive?

  97. A.
    A. April 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm |

    p.s. ./. fyi
    (…) “Here’s an idea for truly provocative art. No more male artists, black or white, speaking for African women. No more ever-more-graphic ever-more-voyeuristic art on the suffering of African women. Stop using the female African body as raw material to be worked – unless you happen to live in one. Then, notice that African women are making their own work about their lives and struggles.
    Look. Listen. Learn. ”

    http://www.criticalwitness.com/post/21388960103/the-missing-ingredient-in-swedens-racist-misogynist

  98. Falcon
    Falcon April 20, 2012 at 10:26 pm |

    Oh dear God! Seriously? I think I may vomit.

    On this site, I’ve never seen anyone attempt to have an actual conversation about male circumcision. It’s always brought up as a derail and a distraction.

    Interesting point! I for one would like to have a separate discussion about circumcision that is not a derail. FGM is so much worse that this is hardly the place to deal with the discussion of non-con body mods but I don’t think it should be left to only men’s boards. Women so often have control of their son’s bodies. An ideas for a feminist appropriate place/time to discuss this? I’d love to see something here if anyone is interested.

  99. nick
    nick April 21, 2012 at 1:48 am |

    A couple points, because as an artist myself, I feel that I do not want to be so quick to jump on the artist or this piece. There is of course a large tradition of oppressed groups re appropriating racist, sexist, homophobic etc. imagery and symbolism through art. Linde has used this type of imagery in his art prior to this piece, whether for humor, irony, shock, I can’t say the exact intent but I’m not ready to jump to conclusions and call him a racist.

    Now the reaction of the audience was certainly racist, however I find it hard to believe that Linde did not expect this nor the spectacle that would follow (as part of a dimension of his piece). In fact I’m convinced that this was part of the intended performance whether he admits it or not. Obviously the reaction of the audience mirrors racism, colonialism the “cannibalization” of black women’s bodies in the west. Although Linde says that the audience was not meant to be part of the piece, I find it doubtful that he would come right out and say “HEY Everyone, yes! part of my point was to demonstrate how racist these rich white museum going people are!”. No of course he is not going to announce that and piss of an art world dominated and controlled largely by white people when your livelihood depends on it (rather it’s left up to interpretation to see this facet of the piece)…personally I think it was quite brilliant of the artist to get all these rich white folk to walk right into this and get called out so blatantly on their own racism, so true to the racism of the art world and the western world in general.

    Taking it further he added the layer of the consumption of the cake, and another blogger I read alluded to the symbolism of the history of lynching and the consumption of “picnic” baskets while white people sit around watching lynching as “entertainment”. My feeling is that Linde had to have known all this, I don’t think to do something this provocative that you are just going to blindly and stupidly do something to shock without thinking it out. The fact that he didn’t really plan out who was to cut the cake, but asked the culture minister last minute, makes me believe he wanted to catch the audience off guard in order to get a as “true to real life” reaction as possible (and didn’t it work?) because the audience wasn’t really aware of what they were witnessing, that they were detached from the context and history, served to highlight their racist reactions even further. And the performance piece, you could say, is still ongoing…in an above comment Linde points out all the outrage surrounding his piece and questions where is the out rage surrounding fgm, (or racism, misogyny, oppression, etc.) …again he had to be well aware that this turd storm was coming and that it would be directed at the art. But it does serve to highlight our own cultural magnetism towards the fashionable outrage of the day, the proxy, in this case, all the outrage directed at the artwork, but once that dies down in a week or two is the dominant culture really going to see the same level of outrage directed toward fgm or racism or sexism? Of course not…and isn’t that even more outrageous if you think about it? Linde then rightfully pointing out that reality is so much more horrifying than his cake…I can’t help but wonder if he is just sitting quietly watching this performance unfold further as the racist audience continues to walk head on into their own bigotry, all the “fashionable outrage” coming from white people when in fact every other day of the year they could care less about these issues entering into their privileged lives. (I see why Linda didn’t implicate the audience, there’s nothing more white people hate than being mocked and having their own racism/colonialism put on display…not to say that there isn’t justified outrage, but I’m referring to the white audience as a symbol for the dominant culture, the “white savior” figure and the fashionable issue of the moment, last month it was Kony)

    I suppose the major problem I do see with this piece is that it should have been a female participating as the cake. But I do think the rest of the performance highlights some important points and shouldn’t totally be dismissed as outrageous/offensive. So many important works of art have been dismissed this way only to be reassessed decades later as significant and important…I just think there are many ways to interpret this…I think it’s a complex and obviously provocative piece, worth discussing. Of course people have every right to be offended, I’m not trying to “silence” any other opinion here, just present some different ways of interpretation.

  100. Gunnar
    Gunnar April 21, 2012 at 9:19 am |

    relax people! the artist who made the cake is black too.
    creative artists like mande shoould have the freedom to express themselves. he did it for a good cause..
    if all humans had to care about every single emotion of every other human being, we might aswell stop doing anything eh…
    bottom line is. the reactions those people had were natural, they thought its odd. i dont really think they laughed cause fgm is funny. i sure dont! Why don’t you find out what the real nature of laughing is, then maybe you would understand it some more.
    cmon people its just art! :)

  101. Rilian
    Rilian April 22, 2012 at 1:22 am |

    Is the point to uh raise awareness or something?
    noble goal, I guess, but that was a creeeeepy video.

  102. Gerry Dorrian
    Gerry Dorrian April 22, 2012 at 4:03 am |

    I have to wonder if it’s a coincidence that this happened days before the Sunday Times published its investigation into the prevalence of fgm in the UK – are we going to see revelations from more European countries?

  103. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 22, 2012 at 9:42 am |

    relax people! the artist who made the cake is black too.

    Is he a woman?

    And I would love to hear you wax philosophic about the “real nature of laughing,” please. Speaking of funny things.

  104. EG
    EG April 22, 2012 at 10:49 am |

    I can’t say the exact intent but I’m not ready to jump to conclusions and call him a racist.

    I don’t care whether or not the artist is a racist. I am not his confessor or his shrink–is psyche is unimportant to me. I care about the piece of art, which I find disgusting, and the attempt to claim that it’s not disgusting because he was being offensive deliberately to show how racist white people are (gee, alert the fucking media) rings just as hollow to me as it does when people say that they’ve said things “ironically.”

    Linde points out all the outrage surrounding his piece and questions where is the out rage surrounding fgm, (or racism, misogyny, oppression, etc.)

    Among feminists? It’s everywhere.

    the artist who made the cake is black too.

    So what?

    creative artists like mande shoould have the freedom to express themselves.

    He…does. Nobody is trying to take that away from him. He should not and does not, however, have the right to be free from criticism.

    cmon people its just art!

    What is this even supposed to mean?

  105. roymacIII
    roymacIII April 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |

    Yeah, I think if your attempt to “raise awareness” ends up with people mostly talking about how fucked up your performance/art was instead of how fucked up the subject is, you can probably chalk that up as art fail.

  106. Jennifer Green
    Jennifer Green April 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm |

    It simply made my heart and my head hurt to see the photograph of this cake in female form then being eaten at a public government event. It hurt especially after the recent publication of the research in Porn, Inc., and the pornification of everything from 3rd grade girls being media-bombarded to wear baby high heels to whatever photos of the scantily clad female form are trending now online and emblazoned on billboards. Only some originally or ultimately female forms can get pregnant, the ones with sex organs that are FAAB, as far as I know. Thus the global denigration of the female form is of particular terror to FAAB who have to worry about their forms being assaulted to the point of violation beyond eating (i.e., to rape which can lead to unwanted pregnancy, abortion or not, health risks in addition to STDs). The male form of person does not typically find his type of chest and/or pelvic form plastered everywhere without many clothes (even photos of Ryan Gosling being relatively rare). The male form of person does not typically in childhood receive programming to want to wear uncomfortable and unhealthy shoes for fashion’s sake. As a female form of person, the cake as female-form imagery going global turned my stomach. Nothing funny about it. Nothing deserving of being called art. Sick and sad, and something I had to suffer by living in this particular global, high-tech, mass-media culture. Can I get over it? Sure. I do, every day.

  107. Samata
    Samata April 24, 2012 at 10:34 am |

    How on earth is this being passed off as art. What makes it even more panful is that this was created by a black male who can never and will never relate to the humiliation and pan suffered by women who have been the victims of FGM. Try watching Waris Dirie’s Desert Flower to gain a tiny piece of insight into what a traumatic experience this is…he should be ashamed. There is no power in this message. He has just allowed a room full of white elitest to laugh and ridicule the naked body of a woman going through one of the most traumatic experience a woman could ever experience. I would love to see what would happen if this colour issue was reversed. Disgusting.

  108. Let Them Eat Cake | Souciant
    Let Them Eat Cake | Souciant April 26, 2012 at 3:20 am |

    […] as commenter Cade DeBois noted in her list of problematics with the piece on Feministe: None of this seems to suggest *anyone* involved understands how […]

  109. dunn
    dunn April 28, 2012 at 7:08 pm |

    No one seems to have realized that the “horrible caricature of a black woman’s body” is actually a deliberate reproduction of the Willendorf Woman. Google image it if you’re not convinced.

  110. Jadey
    Jadey April 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm |

    No one seems to have realized that the “horrible caricature of a black woman’s body” is actually a deliberate reproduction of the Willendorf Woman.

    It bears a vague resemblance to such (except for the fact that the Venus of Willendorf is a pretty abstract representation to begin with – also doesn’t have a face and this cake surely does). It also, however, bears a strong resemblance to classic racist caricatures, which you can also Google, if you’d like. However, your assertion (1) isn’t backed up by any citation of the artist making a statement of this being a “deliberate reproduction” of the Venus of Willendorf (although I’ve seen a few sources which have suggested it was meant to hearken to the “Hottentot Venus”, a perjorative term for Sarah Baartman, an African woman who was used a living curiosity because of her physique, though I can’t confirm this was the artist’s intention either); and (2) DOES NOT MAKE IT ANY LESS RACIST.

    That last part is super important.

  111. Lucy
    Lucy May 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm |

    I am the first to shout out about racism; but this art was created by a black/brown African descendant (I am assuming due to his dreadlocks). Sexuality often involves irrationality and this distended view of the African female seems to be a bizarre tantric-sexual ritual – the interacial aspect of the white woman eating the black woman´s genitals.. then his head pops up through the cake??!! this is something for repressed adults!!! not racial art!!! LOL

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